AlpineZone Challenge 2004 – Susan Watson of Loon Mountain

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. Susan Watson, Internet Marketing Manager of Loon Mountain in Lincoln, New Hampshire, took the AlpineZone Ski Area Challenge and provided the following responses on 5/27/2004:

Greg: What is the status of the South Mountain project? What opposition have you encountered? Has construction of this expansion begun? When will it be completed? What features can be expected (trails, vertical drop, lifts, etc.)? How close to downtown Lincoln will the base of this area be?

Susan Watson: Regarding the South Mountain project, Loon now has all federal permitting in place and we have finished the real estate plan for the base area. We are currently in the process of acquiring local permits for the mountain and the real estate parcel.

We expect to begin construction of the real estate parcel in the summer of 2005. The lifts and trails, with snowmaking, would follow shortly thereafter. There will be a total of 7 trails in the G lift area. As part of the project, we will build two additional trails in the North Peak area. We also plan lodge expansion in those two areas, plus additions to the existing base area over time.

The South Mountain slopes face the town of Lincoln, and the base area will be within a half mile of town. At 1450 feet, the vertical drop of South Mountain is very similar to North Peak. Our overall vertical drop is 2100 ft.

Greg: I understand Loon uses standard grooming equipment to “make” very evenly spaced mogul fields on intermediate trails such as Sunset and Rumrunner. Are there any plans to expand this approach to more blue trails at Loon?

Susan Watson: Loon’s goal is to try to have moguls accessible from every lift.

Joshua B: Do you limit daily lift ticket sales?

Susan Watson: Loon does not limit lift ticket sales.

Joshua B: How many cars can be parked at Loon and off site on a given ski day?

Susan Watson: We can accommodate approximately 1,700 cars in our parking areas.

salida: Since you do not receive a lot of snow, therefore making glades unskiable much of the year. How do you try to appeal to expert skiers with only a few bump runs? Are you going to improve upon this in the future?

Susan Watson: Actually, on an average snow year the glades are open most of the time. And for the amount of acreage Loon has, we feel we offer a good variety of terrain to appeal to all abilities. We will add additional expert terrain through our expansion program.

salida: Are there any renovation plans aside from the South Mountain project on the horizon?

Susan Watson: Included in the South Mountain project are upgrades to our existing mountain, which include base lodge upgrades; changing our current fixed equipment to detachable equipment; adding more skier terrain on the existing mountain; and snowmaking additions and upgrades.

riverc0il: Loon is located in an area with a large cluster of other resorts competing for skier visits (including Cannon, Bretton Woods, Attitash, Wildcat, Cranmore, Waterville [last two are also BC resorts], Ragged, Tenney, Black, etc). How does Loon approach its marketing strategy, and view itself in relationship to its competition?

Susan Watson: We believe Loon can deliver the most variety for all ability levels, skiers and riders, from the new Northstar Park and mini pipe for people progressing in their terrain park skills to Loon Mountain park and and Superpipe for competitive level riders. Loon also offers glades, moguls, and trails from Angel Street to Walking Boss and Bear Claw. For the same reason, we also position as “the best place to meet up with friends”. There’s always a lot of action with events and après ski as well as great skiing and riding.

riverc0il: Even though Booth Creek Resorts owns Waterville Valley and Cranmore, does Loon attempt to compete directly with its sister mountains? Is each mountain designed to serve a specific clientele?

Susan Watson: All three have a core family market but Loon stands out on a demographic basis for its single, young skier and rider and couples with no kids. Loon’s incredibly easy access off the highway makes it ideal for a one-day trip and the variety of inexpensive lodging, restaurants and après ski in the Lincoln area draws the young crowd.

Waterville Valley is especially appealing to families because of the one base area, and intimate village feel. Because of its layout, younger kids can enjoy a sense of freedom on the trails and in the valley. Cranmore is a family mountain through and through.

riverc0il: Loon is notorious for its weekend crowds which keep many skiers (myself included) who would be more inclined to ski Loon mid-week away on the weekends. Does Loon have a strategy for addressing the overcrowding situation aside from opening the new terrain? Will the new terrain disperse the skier traffic or will it increase skier visits negating its effect on crowd control?

Susan Watson: We recognize the need to add terrain and another portal to the area to help people spread out across the terrain. We do try to address pinch points in our operation. For example, in an effort to help alleviate congestion in our base lodges during busy days, we added the Governor’s Pavilion in the west base area, which seats 200 people.

riverc0il: Racing seems to take up a lot of trail space at Loon and causes hard detours for recreational skiers looking to ski all of the available terrain. What is Loon’s policy regarding racing and training and how do they accommodate recreational skiers trying to ski around races and training in progress to access all available terrain? Have there been altercations between racing and training events and the skiing public and how has it be handled?

Susan Watson: Trying to balance terrain for all users can be difficult at times. Given the addition of terrain parks and the need for more bump runs, we are in the process of reassessing how terrain is being used.

There have been a few issues raised concerning friction between race training/events and the skiing public, although the number is minimal. We receive input from all parties and do make every effort to resolve them in the best interest of everyone involved.

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