AlpineZone Challenge 2004 – Sandy Caligiore of Whiteface

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. Sandy Caligiore, Communications Director of Whiteface  in Wilmington, New York, took the AlpineZone Ski Area Challenge and provided the following responses on 6/22/2004:

FaceTime: Why did Whiteface nix its affiliation with the RSN Forum and have it closed down?

Sandy Caligiore: We closed the forum due to the fact that it became less of an information source and more of a platform for personal attacks. Also, language was getting out of hand and we did not want to be attached to this kind of scenario.

ChileMass: I am surprised at how little awareness of Whiteface and Lake Placid there is once you cross the NY border into New England. Even going through Albany, it’s only about 5 hours to Whiteface (about the same as Sugarloaf from metro Boston) – any plans to increase marketing effort in the New England region, especially Boston?

Sandy Caligiore: In the past two years, we have made some efforts to penetrate the Boston market. We do attend their annual ski show. Our marketing dollars have become very limited over the years. Our number one destination is the metro New York City area (NY, NY suburbs, Long Island, NJ). We will continue to concentrate there, but Boston is alive in our conversations. In fact, we are looking for a Boston ambassador….someone to spread the Whiteface love in Beantown. The ambassadors get some bennies and perks in exchange. Anyone interested?

ChileMass: What package deals are available for next year, especially in non-holiday periods?

Sandy Caligiore: Funny you bring that up. As you know, Lake Placid hosted the 1980 Winter Olympics. This winter marks the 25th anniversary of those historic Games. We are currently planning our marketing strategy for the 2004-05 winter. I can tell you this: there will be a very attractive lodging package (mid-week, non-holiday) that will incorporate a $25 all-day lift ticket. Also, there will be excellent 25th anniversary festivities at Whiteface and the rest of our venues. If anyone has an official 1980 Winter Olympic outfit, designed by Asics, pull it out. It will get you additional $25 skiing and riding in February. Later this summer, you will be able to identify the participating lodging partners via the internet. It’s just a few weeks too soon to spill everything.

ChileMass: Any new trails from the summit planned?

Sandy Caligiore: The long ranged plan calls for a trail build-out that will take us from the current 18 miles and get us closer to our ceiling of 25 miles. These trails would be near the old Marble Mountain area. If you are riding the Face Lift High-Speed Quad, look uphill and to the right. This is our next frontier, but please don’t ask for a timetable.

ChileMass: Any chance Whiteface will host an FIS event in the near future?

Sandy Caligiore: Currently we host FIS World Cup competitions in mogul skiing. We have recently acquired a World Cup snowboard event (superpipe, parallel GS, snowboardcross) in early March 2005. We hope that one day a World Cup alpine skiing event will return here, but there’s nothing in sight right now. If one becomes available, rest assured that ORDA will be interested.

teachski: Being a teacher, it is very hard, if not impossible for me to get to a ski area mid-week, yet all special discounts seem to take place during the mid-week. School vacations are usually blacked out from these discounts and specials. Have you ever thought of having a couple teacher appreciation days through out the season, including one or two during the normally blacked out school vacations?

Sandy Caligiore: I can only imagine how you feel after a six-inch dump on Tuesday night. In the spring, we sell a Whiteface non-holiday season pass for under $300. That would have been your best bet. Please remember that for next spring. In the meantime, try purchasing a four-pack for under $200. These four tickets are good any days of the season, including holidays. You may buy multiple four-packs. Regarding teacher appreciation days, I have not heard such talk from our marketing department. Nevertheless, a letter to us could plant a seed.

jimme: I’ve always thought of a State owned ski area to be “for the people” of the State and that the State subsidized operating expenses so that prices would be low allowing the less affluent to ski. At $62, Whiteface is $8 higher than Gore ($54) for a day ticket while Belleayre is only $42. This put Whiteface’s ticket price in line with VT resorts like Killington. Why is Whiteface the most expensive and what caused the rate increase from what I think was $56?

Sandy Caligiore: We are asked this periodically. First let me clear a slight misconception. We are state-owned. However, in looking at the big picture, ORDA, which runs the four Lake Placid venues and Gore Mountain, has a $25 million operating budget of which one-third comes from the state. The remainder must be generated by us through ticket sales as well as sponsorships. As you are aware, at Whiteface there are no condos, businesses, real estate developments or golf courses. Ski areas in the private sector use all these assets to diversify their portfolios, so to speak. We have no such luxury here. Our revenue stream is one-dimensional–a lift ticket. Be that as it may, on the pricing we can comfortably say that the Whiteface product has improved greatly in the past 5-6 years. We’ve also heard very nice comments comparing us with the competition. And for three straight years, we’ve been voted the top resort in the eastern U.S.

jimme: What is the pitch of the steepest trail, and The Slides?

Sandy Caligiore: In order, here are the average pitches along the entire length of the trails: Niagara (Upper Cloudspin) 33 degrees; Slides 31 degrees; Upper Skyward and Wilderness 27; Upper MacKenzie 23; Upper Cloudspin 21; Empire 18. There are sections of these runs, of course, that are steeper than the average.

IrishRover: Does Whiteface have any plans for this coming season that will reduce the crowded and often dangerous situation on Excelsior? I know they use speed control, but that doesn’t really solve anything. They may slow a few people down, but the well-intentioned patrollers often become obstacles as they stand in the trail trying to slow skiers/riders.

Sandy Caligiore: I know what you mean, particularly during the holidays. There is no plan for further trail widening. We are doing our best with signage, patrollers, warnings and ticket clipping to slow people. Regarding the crowds, it’s a fact that once you hit 10 AM during busy periods, upper Excelsior can be packed. However, once you pass the connector to Lower Cloudspin, the “audience” seems to thin out. Use my tip for that trail: ski it early (and often if you so choose) before the crowds and then head elsewhere by 10 or 10:30.

ts01: Any way the Gore/Whiteface “Empire Card” could be extended to include Belleayre? I think it would pull downstate skiers, who would purchase the card for day trips to Belleayre, further up to Whiteface if they’re going to take a longer trip or two.

Sandy Caligiore: ORDA does not manage Belleayre, only Gore and Whiteface.

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