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 Sullivan, Mountain Operations Manager at Ski Sundown in New Hartford, Connecticut took the AlpineZone Ski Area Challenge and provided the following responses on 8/15/2007
Greg: The moguls set up on Nor’easter and skier’s right of Exhibition this season were great. What feedback did you receive on the bumps? It was awesome that they started up by the Nor’easter sun deck, but they seemed to stop short. Why was that? Was it a safety issue to give folks a chance to stop before entering the Canyon Run flats? The bumps on Exhibition were also fun and I know for a fact they acted as a good starting point for folks looking to improve in the bumps. Do you plan to continue with this approach next season? I know early season was very challenging for you this season, but next year do you plan to seed bumps as soon as conditions allow? Have you considered adding music to the bump run?
Chris Sullivan: The feedback on the bumps was positive for both Nor’Easter and Exhibition. Leaving the last fifty feet or so groomed on Nor’Easter gives skiers and riders that may have had trouble in the bumps time to gather themselves and get a good look uphill as they merge with traffic on Canyon Run. Yes, we think our mogul plan worked out well. We plan to bump up on Nor’Easter and Exhibition as soon as conditions allow just as we did this year. “Conditions allowing” meaning, having enough base to support a mogul field as well as having enough other usable terrain open to support skier traffic. We have considered music on the bump trail as well as the terrain park and decided against it.
Grassi21: Are season pass holders entitled to discounts at other mountains? Have you ever offered/considered passes that are limited to night skiing or allow the pass holder to pick one day/night of the week to ski? Or is the Savings Card design to be the catch all?
Chris Sullivan: Ski Sundown season pass holders are offered 50% off midweek non-holiday lift tickets at Okemo. On weekends and holidays Okemo offers $10.00 off. Okemo is easy for our customers to get to and has a history of opening early and closing late. Also, there are some areas that will offer a discount to anyone that has a season pass to any other area. These offers mostly happen late in the year in an effort to attract skiers north after the season ends in southern New England. We decided not to offer a night only pass. Ski Sundown offers two programs called pick a day and pick a night. These programs allow Skiers and riders to come one day or night per week at a highly discounted rate. The day or night you choose can be different from week to week, allowing flexibility in your schedule. Being able to change the day or night of the week you want to ski or ride gives you a chance to hit the most optimal conditions any week may have to offer. These pick a day and pick a night programs also offer optional high-level clinics that can improve even the most advanced skier/riders skills. The savings card is a good alternative to a seasons pass. That being said a season’s pass is the best value. Our season pass offers a lot of skiing opportunity and has no black out periods. The last two winters have not been kind to the ski industry in new England, yet Ski Sundown has pulled out 98 day seasons with hours of operation equal to 164 eight hour days.
Greg: Any update on the possible terrain expansion? I know you alluded to a possible custom cut trail for the terrain park if you do expand. If so, would you consider dedicating Stinger as a bump run? Even better, is there any chance of getting a new trail cut that can be a dedicated expert bump run? A narrow (perhaps Lower Nor’easter width) run straight down the fall line skier’s left of Gunbarrel with top to bottom seeded bumps would be awesome. Call it a double diamond for marketing value if you want. Am I dreaming?
Chris Sullivan: Terrain expansion on a large scale is likely in the near future. This year we opened a little more terrain to the skier’s left of Stinger.
loafer89: I am not sure if I can ask this, but is the glade off of Gunbarrel legal to ski, or is it out of bounds?
Chris Sullivan: Skiing off marked trails is, out of bounds.
Greg: Has an amateur mogul competition ever been considered? Perhaps a course with kickers could temporarily be seeded on Gunbarrel (maybe after racing is mostly done). This could be a unique event as I believe it would be the only mogul comp in Southern New England.
Chris Sullivan: Yes, We would consider a mogul competition again. In the past we did them in March, turnout was poor for a few years so we moved on to other events. I’m sure we can make something happen, if the demand is there.
Greg: My daughter really loved the magic carpet this season. However, the terrain it services could stand to be a bit steeper. By the time she got any momentum she was back at the bottom again, especially on the warmer slushy days. Any chance the magic carpet could be positioned on some slightly steeper terrain? Do you anticipate extending its length at all?
Chris Sullivan: The carpet lift is on spindle jacks, and we plan to change the angle that it sits at this season. When the new pitch is set we will cut the snow to coincide with the lift.
2knees: Just a follow-up to my question last season. Have you reconsidered moving the bumps back to Stinger and moving the Terrain Park to Nor’Easter? The former is steeper and seems better for bumps.
Chris Sullivan: No, for the same reasons as last year.
Greg: The quantity of snow made this season seemed more that in season’s past. The summit stockpile was impressive. Did you make more snow this year? I heard there were some tweaks made to the snowmaking system that made it more efficient. Can you elaborate? Do you anticipate any changes to the snowmaking systems for next season?
Chris Sullivan: Snowmaking offers different challenges from year to year. This season, we started making snow on Dec. 6th and opened with 6 trails on Dec. 9th. From that point till late January. was a struggle however. I wouldn’t say that we make more snow now than we have in the past, but we certainly make more snow faster than we used to. Until about five years ago we would operate around thirty guns at one time and it would take several hours to get them up and running. Now we run ninety-five guns at once and have them all up and running in less than thirty minutes. The windows of opportunity for productive snowmaking can be short; every season we make changes to insure the system is running as efficiently as possible.
skizilla: What are your plans for Powder Ridge? Will it open this Year? Will there be a shared pass? Will there be trail expansions? Will its opening affect Ski Sundown via lost snowmaking capacity or grooming?
Chris Sullivan: Ski Sundown does not currently own or operate Powder Ridge ski area.
Greg: Are there any other infrastructure improvements/upgrades planned, e.g. lifts, base facilities, etc.?
Chris Sullivan: Every off season Ski Sundown takes measures to maintain, improve, and upgrade the facilities, mountain operations, as well as customer service products. This years projects include, a new 6000 sq ft hardwood deck in front of the lodge, more useable terrain on Stinger a new website and telecommunications system to improve customer service, and even more low energy snow guns, to name a few.
Response to an additional question about the Skiercross/Boardercross: The Skier cross/Boarder cross Events will take place on Tom’s Treat 3 Sunday nights during the season. Parts of the course will be in place all the time and parts will change. Tom’s Treat is a beginner trail so any larger features that would be part of an event will be altered or removed during the overnight groom. We plan to start small, assess the level of competition and progress accordingly.