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  1. #6081
    machski's Avatar
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    Interesting perspective from TrailBoss. I know Alterra is buying Sugarbush outright, but by keeping Win on as President and COO, I feel like they will let it run more by Win and local (a la Mammoth as a better example) than like DV. I never followed DV too much, always thought pre Ikon it was far too pretentious without the type of terrain that interests me when I travel west, but it always struck me as a high end resort that had firmer open/close dates. Perhaps I'm wrong there, not sure. Anyway, I could maybe see SB getting a more firm open date moving forward, especially if K is still on the Ikon with them pushing the early opening just down the road. I feel like the skiing into first weekend of May will go on, though the K arguement could be made here too. I look to Crystal too in Washington, nw a full Alterra area and they reopened this year late spring given the snowpack. So tough to call how this might go, but I feel like the way Win has driven the ship will continue to prevail moving forward.

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  2. #6082
    thetrailboss's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by machski View Post
    Interesting perspective from TrailBoss. I know Alterra is buying Sugarbush outright, but by keeping Win on as President and COO, I feel like they will let it run more by Win and local (a la Mammoth as a better example) than like DV. I never followed DV too much, always thought pre Ikon it was far too pretentious without the type of terrain that interests me when I travel west, but it always struck me as a high end resort that had firmer open/close dates. Perhaps I'm wrong there, not sure. Anyway, I could maybe see SB getting a more firm open date moving forward, especially if K is still on the Ikon with them pushing the early opening just down the road. I feel like the skiing into first weekend of May will go on, though the K arguement could be made here too. I look to Crystal too in Washington, nw a full Alterra area and they reopened this year late spring given the snowpack. So tough to call how this might go, but I feel like the way Win has driven the ship will continue to prevail moving forward.

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    Good points. I don't know much about Mammoth or its operations. Again, my perspective is limited only to DV and Solitude, which as I said are not really good benchmarks. I would not expect much change this season.
    Live, Ski, or Die!


  3. #6083
    Quote Originally Posted by machski View Post
    Interesting perspective from TrailBoss. I know Alterra is buying Sugarbush outright, but by keeping Win on as President and COO, I feel like they will let it run more by Win and local (a la Mammoth as a better example) than like DV. I never followed DV too much, always thought pre Ikon it was far too pretentious without the type of terrain that interests me when I travel west, but it always struck me as a high end resort that had firmer open/close dates. Perhaps I'm wrong there, not sure. Anyway, I could maybe see SB getting a more firm open date moving forward, especially if K is still on the Ikon with them pushing the early opening just down the road. I feel like the skiing into first weekend of May will go on, though the K arguement could be made here too. I look to Crystal too in Washington, nw a full Alterra area and they reopened this year late spring given the snowpack. So tough to call how this might go, but I feel like the way Win has driven the ship will continue to prevail moving forward.
    I tend to agree with you. SB doesn't have a particularly aggressive opening date now and I don't see them pushing it back further. Keep in mind that Alterra presumably would rather people ski at their "own" resorts via Ikon rather than at partner resorts like K where they most likely have to pay something to K for each ticket scanned. So I could easily see SB continuing with the same open/close schedule as they have now. I don't see K being a partner on Ikon having a major influence on that.

  4. #6084
    Quote Originally Posted by WinS View Post
    The biggest change is me learning to be an employee again But I was one for 28 years so I guess it will come back. I am actually very excited to stay on and help to maintain the vibe along with the rest of our great team. We are having a community forum next Wednesday at 5pm in the Gate House Lodge and all are welcome. Then we are shooting for a passholder appreciation day on Friday, November 22nd, followed by official opening on Saturday the 23rd. I moved by ski gear into my mountain office so ready to go.
    I imagine there must be some mixed emotions for you. I just wanted to say that, like others, we all really appreciate what you've done with Sugarbush. I'm REALLY happy that you and your team are staying! The vibe at SB is one of the best things about skiing there and keeps me coming back every year.

  5. #6085
    Quote Originally Posted by thetrailboss View Post
    So here are my thoughts, admittedly from afar, but I was a regular Sugarbush skier from 2000-2011, and a fan since at least 1994.

    As to Win and Summit Ventures, they have been the best thing that could have happened to Sugarbush. They have offered nearly 20 years of stability and consistent improvement. This is not matched to probably as far back as the Gadds. They were very much local and were at the right place at the right time. I recall in 2001 being a bit hesitant because selfishly I loved having the student "ASC All East Pass", but it was clear very soon that Win and his investors were very much set on making much needed improvements to lifts and snowmaking.

    Taking our skier and rider interests aside, one has to admit that this was probably the very best time to sell in the last 10 years or so and probably will be the best window for the next 5-10 years. The economy is hot. Market prices are high. There is an obvious arms race between two well-funded national resort companies, Vail and Alterra. Labor is hard to come by. And, nothing personal, but Win and his partners are getting up there in age. As to the new owners, Alterra is probably the least evil option. I will expand more upon that.

    As to what to expect--this is not the first time that a multi-resort national (or regional) resort group has owned Sugarbush. Les Otten, then LBO Enterprises, first leased Sugarbush as his third resort in 1993 or 1994 and then took it over in 1995 investing $28 million in much needed improvements. The love stopped in the late 1990's and 2000 or so because locals did not like the proposed Grand Summit Hotel. That, as well as declining revenue from overexpansion, led to a very steady decline in the ski area. So ASC/LBO had very much promise at the start and fizzled out.

    As to changes here, it depends on who you are and your perspective. The folks who have shelled out for special access, early runs, VIP snowcat tours, etc. are going to be the ones who are most pissed. That is because those things are likely coming to an end and there will be A LOT more folks on the slopes. Not to burn any bridges or piss anyone off (admittedly these types of folks are NOT going to be on here), but one of the things that I really began to dislike in my last year was the "country club" atmosphere and entitlement culture that began to develop at Sugarbush, particularly LP. That said, from a business perspective, I get why a business needs to do that in order to generate revenue. But, these special people are going to be the ones who will get pissed first, just like at Deer Valley this past season with the new regime not doing as well with snowmaking, grooming, and operations and the resulting crowds from the Ikon pass. I have talked to multiple DV regulars who have told me that a lot of folks are selling their homes and are not happy. This is not to say that Sugarbush is most like Deer Valley--it isn't at all.

    If you're a regular weekend warrior, you will have to get used to set opening and closing dates, regardless of snow cover. That will likely result in probably shorter seasons. Who knows though. You will also have to fend with more folks on the slopes, but you now have many more options for skiing and riding now all over NE. So it is probably a wash.

    If you were one of the folks who got the limited ME pass, which was a very good product for the VT locals market at a good pricepoint, say goodbye to that. Same with the 20's pass and other discounted products.

    In the years I skied at SB, they did honor MRG passes on occasion for early season skiing. They also offered some deals in between the two. I don't know if that is still the case, but if it is, expect those to end. And if you are an MRG skier, expect probably more folks jumping ship and going there if ihings to get too crowded and if decisions are not popular as to season length, snowmaking coverage, etc.

    As to a good comparison? I don't really know of one. Aspen, technically, is a part of the Ikon pass, but NOT an Alterra Resort per se. AFAIK Aspen remains a Crown property that is affiliated with Alterra, but is not owned by Alterra. Crown owns a piece of Alterra. Likewise, Squaw/Alpine Meadows is still a KSL property and similarly is related to Alterra, but separate. KSL has pissed a lot of locals off in Tahoe, but it is California and someone is always pissed off there. Deer Valley and Aspen are "limited" Ikon resorts, meaning that Ikon only buys you five or seven days of access. They are the premium product offerings that require folks to shell out a lot more money for a full pass. Folks here are saying that SB is going to be an unlimited Ikon offering, so DV and Aspen are not at all good comparisons, except suffice to say that both have locals pissed at the amount of crowding that has occurred.

    The only Alterra resort I can compare SB to, and probably not even very well, is the experience with Solitude. Solitude was a DV resort meant to be a mainstream offering and meant to buffer DV from Vail's expansion. Alterra bought and took over Solitude only last season. The biggest thing was that it was the ONLY unlimited Ikon offering here in SLC and the Wasatch Front. It is clear that Alterra really underestimated the impact of Ikon and demand. They BS about "it was a good snow year", but it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that the discount pass was the main driver to crowding and parking problems that they had. The paid parking idea was poorly rolled out and was really a lame way to control that crowding issue and force the problem onto other Ikon partner resorts. That is not at all popular. And no, the money was not to be used for more bussing or transit options but instead was a revenue generator.

    Overall, crowding was the biggest issue with Solitude. Having a good snow year, snowmaking and grooming were not really tested. Season length was shortened. They started much later than in the past. I know that staffing has turned over and a lot of folks at DV and Solitude have left. This season, which is already warm and dry, is going to test Alterra's ops at Solitude. Frankly, IMHO Solitude was always a sub-par ski area in this area when compared to the overwhelming competition. I've skied there a few times and it is just OK. I know a lot of folks love it on AZ, but it has a very odd layout and weird lift arrangement. That said, DV and Alterra have added one new HSQ and another is coming. Locals are pissed that their secret spot is now discovered and that parking is now no longer free. Not a good place to be.

    So we will see what happens with SB. I am interested to hear what people think now that a multi-resort company once again controls it. The last one got run out of town by the locals.
    Good thoughtful post but too tired to respond in detail tonight to a few points that I do not agree with. But I am PO’d about the age comment. You think 7O is old? You have to understand that we baby boomers have a Peter Pan complex. We never age

  6. #6086
    More thoughts from afar, but most importantly Win and the Sugarbush team have been wonderful stewards of one of the premier ski areas in New England. Sugarbush is in a much better position relative to where the mountain was the day Summit Ventures bought it in 2001.

    Alterra leaves individual opening and closing dates up to each resort. These dates are obviously dictated by the calendar, snow, weather and business levels. Squaw Valley stayed open until the 4th of July for the second time in the last thee years after KSL brought Squaw under the Alterra umbrella. I would expect to see similar opening and closing dates for LP/ME moving forward.

    You quite simply can't be all things to all people. One of the biggest differences pass holders will notice is there is no senior Ikon Pass. It is the Ikon Pass, the Base Pass and what in all likelihood will be more expensive day tickets. Around $1000 for a full pass and $650 for the Base Pass that is blacked out 10 days. Alterra sells a June only pass at Mammoth, so I wouldn't be surprised to see a similar offer for ME moving forward.

    Hopefully this proves to be the right move at the right time for Sugarbush given the current state of the industry. Congratulations Win on a job well done and I'm excited to see what the future holds for Sugarbush.

  7. #6087

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    I'm a little confused but don't most of Alterra owned resorts still sell resort specific passes - outside of Ikon? Stratton and Snowshoe both have them. Maybe I am wrong, but it seems like Alterra is open to having resort specific passes, which would apply to Sugarbush.

  8. #6088
    Quote Originally Posted by mbedle View Post
    I'm a little confused but don't most of Alterra owned resorts still sell resort specific passes - outside of Ikon? Stratton and Snowshoe both have them. Maybe I am wrong, but it seems like Alterra is open to having resort specific passes, which would apply to Sugarbush.
    Correct. Next year we will be looking a what is the right combination for us going forward.

  9. #6089
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    I will jump in also and say basically the same thing. Your body of work here will be looked at as a huge success. Sugarbush and the Mad River Valley has been a special place for me and my Wife over the last 15 years. We have skied more powder, gone on more adventures and gained so many(countless) new friends. All because of the resort. I think that the approach Summit Ventures has taken with it's business was thoughtful and respectful of the Valley and all it's businesses and people. This is very unusual and hard to duplicate in this very competitive industry. Much respect goes to you Win for always trying to do the right thing even when it might have cost you a few extra dollars. I may have said a few things over the years about snow making or policies but those were minimal and sometimes selfish. I apologize for that. Customers always want more. I realize that you can't do everything and have it exactly perfect for everybody.

    My fear and probably the fear of most regulars is that something might be lost with the big company. Being a skier/owner is unique in that you want to see things go in a way that makes it better for the skiers. You understand what we all want and like. Corporations and shareholders sometimes get lost in the numbers and loose site of the importance of the customers needs. Time will see and I hope you can influence your newly arriving management to understand the valley, the people and the vibe that makes us so special.

  10. #6090
    thetrailboss's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by WinS View Post
    Good thoughtful post but too tired to respond in detail tonight to a few points that I do not agree with. But I am PO’d about the age comment. You think 7O is old? You have to understand that we baby boomers have a Peter Pan complex. We never age
    I figured you would love that comment. Well-written letter to folks yesterday. You have nothing to be upset about--you really were very successful during a very interesting 18-year period. Are they going to name a trail after you?

    And I also apologize for getting after you about snowmaking (like Mr. Hawk). It is easy for us to be arm-chair ski area owners without putting any skin in the game.
    Live, Ski, or Die!


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