AlpineZone Challenge 2007 – 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 8/1/2007

Darent: Thanks for the great skiing. My wife and I both enjoy Mt Snow, but we both came up with the same suggestion involving the bathroom facilities. Could you add baskets that fit gloves and such, little shelves, and more hooks in the stalls?

Chris Lenois: Darent, we’re spending over $2 million dollars to refresh base area facilities this offseason. Every building in the Carinthia, Sundance and Main Base areas will be improved through this effort. The one thing everyone agreed was a top priority were new bathroom facilities in the Main Base Lodge, including Glove baskets, hooks, etc. That will be in place for this season. (FYI – The Carinthia, Sundance and Summit Lodge bathrooms all have a basket and hook in each stall.)

thetrailboss: Chris, we got some questions about the transition from American Ski Company Ownership to Peaks Resort. Snoseek wants to know what kind of changes can we expect in day-to-day operations at Mount Snow with new ownership? And Greg: asked if staff morale has changed in any way since the purchase? Besides these questions, any reflections as to what ASC “did right” and “did wrong” with Mount Snow during its ownership?

Chris Lenois: Peak Resorts president Tim Boyd addressed the entire staff shortly after the sale closed. What he told us that day he has repeated in several interviews: “Mount Snow is a resort that Peak has wanted to purchase for a long time, and we are the organization’s flagship resort.” I can’t think of anything more morale-boosting to the staff than that!

Peak Resorts and ASC do have some operational differences, and I would anticipate changes in the coming season. We’re reviewing ways we can improve the guest experience with equipment rentals, ski school, and food pricing among other things, but the new owners have not said: “you must do something our way.” They trust the judgment of our senior management team to know how best to serve the interest of our guests.

maplevalleymaster: Can we expect a replacement of the Summit Express soon? I recall reading that the reason you are not going to replace the Summit Local because it can run during high winds. Will it be a six pack, gondola, or are you still undecided?

Chris Lenois: Snowmaking is the top priority for the next couple of seasons. We’re spending $3.5 million in fan gun technology for Winter 2007-08. It is our goal to expand skier terrain by adding snowmaking to natural snow trails. If we can move to 100% snowmaking trails, we can spread our guests out on more acres. Once we achieve that, we will look at upgrading or adding lifts. If we were to address lifts before snow, we would just put more people on the slopes faster and create more congestion on the slopes. We feel that the ability to maintain more open terrain will ease the congestion of lift lines. You are correct that the position of the Summit Local allows us to operate it at times when we can’t run the Summit Express quad due to winds. Decision made on the type of lift used in an upgrade would be made after observing the new traffic patterns on the improved snow surfaces.

Drjeff: Any idea on when prices for kids programs will come out, and will there be any major changes in the kids programs under Peak Resorts?

Chris Lenois: Information about kids programs will be out in mid-August. I’m told that there shouldn’t be any changes in either format or price.

This might be a good time to remind everyone that we also will not be raising daily lift ticket prices for the coming season. We had announced that in June.

Also, for those of you wondering about College Pass offerings, those will be announced this month. (Actually, they may already be announced by the time this posts.)

thetrailboss: : Chris, we got some questions regarding snowmaking. First, Vinny asked for a status update regarding the project to withdraw water from the Somerset Reservoir and wants to know your timeline. He was also wondering how this will impact the installation of fan guns. And on the subject of fan guns, thebigo has noted that your company prefers fan gun technology and he wonders what are the advantages to these guns and if they justify the cost. Specifically, do fan guns help lengthen the season or increase the quantity and quality of the snow?

Chris Lenois: The status of the Somerset Project is changing quickly these days, but at the time of this writing we’ve received the necessary letters of support from officials in the towns that will be impacted by the project, and have submitted our Act 250 permit application. We remain optimistic that all will go well with the approval process. If it does, we would be able to break ground in February of 2008.

Drawing water from Somerset is crucial to the installation of the fan guns. This technology uses significantly less compressed air to make snow (which will result in a substantical energy savings), however they do require more water than air/water guns.

We could take full advantage of the fan gun technology with access to the water from Somerset Reservoir, which would mean answers of “yes” to thebigo’s questions about fan guns helping lengthen the season and increasing both quality and quantity of snow. We would also be able to recover trails more quickly after temperature fluctuations.

Talisman: Chris I am interested in what the impact of Mt Snow’s new approach to snow making will be on some of the ‘character’ trails such as Ledge, Challenger, Jaws, Choke or Uncle’s? While I realize that many skiers and riders like wide open cruisers there are some who enjoy the quiet challenge of a narrow trail classic New England style trail.

Chris Lenois: I am one of those myself, Talisman! Keep in mind that our investment in fan guns is augmenting our current snowmaking capabilities, not replacing it. Fan guns are more effective in wide open terrain. Having them on Snowdance, Standard or the Launch Pad learning area, for example, will allow us to dedicate our air/water snowmaking technology to the narrow trails like the ones you’ve listed.

That said, even though our ultimate goal is to have the ability to make snow on 100% of our terrain, if Mother Nature cooperates there are definitely some trails that are best left as a natural surface.

Talisman: At Carinthia there are the remains of an old colonial era iron mine visible from the Nitro Express in the woods to the right side of the chair riding up. Are there other old mine shafts located at Mt. Snow? Other than the mine themed trail names what plans does Mt. Snow have to celebrate the mining history of the mountain?

Chris Lenois: There are a couple of different mine shafts, although our Patrol doesn’t consider either of them safe enough to walk through. There is a book called “The History of Dover” by Nell M. Kull that goes into detail about the mining industry in the area. It was written in 1961, but I’m told that the Dover Historical Society had it reprinted and may have copies. People interested in the book can contact Nelson Bond at 802-348-6620. I also found it listed on the bookshop page at The Student Network also found a short video piece about the mines that you might be able to obtain by calling the Dover Town Offices at 802-464-5100. We would include the mining history in any future historical celebrations of the mountain, such as our next big anniversary.

Greg: Any word on the approach to an early opening next season? In the recent Attitash press release, it was stated that their goal is to open mid-November and no closing date will be set. Will Mount Snow be following a similar approach? You guys did a great job last season with the opening despite the challenging start via downloading on the Canyon Quad. Is there any chance that approach may be followed this season to work towards an early November opening? Plus, with Killington officially announcing that their season is scheduled for mid-Nov until mid-April, does this give you guys any more incentive to strive to become the new early/late season player? Obviously early season is harder to control, but I would think it’s possible to hammer Chute, Upper Canyon and River Run with snowmaking all winter and keep that loop open late with downloading on the Canyon quad. Thoughts?

Chris Lenois: Our goal will be to open as much terrain as early as possible and to keep it open as long as temperatures permit and skiers and snowboarders continue to visit the mountain. The sale of the resort occurred right before our scheduled closing date of April 8, and Peak Resorts first official act was to allow us to re-open the following weekend. The route you described is our traditional opening circuit, and I don’t see that changing.

I know our Mountain Ops staff appreciate the kudos for having done what’s necessary to provide skiing and riding, but we plan to open Standard at the same time, thanks to our new snowmaking technology, to avoid the downloading. Late season is tough to predict, but again, we plan to stay open until the snow melts and you all stop coming.

thetrailboss: We got some questions about your terrain park. Tree_skier wants to know if there is any chance of bringing a Palmer cross type terrain park to Mount Snow with rolls, banks, small and mid sized jumps without rails? Could such a course lend itself to a continued flow down the hill? Newpylong wants to know if there is any progress as to where the new park on Nitro will be next year and if Upper Titanium will be used to handle traffic. And finally, Maplevalleymaster wants to know what this new park will be named because you had a contest this past season.

Chris Lenois: Newpylong and many other season passholders will be happy to know that we heard their feedback loud and clear, and we will not be building a terrain park on Nitro. Last season we doubled the acreage dedicated to the Un Blanco Gulch terrain park and will continue to have that area, as well as re-building a terrain park on the Stugger’s Chute trail, which can be serviced by the Heavy Metal double-chair for those wanting to exclusively ski or ride in the terrain park. The “Name This Park” contest died a slow but pain-free death based on these decisions.

roark: What, if any, are the plans to help deal with wind at the peak? Have you considered wind barriers or some reforestation?

Chris Lenois: We’ve investigated wind fencing at the summit, however there are no immediate plans to implement. Reforestation would probably not be as effective, as tree groups need to be wider than 50 feet in order to be effective.

Thank you once again to everyone for the great questions. With our new owners committing more than $6 million dollars to upgrade our snowmaking technology and refresh base area facilities, we’re very excited about the upcoming winter. As always, feel free to reach me directly at 802-464-4013,, or come by the marketing office on the 3rd floor of the main base area when you make it up here for your own firsthand look, and we’ll go get a coffee.

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