Plymouth, NH – Tenney Mountain’s lifts have been silent since 2010, brush growing high beneath the chairs. Snowmaking hydrants and nozzles have been pilfered, presumably for their copper, and even on-mountain trail maps were taken. Its prior owners left piles of food to rot in its base lodge restaurant’s freezer. And perhaps worst of all, a 375-hp diesel engine that powered a snowmaking compressor was found flooded with water and seized.
All of this would likely deter all but the most movitated of prospective ski resort operators. Fortunately for New Hampshire’s skiing public, Michael Bouchard is one of them — even if he never meant to be.
Bouchard, 51, is an engineer from the southern New Hampshire city of Nashua and a native of Chelsea, Mass. He’s the founder of Nashua’s Secure Axxess, an engineering firm that specializes in robotics for militaries and governments. He bought Tenney Mountain’s 900 acres from a New York investment firm for $1.2 million in 2010 for mineral rights and water content, never intending to run a ski resort — because he’s never skied.
Bouchard, however, brings other skills to the table. His engineering expertise and years of tinkering allowed him to repair the snowmaking pipes, fix Tenney’s dilapidated base lodge, and yes…replace that seized snowmaking engine.
After purchasing the property and interacting with residents of the small nearby town of Plymouth, Bouchard finally understood what Tenney Mountain represented to the community and to New Hampshire skiers. He’s also recognized the development rights of an approved 2,300-unit slopeside housing community in which only 253 condos have been built. He’s therefore changed his mind about running a ski area.
With the assistance of Boston investment group MAST Holdings and some $4 million in repairs later, Bouchard plans to reopen Tenney Mountain on December 15 on a limited basis. Reopening the base-to-summit Hornet double chair will have to wait until next winter after he’s had a chance to repair the rest of the mountain’s snowmaking system, or until sufficient natural snow falls to cover Tenney’s 1,400-foot vertical drop. For now, Bouchard will run the shorter Eclipse chairlift, presuming that it passes load testing this fall, but he’s brought in Pfister Mountain Services to make sure that happens. Other amenities will be limited this winter as well, but lift tickets will be cheap, likely in the $25 range.
Bouchard hopes to have the whole place back up and running by winter 2016-17. In addition, he plans to bring his engineering expertise to task to treat Tenney like a petri dish to develop new and emerging technologies for the ski industry, creating a second stream of cash flow for the beleaguered resort.
The ski industry needs more people like Michael Bouchard.