Uncertain winter sports plans for former Pando Winter Sports Park

Posted at 6:40 PM, Dec 20, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-20 18:40:23-05

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.