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Win's Word

Is it snowing yet?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Season Passes on Sale NowNo, it is not snowing yet! But in just over two months, we will be firing-up our snowguns and it will be time for Mother Nature to pitch-in as well. So now is the time to buy your season pass for the 2011/12 season.

Last year was certainly epic. We skied from Thanksgiving Day through May 1st and recorded 308 inches of snow. I skied the most number of days ever and really had some terrific powder mornings.

Our pass offerings this season are essentially the same as last year. Despite substantially increased energy and other costs, our pass prices have increased only 5% this year (after holding at the same rate for the three prior years) and we have many options from which to choose. We will also be offering our SugarDirect Card again this year on October 1st and free skiing/riding to any child under twelve whose parents purchase an adult All Mountain 7 Pass or an adult Mt. Ellen pass.

This year we also have a new pass for adults in their twenties. We have named it the "For20s Pass." It costs just $299 plus tax and has no blackout days. Why are we doing this? Well, the National Ski Areas Association did some research recently and discovered something that would alarm any business. Our core set of skiers, the Baby Boomers, are getting older and will likely start skiing and riding less. (Now, for some of us that will not be the case!) Looking toward the future, then, our industry will depend upon the next demographic set called Gen Y, but this group is not skiing as frequently as the Baby Boomers did at their age. In fact, when we analyzed our own data here at Sugarbush we discovered that we have very few season pass holders between the ages of 20 and 29.

Since we suspect that the current economy and the struggle to make ends meet during and after college may be part of the reason, we have decided to offer a first in the industry -- a value pass for adults ages 19 - 29. It is our investment in both their future and our future, knowing that there is no better lifetime activity than skiing or riding.

This year we have allocated over a million dollars toward improvements in our snow product. We are making an $800,000 investment in snowmaking upgrades, including a $500,000 purchase of groundbreaking new snowgun technology. This addition of forty ultra-low energy snowguns, which require vastly less compressed air to operate, will permit us to double our snowmaking production during warmer early-season temperatures, running more snowguns simultaneously at both Lincoln Peak and Mt. Ellen.

Because these snowguns use significantly less electricity per gallon of water, they will help us reduce our energy consumption without compromising either the quality or quantity of snow. This investment will permit top-to-bottom skiing on more trails sooner at Lincoln Peak. It will also allow GMVS to train on Inverness much earlier in the season.

Our other major purchase for the mountain is a new $280,000 Pisten Bully winch cat for steep-trail grooming. We have also rebuilt a few of our snowmaking compressors to ensure that they remain reliable and we have continued to perform preventative maintenance both on the snowmaking system and on our sixteen lifts.

In the base area this summer, we finalized the final punchlist items on our Farmhouse and Schoolhouse lodges and completed our new landscaping, which includes native shrubs and beautiful large-specimen trees.

This winter we are once again offering our First Timer to Life Timer ski-and-ride lesson program which won the National Ski Areas Association's award for 2011. Last year, over two hundred first timers completed this three-day program and earned themselves a season pass. A number of them have already purchased a pass for this season, too. It is exciting to see people as old as 60 getting hooked on skiing. So if you know anyone who has never been on skis or a snowboard, let them know about this great program.

Our team at Sugarbush has had a full and active summer and hosted twenty-two weddings (including my own!). Our golf course played beautifully, the mountain was busy with mountain bikers and campers, and our partnership with New England Tennis Holidays was once again a big success. I trust that many of you will be here for our annual Community Day celebration on Saturday, October 8th.

It has been a memorable summer but now we are all getting excited for the coming winter season and hope to see all of you on the mountain before long. Opening day at Lincoln Peak is scheduled for Saturday, November 19th with Mt. Ellen opening on Friday, December 16th. The last day at Mt.Ellen will be Sunday, April 1, 2012 but hopefully we will be again skiing/riding at Lincoln Peak through the end of April.

Rumble and I and my bride, Lili, are all looking forward to enjoying another winter of great skiing and riding with you.

Win

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.

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