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. Sven Cole, Communications Manager of Attitash Bear Peak in Bartlett, New Hampshire, took the AlpineZone Ski Area Challenge and provided the following responses on 6/10/2004:
riverc0il: During my one and only day skiing at Attitash, I noticed that the summit triple is really slow. Are there plans to upgrade this lift eventually to a faster fixed grip and if so, how would this effect the “over the quad” pass that happens a third of the way up?
Sven Cole: It is fitting that this is the number one question on this list, as it is the most often heard comment. The famed summit triple is slow, and at least for the upcoming season, and most likely at least a couple more it will continue to be slow. Of course the lift guys tell us that they can run the chair at the same speed as a detach, the issue would be surviving the loading and unloading- so we haven’t tried that solution. The chair is long at over 6400 feet, so as a fixed grip it takes about 14 minutes.
We hope to replace the Summit Triple with a high speed quad in the future, but it is a big project ($3.5 million) and one that would be nice to have but not an absolute necessity. When we do replace that lift there will be trail expansion off the summit as well. Currently our uphill capacity and downhill capacity are nicely matched off the summit of Attitash. When we increase that uphill capacity, as a high-speed quad would do, we will need to increase the downhill capacity to match. It’s a big project that many of us hope to see in coming years, but no exact timetable is set. In terms of the “over the quad pass”, that will most likely remain, as we would use the existing lift line.
eatskisleep: Will Attitash continue to add more downhill mountain biking trails?
Sven Cole: Yes. New trails are being designed and created now. Some of these trails are being “rediscovered” and others are being built from scratch. We are seeing more interest in the downhill mountain biking and are working to create more excitement on the hill.
teach ski: I’ve only been to Attitash a couple of times, but both times there was a considerable amount of ice; both times were also in what is generally mid-season and at a time where glorious groomed powdery days were observed at other nearby areas. Is icing a frequent problem at Attitash and what if anything is being done to address this issue?
Sven Cole: There certainly are days when we have challenging conditions as does any mountain. Attitash faces two issues that serve as both a challenge and benefit- our exposure and pitch. Our exposure is northern, so we tend to hold snow longer then other resorts, but that also means the snow doesn’t soften as much during the day. Second much of our mountain is fairly steep, great for skiing and riding, but it makes for terrain that skis off more easily.
When there hasn’t been natural snow or a trail hasn’t had snowmaking in awhile the groomed conditions are best in the morning, then as the day progresses you’ll find you need to work the terrain a bit more to find the good snow. The key is to ski or ride the whole mountain. There are going to be some trails that get skied off earlier, especially high traffic trails. Then there are the trails that still have great snow at the end of the day.
My personal tactic is start at Attitash in the morning for the first couple of hours then move over to Bear Peak for the second half of the day. Attitash is a mountain that takes a little while to get wired, but once you do it doesn’t matter what Mother Nature has thrown at us you can find good snow.
The issue of conditions is addressed with snowmaking and grooming. This past year we didn’t see much natural snow, yet the comments were very positive in regards to snow quality. Our snowmaking and grooming teams worked very hard and had the resources to make for great skiing and riding. That is our goal and game plan going forward.
teachski: What ever happened to the proposed Minirail line to the summit that is on a pre-1967 trail map? Was it ever built? If so, how long did it operate and when was it removed?
Sven Cole: This question refers to an effort to run a monorail from the base of Attitash to the summit as a lift, something that would have been unique. A section of track and the actual car for the monorail were built at the base area as a display in 1967, but the project never made it to the summit and was dismantled in the early 70’s. Someone in Maine purchased the track and car, but I’m not sure where they finally ended up after leaving Attitash.
teachski: Was Bear Peak an independent ski area before it became part of Attitash? What year did the two merge?
Sven Cole: As the story goes there were two groups trying to develop ski areas here in the early 60’s. One group at Attitash another group at Bear Peak. The group at Bear Peak had permits but no cash, the Attitash group had cash but needed help on the permits. The two got together and developed Attitash, opening on January 26, 1965. The first trails and the Abenaki Quad at Bear Peak came on-line in the 1994 as an expansion of Attitash. In 1995 the Flying Bear and Kachina Triple came on-line and the rest of the trails were built. In 1997 the Grand Summit Resort Hotel was built.
Monkey Boy: I would love to see Partmagan at least with half the trail from top to bottom with bumps on it. Is this a possibility?
Sven Cole: This question got a few good conversations going in the operations department. Upper Ptarmigan does get bumped up, but due to the shape of the trail it is either bumped or groomed. The width and shape doesn’t allow for a good half groomed half bumped environment. Middle Ptarmigan, the steep pitch, isn’t usually allowed to bump up- but due to the question there is dialogue going on about how it would make a good bump run. So we will have to see where that ends up next winter. Much will depend on the snow. Middle Ptarmigan is very steep, so it will need really good snow to develop good bumps- as well as a number of good skiers skiing it to bump it up! Lower Ptarmigan is where the Superpipe is located so that obviously won’t bump up.
Monkey Boy: Are there any plans for cutting some new glade trails?
Sven Cole: Not at this point. Currently we are working on maintaining the existing glades, keeping new growth trimmed and cleaning up blow downs. The glades didn’t get much use this past winter, as they were a bit thin. Hopefully that won’t be the case this season.
Monkey Boy: Any plans to set up a rope tow for the half pipe and or the terrain park?
Sven Cole: There is dialogue going on about this topic, but nothing concrete yet.
thetrailboss: I was an ASC All East passholder in 2000-2001 and visited Attitash a couple times. I was impressed with your early season conditions, but I too noted that you had a lot of ice in January 2001 when I visited. This could be due to the terrain or traffic. I also noted that you seemed to sit on the wrong side of the snowbelt and thus the glades were bare. What have you done since to try and compensate for the ice and lack of snow in the glades?
Sven Cole: I can’t recount January 2001 conditions, but I’m sure there were a few days in there that were “icy”. Before I go any further I should point out that rarely do you encounter ice at most ski resorts. Firm snow or boiler plate- yes, but ice- rarely. I point this out because as a ski area marketing guy we get accused of over using the term “packed powder”, which may be true- but I would argue that most skiers and boarders over use the term “ice”. Ok, now that I have that off my chest I would say there are days when conditions are firm and you need to be on your game to make nice turns. As I mentioned in the answer to question number 3, there are trails that get skied off but there are also trails that on that same day have great snow. You just have to move around the mountain and explore.
Snowmaking and grooming continue to be a focus and the word from our long time skiers is that this year we were really onto something. The game plan is to continue to work hard in those areas. To the question about the glades, they are a natural snow playground. There aren’t any efforts being put forward to put in snowmaking in the glades, nor is it really feasible at this point due to the way snow is made. Glades will continue to be (which is part of what makes them fun) an area where conditions will be variable and ones ability to read terrain and snow will dictate the quality of the run they have.
The snowbelt comment, I’m not sure how to answer that one. Certainly this season our region didn’t get great snow, but in other years this area has been blessed. I think it just depends year to year. I at least hope this year isn’t an indicator of future seasons!
Greg: Will you offer the combined Attitash/Sunday River season pass again for the 2004/2005 season? What will it cost?
Sven Cole: We have something in the works. The Attitash/Sunday River pass was a big success this season and we plan on improving that pass product for this upcoming season. Right now there is a lot of work being put into what we can make happen for next year. Hopefully everyone will feel the wait is worth it!