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EASTERN SKI RE­SORTS ROLL OUT BIG­GEST CHANGES IN YEARS

Stamford Advocate (Sunday) - - Sunday Arts & Style - By Jim Shay

Since the snow melted, there’s been a flurry of ac­tiv­ity at ski re­sorts across the East.

This sea­son, skiers and snow­board­ers will ride faster lifts, cruise down new trails and kick back in sparkling new lodges.

Some re­sorts have new own­ers who now make it pos­si­ble to visit a num­ber of moun­tains on a sin­gle pass. And, in­stead of at­tach­ing a lift ticket to a wicket, an RFID-en­abled pass in your jacket will be au­to­mat­i­cally scanned.

Re­sorts have also added more snow­mak­ing and, us­ing new tech­nol­ogy, are mak­ing snow more ef­fi­ciently and in mar­ginal con­di­tions. Af­ter a $30 mil­lion in­vest­ment in its snow­mak­ing sys­tem, Mount Snow in south­ern Ver­mont was able to kick off its sea­son on Oct. 27 — the ear­li­est in its 64year his­tory.

In the 1950s, snow­mak­ing was the first rad­i­cal im­prove­ment for ski ar­eas. Ac­cord­ing to the New Eng­land Ski Mu­seum, the first suc­cess­ful snow­mak­ing test was at Con­necti­cut’s Mo­hawk Moun­tain in 1951. The snow-

mak­ing equip­ment was de­vel­oped by the Tey Man­u­fac­tur­ing Co. of Mil­ford.

Three years later, Wal­ter Schoenknecht, Mo­hawk’s owner, would open Mount Snow, where he of­fered not only ski­ing, but a heated out­door pool, in­door ice rink and a space car-like lift from a ho­tel to the ski lifts.

An­other Con­necti­cut na­tive — Pre­ston Smith, of Guil­ford — opened the Killing­ton ski area in Ver­mont in 1958. As Smith grew Killing­ton into the largest ski re­sort in the East, he de­signed and ex­panded snow­mak­ing, added new lifts and trails. In the 1960s, he in­tro­duced the first re­sort “ex­pe­ri­ence,” called The Ski Week. The week came with lodg­ing, les­sons, rental equip­ment and plenty of time to party dur­ing

To­day, ski re­sorts con­tinue Smith and Schoenknecht’s vi­sion to im­prove not only their their moun­tains’ in­fra­struc­ture, but the cus­tomers’ “ex­pe­ri­ence.”

Here are some of the coolest things you’ll ex­pe­ri­ence at eastern re­sorts this win­ter.

Ski trail tun­nels: A ski trail un­der­neath a ski trail? That’s dif­fer­ent. Killing­ton in Ver­mont has dug two tun­nels on Snow­don Moun­tain. The tun­nels will al­low skiers on Bunny Buster and Chute to have un­in­ter­rupted topto-bot­tom runs now that the pop­u­lar Great North­ern trail will pass un­der­neath. The tun­nels will be be­tween 110-140 feet long, 15 feet high and 32 feet wide, the same width of about one and a half snow­cats. And, yes, snow will be blown in­side.

The tun­nels are part of Killing­ton’s so-called “Year of More” $25 mil­lion in­vest­ment that in­cludes a Snow­don Six Ex­press bub­ble chair­lift, new K-1 gon­dola cabins, re-in­stal­la­tion of lift ser­vice in the South Ridge area and trail reroutes at Bear Moun­tain/Skye Peak and the move of the Snow­don Poma to Ramshead.

Hunter North: At Hunter Moun­tain in New York’s Catskills, a third more ter­rain has been added with five new trails and four glades. The new area will be served by a six-per­son de­tach­able lift.

New lodge at Carinthia: Mount Snow in Ver­mont has a new $22 mil­lion Carinthia Base Lodge. The 42,000-square-foot lodge is five times the size of the old lodge. It fea­tures a cof­fee bar, restau­rant, two bars, cafe­te­ria, re­tail, ren­tals, ski school, ski pa­trol and ... 55 toi­lets — 42 more than the old lodge.

Rent your pri­vate ski area: For the first time, you can pri­vately rent Pico Moun­tain in Ver­mont dur­ing the 2018/19 sea­son. How much? The rental is $6,500 for up to 250 guests and avail­able to rent Tues­days and Wed­nes­days from Jan. 8 through April 4. Ad­di­tional guests over 250 is $15 per per­son.

Faster lifts: There’s a new Snow Bowl lift at Strat­ton in Ver­mont, the ma­jor project in this year’s $10 mil­lion-cap­i­tal plan. The high-speed quad is po­si­tioned to min­i­mize wind im­pact with lower tow­ers and built with a park­ing rail for all 98 chairs to com­bat overnight ic­ing. With a 1,000-foot-per-minute speed, ride time is re­duced from 14 to five min­utes.

Bret­ton Woods in New Hamp­shire has the state’s first eight­per­son gon­dola. Wind­ham in New York adds the West­side Six, a nearly mile-long de­tach­able lift that will shorten line lines. Magic in Ver­mont has a new base-to­mid moun­tain dou­ble chair, which will helps broaden the ac­ces­si­bil­ity of Magic’s clas­sic ter­rain to young fam­i­lies with novice and in­ter­me­di­ate-level skiers.

Cabin Cat Ad­ven­tures: Want to catch some fresh tracks on new snow be­fore the lifts start turn­ing? Sug­ar­bush in Ver­mont will of­fer snow cat rides up the moun­tain for first tracks on pow­der days. The de­ci­sion will be made by 1 p.m. the day be­fore and posted on the snow re­port. Sign up on a first-come, first-served ba­sis at the Lin­coln Peak Guest Ser­vices desk. Put to­gether a group of six or more and they’ll take you up the moun­tain on the snow­cat any day, be­fore the crowds get there.

Hi-tech tick­ets

RFID cards. Hav­ing lifties check­ing passes is be­com­ing a thing of the past. With RFID (ra­dio fre­quency iden­ti­fi­ca­tion) tech­nol­ogy, there will be no more bar coded sea­son passes or tra­di­tional lift tick­ets. The RFID card which will give guests hands-free lift ac­cess. The RFID card will be kept in a chest or sleeve pocket for the gates. Among the re­sorts us­ing the RFID cards are Sug­ar­bush and Killing­ton in Ver­mont, Ragged Moun­tain in New Hamp­shire and Wind­ham in New York.

The card also makes pur­chas­ing and load­ing lift tick­ets on your com­puter or mo­bile de­vice quick and easy.

Ski re­sorts have new own­ers

The sales mir­ror a na­tional trend of com­pa­nies con­sol­i­dat­ing ski re­sorts.

Okemo and Su­napee. Owned by Tim and Diane Mueller since 1982, Okemo in Ver­mont area is now owned by Vail Re­sorts. The deal closed on Sept. 27 with the ac­qui­si­tion of Triple Peaks, LLC, the par­ent com­pany of Okemo, Mount Su­napee Re­sort in New Hamp­shire and Crested Butte Moun­tain Re­sort in Colorado. The com­pany pur­chased Triple Peaks from the Mueller fam­ily for ap­prox­i­mately $74 mil­lion. Vail Re­sorts also owns Stowe Moun­tain Re­sort in Ver­mont.

Su­gar­loaf, Sun­day River and Loon Moun­tain. In May. Boyne Re­sorts, closed a sale of six re­sorts with Ski Re­sort Hold­ings. Among the re­sorts are Su­gar­loaf and Sun­day River in Maine and Loon in New Hamp­shire. Boyne also owns also owns three re­sorts in north­ern Michi­gan and the Big Sky Re­sort in Mon­tana.

Maple Val­ley. Closed for 18 years, this 375-acre ski area near Brat­tle­boro was pur­chased ear­lier this year for $745,000 by a Con­necti­cut LLC — Su­gar Moun­tain Hold­ings — based in Sims­bury. Ac­cord­ing to the Ver­mont Sec­re­tary of State’s of­fice, Su­gar Moun­tain is “mem­ber man­aged” and Keane Aures, was the only per­son men­tioned. Aures, a 2006 UConn School of Law grad. is coun­sel in the Hart­ford of­fice of the law firm of Gor­don & Rees. Aures spe­cial­izes in con­struc­tion law. New own­ers have not re­leased any plans for Maple Val­ley.

Cata­mount. The Cata­mount Ski Area in South Egre­mont, Mass., owned by the Gil­bert and Ed­wards fam­i­lies for 45 years, has been sold for $3 mil­lion. It was pur­chased by own­ers of the Berk­shire East Moun­tain Re­sort in Charlemont, Mass. The new own­ers are ren­o­vat­ing the base lodge, adding an out­side pa­tio with fire pits. There’s a new triple lift and a trail down from the sum­mit. Cata­mount is one of the few ar­eas you can ski in two states be­cause the New York/Mas­sachusetts state line is in the mid­dle of the area.

Magic Moun­tain. En­ter­ing is sec­ond sea­son un­der new own­ers, Ski Magic LLC, this clas­sic Ver­mont area has added a new lift and new pump house for much needed snow mak­ing.

More ways to buy tick­ets

Buy­ing lift tick­ets at the re­sort win­dow is so 1980s. And, so ex­pen­sive. Most ma­jor eastern ski re­sorts sell tick­ets on­line with sav­ings up to 50 per­cent. Prices vary by the dates with week­ends and hol­i­days cost­ing more. The catch? You need to se­lect the dates early and tick­ets are not re­fund­able if you can’t use them. The best deals are mid­week, early and late sea­sons.

There are so many cards and pass of­fers out there, I can’t list them all. The best way to find them is go to a re­sort’s web­site, find and passes/tick­ets and look for the best one that works for you. Often it’s a mat­ter of just do­ing the math; di­vide the cost of the pass with how many times you plan to ski or snow­board.

This sea­son there are more multi-moun­tain passes; cost varies on age, how many days and un­lim­ited ac­cess.

The Ikon Pass The pass of­fers ac­cess to 37 ar­eas in the west, east and for­eign des­ti­na­tions in Ja­pan, Chile and Aus­tralia. Eastern re­sorts in­clude Killing­ton, Sug­ar­bush, Sun­day River, Su­gar­loaf, Loon and Strat­ton.

The Peak Pass good for 10 north­east­ern re­sorts in­clud­ing Hunter Moun­tain, Mount Snow, Wild­cat and At­ti­tash.

Fi­nally, where do you find the cheapest lift tick­ets?

Psst, join a Con­necti­cut ski club. Be­cause on se­lected Aware­ness Days, you show up at des­ig­nated re­sort, show your Con­necti­cut Ski Coun­cil mem­ber­ship cards and you’ll often pay half-price for a lift ticket.

De­tails are at ski­club.com.

Con­tr­buted pho­tos

A snow­board rides at Sug­ar­bush Re­sort in Ver­mont. Be­low, Mount Snow has a new $22 mil­lion Carinthia Base Lodge, and it is five times the size of the old lodge.

Con­trib­uted pho­tos

A snow­boarder carves the snow at the Bret­ton Woods ski area in New Hamp­shire at Mount Wash­ing­ton Re­sort. New this sea­son is an eight-per­son gon­dola at Bret­ton Woods.

Sug­ar­bush in Ver­mont of­fers a ride up the moun­tain in a snow­cat.

The old ski lodge at Carinthia at Mount Snow in Ver­mont was de­mol­ished this year. Mount Snow in Ver­mont has a new $22 mil­lion Carinthia Base Lodge.

Hav­ing lifties check­ing passes is be­com­ing a thing of the past. RFID, or ra­dio fre­quency iden­ti­fi­ca­tion tech­nol­ogy, gives guests hands-free lift ac­cess.

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