Thursday, February 14, 2013
Someone said to me the other day, "It seems like there are a lot more people here this year and that the lifts lines are getting longer on the weekends." I sensed that he was both happy and sad, since this is indeed true. It is always an interesting dilemma. We need to have enough skier visits to remain sufficiently profitable in order to continue improvements at the resort each year. But one of the reasons I love Sugarbush (and I know you do, too) is that the skiing and riding experience here is not like it is at other resorts where the trails are frequently too congested and the lift lines are forty minutes long.
This season we have experienced three days with skier visits exceeding our previous record set in February 2007 after a Valentine's Day storm. The first of these record-breaking days was December 28th when all trails were open, all lifts were running, and the woods were skiing great. Parking was bottlenecked that morning because most people arrived at the same time. However, lift lines other than Castlerock were rarely more than ten minutes long and the trails did not seem congested. The biggest complaint I received that day was a call to my cell phone saying we needed more buses on German Flats Road to pick-up guests who had skied into Slide Brook.
Sugarbush when 100% open can handle the volume that we saw on that all-time record day. In contrast, the Saturday of MLK occurred after our mini-thaw. A number of lifts were on windhold, including Slide Brook, North Lynx, Heaven's Gate, and Bravo around noon. It was a tough day to have a near-record crowd. Lines at the Gate House and Valley House lifts were twenty-five to thirty minutes long, and I would bet that other mountains in the Northeast experienced the same.
The good news is that this year we installed lift cams at Bravo, Heaven's Gate, Castlerock, Gate House, and GMX. These can be viewed in the lodges and also on the app available for iPhones and Androids. With so many cams, you can see in real time where the shortest lift lines are and what is currently open. If you haven't already done so, make sure to update your app. As you may already know, Mt. Ellen is usually less crowded on a busy day, so taking the Slide Brook Express or the Mad Bus from Lincoln Peak is often a smart move. While we cannot prevent windhold and other acts of Nature, we work hard to keep our guests informed on conditions and provide them with rewarding options.
I have noticed this year that more people are eating lunch in the Valley House, either at the cafeteria or in The Wunderbar, and many have discovered The Wunderbar for apres ski as well. This is a great option and helps prevent the crowding that can happen in the Gate House and Castlerock Pub at noon. The Sunrise Cafe is also a nice option, not only for a morning bite to eat but also for lunch. And don't forget Allyn's Lodge at the top of Bravo for a mid-mountain alternative.
As we approach President's Week, I am pleased to report that the mountain is in very good shape. Over the past four days, we have made more snow on Birch, Sunrise, Upper Rim Run and Elbow. All of our snowmaking trails have been refreshed and are able to be groomed and will be skiing and riding nicely. The snow we have received recently has been a bit moister and is bonding better to the natural trails, but we still need at least six inches of new snow to put areas like Castlerock and the woods in decent shape again. In sounds like we will get some snow leading into the weekend. And the long-range forecast is indicating that some real storms might develop Tuesday or Wednesday next week. Fingers are crossed.
To those who will be here over the next ten days, make sure to check-out the many amazing activities and events that we have planned. On Saturday, February 16th, we will have our Family Fun Night with street performers and kid-friendly food prior to fireworks. On Thursday, February 21st, Lili is hosting a special apres event in Timbers -- Canvas and Cocktails -- and no artistic ability is required. She will show you how to create a painting and have a fun time doing it. Artist's materials are provided. Just get your favorite beverage from the bar, relax, and allow your creative juices to flow. I also encourage you to join Lili and me for a really interesting afternoon and evening event that we are hosting in partnership with Champlain College on Saturday, February 23rd. Intriguing seminar presentations will be followed by cocktails, dinner, and a violin performance. It is an inaugural event, so the cost is just $50. We would love to have you join us. Also that afternoon, Vermont Institute of Natural Sciences will be back with their Live Birds of Prey Performance. There is some great live entertainment most afternoons throughout the holiday, too.
Happy Valentine's Day! We are all looking forward to seeing you on the slopes this coming week.