The Lodge at Mad River Mountain in Zanesfield, Ohio caught ablaze Wednesday evening and burned almost entirely to the ground.
“We just watched the whole place that we love crumble to ash," said ski instructor Dawn Harr to the Columbus Dispatch.
"To us, it's the nucleus of this whole place. It's where we gather. Where we meet and share our memories of our day on the hill,” she continued in a video posted by the Dispatch.
The fire was called into the Logan County Sheriff at 7:25 p.m. and firefighters from four surrounding counties fought the flames until it was finally declared controlled by 10 p.m. EST on Wednesday evening.
At this time, it appears the only affected area was the actual Lodge, known as the Loft, and the ski area itself did not sustain any damages. Despite this major set-back, the resort has “every intention of opening on time this season,” as a spokesperson for mountain told the Bellefontaine Examiner.
News of the fire traveled fast and greatly impacted many that have grown up riding the resort, which is comprised of 20 trails, 144 acres, has an elevation of 1,460′ and is near the highest point in Ohio.
The Loft was Mad River's iconic gathering place that was built in the 1960's and had stained glass windows, a large wooden bar, and a front deck that looked out unto the slopes.
Kevin Sayler, a snowboarder who began his career at Mad River and now lives in Summit County, Colorado, was shocked and dismayed by the fire and told us this personal account of what The Loft meant to him.
"Seventeen years ago, The Loft, became my second home," said Sayler. "It was my social media site, no Facebook back then, just high-fives and positive vibes with friends you wanted to hang with. It was where we went for all the special occasions; good and bad. When dad died, they hung his skis within 12 hours. Not many establishments go out of their way to help family, but that’s what I’ve come to love. The Loft was a special place, it brought families together to celebrate their love for winter. It is with great sadness to see it go. But with all life, sometimes you have to start new. So cheers to the old and cheers to the new memories we'll hopefully make at our new home soon," said Sayler.
Mad River Mountain is also Louie Vito’s home resort, and the place in which he learned his skills. Each year, Vito, 27, hosts a charity event at Mad River known as the Louie Vito Rail Jam. The event previously utilized The Loft as the main meeting area and after-party zone.
At this time, the cause of the fire is still being investigated.