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Win's Word

Eyes Ahead to Winter

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Last week my eldest son, Win, and I spent a fabulous week in Portillo, Chile, and got in our first eight days of the season. Portillo and Sugarbush have a long tradition of partnering, and I was delighted to finally get down there and see it first hand. There are a lot of similarities between our two resorts.

Like Sugarbush, it is family owned, and the Purcells have been running it since the 1950's when it was purchased from the Chilean government. Henry and Ellen are still active and visible, but son Miguel is now the Managing Director and has a very able team of professionals from the USA and Chile supporting him.  Stein Erickson was director of their ski school from 1954 to1957 and was then director of Sugarbush's ski school from 1959 to 1962.

Peter Estin, Sugarbush's first Ski School Director in 1958, followed Stein in Portillo. Then our long time Ski School Director Sigi Grottendorfer was director of both schools for many years, and a number of Sugarbush ski-school veterans traveled with him each summer to Portillo.

Today, the Vermont connection is still there as Henry's daughter is married to Sam Von Trapp.

In addition to being family-owned, the two resorts are both blessed with great terrain for all abilities. We did not have the best snow conditions, but that did not make a difference in our enjoyment of skiing both on-piste and off-piste every day. Portillo averages over 300 inches of snow annually and they have had less than 200 inches so far this season. However, 6 inches of new snow Friday night allowed us to enjoy some off-piste powder turns Saturday morning before we left for the airport.

I would highly recommend Portillo next summer for those who want to get in some early turns. And Portillo is again offering a special benefit to Sugarbush All Mountain 7 and Fancy passholders. When you go, you will experience a lift system created for Portillo -- the va et viente surface lift.

There are several of these lifts and they can best be described as high-speed pomas, with four or five being pulled up together. Win and I are counting our eight days last week toward our total for the 2013/14 season.

And speaking of next season, our early season pass prices are available through September 12th, and I hope you are looking forward to next winter as much as we are. I haven't checked on the hornet's nests yet, but the Farmer's Almanac is calling for a cold and snowy season in the Northeast and maybe even a storm during the Super Bowl, which is being held in Giants Stadium in New Jersey. Big storms or no, the Valley is always a special place to visit. In fact, Waitsfield was just recently named one of Outside Magazine’s 2013 Best Towns. This is Waitsfield’s second recognition by Outside in recent years.

To continue striving to be even better, we have been doing a lot over the summer to prepare for the upcoming winter season. Two new Pisten Bully groomers have been purchased to replace two of our older machines. We have also purchased 85 new low-energy snowmaking towers from HKD, and these will be placed on Upper Organgrinder, Downspout and Stein's. The road at Mt. Ellen will be paved as will the entire Village Road up to where the current paving ends. New carpeting has been installed in both the Valley House and the Mt. Ellen lodges. Timbers also has new carpeting, and we are pleased that Timbers recently received a “Recommended by Trip Advisor” designation due to positive guest comments. At the SHaRC, we are remodeling the ladies locker room, resurfacing the aerobics floor, and purchasing new fitness equipment. Plus, the road to SHaRC will also be repaved. These may be our more visible projects, but they represent only some of the capital improvements that our team has been working on over the summer to ensure that your experience this winter is as good as possible.

Before the snow falls, I hope you will get a chance to get up to the mountain. This year we have a very active Community Weekend planned. In addition to two weddings and our traditional Saturday morning presentation, we will host a variety of events such as free kids adventure camps, a pumpkin spice culinary demonstration and cocktail tasting, live music, a dog-friendly foliage hike, pumpkin carving, and a new farm-to-table localvore dinner buffet in Gate House Lodge.

Be sure to stick around on Sunday this year for the Mad River Path Association’s Mad Dash, and the début of our 1st Annual Family Oktoberfest. This traditional Oktoberfest will feature live music from the Mad River Bavarian Brass Band, a beer garden from Von Trapp brewery, a kid-friendly Bavarian buffet and German games for the whole family. We will also offer tours of our new Rice Brook Residences. (As of this post, only seven two- and three-bedroom homes remain available.) Rice Brook is scheduled for completion on November 15th, so owners will be able to enjoy the views and slopeside convenience this winter.

Looking forward to my ninth day on the slopes with many of you on Saturday, November 23rd.

About Win Smith
President & Owner

So what would you expect a former Executive Vice President of Merrill Lynch to do when he retires? Lay low in the islands? Nope. He moves north and works seven days a week right here at Sugarbush. Check out what he's been thinking.

Learn More about Win Smith >

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