Mother Nature's Foul Mood
Thursday, January 25, 2018
Written by Win Smith
Mother Nature has not been in a good mood. Maybe she has been watching too much cable news? After providing us with excellent early snowmaking temperatures and enough natural snow to get 100% open, her mood turned sour and she hit us with bitter cold, high winds, two inches of warm rain, and then bitter cold again. Our Mountain Team took her on and really did a fabulous job of getting the mountain back into great shape on our snowmaking trails. Thanks to all of you who passed along your compliments. It is greatly appreciated.
Things improved last week as we picked up a few inches of natural snow and turned on our snowmaking guns. And of course, our groomers worked their magic. The forecasted temperatures for last weekend looked pleasant, and I watched a line of cars arriving Friday evening over The Roxbury Gap. I was awakened Saturday morning around 5 AM as my house in East Warren shook with the strong west-southwest winds racing across my pasture. By the time I had showered and shaved I was already receiving alerts that Super Bravo, Heaven’s Gate and North Lynx lifts were on wind hold with winds measuring over 55 mph. We managed to make Valley House Quad the early lift at 8 AM, and Gate House spun at 9 AM. Green Mountain Express also opened on time, as did Inverness, though GMX was soon shut down by wind. Arriving at the mountain, I could feel the force of the wind as I exited my car in the parking lot. The cars began arriving, and I was concerned that we would be very busy with only a couple of lifts running. That would make for long lift lines and crowded trails which would get scraped off early.
Then Mother Nature’s mood changed. The wind calmed enough to get the lifts running safely, and by 11 AM all scheduled lifts were running. That was a good thing as we experienced our busiest day of the season, showing the pent-up demand after the cold holidays. In addition to the many guests buying day tickets, we had many passholders and Quad Pack guests picking up their SugarXpress cards for the first time. Most guests arrived between 9:30 and 10:30 AM, creating ticket lines that were far longer than we, or our guests, like to see. The good news, though, is that once you have our new SugarXpress card, most products can be purchased online and you can go directly to the lift. This will create much shorter lines in the future.
Early last week I travelled out to Snowbird for a National Ski Areas Association meeting. Both Snowbird and Alta are members of the Mountain Collective and I had a chance to ski both. Despite their much lower-than-average snowfall, there was a lot to enjoy. I experienced some really nice packed powder, even if their legendary waist-deep powder did not arrive until the day after we left. These two photos are first tracks on both Snowbird and Alta. Hopefully, many of you will get to enjoy the Mountain Collective benefits of being a Sugarbush passholder ,and experience these beautiful, independently-owned mountains.
Mother Nature is still not in the best of moods as she threw a bit more wintry mix and rain our way on Tuesday, but she must be tiring as it was not nearly as bad as last week. We expect to see another good weekend. We are making snow on the Lincoln Peak side on Downspout, Murphy’s Glades, Birdland, and Organgrinder. Our grooming team is out in force, with plans to winch Stein’s on Friday night. We are pleasantly surprised with the good conditions we have. We still need at least a foot of snow to get Castlerock and our other natural trails open, and to run Slide Brook Express again. The work roads into Slide Brook need enough snow cover to allow safe snowmobile travel for our lift mechanics, and that does not exist right now. We are currently hosting a Telemark World Cup race series through Friday. The races are being held on Spring Fling, so the viewing is good. I would encourage you to come out, take some turns and watch the world’s best telemarkers ripping it up on the Fling.
This past week we lost two members of the Sugarbush Community. Long-time Sugarbush Ambassador and Valley skier John King perished in an early-morning fire at his home. Both he and his wife Barbara have been skiing in the Valley for the past 50 years and have been friends to so many here at Sugarbush and in the Valley. We will miss John tremendously. We just learned today that Warren Miller has passed away at the age of 93. So many of you watched his many movies that got everyone stoked for the upcoming ski season. Our own John Egan and his brother Dan starred in over a dozen of Warren’s films. He was a true icon in our industry, and will always be remembered for his enormous contribution to skiing and riding.
As an eternal optimist, I will point out that the three best snow months are historically in front of us and that often a January like we have experienced is followed by a great second half of the winter. For those of your dreaming for those powder mornings, make sure you get out now and get in skiing shape. You don’t want to be huffing and puffing and leg-heavy when the powder arrives. I have 55 days in myself, so I think I am ready to ski hard on those days we all long for.