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. Jeremiah Greco, Public Relations and Communications Coordinator at Stratton Mountain in Bondville, Vermont, took the AlpineZone Ski Area Challenge and provided the following responses on 1/13/2007:
thetrailboss: Jeremiah: thanks for contacting us and taking the initiative here! I have a confession: I had not skied Stratton until last season in large part because of the high ticket prices. So I had a negative view. But last season you challenged us to give your mountain a try…on your own dime. Ms. Trailboss and I accepted your challenge and came in March. We were very surprised. Your parking shuttle was awesome and easy. Service was great. Lodges were clean and large but retained some of the original character. Lifts were very, very fast and there was good terrain for us to enjoy. No real liftlines per se and the resort is huge. We got a very good impression of your resort.
So two quick questions: First, are you going to run Vermont Residents Day again (free skiing for Vermonters)? If so, when? Any other deals for Vermonters?
Jeremiah Greco: Trailboss, Wonderful to hear that you had a good time here last year. We do not plan to offer any State Days this year. Last year’s discounts were more market driven and with the waning season, it was a way to introduce a lot of people to our mountain, who, like you, may have never skied here before or had negative view of Stratton.
There are no real Vermonter-only deals. Our deals this year span the states, treating each, equally. One of the best deals out there for Texans to Mainers is the X2 card. We’re (dare I say) stoked on this pass. $59 before December 22 and $79 after, and it comes with a free non-holiday ticket on it. Then every time you use it you get $10 off holidays, $20 off weekends and $30 midweek.
BeanoNYC: Thanks for taking our questions, Jeremiah.
It is no secret that Stratton’s parent company, Intrawest, has been acquired by Fortress, an equity firm. While it’s safe to say that Fortress’ commitment is to maximize profits for Intrawest, just how does Fortress plan on doing this at Stratton? Will Stratton recognize it’s profit goals by improving its skiing experience (i.e. lift, trail and lodge improvements,) therefore increasing its attendance or will it resort to raising lift ticket prices and slashing expenses at the visitors expense? In other words, will Fortress/Intrawest/Stratton learn from other corporation’s mistakes and concentrate on building brand loyalty rather than alienating its core customers?
Jeremiah Greco: Great questions BeanoNYC. This deal is very new to us. Fortress has left much of the resort management in the hands of Intrawest ULC so we expect things to continue much as they have. There are no immediate plans for major development resulting from the new ownership (the addition of the Tamarack Heights development was underway prior to the Fortress purchase), but we are definitely hoping for the best, whether it is investments in infrastructure or real estate or any other improvements. We know they’re coming, just not when.
As always, we plan to stick to our guns and play to our core customers as we have in the past. We have a lot of homeowners here and in the greater area that wouldn’t be to happy if we turned our backs on them.
maplevalleymaster: Thank you for taking the AZ challenge. I was wondering if there is any possible expansion in the plans anytime soon? Any plans to fill in the Sun Bowl? Every time I drive by there, there seems to be more construction of real estate, however the trail count is never changed. The Treetops, Rising Bear, Hearthstone and Founders Lodge are all going to bring a lot of people in to crowd the trails. Although the lift system is quite nice, it only moves the crowd to the top instead of the bottom.
Jeremiah Greco: Really, nothing in the near future. There may be some rearrangements of trails and lifts in the Tamarack beginner area with the new development up there, but after that, maybe a new Snowbowl lift (replaced). We’re sticking to our master plan. The lift system does put a lot of people on the hill, and unfortunately when a lot of people strap skis and snowboards to their feet they turn into plains mammals and travel in herds. There is still a lot of empty terrain out there… not so much by the wildebeests.
Rushski: Are there any plans to try to open up any boot-burning expert terrain in the near future? No offense but Stratton is known as an intermediate’s mountain (not that there’s anything wrong with that).
Jeremiah Greco: Nothing epic. There’s some terrain marked off for future development over by West Meadow, but that’s most likely the distant future. Plus, “boot burning expert terrain”? As long as we can include bumps, then there’s a possibility
Tin Woodsman: What has been the response to Bill Koch’s “Test Pilot” backcountry run and does Stratton plan to add more of these types of runs in the Kidder Brook basin or elsewhere on the hill? If yes, are there issues with bear habitat that would impeded your ability to accomplish your objectives?
Jeremiah Greco: People loved Test Pilot. Everyone except those who used to ski the same woods before they were gladed. Either way, it’s been a great response. Glades are always on the radar for development, but something with that much design behind it may remain fairly unique. We’re always concerned with our impact on wildlife habitat; we actually have hundreds of acres of preserved wildlife lands around the mountain(a little marketing zing, but also a little known fact). You know it’s a tightrope when you’re talking mountain development and wildlife habitat. Since we don’t have any definite development plans right now, it’s hard to say whether bear habitat would impede our objectives; it will definitely affect our decisions.
Brettski: As it is, I feel that the prices are too high for me to ski with my family. Is there something I am missing or is this not a family mountain? Are you trying to become the new “mascara mountain” by catering to the market of (intermediate) skiers out of Manhattan? Are there any attractive ski/stay packages for a family of 5?
Jeremiah Greco: We are, in fact, a family mountain. We may not be your $15 local hill, but there are many ways for Stratton to be affordable for a family on a tight budget. A lot of the deals at Stratton come in the way of season pass options. On the lower end of the scale the Sunday Pass gets you on the mountain every non-holiday Sunday of the season for $299 (that’s the late purchase price, it was discounted before the end of October).
In terms of packages, we have a $99 weekend ski and stay and a $59 midweek ski and stay, also each week we update out Hot Deals page and email, most are different ski and stay packages, like our early season (November 26 – December 21) Kids Ski & Stay Free package. People definitely have a perception of Stratton being too expensive, after all, our holiday/weekend ticket is $75, but we can’t lay down that rate and not have options for our guests.
maplevalleymaster: What has been the result of your Stratton Snowdays? It seems to be quite popular, however I was wondering how it did for Stratton. And why the change in the Snow Days Promotion? Some people have been grumbling over the new “lottery” format.
Jeremiah Greco: We have received a few grumbles over the new format. Let’s just say some people took advantage of the system last year, so it was due for a change. The overall response has been great. It’s an excellent way to introduce people to the mountain and share a message with them. There’s a lot of excitement around the game and we’re definitely looking at how we can do more with it. Did you win?
Tin Woodsman: Is it safe to say that the days of increasing uphill capacity are over? Is Stratton mgmt concerned with the impact in terms of ski surfaces and skier safety of dropping off up to 32 people on the summit (the combined stated capacities of the upper mountain lifts) every 10 seconds?
Jeremiah Greco: We’re currently designed for more daily skier visits than we do, so there’s plenty of padding in there. Skier safety is our priority and management keeps in mind both the numbers that say the trails can handle much more than we put on them, and the actual real-life, out there on the slopes feeling of crowdedness. Overcrowded trails are a concern in that we don’t want it to happen, but it’s not a concern like a runaway freight train.
Greg: Do you have any plans to open a forum or chat room on your website? Do you read web forums like AlpineZone.com? If so, do you ever want to reply to posts about Stratton or other ski areas?
Jeremiah Greco: I personally do make rounds on chatrooms from AlpineZone to SnowJournal to TGR & Newschoolers. I definitely like to see what people are saying, good or bad, we can always take away something from it. If there’s an obvious rumor that I can set straight, I’ll try, or I’ll answer general questions about Stratton, Southern Vermont or New England as a whole. There are just so many out there, it’s hard to keep track. I’ll pass along pertinent information to the Marketing Department, whether someone has posted that they liked or disliked something in particular, but most of it is for my own personal knowledge and to satisfy my need to talk about skiing as much as possible, because, isn’t that one of the greatest attributes of the sport? Being able to talk about it endlessly?
We don’t have any immediate plans for our own forum. Possibly a submission area for images and video, but forums are so darn hard to monitor (in terms of expletives etc.).
thetrailboss: On my last visit, I noticed the Poma lift located near lower Slalom Glade and World Cup. The lift was marked as “private.” Is this Poma still used? Is it ever open to the public? The Burke Mountain Poma is a fast, fun ride and I would like to give this lift a spin on my next visit.
Jeremiah Greco: Pomas are a blast especially those with opportunities for significant “air”. That Poma however, is not open to the public. We have a variance from the Tramway Board to use it for race/competition training only.