Mountain Capital Partners to Revive & Operate Dormant Sandia Peak, New Mexico
The ski area will join MCP’s 10 other mountains as an unlimited partner on the Power Pass.
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I’ve never been to Mountain Capital Partners’ offices. They claim to be based in Durango, but I’d lay two-to-one odds that HQ is a nine-acre spaceship hovering over the Mojave. From a frantic war room, commanders dispatch sentinel drones to survey the ski areas of the American West. They cruise past the glimmering lift fleets of Tahoe and the Wasatch, barely glance at the broadsides parked like snowy battleships along I-70 west of Denver. They search until they find, at the top of some mountain pass or the end of a lost canyon, a double chair sputtering skyward. The contraption is run by a liftie turning a handcrank at the base. It's sunny, Saturday, with a foot of fresh snow on the ground. Four cars sit in the parking lot. Lift tickets cost 75 cents, or a can of Campbell’s tomato soup for the food drive, or Twinkles, your beloved housecat (the owner loves cats). A sign hanging in the window reads, “the sno-gun is busted sorry. Management.” The drone beams an S.O.S. message back to HQ:
Alarms blaring and battalions scrambling to their stations, MCP’s mothership turns northeast. It’s time to plant the flag anew. At journey’s end the machine hovers in the sky above its target. A portal spins open, exposing aimed tractor beams primed to ingest the freestanding mountain. As the collection of antique machinery and rough-hewn buildings passes the threshold, the lift operator, still spinning his handcrank, spots a sign welded to the ship’s keel:
"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
Whether MCP stole the sign off the Statue of Liberty’s pedestal or simply recreated it to capture their company’s essence is irrelevant. This, like America, is what they do: ingest the world’s desperate and grant them opportunity.
Sandia Peak, which the company announced on Monday would be the latest entrant into its rapidly growing portfolio, is classic MCP: the ski area has not operated in two full winters. Its workhorse lift, a 1980 Riblet double chair, crawls 1,578 vertical feet in around 15 minutes. Snowmaking covers 30 of the ski area’s 300 acres. Natural snowfall averages 125 inches per winter. The terrain ranges from double green-circle to extra-intermediate. It’s in New Mexico.
Which is why most of you had never heard of Sandia Peak until three minutes ago. But MCP has built America’s third-largest ski area portfolio (yes, it now operates more mountains than either Powdr or Boyne), by running skiing’s version of The American Pickers, sorting through the nation’s snowy refuse to find that restorable treasure. Were a time traveler from 2006 to tumble through an internet wormhole and into this website, they would be little surprised to see Jackson Hole, Taos, Snowbird, and Aspen united on the Ikon Pass, but they would be ill-equipped to comprehend MCP’s motley roster of castaways:
But the pre-MCP versions of these ski areas have little to do with their current state. Arizona Snowbowl, once a temperamental dump with no snowmaking and a Lego-box Ozarks lift fleet, is now home to one of the most modern infrastructure plants in the country. Nordic Valley grew from a quaint neighborhood bump with double chairs rattling halfway up the mountain to an ever-sprawling burner with a brand-new six-pack and an aggressive masterplan. Pretty much the entire lineup has been outfitted with modern snowmaking, and MCP’s unlikely collection of Southwest ski areas regularly clocks some of the longest ski seasons in the country.
MCP’s repeated resurrection of dead or dying ski areas “is something I’ve never seen before, to be honest, and it’s so fun and exciting to be part of,” Scott Leigh, who spent a decade at Vail Resorts prior to joining MCP as a resort advisor, told The Storm. He is also part of the project management team for the Sandia Peak deal. “Everybody looks at things with such a different lens at MCP. There is a ton of pride and excitement around all things skiing, especially when you have an opportunity to improve an area for the local community.”
Got that, Mr. 2006? So go back to complaining about $75 lift tickets on your Colorado Shredders message board. Also buy Apple stock. Like, a lot of it. Also buy maybe a log cabin and 40 or 50 pallets of green beans and just sit out 2020.
MR. 2006: Wait – what?
Never mind. Just trust me on this one. No spoilers, other than this: when you emerge bearded and stoic from your mountain hibernation in 2023, wearing deer antlers and a coat of sewn-together beaver pelts, you will be able to purchase a Power Pass, which will grant you this access to these mountains:
MR. 2006: Why would I do that, when it says right here that there are now things called the Epic and Ikon Passes that are about the same price and get me on the lift at much studlier mountains?
Because there are millions and millions of Epic and Ikon passholders, who mostly all go to the same 30 places, none of which are any of these places (South America doesn’t count), and in the future, there is a dawning realization that the quality of your ski experience has more to do with the proportion of fellow snowskiers to acreage and lift capacity than the sheer size of a mountain or the speed with which its lift fleet carries you to the top.
MR. 2006: The future sounds confusing.
Not really. Just more tedious and annoying. I’d take the next two to three years to enjoy as much of your life as you can before your Pet Rectangle eats your soul and that of everyone you know.
MR. 2006: My what?
Never mind. Can you please go tell my 2006 self about that Apple stock? You can find me teaching English with the enthusiasm of an MTA ticket clerk at a Lower East Side high school in the daytime and enduring the crucible of all-you-can-eat-shrimp month at the Times Square Red Lobster by evening.
MR. 2006: Man, my 2006 is way more fun that yours.
Low bar, Brah. Before you go, I spoke with current Sandia Peak and Ski Santa Fe General Manager and owner Ben Abruzzo and MCP’s Leigh to get a sense of what this partnership will mean for Sandia Peak, when the lifts may spin again, why the Abruzzo family sold, and what the ski area’s addition means for MCP and the Power Pass:
Below the paid subscriber jump: could we see a high-speed lift at Sandia Peak? Can MCP upgrade its snowmaking? Will Ski Santa Fe join the Power Pass? What will MCP buy next? And much more.