AlpineZone Challenge 2007 – Lori Rowell of Pats Peak

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. Lori Rowell, Director of Marketing and Sales at Pats Peak Ski Area in Henniker, New Hampshire, took the AlpineZone Ski Area Challenge and provided the following responses on 8/29/2007:

Bob R: First, I want to thank you for being one of the 1st resorts to work with us on AZ discounts. Second, your race program is fantastic. Our team has had a blast and talk is on going about next season. Will be be able to continue a partnership with promotions and value benefits for our members? Finally, it was asked at the end of the season at the banquet, any chance not to have Twister as one of the trails used for the race leagues?

Lori Rowell: We will be happy to continue a partnership with promotions to AZ members. Im sure Greg and I will be in touch soon to finalize plans for the upcoming season. As for the Twister trail being used for our Race League, we like to use both trails to spice things up! Twister and FIS Race Trail are both homologated trails for race courses. We try and balance the needs and wants of everyone. For instance, last year when we had the pro bumps on the course and we also provided “outs” for those who did not want to hit the jumps.

bobbutts: Just for me could you try to keep trails open while snowmaking is in progress. I had a few days there last year with hard pack on the trails and great snow coming from the guns, but the runs with snowmaking in progress were closed. Please just mark it as “Snowmaking in progress!” instead of closing it off. Have you considered doing an afternoon groom (like Wa-Wa) on busier days with softer snow to refresh the conditions?

Lori Rowell: We are surprised to hear you say that we closed the trails. A lot of people often seek out the best snow and it tends to be where the guns are going. As a policy, we don’t normally close a trail, assuming that its already open with some snow, while we are blowing snow. We usually put up a caution sign. As for grooming mid-day, we do it on days when Mother Nature has really thrown her worst at us and we do it for our Race Leagues once gate training is over.

Greg: Lori, we had a few questions regarding Hurricane. thetrailboss asked, “Lori, kudos on adding lights and new snowmaking to Hurricane. How did it work out? Did you find that the bumps were better? Were people stoked?” hammer asked a related question, “I never went on Hurricane but a lot of the times I saw it there was a ton of snow (good) but the bumps tended to look quite icy in spots (not so good). Have you considered trying to run a groomer on the trail to make a more regular mogul field?”

Lori Rowell: Adding the lights and overhauling the snowmaking on the Hurricane trail was one of the best decisions weve made. The feedback was incredible! We literally blew snow on the steepest ski trail in Southern NH as often as the temps permitted. I spoke with Kris, the General Manager, about this and he said: “I am a bump skier and skied it a lot this year and was surprised when I read that he said it was icy. Mother Nature certainly threw some curves at us early season. If the conditions did deteriorate and the temps allowed we would fire up the guns on it. We generally would set the guns to make a “tacky” snow for the first few hours so it attaches to any icy spots. After the gun runs for a little while we dry the snow up..around 4am or so in the morning. This is all done with computers, of course with manual verification.” As for the grooming Hurricane, unfortunately, it probably wont happen. We groomed it once last season and we literally had people in Skier Services saying “that we wrecked the best trail on the mountain”. We groom 95% of the mountain so there’s plenty of corduroy out there. Our plan going forward is to leave this trail “a touch on the wild side”. We do groom the outrun of the trail every night. That’s basically from tower 11 and down under the Hurricane Triple.

thetrailboss: Pats Peak is renown for improving things every year. What is in store for next season? Any thoughts about adding more terrain or clearing out some of the remaining lift lines for skiing?

Lori Rowell: We are always looking for the next best thing! This summer we are making a good solid investment in the infrastructure of the mountain. Sometimes improvements are not only about things that are glitzy and what the public sees. Sometimes the electrical, plumbing, and snowmaking infrastructures need some TLC to stay modern and relevant. While you probably wont notice publicly that we are adding two new pumps for snowmaking, it is our hope that when you have that quiet moment to reflect on the lift ride you can think…”WOW, Pats has a lot of terrain open earlier then usual this year!” That’s the payback were looking for. As for new terrain were always looking but before we expand anything we want to make sure that everything we currently have is being utilized 100%. Cutting trails and adding lifts are always nice, but we need to balance everything else. As for other capital improvements, we are adding new rental equipment to our fleet, completely reconfiguring the Beginners Area to make it more user friendly for the beginners, adding night lighting on the Vortex trail (giving us 21 out of 22 trails open for night skiing) and extending our Snowtubing hours on Friday nights to start at 3pm.

maplevalleymaster: Any chance of adding more glades? Their easy to make and a lot of fun!

Lori Rowell: We are always looking to add more glades. While there wont be anything new this year, we are thinking about glading out between Duster and Upper East Wind the following season. Well keep you posted!

hammer: Are you planning on keeping the small mogul field on the lower portion of FIS? I dabbled in that last season and I thought it was really good for aspiring/starting bump skiers.

Lori Rowell: Yes, we couldn’t agree with you more. Transitioning from groomed corduroy to the Hurricane Bumps was a bit abrupt. A good analogy that is used in the terrain parks is Progression Parks…perhaps we’ll use Progression Bumps! If your looking for some real nice bumps you should duck into Vortex and play around in the trees. Theres some great stuff in there!

hammer: Could you consider changing the approach to the Vortex double a bit? I know that it is not a beginner lift, but the short downslope just prior to the loading point can be a bit tricky, especially when everyone snowplows the top layer off…

Lori Rowell: The Vortex by design has to be a side load. We keep that chair running faster for the racers and expert skiers so they can get their “laps” in. No doubt you need to be on your toes for that lift, as it does take off rather quickly. I spoke with Kris, the General Manager, about this and he said: “Ten Years ago we replaced the old Knight T-Bar with the Vortex Double. The Knight T-Bar use to really test your skills. I wonder how many people remember the last 200 feet of that lift when their hand would get just a little bit tighter around the shaft of the T-Bar as it approached the steepest part of the lift line? We’re perfectionists so if we can redesign it we’ll certainly take a look at building a better mousetrap.”

hammer: Have you ever considered extending your season beyond early December – late March or have you never had sufficient interest?

Lori Rowell: Our owner believes that “we cant compete with holiday shopping”. Unfortunately, everyday that Pats Peak operates before Christmas is a drain on our operating line. We simply do no have the skiers to make it worthwhile, other than on the weekends. We’ll continue to operate weekends only for the first part of December. Of course, if “skiing is in the air” (i.e.: snow on the ground) we’ll operate lean and mean during the midweek. We’ll open up full-time on or around December 15th. As for March, we have never closed for lack of snow. We always run out of skiers. At that time of the year most are heading up North to the other ski areas or are enjoying spring sports (i.e. golf, baseball). We closed this past season on March 25th.

thetrailboss: How much longer can we expect the old Mueller Doubles to run? Any more thoughts on lifts? I doubt that things will change too much, but there are a lot of lifts.

Lori Rowell: Again I refer to Kris, the General Manager, for this one: “The Mueller chairlifts tie directly into our philosophy of doing things on the mountain the right way. While the Mueller chairlifts may be older, they are quality lifts that have many years left in them. When the lifts were first built they were not the cheapest to buy or install but they had the best components. They had Kissling (world leader) gearboxes, galvanized steel towers and chairs, aluminum sheave wheels and galvanized wire ropes. All of these characteristics are what makes the Mueller chair a ” Mercedes” and not a “K-car”. There are many years left in those girls and our maintenance team is VERY aggressive in taking care of them. In fact, this year the Peak Chairlift is receiving an electrical makeover and a new drive. Besides the line speed of a double is faster than a quad, therefore getting you up faster.” As for the number of lifts we have nine for the upcoming season. Our reconfiguration of the Beginner Area necessitated the removal of a handle tow and moving the beginner carpet lift to the side of the trail. We are very aggressive in monitoring lift lines and will turn on an additional lift before the first one fills up. In fact, our philosophy is we would rather run two chairs only half loaded then one chair fully loaded.

tcharron: Would you consider having a current conditions report via phone, or perhaps a better daily rundown on the web site? Your conditions are typically pretty good, but it would be nice to get a quick blow by blow regarding areas of the mountain. When I went later in the year last year, the last storm I believe, everything was bumps, which for me would be good, but I’d brought a newer skier which wasn’t that great for them.

Lori Rowell: We have a 24-Hour Snow Phone recorded conditions report and we update our Snow Report page on our web site daily. We try to keep everything as up to date as possible. After a storm we do groom some trails and leave some ungroomed so there is something for everyone. We report as accurately as possible. Of course, it all depends on the time the snow actually falls as to if it will still be groomed out or additional inches of snow may have fallen on it before you get out on the slopes.

Thanks to everyone for sending in your questions and to everyone for reading the responses! Heres to a snow filled season!!

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