ZANESFIELD, Ohio (AP) — The snow machines billowed clouds of snow as the sun cut through the wintry haze to illuminate Mad River Mountain’s new lodge. The beams of light also brought the promise of better luck this ski season.
Inside, carpenters, electricians and designers scrambled to complete work on the $7.5 million lodge in the run-up to its official opening late last month. A ribbon-cutting was held for the new Lodge & Loft on Friday, Dec. 30.
A fire on Sept. 16, 2015, destroyed Mad River Mountain’s 53-year-old lodge, food-service area and loft.
The fire, whose cause was never determined, was followed by an unusually warm season, stalling business and worrying the Logan County community of Zanesfield, which relies on tourism revenue from the 150,000 seasonal guests and about 500 employees.
The fire “was very upsetting,” said Michael Mihnovets, the lodge’s marketing manager. “It took off fast and was a total loss.”
The temporary lodge built after the fire is being replaced by a 45,000-square-foot permanent structure that is double the size of the original. Insurance money and additional funding from owner Peak Resorts allowed for the larger space.
“It’s very exciting to have all this, and not have it go away,” said Mihnovets. “Everything we’re doing is going to be here for years to come.”
“My space is twice as big as it was,” said Dianne Meddles, who for 18 seasons has operated the gift shop. “I don’t know what to do with it all, to be honest.”
As she unpacked gloves, socks, hats, mugs and ski goggles, Meddles said the inventory is “based on what everyone forgets or loses while they’re here.”
The main-floor restaurant can seat 800 people, plus 300 in the loft above. That space will have a large bar and feature live music. Workers were installing one of the few salvaged pieces from the fire: stained-glass windows that were carefully removed and restored.
“When you come to Mad River, you just always saw the stained glass,” said Meddles.
Pat MacDowell, 70, who travels the country in an RV, stopped by to buy tickets for four of her grandchildren.
“I can’t wait to tell my grandsons,” she said. “They’ll be surprised how much larger this is.”
Architectural nods to the old lodge create a “rustic, industrial look,” said Kevin Gosche, general manager for Thomas & Marker Construction. A-frame vaulted ceilings with 84-foot-long continuous trusses are among the largest in the Midwest, he said. And sediment from Mad River was milled into the bar countertop.
Behind the lodge, snow continued to spray from pole-mounted machines, creating a base layer of about 2 feet for the expected weekend crowds.
The 1,460-foot mountain, part of the Bellefontaine ridge and formed by glaciation, is the one constant. The 20 ski trails spread over 144 acres are unchanged.
“We’re really excited to see the fruits of our labor, to see people in here to see it operating,” said Tom Price, general manager.
“I hope that they feel at home here,” said Mihnovets. “It’s the lodge rising from the ashes.”
Information from: The Columbus Dispatch, http://www.dispatch.com
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