AlpineZone Challenge 2004 – JJ Toland of Sugarbush

The AlpineZone Ski Area Challenge was designed to provide a method for our forum members to get official answers to skiing-related questions directly from a ski area representative. JJ TolandCommunications Manager of Sugarbush Resort in Warren, Vermont, took the AlpineZone Ski Area Challenge and provided the following responses on 7/9/2004:

thetrailboss: Let me get the most obvious question out of the way (at least for most of us). Rumors abound, what are the latest developments with regards to “The Lodge”?

JJ Toland: Construction of the Lodge at Lincoln Peak has been postponed indefinitely. Although senior debt financing for the project had been secured and nearly $25 million in pre-sales put under contract, the terms of the remaining portion of mezzanine financing created an unacceptable amount of risk for the Resort. We had hoped that the Lodge would be an early project in our overall master plan, but our first commitment must be to continuing the needed improvements in the Resort after years of neglect. Any delay in the construction of the Lodge or volatility in the construction-materials market would have added costs that would have required additional financing and created a tremendous amount of risk and exposure for Sugarbush as a whole. We will continue to aggressively invest in Sugarbush’s future and remain committed to the Resort’s success. Our planning team is currently reviewing a number of design alternatives for the former Lodge site and we will have updates as the picture comes into focus. We are not walking away from developing an on-mountain lodging property.

thetrailboss: I was quite interested to see that you are working on some new glades on Mount Ellen. Where are these glades? What will they be named? Any other terrain expansion plans in the works?

JJ Toland: Right now we are working on adding approximately 40 acres of new gladed terrain on Mount Ellen. The work is scheduled for the glades to skier’s left of Exterminator, the glades between Exterm and Bravo, the trees to skier’s right of Tumbler, the area between Semi-Tough and Walt’s, and the glades between Exterm and WayBack. Some of these areas will receive work; some will just be gated and staked for natural hazards. Care will be given to natural lines and lines that have evolved through the years. Names for the new areas have yet to be determined. For now, this is the only terrain expansion we have planned. We are building a new Progression Park for the 04/05 season with a new sound system and we will have two new yurts on Mount Ellen.

Joshua B: The Slide Brook Express quad that joins Mount Ellen and Lincoln Peak is one of the greatest developments to happen to New England skiing in years, but when it’s not running it’s a major inconvenience. Would you consider running the lift more often?

JJ Toland: We wrestle with this issue every season and would love to run the Slide Brook more often. Two factors contribute to the Slide Brook’s run times. The first and most obvious is safety. If there is excessive wind or extreme cold, we will not run the Slide Brook simply because of the hazard the weather presents to our customers. Secondly, we have scheduled SB run times to correspond with its usage; weekends and holidays. As demand increases so will run times. There is a free shuttle that runs seven days a week every half hour.

Joshua B: Does an official affiliation with Mad River Glen ever seem likely? What is the history of the trail cut between MRG and Mount Ellen?

JJ Toland: I haven’t heard of any plans for an “official” affiliation. We currently have a cooperative program with MRG through the SKI THE VALLEY ticket which is a lift ticket that allows you to ski at MRG, Sugarbush and Ole’s X-Country Center and when we are at snow expos together, we promote all the Valley has to offer.

I am unaware of any trail that runs between Sugarbush and MRG other than the Long Trail.

Charlie Schuessler: The folks at Sugarloaf stated that they were pleased with the relationship with ASC and stated some merits. How has Sugarbush faired since the split from ASC?

JJ Toland: 
ASC invested a lot in improving Sugarbush; the Slide Brook Express and increased snow-making capabilities being two of the biggest. Summit Ventures, the partnership that now owns the Bush, continued the trend, installing the Green Mountain Express and putting in a new Castlerock chair. SV has also stepped up Sugarbush’s outreach efforts expanding our presence in such markets as Boston, Hartford and NYC. Since the season SV initially took the helm (01/02), Sugarbush has seen a steady increase in its skier/rider days. We also installed a million-dollar irrigation system at the golf course and have noticed an increase in golf rounds. All in all, Sugarbush benefited from its relationship with ASC and is doing really well with Summit Ventures at the helm.

jlangdale: Is the Valley House and Mushroom really going to close? If so, what is going to replace the Valley House should it close?

JJ Toland: Part of our Master Plan calls for large-scale improvements and upgrades to the entire base area of Lincoln Peak, but right now there are no immediate plans to close the Valley House and the Mushroom.

jlangdale: Is NASTAR being moved from Spring Fling next year? If not and it is staying on Spring Fling, are they going to close it totally off? I heard a rumor Spring Fling might be totally closed off.

JJ Toland: Not that I’ve heard. I haven’t heard anything about total closure.

jlangdale: Will the Ben & Jerry’s festival ever return to Sugarbush?

JJ Toland: At the present time, there are no plans for the Ben & Jerry’s festival to return to Sugarbush.

jlangdale: Is pass/ticket scanning going to continue like last season?

JJ Toland: We will be scanning next year; however, we have addressed a lot of the challenges from the first year so the second season will be smoother.

pepperdawg: A question regarding the new Mount Ellen-only pass this year. Will it be honored at Lincoln peak early/late season (e.g. when Mount Ellen isn’t yet operational/closed for the season)? Or will Mount Ellen be the first to open and last to close?
JJ Toland: Mount Ellen is the first peak to open and the last to close. The ME-only pass will only be good for Mount Ellen.

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