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Sunday River So Far

uphillklimber

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The River is opening up terrain and getting it going. It's about the only game in town so folks are traveling and it's a little crowded for what is open. But they are doing what they do best, and that is blow snow and groom it. Kudos to them.

Which brings me to.... the Barker lift, AKA, lift 1. It seemed to break down constantly last year. Several times it was down for days at a time. Not enough maintenance, no spare parts on hand, so they special order them rush priority at extra expense, but you still have to wait for the parts. This morning, day #11 in this year's ski season, and it hasn't been heavily used yet, and it was down for the first hour and a half of the day.

Sunday River prides themselves on being a world class ski destination and has no problem spending a million dollars on T-72 and the terrain park. I understand that. Really, i do get that. But if they really want to be known as World Class, how about enough maintenance and spare parts on hand that the lifts will run during all waking hours? Is that expecting too much?

In any case, ski on, winter is here, or close enough! They're making snow!
 
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SkiFanE

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11 days in and already starting on Barker. Go someplace else if you think the place is so badly managed. I don't know what you consider crowds but I've had a different experience. Lots of other mountains open - really no crush of racers. Only real line I saw was Barker Saturday am at 10:30. Took Locke instead and by time at base Barker was just a minute line. Sunday afternoon was a ghost town.

Shit happens. If it needs to taken down for safety - okay with me. I don't know where this "world class" resort distintation comes from - but okay. As much as can be expected for Maine. I honestly don't want to pay more for some fancy lift - our ski budget is maxed and as long as lift is safe - I'm happy. We get a long season, tons of variety and well maintained trails. I'm a happy customer and can deal with this stuff, all part of the ski experience. (I skied in 70s when typical lift lines were 30-45mins, my benchmark is pretty low lol)
 

Vortex

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I believe Barker opened around 10.00 yesterday. Things happen. I bought two kickstarter passes, one actually yesterday to get my kids on the hill.
I have 4 days in at the River and 5 more coming up in row starting tomorrow. The vibe is make snow and get terrain open. Glad this is my home mountain. Quite a bit of pride by those who make it happen. Props.
 

uphillklimber

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Folks, it's hard to put all the inflections here in a post. In no way am I unhappy with what the river gives me. I moved here to ski here, as I like how they open early in the season, and on years where there is no snow, they'll blow enough to give you a ski season. I love the River, many recognize from my postings that I am almost a total homer for the river. Please don't take my initial post here as trashing the resort. But I do like to call it as I see it, as best as I can, fairly.

Yes, the Barker lift opened around 10 to 10:30 yesterday. Would never want to see it open in an unsafe manner.

As far as crowds go, I only ski weekdays, and mid season, that pretty much means skiing to the lift after the initial opening. Crowding is a relative term and varies based upon perception. Early yesterday, when only Locke was open, and T-2 was closed for race training, that left Sunday Punch as you way down the mountain. A full Locke triple and one trail down, I consider crowded. Once Barker opened, things thinned out a bit, and when they dropped the ropes on Cascades and Monday Mourning, wow!!!
 

uphillklimber

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When I speak of World Class Ski Destination, these are words I have heard directly from Dana Bullen, President or CEO at Sunday River, as he addressed a town hall meeting with employees (I worked there 3 seasons, fun place to work). Pretty much, Sunday River's vision is to be known as a world class ski resort.

It starts with the snowmaking (budget is 2 million) and grooming. Love it or hate it, that's what most of the skiing world looks for. I know many here hate to see grooming and the constant packing of snow, but that is what the ski customer base prefers. The terrain park and half pipe of T-72 were brought up. The budget for that is basically a cool million each year. It was asked that since we get so much bang for the buck on 2 million for snowmaking, why do we spend a million on T-72. Look at what 2 million in snowmaking does to ring people in, compared to what 1 million does at T-72. It's not even close. Dana Bullen replied that if you want to be known as a world class destination, you have to have this. All World class resorts have this. So, yeah, I get it about T-72.

However, they are coming under some criticism for the lifts "constantly" (relative term again) being down. Suppose you come to any ski resort, based upon reputation, and they have great snowmaking and grooming, a world class terrain park, but a major lift is down. It is good to see there are alternatives, and the River is quick to turn on the other idle lifts. But in the back of your mind, is they have old broken down lifts.

All this great snowmaking and grooming the terrain park, IMO, should be backed up with good, well working lifts. But that is not the River's modus operandi. I share this one (of many) stories with you to illustrate how they work.

We ran snow plows and trucks for the various maintenance that needed to be done there. We had our own gas station (gas bought in bulk), you punched in your employee number, etc... and gassed up. The pump started slowing down. A fill up went from 3 minutes to 5 minutes, to 10 minutes. I informed the head guy about it, he was aware of it. Then 15 minutes, 20.... then it just stopped. I went in and asked how long it would take to change out the pump, as I could come back later that day. I was certain since they knew the pump had been going bad for a couple weeks that they must have ordered the pump and had it sitting on the shelf.

Turns out the pump was about to get ordered. He had been directed, by "upper management" not to order the pump until it actually stopped working. :blink: I'm thinking, are there no accountants in the entire organization? Look at all the lost time waiting on filling your work vehicle, multiplied by all the vehicles and the weeks this had gone on. Time is money. Now, what are we going to do for gas. We can't plow the lots without gas. They made arrangements for us to get gas at the Big Apple in Bethel, about a 10 minute ride each way, at retail pricing. (Yeah, we drove right by the Irving to go get that gas) Again, more time lost. Now back to the pump. Since it is now broken, the head guy gets the go ahead to order the pump. The supplier doesn't have one. So they special order one, rush status and overnight delivery. More $$$. About 4 or 5 days later, the pump comes in and is quickly installed. The workers did a great job replacing the pump, they have a great crew. It is and was frustrating to all of us.

I'm just questioning some of upper management's decision process here. It is causing down time that could easily be addressed. And it is showing. But I hear from friends who have worked elsewhere, it is not much different at other resorts....
 

Hawk

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This forum like all forums always has posts that have totally polar opposite opinions. I find this interesting and this is one of those. People who have skied Sunday River for a long time have come to expect a certain level of service and quality. Lifts and snow making have been the mainstay of what Sunday river is about and not glitzy amenities. If you are talking about lift lines and quality of snow by all means they are world class. This is no arguing they are one of the best in the east. But this expectation is why when a lift breaks down or lines are more than 10 minutes, people start to question what is going on. I can totally understand that.
For the record the Barker lift is one of the oldest and is due for a total revamp. I believe this is on the extended plan. But with the latest moves with management of the mountain, It is my understanding that upgrades for this lift has been kicked down the road a bit. I am sure that they are using Band-Aid measures until the actual upgrade happens.
 

uphillklimber

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This forum like all forums always has posts that have totally polar opposite opinions. I find this interesting and this is one of those. People who have skied Sunday River for a long time have come to expect a certain level of service and quality. Lifts and snow making have been the mainstay of what Sunday river is about and not glitzy amenities. If you are talking about lift lines and quality of snow by all means they are world class. This is no arguing they are one of the best in the east. But this expectation is why when a lift breaks down or lines are more than 10 minutes, people start to question what is going on. I can totally understand that.
For the record the Barker lift is one of the oldest and is due for a total revamp. I believe this is on the extended plan. But with the latest moves with management of the mountain, It is my understanding that upgrades for this lift has been kicked down the road a bit. I am sure that they are using Band-Aid measures until the actual upgrade happens.


Yeah, losing the Spruce Triple didn't help any long term plans. They ended up replacing the top of the Locke triple, preemptively, as well as bolting down any suspect towers. You can see them on the White heat and Aurora lifts. That tied up funds for a while.
 

shwilly

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This is a lot of agita over one lift hold. How about we let the season get started before drawing conclusions about their lift maintenance strategy?
 

machski

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This minor case at Barker is a non issue. Stuff happens, they got it right quickly (so in this case if parts were needed, they had them readily available). Now, has Barker gone down for extended stretches the last two seasons due to lack of readily available parts? Yes. But you have to remember this is a Lift Engineering (Yan) lift that had two major retrofits by Poma. The first happened in the late 90's and was mandatory to be recertified following Yan's collapse. It required new grips/sheaves and the necessary hardware in the terminals to accommodate that. While the fixed grip Yan's weren't necessarily suspect, all those grips and sheave sets were changed out as well. There is one new HS lift. Then Poma did another overhaul several years later, this one included new chairs and terminal covers. That one was about half a new HS lift. So we have some $$ they are still trying to wring out of this lift.

The long wait for parts stink but that is because some of the guys of the lift are still Yan parts. Last year, one of the failures happened and DB wanted to just grab the part off South Ridge and put that lift down while waiting for the part (South Ridge is a full blown Poma). Unfortunately, Barker had a Yan part that South Ridge couldn't sub in for. So Barker was down. You may ask why not have these parts on hand. That is because there is zero inventory out there for the Yan specific parts. They are pricey to get and make regardless of when the order is placed. So why pay for parts before you know for sure you need them? I get why Barker is managed the way it is.

A replacement is probably held up by the asset ownership conundrum. I know it is definitely on the resorts radar, but I know the second river pump to the west side for Snowmaking is currently higher priority and a similar or higher price tag.

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Jully

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This is a lot of agita over one lift hold. How about we let the season get started before drawing conclusions about their lift maintenance strategy?

It is one lift hold, but Barker had significant problems last year, and the year before that, and that. Last year others down for a week in peak season. Every time they try to fix it something else goes wrong.

I think Hawk sums it up perfectly. River skiers expect the best, that is why they ski there. Anyone with a brain, like Uphillklimber clearly has, will always temper any complaints with "I know the river is great, BUT." These complaints aren't because we are ungrateful.

I have to think SR is replacing Barker within the next 3 years at the latest. The problems are becoming too frequent and undoubtedly too expensive to warrant.
 

VTKilarney

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Man, you guys are tough. Uphillklimber is one of the biggest Sunday River advocates out there.
 

SkiFanE

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Man, you guys are tough. Uphillklimber is one of the biggest Sunday River advocates out there.
He came here to complain - I did not see him in other posts related to early season skiing and how great it was (which I've only glanced at so don't shoot me if I'm wrong).

When i hear "world class" I imagine Vail. Not Maine. The term is relative lol. Their cafeteria food is not world class. Nor their bathrooms. Or their parking lots. Neither are K's (minus peak lodge). Can't speak for other NE places - but I don't have the budget if the place was to get "World Class" status and update everything. They could start with a potty close to our favorite pub - lmao. If what Machski says is correct - a snowmaking pump is as much as a lift?! Nutso - and an industry that is struggling to survive. So I give SR a pass when stuff happens - they are working hard with what they have.
 

Smellytele

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People come here to complain and brag about areas that is what this is for. If you get only one side you what as well be a republican watching Fox news or a democrat watching MSNBC. People get too defensive of their "home" mountain. UHK is usually a homer when it comes to SR (I have attacked him on this before) but he sees past issues with Boyne and lift maintenance and has every right to question what is going on and if things could be done differently.
 

Edd

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If you lump in the Loaf issues in recent years, Boyne is spending an inordinate amount of time putting out fires when it comes to lifts, so it’s certainly something for ski nerds to ponder.

Ski areas try to run lifts as long as possible so the problems Boyne is experiencing could spread as the lifts set new precedents in length of service.


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Jully

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If you lump in the Loaf issues in recent years, Boyne is spending an inordinate amount of time putting out fires when it comes to lifts, so it’s certainly something for ski nerds to ponder.

Ski areas try to run lifts as long as possible so the problems Boyne is experiencing could spread as the lifts set new precedents in length of service.


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One SL issue was a design flaw, the other was a botched repair job on an old lift gone coupled with a set of unfortunate circumstances. SR's Spruce Peak issue was basically a design flaw.

As lifts get older, I do not think systematic design flaws, like what happened with Borvigs (at Boyne properties and elsewhere) the past few years will surface.

I think repair jobs that were screwed up could definitely become an issue and just simple wear and tear that is not caught by routine maintenance. Hopefully nothing as serious as a deropement happens, but significant lift downtime because of a messed up 20 year old repair job finally kicking it? Possibly.

While I hold Sugarloaf responsible for what happened with their lifts, I do not think their lift maintenance staff and policies were way below industry standard.
 

uphillklimber

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Hey guys, Homer here again, it's raining now and I have a few other things to do today as well. Just checking in.

Last year, someone discussed some of the rationale most likely behind management's attempts at maintenance. A mechanic will see something as ready to go, let's go ahead and change it out. Management says, wait a minute, will this last 5 more hours or 5 more months. Mechanic says, no way to tell for sure. Invariably, it'll last several months more, justifying management wanting to wait. Understandably so, wring every bit of life out of it that you can. But.... did they order the part that was going to go soon? So that it is sitting on a shelf ready for a quick replacement amounting to, perhaps, part of a day, as opposed to a multi day shut down?

I get that some parts are no longer in production and need to be special ordered. But if you know you need the part soon, just don't when, you won't save any money ordering it earlier, or later for that matter, unless you are paying rush status and overnight delivery.

By the way, skiing early this morning at THE RIVER was pretty awesome!
 

Jully

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I get that some parts are no longer in production and need to be special ordered. But if you know you need the part soon, just don't when, you won't save any money ordering it earlier, or later for that matter, unless you are paying rush status and overnight delivery.

A good question. I wonder if this works for every part though? Some parts definitely, but would some not show signs of imminent failure until they fail? I am not a mechanic at all, so can't say.

A third factor might prevent SR from ordering the part beforehand: Boyne/CNL/OZ have indicated that Barker might be replaced this offseason, so don't put any additional money into the lift than what you have to.

Alternately the way reimbursement for expenditures on lift maintenance works might prevent pre-ordering a part that is going to break. That would be frustrating, but given the nature of REITs and the lease, it wouldn't shock me.

I'd like to think that someone at Sunday River in lift maintenance would have the foresight and management skills to pre-order parts that were about to break if it were as simple as that, but I'm willing to bet there is a little more complexity holding it back.

Then again, with your first hand experience with the gas pump, maybe not.
 

shwilly

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If nothing else, this illustrates the perception problem that SR faces. One 90 minute lift hold is all it takes for us to rehash problems last season, notable lift failures in the state of Maine since 2010, and some story about a truck back in the day. That reaction seems out of proportion to the event, but whatever.

Sometimes a lift hold is just a lift hold. If the Barker lift has ongoing problems this season, that will become apparent soon enough. Personally I will wait a bit before drawing that conclusion.
 
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