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. Sarah Nagel, Communications Director of Hunter Mountain in Hunter, New York, took the AlpineZone Ski Area Challenge and provided the following responses on 7/14/2005:
JimG: I’m curious whether there is any plan to develop in-bounds gladed terrain at Hunter. Currently there is nothing approaching what I would call a glade on the trail map. I know the terrain on Colonel’s Chair is steep and rocky, but there are several areas inside the area boundary that might lend themselves to this type of development. From a marketing point of view, it seems that tree runs are all the rage in terms of attracting customers to mountains in the Northeast; just wondering if Hunter plans to jump on that bandwagon.
Sarah Nagel: Indeed glade skiing and riding is on the up and up these days. Plans to develop glade skiing have definitely been considered here at Hunter. A challenge is presented however, because Hunter’s terrain is rather rocky, which means that ample snow coverage is a must for glade access. Stay tuned for glade updates this coming season!
dmc: With the added hotel rooms on the hill, do you envision staying open later in the season to accommodate these hotel shares?
Sarah Nagel: For the upcoming winter season, Hunter plans to be open from November 19th 2005 to April 16, 2006. Last season we opened one week ahead of schedule, and our final day of operation was April 10th. Calendar wise, we will be open one week later this season, and perhaps one week earlier as well, depending on weather. It’s often not realistic to stay open much later than mid April though, since the mindset of many people is already geared toward warm-weather activities.
dmc: Half way through last season we started noticing some employees wearing yellowish jackets hanging out on the hill telling us to move out of the way and stop launching off of ridges we’ve been jumping for years (because they are easy to self-spot). Who are these guys and if we already have Rangers – why would we even need them?
Sarah Nagel: The people you might see skiing around the Mountain in the gold jackets are also known as Mountain Ambassadors. New for the 04/05 season, the role of the Ambassadors is to enhance the monitoring of traffic on the main mountain. This past year, one of their main duties was to educate reckless skiers and riders, encouraging them to ski and ride in control. Sometimes you might even see them rewarding cautious skiers with coupons for free hot chocolate, or handing out free group lessons to encourage beginners to take a lesson instead of skiing terrain above their ability. Ambassadors are on the mountain to help promote safety as well.
ZackyJeff: When’s the West Side Expansion going to happen? Any plans in adding new lifts or at least replacing the Quad with a new and better one? There have been rumors of a new chairlift being purchased for use on the West Side. Can you comment?
Sarah Nagel: West Side improvements are on our list of things to accomplish. At this time, we are currently involved in the process of studying a number of possible changes to the Westside, which might include new lifts. Once the Kaatskill Mountain Club has been completed (August 2005), more efforts and resources will be allocated to other projects as well.
dmc: More questions about the new hotel project. How will people ski to the new Hotel with the retaining wall around the back of the building? Will the general public be allowed to go to the restaurant in the Hotel? Where will the Hotel workers be housed? What’s the next step in expansion after the new hotel is completed and running? Obviously this hotel is a big deal to me. I’ve heard mixed reviews from other locals.
Sarah Nagel: The Kaatskill Mountain Club will make its winter debut this coming season, with ski-in ski-out access via a trail that cuts from the Battery down to the Hotel (to below the retaining wall), then continuing down beneath “D” lift to the base. Anyone wishing to dine at Van Winkle’s (the Kaatskill Mountain Club’s Bistro-style restaurant) is certainly welcome. You do not need to be a guest of the hotel. Our ultimate goal is to continue building a larger bed base while we explore other options for expansion. There will be no designated housing provided for hotel employees as of now.
highpeaksdrifter: I remember a few years ago, Hunter was trying to work out a deal with the state to trade some land so that you could cut some new trails. I don’t remember all the details, but I know the deal didn’t work out. Is there anywhere left on the land that you own where new trails can be made? I have always felt that Hunter makes the most out of what they have to work with and I admire that.
Sarah Nagel: Yes I would completely agree with you regarding Hunter’s resourcefulness- it certainly is a unique mountain! You are right- there is terrain available on the West Side that may offer the ability for change and/or expansion in the future. As mentioned in answer number 4, a number of options are being explored at this time that may evoke change to Hunter West. Stay tuned!
andyzee: Any plans to expand your beginner terrain? I think it may be a good idea to have some beginner trails from the top of the mountain, much the same way that Windham has.
Sarah Nagel: Currently, Hunter One and Hunter Mountain offer 15 trails (green circles) for beginners, but no designated summit-to-base beginner trails. The challenge presented for “green circle” expansion is that Hunter’s upper layout is simply poorly suited for beginner terrain.
dmc: What was the determining factor in opening Westway? Snowmaking? Weather? Whatever it was – it was great to have it open for so long!
Sarah Nagel: Having Westway open this past season was certainly a treat…especially on great powder days. The key to having Westway open was pretty much controlled by Mother Nature herself. An extended period of cold weather is required to make enough snow on the trail to open it. Obviously quite a commitment of resources and man hours are needed to crank out enough white to cover. Hopefully we can bet on a repeat opening for the 05/06 season!
dmc: Any chance you guys could do a “ski off” like the old days. And keep beginners from skiing from the top where they shouldn’t be?
Sarah Nagel: Larger groups of skiers and riders may be able to request the “Ski-off” when they visit Hunter; however ski-offs are not available to individual guests under normal circumstances. In an effort to encourage beginners to remain on easier terrain until their skills are up to par though, Hunter has instituted the Ambassador program, explained up in answer 3.
ZackyJeff: How about making a trail off the Belt that leads to the site of the Hotel which would be used for snowtubing and access to the Hotel?
Sarah Nagel: A new trail was constructed this summer for ski/in ski/out access for Hotel and Restaurant guests. The trail extends from the base of Belt Parkway (upper Battery), down to the lower end of the Kaatskill Mountain Club, below the retaining wall. Snowtubing will take place in the same area as last season as of now.
Two other special mentions to everyone: In an effort to create a better experience for our guests, we would like to invite a small group of loyal Hunter skiers and riders to participate in a “walk-through” of the base lodge with Russ Coloton, President of Hunter Mountain. We feel that it is important to consider our guests’ input in this process, which will ultimately improve the look and feel of our base lodge. If interested, please send an email to myself, Sarah Nagel at firstname.lastname@example.org. A walk-through date is yet to be set.
On a second note, Russ has also asked me to divulge his email address, if anyone should have any further questions pertaining to the Mountain. Russ may be reached at email@example.com. Thanks to everyone for the great questions, and get excited for a great upcoming winter season!- Sarah