AlpineZone Challenge 2006 – Chris Lenois of Mount Snow

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 Lenois, Communications Manager of Mount Snow in West Dover, Vermont, took the AlpineZone Ski Area Challenge and provided the following responses on 1/4/2007:

thetrailboss: Mount Snow is a historic ski resort. It was known as a special place with some interesting lifts (the Flying Car) and other oddities before Pres Smith and SKI came in and made some big changes. What item from the past would you bring back? What is Mount Snow’s current strength or strengths? What would you change?

Chris Lenois: We’re certainly proud of our history, however changes were needed as we expanded our terrain and more guests arrived. Air cars weren’t as efficient as shuttle buses, or the MOOver system. The skating rink was removed to allow for more guest seating in the base lodge. The outdoor pool was removed to add more lifts and services in the base area. (Although we do have an outdoor pool again at the Grand Summit Hotel.) Fountain Mountain was abandoned so we could use Snow Lake as an additional water resource for snowmaking. What we miss is the quirkiness of those features, which helped define a core personality attribute of Mount Snow. What we gained was more and better lifts, expanded snowmaking, expanded terrain, etc. We try to make up for the loss of the quirky features with events and programs (The Tubing park on Mixing Bowl, Mardi Gras, Sink or Swim, Dummy Downhill, Mega MotherHucker, etc). If we could bring something back, in my opinion, it would be the skating rink, as guests are looking for activities other than skiing. If we could change anything, it would be to add more water for snowmaking, because it all starts with snow. Everything else falls into place if there’s plenty of snow.

Jonni: My one question is what are your plans for the lift system on the mountain? I have heard rumors in the past of a High Speed Quad’s replacing the Sunbrook lift and or replacing the Outpost and Challenger lifts out of the North Face. Is there any validity to any of these rumors? Could you also comment on the limited use of the Sundance Chair and the rumor that Sunbrook was going to be sped up by taking off every other chair? Thanks.

Chris Lenois: Jonni, we’ve upgraded or replaced 11 of our 19 lifts in the past 10 years. Our primary objective is to make the lift line and ride experience as comfortable as possible for our guests. There’s a big difference in perception between waiting 5 minutes in line to board a lift and 5 minutes riding on the chair. There are a number of modifications we are looking at that will increase our total capacity by an additional 3,000 persons per hour on the mountain.

Once we complete the Somerset Reservoir project (more on that in the question below), we do plan on upgrading lifts at Sunbrook, the North Face, and Main Face. But it doesn’t make sense to do so until we increase our snowmaking capabilities.

Tin Woodsman: What is the status of the pipe to/from Somerset Reservoir for snowmaking? Is this in process with the various state and local agencies that have jurisdiction? If so, what is the timeline? Would it be fair to say that this project represents the #1 development priority behind which all other projects (including lift improvements) will have to fall in line?

Chris Lenois: It is absolutely our #1 priority. Our current snowmaking system covers about 80% of the mountain. Drawing water from the Somerset Reservoir would make us capable of covering 100% of the mountain with greater efficiency. We are currently in the process of applying for permits and working with the relevant agencies on federal, state and local levels. If everything stays the course, we could start pipe construction in 2008.

roark: Are there any plans for improvements to the base lodge? Maybe the addition of some bathroooms not requiring the use of stairs?

Chris Lenois: Roark, I saw some of your fellow posters answer the restroom question in the forum. There are ground floor bathrooms over by the Backside Snowboard Shop.

Upgraded base facilities come right after water and lifts in our priorities. Some improvements we’ve made this season include the complimentary bag check and free wi-fi service in base lodge. One future plan is heated outdoor seating on the second floor deck (inside the Midstation Bar.) We’ll enclose the deck in glass to maintain the great view of action on the slopes and use radiant heat lamps to provide warmth.

thebigo: In general, how has the sale of Haystack affected operations at Mount Snow?

Chris Lenois: Operations can now concentrate resources in a smaller area, so it’s been positive from that standpoint. That’s not to say that Haystack was especially burdensome – it was only open weekends and holidays from Christmas through mid-March. We have a deal in place with the new owners, allowing use of their water supply to make snow for the Gut Superpipe and other areas. That has been especially helpful considering how much snow we’ve needed to make so far this season!

maplevalleymaster: Chris, thanks for taking the AZ challenge! I saw that you moved your terrain park to Nitro. This kind of seems foolish to me because now beginner and intermediate skiers are going to be forced down Titanium, which is never open and Mine Shaft which is a black diamond with a huge flat section that beginners are going to have to walk. Will the new terrain park encompass the whole run down or will non-terrain park users still be able to ski down the run on skiers left heading down?

Chris Lenois: That’s exactly right, Maplevalleymaster. Terrain on skiers’ left will be available to avoid the whole park. Don’t forget that we’ll have 2 additional trails on Carinthia with Inferno and El Diablo getting disassembled — two blues called Fairway and Stugger’s Chute. You have access to those from the Nitro quad by taking Nugget and Long John, then connecting back to Carinthia on Pyrite, bypassing Mine Shaft.

drjeff: Chris, thanks for taking the challenge! I’ve been a loyal Snow skier now for over 20 years, and have now started in with the next generation of Snow skiers in my family as my kids are in your daycare, and as of the 2nd week of January, your kids ski program as well! The question I have has to do with your childcare/kids ski program when compared to other ASC mountains. For my 3 year old to be in your childcare and children’s learn to ski programs for the season, it is 2 separate fees of almost equal amounts, whereas if my child was in the same programs at Killington, it would be 1 fee encompassing both childcare and the learn to ski program, all for roughly $1000 less for a season than Mount Snow charges. Is there any reason why the same basic childcare/learn to ski programs at sister resorts are so drastically different in their pricing?

Chris Lenois: This is a good comment and something we’ll review internally. Structuring of child care and Perfect Turn programs is at the discretion of each resort. Our state-licensed facility has legal limitations on the number of kids we can accommodate at one time. We base the pricing on the amount of demand we have for these programs over the 60 potential weekend and holiday days that guests can use the services. Many of our passholders book well in advance to guarantee their spot.

Tin Woodsman: Are there any legitimate prospects for terrain expansion to the south of Sunbrook, to the west of the North Face trails, or anywhere else?

Chris Lenois: We are working on widening some existing trails and improving connectors. Once we complete the Somerset Reservoir project, we have identified areas where additional trails can be added. But a lot of permitting needs to happen before we can get there.

drjeff: Is there any chance that a portion of the web page could be dedicated to a column/blog from the head of mountain operations about what the plan for the hill would be for the coming days? I realize this is somewhat of the job of the snow reporter, but as a skier, I often find that the snow reporters as of late tend to bias their reports towards the status of the terrain features in the parks as opposed to some info about snowmaking plans, and other similar information.

Chris Lenois: Yes, we do have plans to add blogs from Mountain Ops management and others on our main Web site, as well as our passholders Web site. Currently our snow reporter, Luke Stafford, and I attend the daily Mountain Ops meeting where short and long-term snowmaking decisions are made. We try to distill the kind of information you’re asking about into our afternoon update. Most guests checking morning reports want the straight facts for the day: base/summit temps, conditions, etc. If you get our afternoon email update, or check the page, or even call the snow phone (802-464-2151) from 3:30-4:00 on, you’ll hear what we’re targeting to open the following day, the coming weekend, or even further down the line.

maplevalleymaster: Why did Mount Snow got rid of the cable car, the ice rink, the fountain mountain, and the pool? It seemed to bring people in because of its odd features. Also, Mount Snow was supposed to bring back Fountain Mountain for its 50th birthday and never did, or at least I never saw it.

Chris Lenois: Killington founder Preston Smith bought Mount Snow in 1977 and decided to invest more into the skiing experience. It was under Smith’s watch that we greatly expanded our snowmaking capabilities, installed state-of-the-art triple chair lifts and bought the Carinthia ski area. I heard that we did replicate Fountain Mountain for the 50th birthday, but it fell far short of the 300+ foot geyser that was the original.

Thanks to everyone for submitting questions, and thanks to the Alpine Zone moderators for the invitation. You can always email me at with more questions or comments. If you visit Mount Snow this season, come by the marketing offices on the 3rd floor of the Main Base Lodge and say hello.

- C.

To view forum comments on this Challenge and the Challenge Results, please visit the following page: width=