As we’ve entered into what can only be deemed as an incredible March so far, there have been a couple topics that I thought would be worth covering in greater detail. Both of these are over at one of my favorite sections of either mountain, Gadd Peak: the Reverse Traverse project and Stein’s Run conditions.
If you were paying attention when we announce our capital projects over the summer, you might recall there was one that hasn’t quite been completed yet. As part of our multimillion dollar snowmaking improvements this past off-season, we planned to realign Reverse Traverse to allow for a better skier experience while also adding snowmaking to it to allow for a greater range of early season operational options.
Well, this project is finally fully underway, as many of you likely noticed over the past week when Reverse Traverse was closed. We spent the beginning of March cutting that new trail, and there may be some more cutting still to finish up this month. Admittedly, I’m sure the majority of Sugarbush skiers haven’t even skied on Reverse Traverse, and frankly with good reason. The current iteration is partially uphill, isn’t open until there’s enough natural snow, and doesn’t add a lot to your mountain pathfinding.
This new iteration however, is being cut below the current version at an angle that will allow for the trail to be completely downhill (no more skating!). The trail begins in essentially the same spot it currently does and will terminate a bit lower than the previous version on Murphy’s Glades. We’ll also be cutting a little bit between Murphy’s and Birdland to allow for a straight shot across to Heaven’s Gate Traverse.
Perhaps the best part though is that we’ll be adding snowmaking to the trail, giving us another early season option for us to play with when it comes to opening up the mountain. Because the trail has a pretty small surface area overall, it doesn’t take a ton of snowmaking to get it open. It could allow us to rethink our early season terrain expansion strategy, potentially letting us open up say Snowball and Spring Fling and then getting the traverses covered to allow for access to upper mountain terrain sooner without the need to build out Downspout first. Overall, we believe this new project will make for a better overall experience and give us as mountain operators more options.
As many of you know, we aim to stay open through the first weekend of May (with a few midweek closures at the end of the season). This year that means May 7th! And unless Mother Nature goes haywire, that’s still our intention. Anyone who’s joined us for those closing day turns fondly (or perhaps not depending on your relationship with moguls) crushing bumps on Stein’s Run.
Stein’s has been our go to end of season run, and that means it requires a ton of snow to get us there. You may recall that last year we ended up making extra snow on Stein’s much later in the season than we typically do. But this year, we feel we’ve built up plenty of depth to get us over the hump. Jump on Super Bravo and look up at the trail and you’ll see those mega snowmaking whales staring back at you.
The feedback we’ve been hearing lately is “why haven’t you groomed Stein’s?” and the answer to that can be both more simplistic or more complicated than you think. The simple reason? We still believe the trail is skiing great. In fact our ops team checks that trail daily to make sure conditions are up to snuff. We’ve heard plenty of positive feedback from both guests and employees as well. That would be reason enough to leave it ungroomed for the time being.
A deeper explanation focuses more on two things, preserving the snow to get us to that post Cinco de Mayo weekend, and preserving the trail quality in the meantime. Snow piles melt less quickly than when that snow gets spread out across a full trail. The trail will certainly get winched at some point, but the longer we can preserve as much snow as possible until conditions deteriorate enough to not allow us to do so any longer the better. And sometimes grooming Stein’s leaves a product much worse off than when it’s ungroomed. Sure the fresh corduroy would be great for the first 20-30 skiers, but then the trail can end up like a skating rink depending on how the weather plays out. If that happens, we’re basically stuck with a steep and icy trail until we get another snow storm. Right now, we just don’t think a groomed product will be as enjoyable for as many people as the current version is right now.
If you’re looking for groomed steeps in the meantime, take your pick at both mountains. We’ve been grooming The Cliffs at Mt. Ellen plenty this year. Even FIS has seen a couple grooms for the first time in years. Then of course you have mainstay options like Ripcord, Waterfall, and even Sleeper Chutes. Hopefully those trails can scratch the black diamond groomed steep itch until we’re ready to groom out Stein’s. We’re not quite there yet, but we’ll let you know when we are.