AlpineZone Challenge 2004 – Kris Blomback of Pats Peak

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. Kris BlombackGeneral Manager at Pats Peak in Henniker, New Hampshire, took the AlpineZone Ski Area Challenge and provided the following responses on 8/18/2004:

thetrailboss: Great to see you take the challenge. My compliments on your operation. As a fairly die-hard skier used to bigger mountains and now relocated to Boston, I was pleasantly surprised by your mountain and its terrain and service.

My girlfriend and I are pass holders and appreciate what you have done so far at the mountain. I enjoy the steep expert terrain. Are there plans for adding lights to Hurricane or Tornado? That would be great for expert skiers, especially when FIS is closed for racing, but I understand that most of the clientele are novice skiers and they might stray! I like how you left bumps on half of Hurricane and groomed the other side. Do you plan on doing the same for other expert trails (assuming there is enough snow)?

Kris Blomback: Thanks for the comments. Its is feedback like yours which guides our management. We modify our long term master planning based on customer feedback. Our Mt. Ops crews get real antsy when they have idle time on their hands so it unlikely that we will sit on our laurels. With that said I suspect you will probably see lights on Tornado within the next three years. It is a trail we do wish to light. We will probably light Downdraft next year and Tornado after that. Lights on Hurricane are not a top priority right now. Your feedback on the ½ groom ½ bumps is consistent with how others like it as well. It gives them a chance to catch their breath and play in the bumps at their own pace. We will continue this practice in the future. Look for us to make some manmade bumps in the future as well.

thetrailboss: Do you own the cleared area beyond the top of the lifts and behind the snowmaking building? If so, are you going to develop it? Do you have any long term plans to develop trails on the taller mountain behind the current resort?

Kris Blomback: If I am reading your question correctly you are asking about a cleared site at the top of the mountain. That is going to be the home or our snowmaking pond, which will hopefully be built, in the next year or two. Its all part of our fully permitted master plan to be able to open up 100% of Pats Peak within 48 hours. Having the pond up top will allow us to make one of the most electrically efficient snowmaking systems that much better by utilizing gravity for the lower mountain instead of high horsepower vertical turbines. We have been working off of a master plan that was developed by Snomatic in 1999. A brief overview of what is being constructed can be found here at the Snomatic website. In regards to terrain expansion. There are no current plans to go beyond the existing property line. We have the ability to add a few trails within our existing property and you might see some in the next few years. Nothing is definitive at this time. Skier demand will determine the need for additional terrain.

thetrailboss: Do you groom in between day and night skiing? If not, is that something you could consider doing this season?

Kris Blomback: We groom based on slope and snow conditions. We do groom FIS Race trail for our Corporate Race series after the high schools are done training to remove the ruts that the students can leave after gate training. If patrol dictates that conditions have deteriorated based on traffic or conditions we will dispatch our three snowcats to groom terrain. For safety reasons we do not like snowcats on the hill when the public is present unless patrol has closed the trail.

thetrailboss: Can anything be done about the water that pools near the base of the new triple?

Kris Blomback: We were just as perplexed as you as to why there was so much water during that one little melt down in the spring. We invested quite bit of time making sure there were plenty of French drains to remove the water from the maze area. At this point we have made sure that all the drainage is working and are willing to give it another year to see if it was a one-time fluke. We have also modified some drainage ditches uphill of that area so we are going to see how that works out.

thetrailboss: The Rental Shop addition was great and we really enjoyed using it last year for POP on Saturday nights. We always arrived early, but I did hear some grumbles regarding the shop running out of skis and boots. Are you planning on doing something to remedy this?

Kris Blomback: We replaced the entire fleet last year with top of the line Rossingnol equipment (1200 + sets). In addition each pair of boots resides on its own individual boot dryer to guarantee you folks some nice dry boots. For this year we replaced our entire line of junior skis and boots by upping our inventories of junior stuff by approximately 150 skis and more than 200 new pairs of boots.

thetrailboss: Kudos on adding lights to Blast–that is a nice trail and will distribute the traffic, however, last season there was quite a bit of blue ice on parts of that trail. Considering that you are adding lights, will you be blowing more snow on this trail? Is Vortex an official trail? If so, could you blow snow on it so that it could be opened more often? Narrow runs are great!

You’re doing a great job! Let’s hope for a good snow season!

Kris Blomback: Great questions. The Blast expansion was a widening of an old New England style trail. That trail was “difficult” to say the least too tame. You wouldn’t think it would be…being so tame. But there were hundreds of large boulders that all need to be buried. We inadvertently opened up some springs that caused that blue ice to percolate up. There was not an issue of blowing snow…. There was plenty. What we need to do is install some French drains to whisk that water away from the surface and deposit it off trail. If time permits we will install some drains at the intersection where it was most prevalent. Vortex is an offical trail that we can blow snow on. We honestly dont get much demand to ski that trail though.
The first thing I’d like to do is send additional compliments on how Pat’s Peak is run. My family and I have always managed to get in a lot of good skiing at Pat’s Peak, even when you’ve had some considerable crowds. The Rental Shop addition was a welcome improvement for last season, and I know my 7 year old daughter will really enjoy the new magic carpet lift this year.

hammer: Is there any room on the easier terrain for adding bumps? I’d like to be able to try out bump skiing but the pitch on Hurricane is beyond my current abilities.

Kris Blomback: On occasion we do allow some of the blue trails to bump up but its one of those double edge swords when it comes to customer service. Because we are a beginner mountain we frequently get complaints when we do let some of what I call the “fun stuff” to build up. What trail in your mind would you like us to see bump up? As mentioned before we generally let Hurricane and Tornado and all the glades get bumped. Skiers right of Twister and FIS we let bump when there are no scheduled races.

hammer: Would it be possible to slow down the summit double lift when the triple is not in operation? One time I went last year, the triple was not in operation, so all of the beginner and novice skiers were using the summit double, and I saw a few times when some kids took a spill and/or left equipment behind when loading onto the lift.

Kris Blomback: You can ask the operator to slow the lift down and the operator will. The Peak chair is one of our easiest lifts to ride. Before our instructor let the kids go up the main mountain they are thoroughly instructed over in the Valley areas on how to get on and off the lifts. Sometimes the operator may assume that everyone riding the summit lifts is an experienced rider. Most skiers don’t know that they can request the lift too be slowed the operator will slow it right down.

hammer: Do you currently or have you considered separating the lesson groups by age? I’d like to take some more group lessons, and I believe that I could get more out of them if there were only older teenagers and adults in the group.

Kris Blomback: We do try to balance instruction by age and ability. This can usually be accommodated on busier days when there is more of a “pool” to choose from. I will agree that sometimes lessons can have the whole spectrum of age. Have you looked into our Adult Ski Clinics that are very attractively priced and meet for seven consecutive weekends starting the first weekend of January? You stick with the same class for the seven weeks. It’s a great way to have fun and meet new people. Naturally if you pick it up faster than the group you are “bumped” up to the next level.

hammer: Is there any room for additional storage areas in the lodges? When it’s crowded, it can be a bit of a challenge to find a place for our stuff.

Kris Blombock: 
Last season we launched a Bag Check in response to that very same request. It was a huge success and we will be looking to expand if further in the future. It is located at snow level in the Valley lodge right where Lost and Found is located.

I had fun with this questionnaire. Thanks a lot for asking about Pats Peak. If you folks are ever in the neighborhood and want the nickel tour of snowmaking, lodges or lifts just give us a shout. Our doors are always open.


Kris Blomback
General Manager
Pats Peak Ski Area
PO Box 2448
24 Flanders Road
Henniker, NH 03242
603-428-3245 Ext 107

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