Vermont Ski Resort News

From new chairlifts to wind turbines, from routine trail mowing to new cooperative ownership structures, Vermont ski areas have been busy these last few months preparing for the exciting winter sports season ahead. Here’s a look at what’s new for the 2009-2010 season.

Look for more snow this season, with the addition of two new snowmaking air compressors and additions to the grooming fleet to smooth it all out. The resort is now affiliated with the InterContintental Hotel Group and its Holiday Inn Club Vacations subsidiary, which has the potential of drawing more destination skiers.

Talk about going green, this place will be generating approximately one-eighth of their electrical power needs this winter with a new wind turbine electrical generator-the first one for a Vermont ski area! If that wasn’t enough, two new SMI Polecat snowmaking fan guns will be churning out the white stuff in the terrain park; 5,500 feet of snowmaking pipeline was upgraded for increased water flow; and a Prinoth Bison grooming machine was added to the fleet. Last, but not least, look for new tables and chairs in the cafeteria.

After a busy summer entertaining visitors in their adventure park, with its new Zip Line, the mountain’s staff has been mowing the trails, checking the snowmaking lines, and greasing the lifts in preparation for the skiing and riding season.

The big news here is the debut of the Tram House Lodge in the base area. Open to overnight guests and day skiers and riders alike, this new facility sports an indoor fitness club, rental equipment center, restaurant, coffee shop, and the Golden Eagle Bar, featuring front row seat views of the slopes.

The resort added more low-energy snowguns to its existing arsenal, upgraded the operational software on the Skyeship Gondola, and reseeded sections of the popular Great Eastern novice trail. Over at Pico, the Upper Pike trail has new snowmaking pipelines and hydrants to insure more efficient coverage.

Trail maintenance crews have been working over the summer on trail bridges and drainage systems. The Sunnyside Double chairlift’s bullwheel had new bearings installed to keep it spinning smoothly along this winter.

“Save Magic Mountain” signs are back up around the town of Londonderry, as the current owners make the partial transition to a cooperative ownership arrangement, a la Mad River Glen. Three hundred and thirty-three shares at $3,000 a pop are being offered to the public in exchange for 60-percent ownership of the ski area and voting rights. To slash costs, the area will only operate Fridays through Mondays and holiday weeks. However, after a big dump, management may open the area if six inches or more falls and 50 percent or more of the terrain is skiable.

The best improvement statewide happens here this season, with the opening of the $1.7-million fixed-grip triple chairlift on Worth Mountain. Middlebury College, owner of the ski area, had a choice: either spend half a million to fix up the existing 40-year-old double chairlift so it could pass state lift inspection, or bite the bullet and spring for a new lift. They wisely chose the latter.

Mountain crews have been at work tweaking the infrastructure of the snowmaking system and preparing hits for the freestyle terrain park on the Carinthia side. The resort is gearing up to host the national Winter Dew Tour freestyle finals in early February.

The mountain’s entire HKD snowmaking system was reconfigured to improve resurfacing response time. A second 500-horsepower turbocharged Prinoth BR500 grooming machine will be at work tilling up and smoothing out the trails this season.

Full Nelson, a black-diamond trail, was extended from above mid-Sterling Mountain to the base area. If you are one of those people who likes to keep score of the vertical feet and the miles skied on any given day, Smuggs will be renting out Flaik GPS tracking units to log your accomplishments. For beginner snowboarders, the new Burton Learn-to-Ride Center will be open for business.

After last season’s spending spree on the Stowe Mountain Lodge and Spruce Camp, and the financial woes resulting from federal bailout of corporate parent AIG, the mood is somber here as potential resort buyers drop by to “kick the tires.” That’s not to say the skiing and riding won’t be great. The resort infrastructure is in top shape with employees standing by, ready to spin the lifts and crank out the snow once again this season.

A new Adventure Zone and lift-served four-lane tubing park will add new spark to the Sun Bowl area. Guests can also Nordic ski, snowshoe, and arrange for snowmobile tours out of the Sun Bowl Day Lodge. Also look for a new Jib Park on Lower Middlebrook, border-cross on East Byrneside, and beginner mogul areas on the White Birch and Daniel Webster trails.

More “official” wooded terrain, 75 acres or so, was thinned out, ready to welcome adventurous skiers and riders this season, when snow depths permit. In the snowsports school, apr├Ęs ski and ride, students will be able to view online video clips of their lessons, with instructors’ comments.

The trails are mowed, the lifts are inspected, and everything is ready to go in December.

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