Mid-Summer Wrap Up '99

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After the bizarre winter season of 1998-1999, SAM decided to check around and see how the industry is doing this summer, what plans have been shelved and what projects have been accelerated. In addition, there have been some personnel movements, some closings and some rebirths.

Regions
Northeast
Mountain
Southeast
Pacific
Midwest
Canada

Northeast

Ski Maine's Greg Sweetser reports his group is looking forward to the third year of Maine's passport program. After two years, he says, 25 percent of the state's 5th graders had participated on skis or snowboards.

"If we get even a little bit of cooperation from the weather," Sweetser says, "this coming year we're going to blow this out of the water." He says one of the big benefits Maine is seeing from the Passport Program is the return of the lapsed skier in the form of parents of the kids. "Now that the kids are 10 and 11 years old, these parents are really in a position to start doing something with the kids."

Ski Maine is also working on a school curriculum designed to incorporate skiing and snowboarding in the schools. The group will unveil its plan to public school physical education teachers at a statewide conference in November. He sees the plan eventually expanding to include science and social studies classes as well as phys. Ed.

Sweetser says that an Olympic biathlon-training center is being developed in the Fort Kent area and will coincide nicely with a recent growth of cross-country skiing in lower Maine. Sweetser says nordic skiing, especially among school kids, has begun to catch on as municipal greenbelts are being groomed and schools are fielding competitive teams.

On the improvement front, most coffers are a bit strained, but the recent announcement of an investor in American Skiing Company (ASC) should create some activity among Sugarloaf and Sunday River crews. In addition, Shawnee Peak is expanding its base lodge and further improving its successful rental operation. Black Mountain of Maine is expanding its tubing offerings and Hermon Mountain is getting close to finishing the installation of the suburban Bangor area's first chairlift, a Poma double.

Sue Drew, operations manager of Ski New Hampshire, reports that it is entering its third year of promoting the Earn Your Turns passport program that awards 4th graders with a coupon passbook for completing a history project at school. Involving students at public schools, private schools as well as home-schoolers, the program asks students to complete a project on the history of New Hampshire skiing in order to receive coupons for free skiing at various alpine and nordic areas. Last year, 700 of the state's 4,000 fourth graders participated.

The association's website, www.skinh.com, is being revamped with a new look and new features and will be unveiled this fall. And the group is also in the middle of developing a Winter Fest program to take place on one Sunday a month from December through March. The program will take place at all 35 member ski areas, which will offer such things as reduced tickets, learn-to-ski packages and discounted equipment rentals, to expose the public to different aspects of the winter experience.

Booth Creek Ski Holdings, owners of Cranmore Resort, Loon Mountain and Waterville Valley, will sell a limited number of $199 Threedom Passes good for skiing at all three areas Sunday through Friday during non-holiday periods. A $399 Anytime Pass is good for every day of the season. There are discounted Threedom Passes for kids as well.

Construction is taking place at Cannon Mountain, where a new Garaventa CTEC high-speed quad will replace the Peabody double. Bretton Woods is adding a new Garaventa CTEC quad on its west side and will cut new trails. Mt. Sunapee is building a new base lodge and Black Mountain is cutting new trails.

Vermont areas are busy preparing for the coming season, reports VSAA's Jontebbins. Ascutney's $1.5 million resort improvement plan includes trail work on its planned North Peak expansion, increasing snowmaking to 95 percent coverage, new glades, a halfpipe and a redesigned children's learning park. Bolton Valley completed its renovation of the base village and added a new Log Cabin Village to create one of the largest conference facilities in northern New England. Bromley is offering an early-season Midweek Season Pass good for non-holiday skiing at a cost of $195 and will open its recently expanded Base Lodge this season.

Jay Peak Ski Resort is building the new "Green Mountain Flyer," which will be the longest detachable quad in the East at 7,700-feet in length. The Leitner chairlift will carry up to 2,600 skiers per hour and supplement the area's tram. Killington is expanding its Perfect Turn program for teens interested in learning new moves on skis, snowboards and ski-boards. The resort is also moving the load terminal of the Northeast Passage Triple more than a mile up the mountain, where it will serve beginner terrain and provide a resort entry point from Sunrise Village. In a bold move aimed at attracting more families, Mad River Glen will offer free season passes for the 1999-2000 ski season to all children age 12 and under with a reservation deadline of October 15.

Magic Mountain teams are clearing some of the resort's former trails of overgrowth for more diverse terrain this season. Snowmaking and grooming system improvements are also in the works, as are initial preparations for a new double chair. Ski Maple Valley, after being intermittently open last year under new ownership (following three years of dormancy), is getting a facelift for its reopening with refurbished lifts, lights, snowmaking and base lodge. Mount Snow, to coincide with its hosting of the Winter X Games, will introduce a new logo, resort-wide color scheme, staff training programs and tagline: "Wild in Nature." Okemo is adding 28 km of cross-country trails and 10 km of dedicated snowshoe trails as it awaits permit approval to begin expansion at the new Jackson Gore area. Smugglers' Notch is adding a new double on Morse Mountain to serve five new trails for novice skiers and snowboarders. Also new this year, Smugglers' indoor tennis courts will serve families as The Fun Zone with numerous activities in an enclosed playground.

Stowe Mountain Resort's TNT (Tickets On Time) program means that multi-day tickets will be waiting for guests with their room keys when they check into Stowe area lodging. Stowe will also introduce the Toy Shop, a one-stop on-mountain demo facility stocked with the newest, hottest gear from top manufacturers located at the base of the Mt. Mansfield chair. Stratton Mountain will increase its snowmaking capacity by 20 percent and is adding two new front-line grooming machines, including a winch-cat, to its fleet. Sugarbush is adding three new gladed trails, eight grooming machines and increased snowmaking capacity.

In New York, Rob Megnin, president of Ski Areas New York (SANY), reports that after an average season of 3.3 million skier visits, there is a lot of lift activity: Whiteface is getting a new Doppelmayr gondola, while sister resort Gore Mountain is putting in a new Poma gondola. At other resorts, a detachable and many fixed grips are also going in. Megnin also reports that banks are bullish on skiing and the lending doors are open.

SANY's long-anticipated passport program is on track and has the support of the education system as well as the ski areas. Megnin hopes to have applications in the hands of 250,000 kids by October 15.

In Pennsylvania, Whitetail Resort, after going through three unsuccessful bids, has put the area up for auction and will be announcing a final decision on buyers in the next few weeks. Seven Springs has also had its woes in trying to sell. After an announced deal with Booth Creek, the deal fell through recently because of the inability of the Seven Springs owner/family to come to an agreement on the future of the ski area. It is reported that two thirds of family members would like to sell the resort, but are being held up by the remaining third. On the brighter side, Laurel Mountain State Park will reopen after 11 years because of a $500,000 check from the state of Pennsylvania. Laurel Mountain will install a new quad chair, rebuild a double and add snow tubing and snowboarding parks to the mix.

Southeast

In the Southeast, Tony Waddell of the Southeastern Ski Areas Association reports that plans are underway for a new Kids Ski Free program to offer families reduced motel rates as well as free midweek skiing for kids up to age 17. The program would include regional motels and ski resorts with advertising aimed at the Atlanta market's radio and print outlets. At least one billboard on an Atlanta highway will feature the program's website address, www.kidsskifree.com, which is currently up and running.

As in years past, ski areas are increasing snow making capacity with fan guns and tower-mounted guns across the region. On the construction front, a new quad is going in at Wintergreen and Snowshoe is building a new lodge in place of the old Timberline Lodge as part of its planned mountaintop village.

Appalachian Ski Mountain has decided to open its slopes to snowboarders this coming season and will add a fleet of boards to its rental operation. D. Grady Moretz Jr., Appalachian G.M., says he's even going to give in and give 'boarding a try.

Midwest

In the Midwest, Chris Stoddard, president of the Midwest Ski Areas Association (MSAA), says it's a quiet summer in the region. On the heels of a less-than-mediocre snow year, many plans for expansions have been shelved. However, Alpine Valley, Wisc., is installing a new Poma detachable and Welch Village, Minn., is replacing a fixed grip.

Personnel moves have been somewhat significant with the departure of John Murphy, GM of Boston Mills/Brandywine, for Acordia Resort Services. A replacement has not yet been announced. At Shanty Creek, Mich., Barry Smith, mountain manager, has been let go. Smith will be replaced by Brent Nelson, who, in addition to managing summer operations, will oversee winter activity.

Mountain

Colorado Ski Country USA's Lisa Bremner reports that its 25 member resorts have answered the state's call to join a marketing campaign to attract more skiers. The marketing push, which will amount to a total $2.3 million, was spurred by a recent study that shows Colorado has been losing market share in overnight ski tours to California. Resorts came up with $1 million while the state tourism board provided $1.3 million that will be combined and spent on national as well as targeted local ad campaigns in two or three cities. The first ads will appear in the fall in such titles as ESPN Magazine, Martha Stewart Living and Conde Nast Traveler. The targeted campaigns will appear in December and January and will concentrate on local print outlets as well as Internet sites.

This is also a record year for capital improvement spending for Colorado resorts as they spend more than $200 million on new lifts, lodges and housing. Copper Mountain will invest another $67 million in improvements to its village while Winter Park will spend $78 million on its new Zephyr base lodge (slated for a February opening) and a new high-speed quad to replace the old Eskimo double. Aspen is also spending a total $24 million on the company's four resorts. Included in that plan is the opening of the first part of the new village for Aspen Highlands as well as its new Cloud Nine Poma high-speed quad to replace its three remaining original lifts, and five new restaurants for Aspen Mountain. Monarch is putting in a new Garaventa CTEC fixed-quad, Silver Creek is adding a Leitner high-speed quad to replace the existing Expedition triple, and Breckenridge is adding a Poma Super Six double-loaeven Springs owner/family to come to an agreement on the future of the ski area. It is reported that two thirds of family members would like to sell the resort, but are being held up by the remaining third. On the brighter side, Laurel Mountain State Park will reopen after 11 years because of a $500,000 check from the state of Pennsylvania. Laurel Mountain will install a new quad chair, rebuild a double and add snow tubing and snowboarding parks to the mix.

Southeast

In the Southeast, Tony Waddell of the Southeastern Ski Areas Association reports that plans are underway for a new Kids Ski Free program to offer families reduced motel rates as well as free midweek skiing for kids up to age 17. The program would include regional motels and ski resorts with advertising aimed at the Atlanta market's radio and print outlets. At least one billboard on an Atlanta highway will feature the program's website address, www.kidsskifree.com, which is currently up and running.

As in years past, ski areas are increasing snow making capacity with fan guns and tower-mounted guns across the region. On the construction front, a new quad is going in at Wintergreen and Snowshoe is building a new lodge in place of the old Timberline Lodge as part of its planned mountaintop village.

Appalachian Ski Mountain has decided to open its slopes to snowboarders this coming season and will add a fleet of boards to its rental operation. D. Grady Moretz Jr., Appalachian G.M., says he's even going to give in and give 'boarding a try.

Midwest

In the Midwest, Chris Stoddard, president of the Midwest Ski Areas Association (MSAA), says it's a quiet summer in the region. On the heels of a less-than-mediocre snow year, many plans for expansions have been shelved. However, Alpine Valley, Wisc., is installing a new Poma detachable and Welch Village, Minn., is replacing a fixed grip.

Personnel moves have been somewhat significant with the departure of John Murphy, GM of Boston Mills/Brandywine, for Acordia Resort Services. A replacement has not yet been announced. At Shanty Creek, Mich., Barry Smith, mountain manager, has been let go. Smith will be replaced by Brent Nelson, who, in addition to managing summer operations, will oversee winter activity.

Mountain

Colorado Ski Country USA's Lisa Bremner reports that its 25 member resorts have answered the state's call to join a marketing campaign to attract more skiers. The marketing push, which will amount to a total $2.3 million, was spurred by a recent study that shows Colorado has been losing market share in overnight ski tours to California. Resorts came up with $1 million while the state tourism board provided $1.3 million that will be combined and spent on national as well as targeted local ad campaigns in two or three cities. The first ads will appear in the fall in such titles as ESPN Magazine, Martha Stewart Living and Conde Nast Traveler. The targeted campaigns will appear in December and January and will concentrate on local print outlets as well as Internet sites.

This is also a record year for capital improvement spending for Colorado resorts as they spend more than $200 million on new lifts, lodges and housing. Copper Mountain will invest another $67 million in improvements to its village while Winter Park will spend $78 million on its new Zephyr base lodge (slated for a February opening) and a new high-speed quad to replace the old Eskimo double. Aspen is also spending a total $24 million on the company's four resorts. Included in that plan is the opening of the first part of the new village for Aspen Highlands as well as its new Cloud Nine Poma high-speed quad to replace its three remaining original lifts, and five new restaurants for Aspen Mountain. Monarch is putting in a new Garaventa CTEC fixed-quad, Silver Creek is adding a Leitner high-speed quad to replace the existing Expedition triple, and Breckenridge is adding a Poma Super Six double-loading six-pack to replace the aging Quicksilver high-speed quad.

In Utah, $50 million worth of improvements are being made this summer. Nathan Rafferty, Ski Utah, reports that while the impending Olympics have created some sense of urgency in development plans, most of the projects are inspired by Utah's plans to increase destination visits.

Of the statewide total of $50 million being spent on improvements, Park City is spending $12 million for, among many new toys, a 54,000-square-foot base area lodge. Elk Meadows is getting a new water treatment center. The Canyons is adding a fixed grip quad that will access an additional 300 skiable acres. Deer Valley has three new Garaventa CTEC lifts under construction. Beaver Mountain is building a new sundeck and Powder Mountain is adding 1,600 vertical feet to the area with a new fixed grip quad. Snowbird is adding a new detachable quad that will access a new 500-acre bowl, increasing the area's skiable acreage by 25 percent.

In the snowmaking arena, Snow Basin is adding 600 acres of snowmaking and Sundance is installing its first ever snowmaking system to cover 20 percent of the area.

Solitude and Intrawest are embarking on their base area development plans that, in the end, will result in five ski-in/ski-out real estate projects. Intrawest is planning on investing $100 million in the project. Finally, Powder Corp. purchased Parley's Summit, a small, defunct area, and will turn the hill into Gorgoza Park, a tubing operation. Plans for halfpipes and terrain parks are slated for the future.

Pacific

In California, summer activities are in full swing and the weather has been cooperating. Sugar Bowl, which enjoyed the largest market share increase in the state this past season with a bump in visits of more than 10 percent, is planning $4.5 million in capital improvements. Among the changes will be new trails, a new Garaventa CTEC detachable quad and a new fixed-grip quad. Mountain High which recorded its second biggest season, will be installing its first detachable quad.

On the personnel front in California, Tristan Cochrane has returned to Kirkwood as marketing director.

Canada

In Canada, Colin Chedore, president of the Canadian Ski Council, reports that there can be too much of a good thing. In western Canada, the record snowfall has greatly hindered summer operations. For example, Grouse Mountain, just outside of Vancouver, left its ski doors open until July 1 and put summer operations on hold. Since then, the weather has been even more uncooperative as more late snows and lots of rain fell. Nonetheless, because the winter season was so good, many development projects have been pushed up from five-year plans to three-year plans.

In eastern Canada, summer weather has had the opposite effect as heat waves are driving people to the mountains, especially in Quebec, where ski areas report good summer numbers.

In the maritime province of New Brunswick, the news is not good. Bad snow seasons have led to closings of two important feeder/breeder areas, Poley Mountain and Crab Mountain. Both areas, according to Chedore, accounted for 60,000 to 70,000 skier visits, many of which turn into destination travelers throughout New England.

-loading six-pack to replace the aging Quicksilver high-speed quad.

In Utah, $50 million worth of improvements are being made this summer. Nathan Rafferty, Ski Utah, reports that while the impending Olympics have created some sense of urgency in development plans, most of the projects are inspired by Utah's plans to increase destination visits.

Of the statewide total of $50 million being spent on improvements, Park City is spending $12 million for, among many new toys, a 54,000-square-foot base area lodge. Elk Meadows is getting a new water treatment center. The Canyons is adding a fixed grip quad that will access an additional 300 skiable acres. Deer Valley has three new Garaventa CTEC liftss under construction. Beaver Mountain is building a new sundeck and Powder Mountain is adding 1,600 vertical feet to the area with a new fixed grip quad. Snowbird is adding a new detachable quad that will access a new 500-acre bowl, increasing the area's skiable acreage by 25 percent.

In the snowmaking arena, Snow Basin is adding 600 acres of snowmaking and Sundance is installing its first ever snowmaking system to cover 20 percent of the area.

Solitude and Intrawest are embarking on their base area development plans that, in the end, will result in five ski-in/ski-out real estate projects. Intrawest is planning on investing $100 million in the project. Finally, Powder Corp. purchased Parley's Summit, a small, defunct area, and will turn the hill into Gorgoza Park, a tubing operation. Plans for halfpipes and terrain parks are slated for the future.

Pacific

In California, summer activities are in full swing and the weather has been cooperating. Sugar Bowl, which enjoyed the largest market share increase in the state this past season with a bump in visits of more than 10 percent, is planning $4.5 million in capital improvements. Among the changes will be new trails, a new Garaventa CTEC detachable quad and a new fixed-grip quad. Mountain High which recorded its second biggest season, will be installing its first detachable quad.

On the personnel front in California, Tristan Cochrane has returned to Kirkwood as marketing director.

Canada

In Canada, Colin Chedore, president of the Canadian Ski Council, reports that there can be too much of a good thing. In western Canada, the record snowfall has greatly hindered summer operations. For example, Grouse Mountain, just outside of Vancouver, left its ski doors open until July 1 and put summer operations on hold. Since then, the weather has been even more uncooperative as more late snows and lots of rain fell. Nonetheless, because the winter season was so good, many development projects have been pushed up from five-year plans to three-year plans.

In eastern Canada, summer weather has had the opposite effect as heat waves are driving people to the mountains, especially in Quebec, where ski areas report good summer numbers.

In the maritime province of New Brunswick, the news is not good. Bad snow seasons have led to closings of two important feeder/breeder areas, Poley Mountain and Crab Mountain. Both areas, according to Chedore, accounted for 60,000 to 70,000 skier visits, many of which turn into destination travelers throughout New England.