AlpineZone Challenge 2009 – Tim Boyd of Peak Resorts

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. Tim Boyd, President of Peak Resorts in Wildwood, Missouri, took the AlpineZone Ski Area Challenge and provided the following responses on12/3/2009:

drjeff: Now that Haystack is opening (or atleast attempting to) how will this affect (if at all) the water you’re drawing from Haystack this year? (and down the road if approval for The West Lake project doesn’t come through?) On a similar note, what’s the state of the permitting process for West lake currently?? Thanks for taking the AZ challenge!

Tim Boyd: The permiting process for Westlake is finally starting to see some daylight. Truthfully, this has been much more difficult that it should have been. The approval process in Vermont is staggering. Common sense and logic are not given much consideration in Vermont’s approval process for these types of projects. Quite frankly it is one of the major contributing factors to the high cost of skiing in the state. As far as water goes, we continue to manage our resources in such a manner that it has not been a problem. Once we finally gain our approvals, we anticipate improving our water situation even more. On a side note, I would like to comment on some of the interesting information about snowmaking I have read on this forum. I have been personally making snow for over 27 years. Peak Resorts uses both fan and air/water technology. I have personally used, and still do, both technologies. The capital investment for fan snowmaking is significantly higher than air/water. So it would make no sense to spend additional money on this technology if there wasn’t a significant advantage to the fans. In marginal temperatures (above 25 degrees) our research and experience shows that fans perform better than air/water both in efficiency and production. You can add extreme amounts of air (very costly) to an air/water gun to get it to make some snow in marginal temperatures. However, there are several advantages the fan technology provides in marginal temperatures. One of these would be the “hang time” advantage of the fans. Longer “hang time” means higher conversion rate thus more snow. Another advantage to the fans is the on-board air compressor. With “on-hill” air comes lots of moisture content in the line (even if you are using air-dryers). More moisture in the air only makes conversion more difficult especially in marginal temperatures. The air from the “on-board” air travels much less distance and has very little moisture build-up. Some air/water guns now also come with “on-board” air too. However, they cannot deliver enough CFM in marginal temperatures to be effective. These advantages really manifest themselves in the conversion rate difference between the fans and air/water. Until you get down to really cold temperatures (under 10 degrees) the conversion rate from water to snow is significantly higher with fan guns. This conversion rate advantage leads to a better quality of snow in the fans. For example, that is why on many occasions when you ski by an air/water gun you are turned into an icicle, but it brushes off of you if ski under a fan. All of this doesn’t mean air/water doesn’t have its applications in certain situations, such as small and narrow areas, or areas where you might desire a wetter product. Since we have installed the fans at Mount Snow we no longer use over $700,000 in diesel fuel and rental. Our electrical consumption for snowmaking has decreased about 11%. Last year we had a 300 hour decrease in our total snowmaking hours. And on top of all of this, we pumped over 30 million gallons more water than we did the year before (example of the conversion rate advantage). Among the truly knowledgeable people in the industry who have put in the time and effort to really research the science of snowmaking, the debate over which technology is superior has been over for some time. With the rising cost of energy the debate becomes only more one-sided. Snowmaking has always been one of my greatest passions in the ski business. I still do it every chance I get. These are just some thoughts from an old snowmaker in trying to separate fact from fiction.

Puck it: Why is your fan card only good at Mt Snow? Okemo and Mt Sunapee Flex card can used at either. I sent an email last year asking this and got no response. This would be a great product to offer to people. Combined with Mt Snow, Attitash and Crotched, I would probably buy one.

Tim Boyd: Good point we are already exploring this idea however, we do have a few obstacles to over come.

deadheadskier:  I forget where I read it, perhaps here on a prior Challenge and also perhaps before your tenure at Attitash; that long term plans were to develop the terrain between Attitash proper and Bear Creek. Does the mountain have the permits to develop this terrain, is it still on the table and if so, what sort of time frame could we expect this project to begin in. From aerial photos it would appear that there would be better advanced terrain than currently exists at Attitash and that the mountain could significantly increase it’s vertical drop. (eastern powder baby) Are there any plans to develop beyond Saco at Attitash to open up more terrain for a potential summit high speed quad? Are there any plans to cut new runs or glades within the existing boundaries? There seems to be a lot of terrain between runs on Bear Peak that could produce nice lines. Why are there no glades at Attitash? Any plans to upgrade the double doubles? Are there plans to remove the old Top Notch Double (I hope not). (midd) Regarding Attitash, any plans to upgrade/update the Summit Triple?

Tim Boyd: Terrain Expansion at Attitash: We do not have any current plans to expand any skiable terrain. The current terrain is more than adequate for the number of skiers that visit Attitash each season. Attitash is a very consistent performer year in and year out, however we have not seen any increase in skier visits in the past several seasons. The market there is very stable now. Our focus at Attitash is going to be on snowmaking and infrastructure upgrades in the near-term. The long-term plans for lifts and terrain expansions will obviously be contingent on an increase in skier visits. We do have constraints on some of the lifts that sit on forest service land. We do believe that Attitash has additional potential that we will take advantage of in the future. However, at this time I am not able to divulge any of these plans.

ishovelsnow:  Jesse. Ken. Eliah… Everyone I meet at Mount Snow is the most enthusiastic person about skiing and riding I’ve ever met. From the guys who are in upper management right down to the kid who made me a killer breakfast sandwhich at Carinthia last April. Does that trickle down from the top? Do you / Have you seen or implimented a culture of pure winter stoke? care to share your favorite aspects?

(tcharron:) Any insight on the ‘Long Range Plans’ for Peak? Will you be going after additional acquisitions? Plans to increase your existing base?

Tim Boyd: Thanks for the kudos, especially for Jesse, Eliah, and Gator what a great job they did for us the first year at Carinthia. “A Culture of Pure Winter Stoke” is a result of a great employee team at Mount Snow. They have embraced our business philosophy and added their enthusiasm to bring new fresh attitude to Mount Snow. Concerning long-range plans at the mountain, we have many ideas that we are contemplating concerning the rest of the property. In addition, we are also pursuing the possibility of other strategic acquisitions.

tcharron: Any comments on the future of Crotched Mountain? Since the Mt Snow/Attitash purchase, I’ve really gotten the feeling that Crotched is kinda on their own now. There used to be allot of excitement over revving up THEIR snowguns, but now it’s pretty half hazard. I have some pictures in my gallery of them blasting pretty much every single gun, and opening within 3 days.

Add to that the ‘Future Expansion’ trails up top which are now labeled ‘Natural Trails’. Two years ago we thought we’d at least get a surface lift up to the top (the old surface lift from YEARS ago still had poles up). Business there hurting that bad?
Tim Boyd: We have been very pleased with Crotched’s performance. They have improved their numbers every season since reopening in 2003. They have the most powerful and efficient snowmaking system/acre in the entire Northeast. Their snow surface product is second to none. It has taken some time for the word to get out about Crotched, however the last couple of years that has begun to happen. We do have plans to come off the top to pick up the additional terrain that option would provide. There are several different lift and run configurations that we are analyzing that would accomplish this. We are not quite there, but we are getting close. Crotched has been the best-kept secret in the northeast, but that is changing.

MWV:  At this years condo association meeting at Attitash, a marketing representative from Attitash opened his briefing by commenting: “I want to dispell the rumor that Attitash is for sale”. Seemed to be a strange comment as no one at the meeting had heard that rumor, at least not this year. We are all hoping that it isn’t true. Anyway, we want to thank you for the investment in snowmaking last year. The snow fans have made a huge difference on this mountain, but wonder, will there be future investment in the mountain (more fans, more trails, quad lifts) as we have seen at Mt Snow? A discussion that ofter comes up is did Peak buy Attitash as a viable business investment or was it necessary baggage in securing the Mt Snow deal. Is your strategy to improve Attitash like Mt Snow? What is the fate of Attitash under Peak? Concerned property owner.

Tim Boyd: A rumor started last winter that we were going to sell Attitash. This is and was utterly false. I am sure that is why it was mentioned at the condominium assoc. meeting. We would not have purchased Attitash if we did not believe in the mountain. We have backed that up with substantial investments in snowmaking and infrastructure improvements. Attitash is unique because it sits in the Mount Washington Valley that actually has more summer visits than winter ones. Because of that, Attitash presents us with a great opportunity for increasing our business. We have just signed a contract to install a new 1.2 million alpine mountain coaster for next summer. Those of you familiar with this ride know that it is used in the summer and the winter. We are also working on additional snowmaking improvements that will further enhance the snowmaking upgrades that we have already completed. As I mentioned in one of the earlier questions, we have additional plans in the works that I am unable to divulge at this time. However, Attitash will be at the forefront of Peak’s long-term strategy.

vcunning: Tim, with your first anniversary approaching of the “All Park Mountain Face” at Carinthia as well as some of the earlier experience you’ve enjoyed at Big Boulder, can you comment on Peak’s future plans in these areas? (Vinny) The changes at Corinthia are terrific for everyone. We definitely are going in the right direction, and the infrastructure improvements benefit everyone. There still are many, albeit perhaps an aging “many”, who don’t hit the parks and stay on the main mountain. Are there any upgrades (both short and long term) in the works for us? It’s a little unsettling being on the side of the slower growth end of the sport. You have to put your money where the growth is, but I’m hoping we don’t get completely left behind.

Tim Boyd: Vinny, we will not leave you or anyone behind. When Jesse came up with the idea for Carinthia, I had no idea of its first year success. The way that Jesse, Eliah and Gator transformed Carinthia, along with the help of the staff at MS, was outstanding. The acceptance of the “Carinthia Concept” by the public has been extremely gratifying. The Dew Tour, being rated “Number 1 Park in the East” by Transworld Snowboarding Mag, all in the first year, is more than we could have hoped for. That being said, we have no intention of forgetting about the rest of the mountain. We are currently working on our master plan that will eventually re-develop all three base areas at the bottom of the mountain. As you are aware, all of our skier services building have all seen their better days. Obviously, other issues such as lift, additional terrain, and snowmaking will all be addressed as we continue with our planning process.

Newpylong: Taking a step back and looking at Mount Snow, I think the two things need to happen next are:

1) new lift out of the Main Base to summit. The longest and worst lines are by far on the Summit and Canyon Quads, but once you get up there, the trails are usually not that crowded (outside of Long John/Deer Run). What, if any plans are there for this?

2) snowmaking expansion in the Sunbrook area and a new(er) lift to replace the horribly slow Quad. this is definitely an untapped trail pod due to poor snowmaking and lifts. Further development here would probably alleviate congestion in other areas. Are there any plans for this?

I personally rather see money spent on these issues than any lift on the North Face. When both triples are cranking on weekends, lines are non-existent and the slower ride up is a nice break. Plus, the wind is not so bad over there. Thank you!

(Arik:) I also agree with the comment about Mount Snow’s Sunbrook area having unrealised potential. Perhaps if the lift and snowmaking over there could be improved it would shorten lines on the main face which already is cluttered with lifts and had a ton of uphill capacity. Sunbrook has nice intermediate family friendly terrain with lovely views. There was talk in the past about removing some chairs from the sunbrook quad so it could be run faster, I don’t know if that is a better option cost wise than a new detatchable lift. If there is a new lift at Sunbrook, will it’s top terminus be put a bit further east (lift riders right) to allow an easier transfer back to the main face?

Tim Boyd: I agree with your assessment of Sunbrook, both its strengths and weaknesses, addressing these issues will be included in our long-term strategy. The major obstacle with Sunbrook improvement it that it sits on forest service land and that opens up many more issues. The approval process is very long, very costly and easily hijacked by outside forces. Even replacing the lift there is difficult. If you move the footprint of the lift when you replace it, the process becomes even more challenging. This does not mean that we are not going to pursue these improvements. However, the reality is we do not have any control over the process, so we are never able to say when things will actually get accomplished. Sunbrook is a wonderful area and has tremendous potential. Its improvement is in the long-term plan of MS. By the way, we did remove chairs on the quad there this past season. It did help some, however the long-term solution is to replace that lift.

reefer:  Hey Tim, thanks for participating. Great job with Mt. Snow so far! With daylight savings time coming up this weekend, it got me thinking about the “springing ahead” we now do in mid-march. I for one believe it is taking some real nice skiing away form us. Several times last year in March, with the warm days and refreeze at night, everything was bulletproof until 10:00 or 11:00 am, when in years past this really would have been 9:00 or 10:00 when things softened-up. There are a couple areas in southern VT that extend/change the spring hours from 9:00am-5:00pm, even on weekends, when DST begins (on March 20 this year). I for one would love to see Mt. Snow (as well as all other New England mountains) change to this policy. Have you ever considered doing this at Mt. Snow? Thanks.

Tim Boyd: Thanks. Interesting idea, I will bring this up with the Sr. Management team at the mountain.
Another topic Tim.Skiing gladed terrain seems to be getting more popular in New England the last couple years, (pretty good snow years also). Several big mountains in the east are expanding tree skiing terrain. The tree skiing at Mt. Snow is a big factor why I continue to return. I have asked several people that work at the mountain about “cleaning” up the gladed areas a little, especially since that ice storm in December. There doesn’t appear to be a lot of maintenance going on in this area, despite being told differently. Simply taking a day to clear some underbrush would help immensely. I have also asked about getting a “volunteer” crew together on a couple weekends, lead by a Mt. Snow expert of course, to cut and “regenerate” if necessary. I and my loppers would be first on the volunteer list.

reefer:  1.) Do you plan to expand tree skiing at Mt. Snow?

2.) Is there really any maintenance done in the gladed areas?

3.) Would Mt. Snow ever consider a volunteer “brush-cutting” weekend? Maybe throwing in a lift ticket for the work.

Comment: I’m just concerned. Even though I like the new policy of Mt. Snow not marking your tree terrain with trail signs, and eliminating them in the trail count, I feel they will get more neglected in the future. Not bitching here. Still had a great time in the trees the last couple years, and plan on it again this year. Thanks again, Keith.

Tim Boyd:  As you may be aware we have made all the trees open for tree skiing. This is a decision that each skier makes deciding if they want to enter a glade area. We did suffer a significant amount of damage from the ice storm last December. However, some area escaped relatively unscathed. Most of our maintenance currently involves trimming back the edges of our existing trails as this had been neglected for many years. With an area the size of MS, it is a slow task. We would certainly entertain the idea anyone interested in volunteering to assist in this work and some type of compensation would be considered. I know you will agree that MS boasts of some wonderful glade areas. Keith if you are serious about volunteering please contact Dave Moulton, Outside Operations.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for his or her interest in our mountains and for your questions. I especially like to thank you for your enthusiasm and devotion to the sport of skiing and snowboarding. Your participation and ideas in these types of forms do not go unnoticed. We will not always agree about everything, however, the “free” and “open” exchange that occurs on these sites, like Alpine Zone, can only help the ski areas put out a better product, and in the end that benefits us all.

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