Uncertain winter sports plans for former Pando Winter Sports Park

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KENT COUNTY, Mich. -- The future of the former Pando Winter Sports Park is uncertain. Its owners Cannonsburg Ski Area will keep it closed a second winter season, and many residents are questioning if winter sports will ever reopen there.

“It’s sad, the place was a home to a lot of us," said Andy Smith of Pando, a former longtime employee and groomer with Pando himself.

Since FOX 17 reported Pando would remain closed a second winter season, Smith was one of many residents emailing and reaching out to FOX 17 concerned whether Cannonsburg owners will ever reopen winter sports at Pando. Since November 2015 when Cannonsburg bought Pando, Cannonsburg spokespeople said they wanted to help save the property and "keep Pando in the hands of people who love winter sports," including plans to improve facilities and reopen "hopefully in the 2016/2017 season."

Smith believes it's not happening.

“I would say that unfortunately Pando’s done," said Smith. "They had a great run, it was an awesome place but Cannonsburg is the new age. They’re not going to make the steps to bring Pando back to life. They’d rather invest in zip lines and things like that at their resort and make their resort better than to invest at Pando.”

According to Smith, who groomed and knew the equipment well at Pando and now grooms with Bittersweet Ski Area, staff moved major grooming and kitchen equipment, along with terrain park features, from Pando to Cannonsburg. Much of the remaining equipment at Pando, like tow rope motors, he says are sitting idle or broken.

“If you’re going to run snow-making you’ve got to fire up your compressor, you’ve got to fire up your water pump, their snow-making guy hasn’t even looked at any of it," said Smith. "They neglected it, they don’t care.”

FOX 17 circled back with Cannonsburg Event Coordinator Danielle Musto, she says they are looking into "models" for both parks.

When FOX 17 asked, "Did Cannonsburg buy Pando to eliminate winter sports competition?" Musto answered, "Absolutely not. We bought Pando because we respect winter sports and we love the West Michigan community. But in all honesty we’re trying to look at the right model for both properties.”

Then FOX 17 asked whether Cannonsburg plans to reopen Pando for winter sports, to which Musto had no definite answer.

“Once we figure out the model of both [Cannonsburg] and [Pando] we’ll let everyone know," said Musto. "We just want to make sure that we have our business going to really support the community.”

FOX 17 was unable to speak directly with Cannonsburg's owner. Musto says Cannonsburg continues to expand regularly. She said in the upcoming fall they will be holding an event called "Double Trouble" at Pando.

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  • Andy

    Fuck Cannonsburg. Their rails and park features are great but the people setting them up suck at their job. We’ve got zip lines and zombie paintball but the quality of their winter sports setup has definitely suffered. Not a fan of going there at all anymore and really annoyed with them for basically creating a winter sports monopoly in the GR area.

  • Marc

    Pando and Cannonsburg both hold a special place in my heart and I truly hope that one day both operations are able to thrive. What I think has to be realized is that both Pando and Cannonsburg have struggled to be profitable for decades and last season was one of the most challenging seasons on record. It all comes down to carrying capacity and with an average 3 months snow sports season in West Michigan and waining ski/snowboard participation, both businesses have suffered. In order for either area to be successful they have to build up ancillary components to their business models and that is exactly what Cannonsburg is trying to do right now. New offerings like zip lining, tubing, fat biking, and special events, as well as improved food and beverage, retail, rental, etc. are going to be what it takes to make a successful business model. Once a successful business model can be achieved at Cannonsburg, then I believe we will see profits being allocated to Pando for improvement and a reopening. I would personally much rather have one stable local ski area for a period of time with the hopes of a second in the future, than two defunct local ski areas. I’ve had many lengthy conversations with the ownership of Cannonsburg about the future of winter sports and Pando and can tell you that they want to see it open as much as we do, it just a matter of how to make it work. Saying that, “They don’t care.” could not be further from the truth. For now though, we’re fortunate to at least have Cannonsburg and ownership that is actually making investments to improve skiing and riding in our area. With the way things were heading 10 years ago I would have wagered that both Cannonsburg and Pando might not be operating today. Lets all enjoy the ride!