Monday, May 6, 2019
Written by Win Smith
After 166 days, our winter season has finally come to a close. Ending once again on Cinco de Mayo weekend made for a fitting send-off. I want to thank everyone for helping to make this one of our best seasons ever.
The tone was set early when, on opening day, we were skiing trails that often do not open until well into December including an all-natural Stein’s Run. Before long, even the woods were ready to enter. Temperatures also cooperated, allowing our snowmaking team to finish their job by the end of January. Mother Nature provided us with 240” of snow. That is 95% of our historical average. Conditions remained excellent well into April, and we were skiing and riding on terrain that usually closes much earlier in the season. Special thanks to our grooming and snowmaking team for the fantastic job they did and to our lift mechanics who faced one of the windiest winters in memory. It was also great to see our neighbor, Mad River Glen, have the longest season in their seventy-year history.
While it was a very good year, we faced the challenge of finding sufficient staffing in almost all areas. With record low levels of unemployment and a declining workforce in Vermont, we (like all employers) struggled to find enough staff. Fortunately, we had a terrific group of international work-and-travel students to complement our team and together their dedication and hard work made it possible to deliver the best possible service to our guests.
Once again the majority of our skier visits were passholders and on average they were out on the hill more days than any of the last few seasons. But we were also delighted to see so many new visitors to Sugarbush. Our partnerships with both the Mountain Collective and the Ikon Pass contributed to this, although we also saw many new faces who purchased day tickets. Most of them purchased tickets online and ahead of time in order to get the best price.
Our Ski & Ride School had a record year and we were particularly delighted to see so many first timers. Our First Timer to Life Timer program offers one of best deals in the industry, and the word seems to be getting out that you can get a free season pass after three lessons plus a pair of skis or a snowboard after the fourth. Our Ski & Ride team has had some incredible leaders over the years including Peter Estin, Stein Eriksen, Sigi Grottendorfer, John Egan. And now we are so fortunate to have Terry Barbour leading our group of great professionals.
This past year we celebrated our 60th anniversary with many very special events. The Grift attracted a lot of guests to their performances of music through the decades and capped off the season with a masterful compilation of sixty years of hits in the courtyard on Saturday, April 13, which turned out to be an epic spring day. Another of the season’s highlights occurred on Saturday, April 6, the day of our annual Pond Skimming. It, too, was a fun spring day and as people gathered in the courtyard for après we were thrilled to see four of our Green Mountain Boys fly overhead on the last flight of their F-16s . That evening, we inducted the first members into our new Sugarbush Wall of Fame. It was a grand celebration to honor a number of the founders of Sugarbush and other members of our community who have contributed to the adventure and camaraderie here at Sugarbush. If you didn’t get a chance to view the Wall of Fame videos , they are a great synopsis of each inductee.
For me it was a special year because I got in 148 days on the slopes (a personal record) and watched five of my grandchildren continue to improve their skiing abilities and love it here at Sugarbush. I can’t wait to see my three-year-old grandson get on skis for the first time next season and join his cousins on the slopes.
Our Gadd Brook homes attracted additional sales over the winter so we now have only six units remaining. These are likely to be the last to be built at Lincoln Peak since we are looking to use the available land differently in the future.
During the summer months, we will be investing over $3 million in various capital improvements. Some of the more visible projects will be the renovation of the Lincoln Peak courtyard between Rumble’s Kitchen and Gate House Lodge, a new winch groomer, snowmaking on the Sleeper Road jug handle, additional employee housing, new lift shacks, and fresh paint on lift towers. Many other less-visible projects are also planned such as new flooring and new restaurant equipment in addition to our regular lift maintenance.
If you haven't purchased your 2019/20 season pass, now is the best time to look at season passes for next year. Our early season pass price deadline is this Wednesday, May 8th. We have numerous pass options, and we are also partnering again with both the Ikon Pass and the Mountain Collective. While many people will purchase only a Sugarbush season pass, we are finding that more and more are also purchasing either an Ikon or a Mountain Collective pass since they are planning to ski elsewhere, too. It is difficult to generalize what makes sense for any one person, so it is worth thinking about your plans for next winter. An addition to your Sugarbush pass could make a lot of sense. And our Quad Packs will be available later in the fall. Here’s a quick video I did breaking down the various options.
Thank you again for being part of our Sugarbush community. As our sixtieth year comes to an end, we are eagerly looking forward to life beginning anew next year and providing adventure and camaraderie for many years to come.