The Marble Mountain Development Corporation is reviewing its entire insurance policy following the rare lightning strike that put one of its ski lifts out of commission.
In fact, corporation chairman Bob Pike says operators of ski resorts throughout North America are doing the same — or should be — following what he called an unprecedented disaster.
The Governor’s Express chairlift was damaged after a lightning strike Aug. 8 caused a fire in the lift shack at the top of the hill. The fire contributed to the eventual collapse of the 100-chair lift that gives skiers access to the western portion of the hill and the majority of the less difficult runs. With the insurance in place, due to the nature of the event, just $1.2 million of the $4.7 million required to replace the lift was covered. There are limits to coverage for certain types of events, and this type of disaster had never happened before, said Pike.
“The cost of what we are dealing with here is a real eye-opener for all of us,” he said.
Pike said the corporation will review its insurance policy, and increase coverage in the necessary areas. There has been questions raised as to the amount of coverage with respect to the lodge and other facilities in place. The chairman said every aspect of their insurance will be reviewed.
He said the policy was likely adequate at the time it was put in place, but the lift was more than 20 years old when it was destroyed. Its replacement value increased significantly.
There has been a lot of criticism — something Pike said could be expected due to the nature of the funding and the operation — about the $3.5 million the province has invested in the lift replacement. He said it is essentially the provincial government investing in its own public facility. The Crown corporation just operates the resort.
He believes the resort has a long-term sustainable future as a winter tourist destination and a local recreational product. There is a great deal of ongoing marketing and partnerships within the tourism industry, the chairman said.
“Marble Mountain has often been referred to as the crown and the jewel of winter tourism in the province,” Pike said.
The accountability of the corporation has also come under fire, with questions as to the reporting of financial statements. The chairman said its financial situation is audited externally, is presented to government annually and is available for public viewing.
The corporation came under fire in 2012 following an auditor general report that concluded it needed better control of its bank account. At the time, the resort ran a deficit in five consecutive years, requiring an annual operating grant as well as an approved line of credit of $2.1 million. The ski lift operations had run a debt totalling more than $1.3 million over three years.
The corporation acknowledged its financial difficulties, and said it would examine alternatives to reducing its dependency on the line of credit and review its procedures.
Tuesday, Pike said interaction with the auditor general’s office has been ongoing since the report, requiring updates from the corporation. The corporation will be subject to a follow up report in the near future, he said.