Thursday, May 4, 2017
Written by Win Smith
Last fall, I mentioned that one of our veteran lift mechanics, Ken Stridsberg, told me that the hornets were building their nests high again, and that we would be in for a snowy winter. Those little flying insects know what they are doing. We got off to a great start, and while we had an unusually warm end to February (and lost much of our snowpack on natural trails and lower elevations), winter (and our snowmaking guns) came back with a vengeance in March, ending the season with 363” at the summit. We have been recording snowfall since 1966. Only the winter of ‘95/’96 had more snow than this winter, and that was only a mere half inch more. This winter, we did see a big difference between the summits and lower elevations of the mountain. With Climate Change, it does appear that altitude may be causing more variance than in the past. Fortunately, our northern location and our 4,000 foot summit is likely to benefit us in the winters ahead compared to some others.
After 154 days, we called it quits on Monday, May 1st, and I enjoyed my 128th day with an early run down a buttery Upper Snowball and Spring Fling before heading off to a director’s meeting. Warren, one of our veteran groomers, performed a spectacular job getting us into May. In fact, the snowmaking, grooming, and mountain crews deserve great kudos for everything they do, each and every day, to maintain this mountain in all kinds of weather conditions.
I may still get a few more days in sometime in June by taking a trip with my grandson, sons and sons-in-law to Squaw Valley, a fellow member of The Mountain Collective. While I was able to get in 128 days, others got in more. The most days for a non-employee was 124, and this guest was closely followed by an incredible 87-year-old gentleman who recorded 121 days. That is impressive, and motivational for all of us. The most days put in by an employee was 141 days, and he is 80--that is evidence that you still have time to join our team and enjoy many days of skiing and riding between shifts! Who says the old guys and gals retire and move to Florida?
As the winter comes to an end, I want to thank all of you for your support and loyalty. I also want to thank every member of the Sugarbush team for their dedication and hard work. Our entire team takes great pride in ensuring that we are cultivating a spirit of lifelong adventure and camaraderie . . . among our guests, our community, and ourselves. In an industry which is seeing tremendous change through consolidation by big corporations, we realize that we need to improve the resort each year to make it a place you want to return to. Good competition keeps everyone sharp! As a family-owned and operated mountain, we are committed to remaining a true skier’s and rider’s mountain in the winter, and providing wholesome adventure and community in the warmer months, as well. We clearly understand that you have a choice of where to recreate, so we must continue earning your trust and satisfaction every day, and making the types of measured improvements that keep us true to our mission.
Our golf course opened for the season on Saturday, April 29th. It is always great to ski and golf on the same day. Lili and I played a few holes on Saturday, and were very pleased with how well the course came through the winter. The numerous improvements that Mike Wing and his team have made are noticeable. Rob Schonder and PGA Professional Roger King have the clubhouse in great shape. And Hogan’s Pub also opened for the season on Saturday.
In addition to golf, summer up here is filled with fun events including the Sugarbush Brew-Grass Festival on June 10th, The Frendly Gathering June 29th-July 1st, our famous and eclectic Warren Fourth of July Parade (followed by fun mountain activities and fireworks, and the Vermont Mountain Bike Festival July 21st-23rd. We are also pleased that our tennis partnership continues with New England Tennis Holidays, ranked #3 in the world for tennis camps. Downhill mountain biking and other mountain activities begin daily on June 24th. And wedding season is underway.
This summer, our dining options will include Hogan’s Pub at the Golf Club, featuring one of the nicest summer views in the Valley, and Timbers (soon to be renamed). Timbers will be under the leadership of Margo Nugent, who many of you know as “Nugget” from the Wünderbar and Hogan’s. Margo is a veteran of our culinary team, and will bring her energy, enthusiasm and leadership skills to Timbers. Timbers reopens Friday, May 26th with an exciting new menu and updated look, and will serve dinner Thursday-Monday, and breakfast daily. Beginning Saturday, June 24th (Opening Day for Summer Activities), Timbers will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner daily through Labor Day. The Castlerock Pub will close for the summer, but will reopen for big weekends like Brew-Grass Festival, Independence Day, and Community Day weekend, and then full time again when Super Bravo spins for the winter. You will see many familiar faces from the Castlerock staff working with Margo for summer. And you can count on another fun schedule of food and drink-inspired activities beginning on June 23rd, including ½ off dinner, Toss’Em Tuesdays, and Raw Bar Wednesdays at Timbers, and Burger Night Fridays and Birdies and Slices on Saturdays at Hogan’s Pub.
Our early season pass sales have been strong, and we are pleased and grateful not only for those who have renewed but also for those who are first-time passholders this year. As you know, all Premium passholders are eligible to receive 50% off ticket prices at the other 15 Mountain Collective Resorts. It is very encouraging to see the large number of Mountain Collective pass purchasers who designated Sugarbush as their home mountain in order to receive a third day of skiing here next winter. I am also pleased to see the number of people who opted for both our Adult and Youth Value pass.
The summer months are busy, with a number of major capital improvements planned. Both the new Village Lift at Lincoln Peak and Sunny Double at Mount Ellen are going through the permitting process, and we expect construction to begin shortly. These fixed-grip quads will greatly improve the beginner experience at both mountains. At Mount Ellen, our new motor for North Ridge will be installed before long, and work will begin to install new snowmaking pipe on Which Way, allowing us to expand intermediate-level snowmaking terrain. Pisten Bully will deliver two new groomers this fall, one of which is the Park 600, a machine specifically designed to groom the intricate features and high angles of our terrain parks. Additionally, there are scores of other projects that may not be visible to you, but are critical to your mountain experience.
Our winter plan is to begin snowmaking as soon after November 1st as Mother Nature allows, and to begin the 2017/2018 season the weekend before Thanksgiving (November 25-26). We plan to stay open through April 2018.
Thank you for a great winter season and I hope we will see many of you this summer. As always, please send along comments to any member of our team, or to me directly.