Ski season set to start

NORTHSHIRE - The opening of the ski season has arrived - at least for some mountains - and both Stratton and Bromley are optimistic that this season will be a good one.

In an interview last Thursday, Marketing Communications Manager at Stratton Mountain Myra Foster said not only are meteorologists calling for a snowy winter, but that the mountain will be looking to capitalize off the mild winter last year.

"We're also looking forward to some pent up demand," Foster said. "I think a lot of skiers and riders felt as though they really didn't have a winter last year. Even though Stratton was able to provide a great ski experience with machine-made snow, if it's 60 or 70 degrees and you're still at home running in the park or playing golf you don't always think about skiing and riding and then you get to the end of the winter and you're thinking 'Wow, I really missed out on my skiing and riding.' So, there's a lot of interest. There's a lot of excitement for this season and a great deal of pent up demand for a good, long ski and snowboard season."

Michael van Eyck, Marketing Director of Bromley Mountain, also said that skiers were excited about the coming season and that they were "chomping at the bit" to get on the mountain, which was all the more reason for Bromley to make sure that they were open for Thanksgiving. Although Thanksgiving weekend may not be the biggest one for either one of the mountains, both Foster and van Eyck said that it was important, particularly to the season pass holders.

"It's really a tradition to come to Vermont for Thanksgiving," said Foster. "Thanksgiving weekend is really popular. It's a great time to come out and tune up your technique as well as your skis and really just get started on the season."

In an interview on Nov. 15, van Eyck said that Bromley had spent somewhere between 75 and 100 hours making for the four trails they intended to open on Thanksgiving weekend. Making snow in the days leading up to the weekend were somewhat problematic, he said, as weather conditions were not optimal for doing so.

An advantage that has undoubtedly help both Bromley and Stratton alike is that they have improved their snowmaking capabilities this year.

"We've really focused on improving our snowmaking system for this year, particularly for weather just like this. We've purchased new tower guns and really sort of optimized the system to take advantage of these shorter weather windows that we're seeing now," said van Eyck. "We purchased 60 new energy efficient tower guns this year and we invested close to a quarter million dollars in our snowmaking system, which for a mountain our size is a pretty darn good investment."

Stratton also purchased new guns this year and now has at least 200 of them.

While improving the snowmaking capabilities at Bromley was not a direct reaction to last year's mild winter, van Eyck said it showed them how difficult a ski season could become and what it would take to provide a good product.

Both resorts have made other improvements or have new offerings as well. Bromley is renovating the main floor of their base lodge and they are also offering a new program - Guaranteed Easy Turn (GET) - which is a 90 minute course guaranteed to teach adults how to ski.

As for Stratton, they have a new Living Room class space that will host yoga and fitness classes starting on Thanksgiving weekend.

They also have a line up of new events this year. One of them is a 5K run in snow called The Wolverine Challenge on Jan. 12, which is a benefit for the Stratton Foundation and Forever our Heroes.

On March 15-17, Stratton will host the Vermont Open - an event that "celebrates the history, tradition and progression of snowboarding." The event will include the Washed Up Cup, a Slalom event featuring early pro riders like Steve Hayes and some of the Burton Team riders. March 22-24, the resort will hold The First 24 Hours of Stratton - a team event that will serve as a fund-raiser for the Stratton Foundation. During the event, for 24 hours teams will ski or snowboard in a marathon to raise money.

Foster said the Vermont Open was created when Stratton found out that the U.S. Open - which had been held at Stratton for 27 years - was moving to Vail, Colo. According to both Foster and van Eyck though, the move might not necessarily be a bad thing for business.

"The fact that a big event like that leaves is not always a great thing, but it doesn't mean the end of the world because there may have been a piece of our clientele that stayed away from us that weekend because of that event," van Eyck said. "Now, if there's good snow, I would look to that weekend and say it might be bigger than it used to be. So, while I don't like to see an event go away, in terms of business levels I think that there still might be an opportunity there for Bromley to do well during that time of year for sure."

Foster expressed similar sentiments.

"March is really one of the best times," she said. "If you're a skier or rider you know March is typically the snowiest month. The days are longer. It's just a wonderful time to be in the mountains and as much as we love the U.S. Open it really limited the number of people that could come up and enjoy skiing and riding Stratton. It was a big event, much of the lodging was booked with competitors and sponsors. So, we're looking forward to actually having that weekend open to everyone and I think it will be wonderful."


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