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LiftBlog Reports that Smuggs and Stowe are Exploring an Interconnect Gondola

Razor

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Guess I would hate Spruce getting busier...it's my go to to get away from the masses. I can ski there for hours on a powder day...never waiting on a line.
Been there, done that. Weekday powder turns on Smuggs and the high speed lift with no line. Not much better than that.
 

drjeff

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Not to fear, Skiology Matt has declared the connector gondola all but dead. We should all be good LOL!
Consider this gondola built then soon, given his track record on so many of his predictions. He'll probably then spin it in a way to drive some fundrasing from his current batch of lemmings for is paywall website *cough* legal defense fund *cough*
 

Dickc

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Agreed, I have never seen line at Slidebrook at Sugarbush or Tote Road at Loon, and have only ever had to wait a couple cabins for the Over Easy Gondola. Connector lifts do not need to be high capacity.

Another thing that don't think has been brought up yet, is that there will need to be a contingency plan to get people back from one resort to the other if this new gondola, Sensation, or Sterling shutdown midday due to a breakdown, windhold, etc. Its a long drive between the two in winter, and multiple shuttle buses will be needed.
How about a couple of ski-doos with water ski ropes? :ROFLMAO:
:ROFLMAO::ROFLMAO::ROFLMAO:
 

DoublePlanker

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Is Smuggs even viable going forward? I skied there once and the terrain was awesome. I don't care for the lifts.
How much of the infrastructure must be replaced soon? It seems the lifts can't last forever. Who can pay for those? Are there enough skier visits and revenue to spend the capital needed to upgrade in 5 or 10 years or whatever the lifetime is for the infrastructure.

It seems the operator has done a fantastic job keeping the place going. But who can take it over and keep that up?
 

machski

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Is Smuggs even viable going forward? I skied there once and the terrain was awesome. I don't care for the lifts.
How much of the infrastructure must be replaced soon? It seems the lifts can't last forever. Who can pay for those? Are there enough skier visits and revenue to spend the capital needed to upgrade in 5 or 10 years or whatever the lifetime is for the infrastructure.

It seems the operator has done a fantastic job keeping the place going. But who can take it over and keep that up?
While the lifts look old from the outside eye, all major components have been either overhauled or replaced and the machinery itself is fairly new. Stormskiing podcast has a good episode from Smuggs about this. So the lifts are good for quite a while longer.
 

deadheadskier

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Is Smuggs even viable going forward? I skied there once and the terrain was awesome. I don't care for the lifts.
How much of the infrastructure must be replaced soon? It seems the lifts can't last forever. Who can pay for those? Are there enough skier visits and revenue to spend the capital needed to upgrade in 5 or 10 years or whatever the lifetime is for the infrastructure.

It seems the operator has done a fantastic job keeping the place going. But who can take it over and keep that up?

So, this is now (gasp) 23 year old information. In Spring of 1999, I was a student at UVM and took their Ski Area Management class. One of the final classes was a panel of industry leaders from VT ski areas. There was about a dozen of these folks, some areas sent marketing directors, others had the owners themselves show up. Tim Mueller and Bill Stritzler were two of them.

One of the topics of discussion was profitability of the industry. They all talked about how having four season business is critical to profit. They had just wrapped up a decade of skiing and the claim was made that Smuggs was the only major ski area in VT that turned a profit every single year of the decade. They attributed that to Smuggs being ahead of the trend compared to others in the state with their summer season attractions to help supplement winter income. Basically the take away was that Smuggs managed their income and expenses better than the rest of the field.

I have no idea if this remains true to this day. Most other places have caught up with their four season offerings. I guess my point is to not look at the old lifts and small lodges and assume they're not managed well. They've chosen a more simple path than others because it has always worked for them. Throwing ina $6M HS6 could change that balance and also change the character of the skiing experience there. So, I think that's part of the reason why they've held off on upgrades. They just don't see the ROI in their model bringing on a mountain of debt for a new lift.
 

kbroderick

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...
I have no idea if this remains true to this day. Most other places have caught up with their four season offerings. I guess my point is to not look at the old lifts and small lodges and assume they're not managed well. They've chosen a more simple path than others because it has always worked for them. Throwing ina $6M HS6 could change that balance and also change the character of the skiing experience there. So, I think that's part of the reason why they've held off on upgrades. They just don't see the ROI in their model bringing on a mountain of debt for a new lift.
I had heard (years ago) that Smuggs actually did more business in the summer than the winter (er, can't remember--may have been more net revenue versus more gross revenue). I think the lesson is that a lot of good summer programming lacks some of the overhead of skiing and snowboarding. I'd guess that it's not just capital cost but also operational cost that has discouraged new lift installs; with the right people maintaining them, old fixed-grips lifts can be quite cost-effective, especially compared to detachables; I don't know if newer lift models have brought the operational costs down to be comparable to (I'd assume not less than) fixed-grip lifts.

If the ski area has remained under the same ownership for multiple decades and without outside cash infusions, that management team is probably doing a lot of things right.
 

Cobbold

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My guess the owner has done a lot of things right over the years, but the lifts are aging, maybe all the parts that can be replaced have been replaced, but the towers have not been, a friend went their last summer
with his kids to use the water park, when he was shown the price he went to jay peak water park, it was cheaper, is Smuggs water park better, I don’t know, but it’s more expensive than jays.
 

KustyTheKlown

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i havent been in the summer but I am almost positive that smuggs has a fairly large outdoor water park. jay's is indoors. which is sort of a bummer for summer fun. seems to me the jay water park is kind of a winter draw for hockey families and skier families for apres.
 

drjeff

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Mechanical objects, even with regular maintenance, do have a lifespan to them.

I suspect, not just with Smuggs, but with numerous ski areas around the country, you're going to see this play out over the next 10-15yrs or so, as many of the lifts that were installed in the late 70's through the early/mid 90's industry building boom, let alone those installed before then will be heading on 50 years old or more and may very well get to the point where the sourcing of replacement parts and/or annual upkeep starts to bring into serious question for many resort owners how much longer they can safely and fiscally feasibly spin them.

Probably going to be a good next few decades for the lift manufacturing companies, and especially one's like Sky Trac who are building theor reputation in the fixed grip market for sure.

At some point, and probably sooner than later, Smuggs is likely going to have to begin the process of modernizing it's lift fleet as they age out of reliable service. When it gets to that time, it will be interesting to see if the owners take on that debt themselves and ready Smuggs for the next many decades of life, or if they sell and take the $$ and move on
 

drjeff

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i havent been in the summer but I am almost positive that smuggs has a fairly large outdoor water park. jay's is indoors. which is sort of a bummer for summer fun. seems to me the jay water park is kind of a winter draw for hockey families and skier families for apres.
The hockey draw that Jay has is actually a year round thing. As some of my friends who are "hockey familes" are going up there year round for various tournaments and camps. And that waterpark is a very attractive feature to draw the attention of tournament organizers as well as hockey teams and their families to give them plenty of off ice fun opportunities very close to where they're staying and skating
 

RH29

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i havent been in the summer but I am almost positive that smuggs has a fairly large outdoor water park. jay's is indoors. which is sort of a bummer for summer fun. seems to me the jay water park is kind of a winter draw for hockey families and skier families for apres.
The waterpark at Jay has a semi-retractable roof that opens up in the summer.
 

heiusa

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I am not clear why there are so many negative comments about the aging lifts at Smuggs, other than a slow double lift may suck as far as the user experience, there is no reason that those lifts cant be used for many many more years, all you need to do is look down the street, at the single chairlift at MRG. As long as they are willing to invest in the proper maintenance those lifts can run forever. So the real question is, will that cause them to loose customers to areas with better lifts, or will the cost to keep them running end up costing more than financing a new lift.
 

kbroderick

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I am not clear why there are so many negative comments about the aging lifts at Smuggs, other than a slow double lift may suck as far as the user experience, there is no reason that those lifts cant be used for many many more years, all you need to do is look down the street, at the single chairlift at MRG. As long as they are willing to invest in the proper maintenance those lifts can run forever. So the real question is, will that cause them to loose customers to areas with better lifts, or will the cost to keep them running end up costing more than financing a new lift.
The single at MRG is damn near a new lift. They completely refurbished it in 2007 and spent a lot more to keep it a single than they'd have needed to put in a brand new double.

FWIW, none of the Smuggs chairs made the last of oldest operational lifts in the US when LiftBlog reviewed such in 2015. See https://liftblog.com/2015/09/30/oldest-operating-lifts-in-the-us-canada/
(I realize there are several surface lifts on the lost and I'd find a list of aerial lifts alone more interesting, but I'm not curious though to dig through the data to figure that out).

I think that the density of big resorts in the northeast sometimes makes it easy to overlook that a whole lot of ski areas are still running much older lifts with solid uptime and safety records. I can't speak to the current situation with respect to spare parts, but when I was last in regular contact with people responsible for maintaining older lifts, they had both parts sources and machine shops in their contacts lists.
 

4aprice

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I am not clear why there are so many negative comments about the aging lifts at Smuggs, other than a slow double lift may suck as far as the user experience, there is no reason that those lifts cant be used for many many more years, all you need to do is look down the street, at the single chairlift at MRG. As long as they are willing to invest in the proper maintenance those lifts can run forever. So the real question is, will that cause them to loose customers to areas with better lifts, or will the cost to keep them running end up costing more than financing a new lift.
From my perspective: My family skied Smugglers almost exclusively from the late 60's through the mid 70's. My father had a co worker who recommended it over Stowe ( due to "Liftlines"). It was a 7 hour slog from our home in NNJ so my parents rented a condo for the season in the village which was at that time newly being built. Went every other weekend and school vacations. Was a walkable to the Morse Mountain double chair (they only had 3 at that time, one for each mountain) and personally got lucky with an instructor that really got my game going over one Christmas Vacation. Great memories with a couple of really fantastic winters like being basically snowed "in" with 64" in 3 days Dec 69. (mountain was open). Remember skiing the connection across Sterling Pond to Spruce Peak. Was our home mountain for many years.

Fast forward many years, Lots of travel checking out other areas in New England and out west, but we still did put in the occasional visit to Smugglers and watched what changed and what didn't change. While they put in some lifts, they were somewhat slow to upgrade snow making (which probably pushed me away a couple of lean snow years in the late 70's, early 80's) and compared to some other areas it's just not that convenient plus out side of the village there really wasn't too much good lodging outside of Burlington almost an hour away. I do remember one really fun weekend at a motel called the Highlander (I think) on 108 but that was when I was single and thus had lower standards.

My last visit to Smuggs was probably was probably back in the mid 2000's I frankly just found it down right old in so many ways. The speed doesn't bother me too much but the lifts are old and not particularly comfortable. Madonna 1 is 15 minutes plus of that. There really is no good base lodge area down at the village where some of the parking is, and the mid Madonna Lodge was obsolete in the 80's and I don't think much has been done to it since. As I've gotten older skiing has become more to me then just the sport itself and nicer facilities (say a decent bar and or a nice summit lodge for warm up and dining) have become more vital to a good experience especially with my wife who I like to pamper a bit. These are some of the things Smugglers was not really providing on my last visit there. It maybe one thing for the person who is local to the area but its another to people like me, a "weekend warrior" (I would say one of the biggest main stays in NE skiing) who spends good bucks for a couple of days skiing.

Smuggs will always have a place in heart because of my history there. They are never going to be able to put a high speed lift up to the summit of Madonna due to the winds. I really think they should think about doing something like I said in a post above with shortening the Madonna I lift and putting a more modern (high speed )lift up the side replacing Madonna 2 (plus one on Sterling and Morse too). Certainly the terrain there is top notch they just need to up grade the access to it and other facilities around it.
 
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