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I saw them staging some of the snologic sleds along with hoses around the bottom of Steins and along Coffee Run. Fascinating to see them getting ready to turn the guns back on at this point. Not sure how feasible it is, but if you're going to turn guns back on, they should really consider hitting the last section of DS. That trail is a disaster right now. 8AM this morning and it was a sheet of ice already at that point in numerous spots.Snowing lightly today. Every bit helps.
Snowmakers were lugging hoses at the top of valley house this morning. Said they were going to hit steins and coffee run. So we'll get some more depth for april!
Hey John,Win - what a great post. I wish I had read it before I wrote that blog! Hopefully that blog post helps shed some light on things for all of you. We're certainly feeling like we're in a much better position today than we were over the summer, or even earlier this winter.
That being said, I hope you don't see this until after a long day of skiing. Get out there! Things are much improved from Thursday (downright scary at 3pm when I got out for a couple runs).
CD,I saw them staging some of the snologic sleds along with hoses around the bottom of Steins and along Coffee Run. Fascinating to see them getting ready to turn the guns back on at this point. Not sure how feasible it is, but if you're going to turn guns back on, they should really consider hitting the last section of DS. That trail is a disaster right now. 8AM this morning and it was a sheet of ice already at that point in numerous spots.
In regard to blowing snow on the last section of DS, I'm rarely up there end of season, but wouldn't you need that to maintain access to Heaven's Gate? If so, would make sense to blow more snow to make sure that pod last as long as possible.
I debated whether to weigh in on this as I can’t be seen as totally objective. However, I am still on the NSAA Board as Past Chair and will share some industry perspective, and I have skied 82 of my 86 days at Sugarbush this year.
First, Sugarbush thoughts. If I were still the owner the comments would be “that Smith guy is cheap and not spending money on grooming and snowmaking and lift maintenance.” There is very little that has been done this season that I would do differently. While I have no financial interest in Sugarbush or Alterra, I do have a vested interested in helping where I can with thoughts or advice. But I do that selectively as there is nothing worse than a former owner or CEO meddling after retirement. Alterra does not micro-manage. They expect John and his team to create a sensible annual budget and after review and approval they hold the Sugarbush team accountable for delivering it. No different than what we did under my ownership.
- This has been about the most challenging year for snowmaking that I have seen. It was warm and the number of snowmaking hours were brief before another warm-up hit. Sugarbush started with one of the best crews in recent years and while people were not leaving for Stowe, snowmakers actually came here instead of going to Stowe. The snowmaking temps required a different plan than we have had in past years, and that it why you saw Birdland coming on later than has been the case. While fewer gallons were blown because of the weather volatility, Sugarbush‘s cost of snowmaking went up significantly as I pointed out in any earlier post. That did not deter Sugarbush from making snow whenever they could.
-The majority of the Lifts Ops management team is still here. A big loss two years ago was Jasen Bellomy, the Lift Maintenance Manager. We got him from Saddleback when they closed, but he went back with two others when they reopened. He actually applied for a job other than lift maintenance a year ago but it did not work out and he has become the Mountain Manager at Bellayre in NY, a role he aspired to.
-Labor has been challenging everywhere as you all know. Sugarbush had 91% of jobs filled at the start of the season. Not great but better than many. I have heard of some as low as 75%. John Hammond moved the minimum wage to $15 over the summer, a significant increase, and he was one of the first to do it.
-I too wish John Egan was still here. He was a respected colleague and added a lot. The Bush Pilot coaches and Adventure Blazer coaches as no longer here, but I am not aware of other leaving because of his departure.
-Yes, the new app was a step backward and very frustrating to the Sugarbush team as well as us. Fortunately, there are some important improvements.
-Slidebrook is disappointing to all of us but also to Sugarbush. On a busy day it moves people and makes for a better guest experience. But when you are down to 8 lift mechanics from an ideal 14, it is impossible to spare one for two hours to get it open. All 40 tours have to be visually seen by a mechanic. In my opinion Spencer, the current manager of the lift maintenance team, is a very able professional and is rebuilding the team. I commented in an earlier post about some of the competition for lift mechanics.
-I disagree with the comment about the language used about skinning. It was appropriately tough given what occurred. The winch incident was the final straw, but there had been multiple violations occurring before that one.
-The blazer comment is a reasonable one. Keith Paxman took over just as the season began and inherited something that he could not fix this year.
- Yes, there have been quite a few lifts issues this year. Shit happens especially in climates like ours, but I do not think it is from neglect. That said, it sucks to be stuck on a lift for 20 or more minutes and no one cares about the reason.
- I can‘t share skier visit numbers, but I do not think they will exceed those during my final two years of ownership. But, having all lifts running and the woods skiable makes for a very different experience on a crowded day.
- Grooming. This is where I might have done things a bit differently at times Like grooming Sunrise a couple of days earlier. But I am not on top of groomer shifts and other issues that impact the daily snow plan. Stein‘s on the other hand needs to be groomed when either snow or snowmaking with occur afterwards. Otherwise, it needs winching every night which then takes away from other trails.
Now, an industry respective. At the last NSAA Board meeting we had a “go around the table update“ from all Board members who are predominantly GMs of ski areas. They come from East and West, small and large. Almost to a person they commented on how customer perception this year was as tough as they have experienced and highlighTed many of the same comments listed above.
I too have heard many of these comments
Many of the skiers are first time IKON visitors
Staffing and Covid have placed huge strains on all Sugarbush areas.
Alterra is behaving exactly as they told me they would.
Example: they followed through on the commit to VASS and added more $ to improve the lodge for all
They have not inserted anyone onto the team here, but 5-6 have been promoted to jobs in Alterra.
I personally think the Sugarbush team has done an excellent job this winter and are working their ass off.
That said I am in Big Sky and will miss the Friday powder which should change the conversation.
https://www.saminfo.com/news/sam-he...50jZ5MWeoSUpTSm70RD-r9sEX-o2UrtWXg-7BY-dNzRDgWin - Thank you as always for sharing your thoughts. I've always enjoyed reading your posts on here and found them to be authentic and insightful. And this one was no exception. I agree that COVID, staffing and weather have created an incredibly challenging couple of years.
Johnny B - Thank you for the blog post - lots of info in there that I was not aware of. Huge thank you to you and the entire team for all the hard work you are doing to make the best of a really challenging couple of years. I hope you'll continue to share thoughts on this forum as well - it means a lot. Would love to hear more about any plans you have for further improvements. I know a lot of people had high expectations for Alterra investment when the acquisition was announced. That was before the pandemic hit. But still hoping there are some things in the works to further enhance the on-the-mountain experience.
The skiing was great this weekend after the Friday storm. Did the hike to CR a couple times over the weekend and it was well worth it. Hopefully this refresh is the start of a snowy March.
The issue with the labor shortage is partly not paying enough and more likely not having access to foreign workers. In years past there were many, many more people working ski areas on temporary visas. Not being political, but our immigration policies and visa policies over the past several years have hurt many service industries in finding enough people to work. Everyone in Vermont has been struggling to find workers at any price. Many of the people we work with have increased wages and increased wages, are great places to work and they just can't find bodies. Just my opinion.Ill speculate...if you cant fill positions..your not paying enough..