AlpineZone Challenge 2011 – Darcy Morse of Sunday River

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. Darcy MorseDirector of Communications atSunday River in Bethel, Maine, took the AlpineZone Ski Area Challenge and provided the following responses on 10/25/2011:

deadheadskier: Any plans in the near future to replace the Tempest Quad? I think White Cap is the best place for a day trip skier to start their day at Sunday River. It’s the first base area you get to and unlike Barker, it has almost level parking. My only gripe? The long slow Tempest Quad ride to get out of there and access the rest of the mountain. Whitecap base seems underutilized to me. I think the Tempest Quad is a big reason why.

This question was also reflected by several other members.

Darcy Morse: Hi deadheadskier – At this time there aren’t any plans to replace the Tempest Quad but I agree with you that the White Cap Base Lodge is underutilized. Although we have some guests who ski and ride that area, right now the majority of the skiers and riders using the Tempest Quad are doing so to get from point A to point B and not to spend their time lapping the terrain accessed off of it. Some might argue that this is because of the lift but it could also be argued that Tempest and Jibe don’t attract a great deal of traffic to begin with. Certainly lift improvements and updates are of great importance to us and something in which we invest capital dollars each year. When we talk about installing new lifts, we have to carefully consider many factors before making the investment and priority will be given to lifts and areas being used to access large amounts of terrain. As for the White Cap Base Lodge itself, we are working to improve the look of it with new paint this winter and working on a plan now to add some much needed improvements to the existing space in the next few years.

Bob R: What grooming and snow making improvements/upgrades have taken place recently or are on the docket? Start the guns early again please!

Thanks for taking the challenge.

Darcy Morse: Hi Bob R – Thanks for the question! This winter Sunday River is dedicating over half a million of its $4 million capital investment package into snowmaking, grooming, and lift improvements. Half of this investment (approximately $300k) is being dedicated to snowmaking and grooming in the forms of hoses, pumps, and two new PistenBully groomers, and the other half (approximately $300k) is being dedicated to lift upgrades and improvements in the forms of drive upgrades, carriers, line equipment, ramps, lift houses, and paint.

I should also add that last year Sunday River benefited from $3.5 million in capital improvements and used part of this investment to purchase new hydrants, hoses, valves, compressors, and pump house upgrades to prepare for the coming winter, plus nearly half a million in capital to the resort’s system of 16 lifts including new line equipment, motor house improvements, ramps, and carriers. To put it all into perspective, since Sunday River was purchased by Boyne Resorts in 2007, the resort has seen over $30 million in capital improvements, which has certainly aided our ability to be one of the first resorts on the East Coast to open each year and one of the last to close. Bob, we plan to run those guns as early as we can!

MonkeyBrook: Thanks for agreeing to take our questions Sunday River and Darcy:

  1. Are there any immediate plans for renovations of the South Ridge and White Cap Base lodges? I think everyone who skis at Sunday River on a regular basis would suggest some improvements – little things like paint and carpet and carpet would go a long way.
  2. Any thoughts or plans to add some sort of warming hut / bathroom out towards Jordan? Outside of North Peak…there is no where really to stop to use rest rooms without shuffling through the Jordan Hotel.
  3. How is the “”Vision Plan”" progressing? Will updates be posted somewhere for the general public to see?
  4. It is obvious the Sunday River Ski and Snowboard Club is scaling up their efforts, would you mind giving the mountains perspective on the clubs goals, your vision for a unified alpine, freestyle program, etc?

Thanks again!

Darcy Morse: Hi MonkeyBrook – My pleasure!

  1. This summer and fall we’ve been making improvements to both lodges. The White Cap Base Lodge is being painted and we are working on a plan now that outlines the renovations that need to be done to this space in coming years to improve not only its look but its function. In the South Ridge Base Lodge we’ve been working for most of the summer on several renovations including new carpet and paint, as well as a new floor plan that includes moving the Sunday Sessions board shop into Sunday River Sports to allow for more seating in the food court area. We are also adding more cubby and locker space to address some of the storage issues and are excited to announce that local favorite Cho Sun is moving into a space in the food court and will serve authentic Japanese and Korean fare including sushi, sake, and ramen bowls!
  2. While there aren’t any immediate plans to add a warming hut to the Jordan Bowl it is something that we continue to talk about and would like to incorporate within our long-term plans.
  3. This question is quite timely as there has been a dedicated group of individuals working hard all summer long to update the resort vision we developed in 2008. Now that our updates are complete, we are presenting them to our team members and local audiences and plan to make this document available for all to see in the coming weeks.
  4. This past spring, a number of us at Gould Academy and Sunday River met to discuss how we could create a stronger community within the competition programs here at Sunday River. We all felt strongly that the best junior programs in the country need to embrace competition but also have communities that value friendships and relationships.

Sunday River believes that it is in the best interest of the resort community to have a ski club that actively supports the Gould Academy Competition Program and plays an active social role at the resort. To help energize this partnership, Sunday River has extended a $10k donation for the club to use to fund an Executive Director position and has also contributed to the purchase of a new air bag for the Gould Academy Competition Program to use for training.

MassBoarder: Earlier this summer, I read on the Sunday River message board that a ’10 year plan’ (similar in detail and scope to the Sugarloaf 2020 road map) would be released before the end of the summer. But, I haven’t seen an update on if / when such a road-map would be released since this initial post. Could you provide an update on this? Thanks.

Darcy Morse: Hi MassBoarder – Sunday River introduced an outline of the resort’s future in 2008 shortly after joining the Boyne Resorts family, which ended up serving as a template for Sugarloaf’s 2020 plan. Unlike the Sugarloaf plan, however, Sunday River’s document has served more as a directional piece to guide our growth rather than a specific road map. The good news is that we have been working on an updated Future document to showcase how far we have come with Boyne’s support since 2007 and where we plan to take the resort in the future. As mentioned in my answer back to MonkeyBrook, we plan to make this updated document available to the public on our website in the coming weeks.

Watatic Skier: Are there any chances that some more low-angle moguls will be added this year? Whenever I was there it was kind of hard to practice moguls because most were on steeper trails. In my opinion even 3D is a bit steep, would you guys ever consider seeding moguls on Spectator under the Southridge quad or Upper Sundance where the double used to run?

Would be a great way to introduce people to moguls and maybe have the accessible at night.

Darcy Morse: Hi Watatic Skier – Great suggestion! I agree with you that 3D is a tough start for beginner bumpers and think that a trail like Spectator or Upper Sundance could work but the space can’t negatively impact beginner flow. Having said that, we do offer beginner moguls on Dream Maker, on skier’s left, just below the cross cut from Last Mile. It’s roped off and labeled as “Marvin’s Run” and offers up great beginner moguls on a gentle slope. I think this is something we could definitely look into expanding, so thanks for posting this suggestion.

thetrailboss: Thanks for adjusting the price for the night skiing tickets. I recall that the first season it was too expensive for us to consider but the current price looks reasonable. Are there any plans to expand nightskiing to any other terrain? Do you have a night race league (beer league)? Any thoughts about starting one up? The programs at Pats Peak and other places is quite popular.

Also what is the plan for future lift improvements? Any plan to replace the Tempest with a faster lift to help encourage people to use White Cap Base Area?

And a comment: many thanks for your commitment to opening the ski season as early as you can. I was one of the many who made the trek last season for one of your pre-season weekends and it was well worth it.

Darcy Morse: Hi thetrailboss –

Thanks for the questions and comments! At this time we are looking into expanding some terrain for next season and are taking into consideration whether or not this will be open to night skiing as well. We don’t currently have a night race league but we do have a local’s race league that is quite popular and they might be interested in extending some of their races into the evening. I know that our events and competitions department is always looking for new ideas for these races so this is certainly one worth passing on. That said, finding suitable race terrain within our night skiing footprint might be difficult but again, it’s something worth looking into.

As for future lift plans for the Tempest Lift and White Cap Base Lodge, there aren’t any immediate plans for new lifts or lift replacements, but we’re certainly looking at areas we can positively impact in the future with either and are working on a plan to improve the White Cap Base Area starting with a fresh coat of paint, which you’ll see this winter.

snowmonster: Hi Darcy.

  1. Are there any plans to make Jordan Bowl more day-tripper friendly? I don’t think management likes the idea of a bunch of folks turning the Jordan Grand’s lobby into one big day lodge. However, Jordan has great terrain and it’s a shame that the only alternatives are to boot up in the car or ski out of South Ridge/Barker/White Cap.
  2. Given the number of people going in and out of the lodges with so much gear just sitting in cubby holes, are there plans to expand the complimentary bag check at SR? Are there plans to start similar bag checks at Barker and White Cap?
  3. By the way, I heard that Cho Sun will be operating a stall in the food court this year. Thank you! As a person of Asian descent, I have to have my rice fix every day. This probably means that I don’t have to brown bag as much as I used to.

Darcy Morse: Hi snowmonster –

  1. At this time there aren’t any plans to add a lodge to the Jordan Bowl area. Years ago it was thought that there would be a village built around the hotel to drive more people into that part of the resort but over time we’ve come to see that this space has evolved into a completely different experience from the rest of the resort and one in which many people want to preserve. Granted, this means that the only guests getting direct access to the Jordan Bowl are those staying at the Hotel, but we’ve worked hard over the years to update our lift system and existing base lodges so that most guests can start their day on one part of the mountain and move to the other parts with ease.
  2. Most definitely! As noted above in MonkeyBrook’s question, we have spent most of the summer renovating the South Ridge Base Lodge to incorporate more seating in the food court area and we’re also adding more cubby space within the Mahoosuc Room as well as more lockers. As for our complimentary bag check, you’d be surprised how underutilized it is, which is why this winter we’re going to ramp up the signage for it around South Ridge and try to direct more people to use it. As for Barker and White Cap, there are no plans to add a complimentary bag check to either lodge but we are adding more lockers to the Barker Base Lodge this season and will certainly take this suggestion into consideration for future improvement plans.
  3. Regarding your comment about Cho Sun – to say that we’re excited is a drastic understatement! We could not be happier!

Razor: Any chance of cutting out a small exit from Last Tango to come out under the Spruce lift? You can exit there now, but it requires some bush whacking. Something like the arrows that were installed at the bottom skier’s left of Last Tango at the end of last season might work.

Darcy Morse: Hi Razor – Great idea and one that has been attempted before, but it has since grown in! Since this is such an easy fix, it’s certainly something we can address if not this season, then next. Thanks for the reminder!

bigbog: Hi Darcy, Any chance of a Maine resident day, or maybe ½ day…(Maybe at some point in the season..)

Darcy Morse: Hi bigbob – We’re actually planning a Maine resident day for sometime in December. If you’re not a subscriber already, be sure to sign up for our daily snow report and Snowtalk newsletters, which is where we’re likely to announce details about such a deal first.

eatskisleep: How’s the mountain biking scene going up there? I was there a couple years for it, and by far Sunday River has some of the best downhill trails on the East Coast. Will you continue to spin the lifts in the summer for bikers?

Darcy Morse: Hi eatsleepski – The mountain bike scene here at Sunday River has been growing year-after-year! The addition of the Chondola has been great for bike transport and the Park Crew has been working hard to really overhaul existing terrain and add new trails. Having been here you already know that one of our biggest challenges is our topography, which makes for some excellent advanced riding, but doesn’t do much for riders just starting out. We really want to cater to all abilities, which is why we’ve added new beginner trails and have gone back to existing terrain to do some serious dirt and rock work. While the park is closed now, definitely make plans to come see it next summer – the scope of work done to create super fun trails is truly amazing.

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