A Surprising April

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April has certainly been full of surprises.  The month got off to a terrific start with two powder Saturdays in a row followed by a delightful Pond Skimming event on Sunday.  As usual, the early forecast for this past week looked bleak. After setting up Thursday night, our groomers worked their magic.  Friday turned out to be another bluebird day, with temperatures climbing into the 50’s at the base, and soft turns everywhere on the mountain.  Saturday was another nice spring day of skiing, with blue skies and warm temperatures creating some soft mogul runs.  By early evening, the skies turned cloudy and we received a hefty amount of rain overnight.  By Sunday morning, the sun was peeking out as people started loading Super Bravo at 6:45 AM for the Rev’s non-denominational Easter Service at Allyn’s Lodge. It was nice to see standing room only (again) for the Rev.

The rain, however, did scour a number of trails. Downspout had a moonlike surface in spots, with a lot of dirt showing.  But the spring sun did its job, and by 10 AM, a number of lower-mountain trails were softening and skiing well again. Our two Easter Egg Hunts were well attended, as was our annual Easter Brunch at Timbers.

With more rain overnight on Sunday, our groomers were not able to patch things together. We only skied the trails off the Valley House Quad on Monday.  Cooler temperatures tonight will allow our groomers to try to push Downspout together so we can continue skiing trails off of Heaven’s Gate.  It is unlikely, though, that trails below Heaven’s Gate will be skiable.  The trails off of the Valley House are in good shape and skied great today.  My runs down Stein’s were fabulous.

In addition to the weather, last week’s other big surprise was the announcement that a newly-formed corporation, whose two shareholders are KSL and Aspen, is acquiring Intrawest. Intrawest owns such mountains as Stratton, Tremblant, Blue Mountain (Toronto), and Steamboat, and manages Winter Park.  Two days later, it was announced that this new company would also purchase Mammoth, and that Squaw Valley (already owned by KSL) would be put into the new company.  This move continues the consolidation we have been seeing in the industry, started by Vail. The private equity firm Och-Ziff recently closed on the purchase of the numerous ski areas formerly owned by CNL, the real estate investment trust.  Powdr Corporation, which owns Killington, is another corporation that owns multiple resorts.  As I mentioned in a previous message, we have tremendous respect for these organizations. However, we believe there remains a place for the family-owned and operated resorts like Sugarbush, Smuggler’s Notch, and Wachusett in the East, and most of the Mountain Collective Resorts out West. We have been able to make the investments necessary to provide our guests with a unique and valuable experience. We are able to make decisions quickly, and we base those decisions on what is best for our guests for the long-term.

Aspen, Mammoth and Squaw Valley are members of the Mountain Collective, so the obvious question is what will happen to the MC after the acquisition of Intrawest? Will some or all of the Intrawest mountains become part of the Mountain Collective?  For this year, nothing changes.  The 16 resorts that are part of the Mountain Collective will remain the same. Others could certainly be added in the future, making the MC even more attractive, but nothing has been decided at this point. As I am sure you know by now, the purchase of any of our Premium Passes allows you to ski for 50% off the day ticket price at the other 15 MC mountains.  If you purchase a MC pass separately, you get to ski two days at all 16 MC mountains, and then receive 50% off the day-ticket price on subsequent days.  For those planning a vacation out west and wanting to ski at some of the best mountains in the USA and Canada, this is a terrific option.

Our own season passes are selling very well, and prices will go up after May 3rd.  As I mentioned, we do have a limit on the number of Premium Passes that we will sell at these prices. If we near that limit, I will give you adequate notice.  So far, we have ample room. But I know that most people purchase close to the deadline, so we will be monitoring this closely.

This Saturday is our second annual Stein’s Challenge. This is an opportunity for those of you with strong quads and healthy knees to show your stuff; and for the rest of us, an opportunity to admire you at the base of Stein’s while sipping a beverage and enjoying a slice of wood-fired pizza.

I want to end this message with a thank you to the many of you who have expressed your condolences about our loss of Rumble. Thank you for the cards, photos and memories you have shared.  This has meant a lot to Lili and me, and to our family.  Up in Dog Heaven, Rumble is thanking you, too.  This weekend, our family plans to scatter his ashes on the mountain.