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. Chris Bradford, Director of Marketing at Crotched Mountain Ski Area in Bennington, New Hampshire, took the AlpineZone Ski Area Challenge and provided the following responses on 6/7/2005:
Greg: How did the “Midnight Madness” program (skiing & snowboarding on 100% of Crotched’s terrain from 9pm-3am) go over last season? Were there any unique challenges to keeping a ski area open until the wee hours of the morning? Will you be doing it again next season?
Chris Bradford: Midnight Madness has been a success in its own right. Slope-side bon fires, live entertainment, mysterious skiers in spiderman costumes – it’s not your every-day type of night skiing! Yes, there are challenges in operating these extreme hours, but the experience of Peak Resorts has helped Crotched launch Midnight Madness in New England without a hitch. We’re fortunate to have an extremely energetic staff, so staffing issues haven’t been a problem for us either.
hammer: Chris, thanks for participating again this year. I have a few questions. First, with regards to terrain, are there any plans to add trails or open up any more gladed areas? Are there any plans to add a “mogul field” on any of the trails?
Chris Bradford: We had a decent mogul field going this past season on Pluto’s Plunge beneath the summit quad. I personally enjoyed watching one of our full-time patrollers nail through the field on an old pair of Fisher Silverglass skis from the 70′s. I think it takes a crazy pair of old straights to run a good line in the bumps I’m sure we’ll have another mogul field this coming season once there’s enough snow.
Are there plans to open more trails? Good question. The short answer is ‘sortof’. I can’t go into specifics right now, but there are plans to cut a number of trails this summer. These trails, however, will not likely be serviced by snowmaking/lifts this season, and therefore will remain off the trail map this year. Expect more information about this later this summer, but I think Crotched fans will be quite happy.
thetrailboss: Though you are slightly different in terms of target markets and ownership, have you considered teaming up with Pats Peak or Sunapee to offer a “Southern New Hampshire” pass program or something? At least, have you considered marketing together as a region with multi-day deals? Burke and Jay offer reciprocal season passes and it has led me and others to frequent both areas and spread the word about these resorts that we might not normally visit. This might also work to unite your areas in attracting skiers/riders because, to be honest, a lot of folks will drive further north thinking that there is awesome skiing when in fact Crotched might offer a better experience much closer to home.
Chris Bradford: Check this out: Pat’s Peak had a record year with 146,000 skier visits, and that’s good news! Crotched also did well, exceeding it’s 2nd year growth goal and doubling it’s business over the opening year. Why am I excited about Pat’s record season? It indicates that skiers & riders are discovering the Monadnock Region and realizing that the skiing here is just as good as the northern areas, minus the long drive! Right here in this area are Pat’s, Crotched and Sunapee – multiple ski areas and multiple choices for the customers are making this region an attractive destination, and thus the explosive growth. These numbers tell us that the market is growing in this region and there’s isn’t an overwhelming need to partner-up to share the wealth.
Bob R: Do you have weekly night ski racing leagues? If yes, how does on one get more info on starting a team? Some of us here at Alpinezone are interested in getting a group together for some night skiing at your resort.
Chris Bradford: We did not have a weekly “beer league” racing program this past season, although we did host several high-school race teams and a “Buddy Warner” junior race league & coaching program. There’s a good chance that an adult league could run this next season, so you’ll probably want to check back with the mountain toward the beginning of the season.
thetrailboss: Chris, I thought that your display at the Boston Ski Show was great for the mountain. I was impressed by the good reception we were given on our visit and that the rep was very personable and knowledgeable about the resort and yet not pushy. During the season, there was much discussion in here about Crotched and I saw lots of publicity. My question is have New England skiers and riders discovered Crotched yet? If not, why is this? I’ve heard many good reviews, but everyone I talk to says that there were not many skiers/riders on the slopes. How did you fare this season?
Chris Bradford: I love this question! Crotched fared very well this season, so to understand why the slopes feel uncrowded is to understand the design of the ski area itself. This truly is a remarkably well designed ski area (and I’m not just saying that because I work there) capable of handling 3000 skiers/riders per day before it even starts to feel “crowded”. To put this in perspective, we routinely served 2000+ skiers on any given weekend day, but there was hardly ever a lift line. Our busiest day of the season with 2400 people still left plenty of room for everyone. This is a Good Thing(tm)! The mountain can have a great day business-wise, and it doesn’t come at the expense of guest experience!
Skimaine4ever: I have never skied Crotched, but I understand you have one of the most powerful snowmaking systems in the east, and you are capable of producing a lot of snow very quickly. I also remember seeing earlier in the year, that Crotched had around a 80″ base while other resorts were still somewhere around 30″. So my question is, do you plan to extend you season in the future? Or were you planning to extend it this year and just did not have the business. And if you weren’t planning on extending your season, why did you build the base depths so huge?
Chris Bradford: Yes, Crotched Mountain’s snowmaking system is quite amazing. In fact, it has the highest snow production capacity per skiable acre in New England and runs on 100% state-of-the-art fan guns. The pump-house itself is almost fully automated, putting it among the top pump-houses in the world. It’s really a sight to see when the system is running at high capacity!
I’m not sure if we actually had a snow report near 80″ or not, but I know we had a report in 60″ range. Remember, that’s the upper number of the range, or the deepest area on the hill. We’re not counting the 30′ deep piles in the terrain park either … there’s still snow today in the terrain park.
They key to “producing as much snow as possible, as early as possible” serves two purposes; better skiing conditions and reserves for a poor snow year. The old school has it to make “base snow” while hoping that mother nature will later nurture the conditions. Icy conditons are less prevailent with a deeper base and we have more to work with. Unlike other ski areas, we don’t have to wait for mother nature to make the conditions good — we simply make great snow conditions right from the start.
The deep areas of snow also act as “storage” – the grooming crew has something to push out when needed. Understandably, because of acreage and energy use, it is not feasible to operate in this manner at the larger ski areas. However, many ski area operators do concentrate the efforts on their “bread and butter” runs. At Crotched, we’re able to concentrate on the entire mountain.
sledhaulingmedic: Chris: As someone who grew up skiing both areas on Crotched Mountain, the transformation of Crotched West/Onset into the new Crotched has been pretty remarkable. So far, the concentration seems to be more toward “man-made” terrain features, such as park features, to add interest. With the “summit” chair stopping well below the top of the ridge and the upper T-bar (a personal favorite of mine) left idle, the best terrain is still untapped. Again, this year I am interested to know if there are any plans to expand into these areas and bring back some of the steeper terrain?
Chris Bradford: I refer you to the answer of question #2. I’ll leave it as an excercise for the reader to guess the areas in which we’re planning to cut trails.
thetrailboss: Rumor had it that Peak Resorts first attempted to reopen Temple Mountain. Why did this deal not go through? How would you compare that old mountain, and its location, terrain, and possible resources for expansion to your current operation?
Chris Bradford: Tim Boyd and Peak Resorts did indeed look at Temple, but ultimately determined Crotched to be a better site. It was bigger and had a better base area layout. Unfortunately, it now looks like Temple Mountain will remain among the “lost” because all of the infrastructure has been removed – there are no longer any lifts or buildings on the site.
The management of Peak Resorts seems to have come into the Northeast with a pre-established concept of what a ski area should be like, based on their extensive experience in the Midwest.
sledhaulingmedic: The quote “We’re going to bring Midwestern skiing to New Hampshire” was one that particularly stays in my mind. Now that the area has been up and running for 2 seasons, are there any adjustments planning in the overall strategy, as far as terrain, programs, or marketing?
Chris Bradford: Peak Resorts has learned a lot about the ski business climate in New England and it’s very different than in the midwest. We’ve adapted to conducting business in the New England market and are doing quite well while keeping some of the best midwestern influences. For example, the high capacity design of the ski area is a direct midwestern approach that fits very nicely here in New England. The ability to buy lift tickets, rentals and lessons all at the same time at the main ticket window is another midwestern influence that our customers like. Midnight Madness too! But when it comes to marketing the ski area, structuring ticket and pass sales, etc. – these are very much “New England”. We just do it with Crotched style!
Small style ski area management and and excellent New England staff (incl. management) provide for a friendly and pleasurable environment, after all, we plan to stay here for a while.
hammer: With regards to the lodge before I get to the terrain, are there any plans for increasing the number of lockers or adding storage spaces downstairs? The lockers fill up pretty quickly on a busier day…
Chris Bradford: Already this spring we’ve installed 50 new full-size seasonal lockers. There are also plans to build additional “cubby holes” for easier gear storage and possibly re-arrange the existing lockers so that there will be more of the popular sizes available.
That’s all for now. Thanks everyone for your questions, and please, don’t hesitate to email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you have more questions! It’s hard to believe that Crotched will soon be entering it’s 3rd season – and it just keeps getting better and better! If you haven’t been to Crotched yet, I highly encourage you to put it on your list for the upcoming season. You won’t be disappointed.