My Thanks for an Incredible 60th Season
Friday, May 10, 2019
Written by Win Smith
Recently, Lili and I traveled to San Diego for the annual National Ski Areas Association conference and then to Omaha, Nebraska for the annual Berkshire Hathaway meeting. Unfortunately, that meant that I missed the final two days of the season and have ended up with 148 days on the slopes (so far) rather than my goal of 150. I say “so far” because I might still slip away in the next several weeks for a couple of days to either Killington, California or Utah where there is still lift accessed skiing to be had.
Our season here at Sugarbush ended on Cinco de Mayo after 166 days, and it certainly was a season to celebrate. Our 20.5 feet of snow was 98% of historical average and an unusually snowy November set the tone and the lack of an extended thaw maintained the snowpack throughout the winter. Certainly the many 60th anniversary events we hosted also added to the camaraderie of the season.
I do want to express my appreciation to the entire Sugarbush community for making this a special year. Our passholders continue to support us in so many ways including introducing new friends to our community. It was also great to see so many new faces and more diversity this winter. And, of course, I do want to thank the Sugarbush team for all they do. We are so fortunate to have such a dedicated team who is really passionate about delivering a quality guest experience.
It is a great honor to serve as the current Chair of the National Ski Areas Association, and I always look forward to our board meetings and the annual convention. In San Diego, we learned that national skier visits this year were the fourth highest on record as they exceeded 59 million and that every region had a good to excellent season. We also learned that the difficulty of attracting sufficient staff was top of mind for just about everyone. And we had a lot of discussion about climate change and how the ski industry needs to address it both with actions of its own and political advocacy. Many within the industry are embarked on major initiatives, and it is always good to learn from one’s peers.
We were very honored to receive this year’s NSAA Climate Change Award along with Jiminy Peak. The credit for this goes to our entire team for the multiple initiatives we have taken in recent years. Since 2014 we have reduced our carbon emissions by 24% which means that Sugarbush has released1,063 fewer tons of emissions. While we are certainly proud of this, we all need to do even more and to advocate for all to do their part so that future generations will continue to enjoy our planet in the same fashion as we have. We all learned in grammar school how trees absorb CO2, and I recently learned that a healthy one-acre forest absorbs the carbon emission of twenty-seven automobiles driven for an entire year. We are fortunate here in Vermont that our forests absorb nearly 70% of our carbon emissions which is why maintaining the health of our forests is so important and that planting more trees is important too.
On Wednesday of last week, we had our own green-up day at Sugarbush when scores of our teammates cleaned up trash throughout the resort and separated what could be recycled from that and what would go into a landfill. While our guests seem to throw a lot less trash around than many, it is still sad to see how much we find when the snows have melted.
In Omaha, Lili and I listened to the words of Warren Buffet who is certainly one of the wisest people of our times. Perhaps the biggest takeaway is his annual reminder of what a great country we live in and despite short-term issues, he remains bullish on our economy and our free market system.
Speaking of bullish, It turned out that my former employer, Merrill Lynch, was having its own national conference at the same hotel in San Diego. While it has been 18 years since I retired, it was great seeing some former colleagues who are still there and many of whom are Sugarbush skiers.
Returning home, I was pleased to see the progress that has been made on our plaza. The new cobblestones look great and the areas are starting to come together. It was also nice to see the golf course open and greening up, but we now need some more sun and warmer temperatures to bring out the leaves and get our grass growing. However, winter was still hanging around this week and we saw a fresh 6” of snow Monday night on the summits. For those still hiking up at either LP or ME this was certainly a nice May treat. This now brings our annual snowfall to 246” just four inches shy of our historical average.
Brew-Grass Fest is only a month away so do not forget to get your tickets. And a few weeks after that we will be riding Bravo again for lift-accessed mountain biking and our summer season will begin officially.
Thank you for another wonderful winter season. As out 60th winter year comes to a close, we are now looking forward to a new chapter as life here at Sugarbush begins again. The future will most certainly offer new directions and improvements, but the culture that was begun by the Gadds and their founding partners will surely continue, and we are looking forward to many more years of adventure and camaraderie.