Workers install some of Mount Snow's 645 new low energy snow guns on the North Face last week. (photo: Mount Snow Resort)

What’s New in Vermont This Winter

Montpelier, VT – Vermont’s 2014-15 ski and snowboard season is already abuzz, as snowmakers first fired up the guns this morning at both Killington and Okemo. Significant snowmaking upgrades across the state will not only make the slopes more enjoyable to ride this winter, but will extend the season, decrease emissions and allow for quick turnaround if Mother Nature turns fickle. Combined with new deals, eats, and other amenities and events, there are a number of changes afoot at ski resorts across the Green Mountain State this winter.

Okemo Mountain Resort

Skiers and snowboarders visiting Okemo this winter will be viewing the snowy landscape through the bright orange tint of a retractable, transparent dome when they ride in the comfort of a new, high-speed, six-person bubble chairlift with heated seats – the first of its kind in North America. The Sunburst Six replaces the resort’s Northstar Express Quad, and will be 6,430 feet with a vertical rise of 1,670 feet. The new six-pack bubble chair will carry 113 chairs at a speed of 1,000 feet per minute and deliver skiers and riders to the summit of Okemo Mountain in 6.4 minutes. The cost of the lift, including installation is $6.9 million.

Also, Operation Snowburst returns for a second season of snowmaking improvements with the addition of 100 new, energy-efficient HKD tower guns. Operation Snowburst Part 2 follows a $1 million snowmaking investment that allowed Okemo to open early with top-to-bottom skiing and riding last winter.

In addition, Okemo has teamed up with Snow Park Technologies (SPT) — designers and constructors of courses for events including the ESPN Winter X Games, Dew Tour, Burton U.S. Open and more — to reimagine the terrain park experience at Okemo and offer guests access to some of the most innovative parks in the East.

“We are committed to re-energizing our terrain park program, and exceeding our guests’ expectations,” said Okemo Mountain Resort Vice President and General Manager Bruce Schmidt. “Our partnership with SPT will allow us to not only offer some of the most progressive parks in the region, but to redefine the type of learning terrain we’re able to offer our guests.”

One of the biggest changes this season will include moving the resort’s signature Rockstar Terrain Park from Nor’easter to Upper and Lower Tomahawk, offering skiers and riders an improved terrain experience with highly creative features. Homeward Bound will include a progression park and cross course designed specifically with those just starting out in mind.

Mount Snow Resort

Snowmaking enhancements continue at Mount Snow with the arrival of 645 brand new low-energy snow guns, the largest single snow gun upgrade in the resort’s history. The entire snow gun arsenal is now 100% low-energy. Also making its debut this winter is Smart Snow, the same state-of-the-art snowmaking control system used for the snowmaking operation at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Thousands more feet of snowmaking pipe have been replaced and a number of trails have been electrified so that high output fan guns can be operated on them.

Workers install some of Mount Snow's 645 new low energy snow guns on the North Face last week. (photo: Mount Snow Resort)
Workers install some of Mount Snow’s 645 new low energy snow guns on the North Face last week. (photo: Mount Snow Resort)

“The correlation of higher efficiency and higher snow output is quite a remarkable thing,” said Mount Snow’s Director of Mountain Operations, Dave Moulton.  “We will be saving a tremendous amount of power, which will ultimately reduce our carbon footprint, while also producing more high-quality snow for our guests to enjoy.”

Smugglers’ Notch Resort
The addition of 156 new high efficiency tower guns and one additional fan gun signals the completion of Smugglers’ conversion to a fleet comprised fully of high-efficiency snowguns. This will be Smugglers’ third consecutive winter of snowmaking improvements. Two hundred and fifty new guns were incorporated into the fleet over the previous two winter seasons. The high-efficiency guns yield faster terrain coverage and quick refreshing of trails.

Stowe Mountain Resort
Stowe Mountain Resort’s state-of-the-art snowmaking operations have been supplemented by a three-year, $9.8 million dollar snowmaking expansion. Totals for the three-year project include over 100,000 feet of new snowmaking pipe (almost 20 miles), 615 HKD SV10 tower guns, 150 Ratnik Baby X2 land frames, 20 SMI Super PoleCat snow towers and eight HKD Turbo snow towers.

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In addition to supplementing its snowmaking, Stowe has completely renovated its gondola on Mt. Mansfield and improved family lift service on lower Spruce Peak with a new quad chairlift and two new carpet surface lifts.

Stratton Mountain Resort
What does $7 million buy? How about 58 new gondola cabins, 350 more energy efficient HKD snowguns, two new snowcats, new glades, buses and bullwheels, rental gear… and more in year two of a total $21 million investment in the overall resort experience. With a trip of just eight minutes, the Stratton gondola carries 2,400 people per hour and runs 7,590 feet from base to the summit of southern Vermont’s highest peak. The latest HKD purchase brings Stratton’s tower snowgun fleet to over 1,000 and completely eliminates the use of diesel.

Sugarbush Resort
Sugarbush continues to invest in improvements at both Lincoln Peak and Mt. Ellen. This year, the resort spent more than $1 million on both mechanical and electrical upgrades to the lifts. The resort also invested $1.8 million in snowmaking equipment, completing a five-year, $5 million capital project that saw upgrades in snowmaking at both mountains. Over the summer, crews installed 351 new Snowlogic, HKD, and Ratnik low energy snowguns, and made significant improvements to infrastructure, replacing a variety of snowmaking pipes, pumps and valves. The resort also replaced one of its winch cats with a new Pisten Bully 600. Sugarbush now has an eight-groomer “Pisten Bully elite fleet”. Parking for busy days has been expanded to create 450 new parking spaces as permitting continues on a new Valley House lift. All told, the resort invested $4.5 million this year in infrastructure.

Jay Peak Resort
Jay Peak will attempt to do something that hasn’t been tried at the resort in at least a decade: give its employees a chance to breathe. After building a Nordic Center, ice arena, three hotels, hundreds of condos, a 60,000-square foot water park, and most recently opening a 1,500-person amphitheater, employees will revel in the return of their standard 60-hour work week, the chance to see how much their kids have grown, and maybe even get to take a run or four through the average 370 inches of snow that buries the place every winter.

Killington Resort
Killington’s highly anticipated Peak Lodge facility opened its doors at the 4,100 foot level of Killington Peak in December 2013, replacing the original structure from the late 1960’s. The new 15,000 square foot facility includes seating for 300 guests, a food venue featuring a selection of fresh local fare, a full bar, and lounge areas with couches and coffee tables. The versatile venue is available for weddings, meetings and conferences year-round. Like the K-1 Express Gondola, the Peak Lodge sources its electricity via Green Mountain Power’s innovative Cow Power program.

Additionally, Killington continues to invest in essential infrastructure projects ahead of the 2014-15 winter season, including over $1 million in lifts and lift improvements, $2 million worth of new energy efficient snow guns and continual trail and glade maintenance.

Bromley Mountain
When snowmaking was installed for the 1965-66 season, Bromley’s sizable Larchmont system was advertised as the world’s largest. Energy costs back then were relatively low, and the process used to make snow in the 1960s was hardly energy efficient.

Bromley’s snowmaking system, however,  will be completely and efficiently up to date for the winter 2014-15 season. Mountain Operations has taken full advantage of Efficiency Vermont’s Great Ground Gun Round Up, and traded in all the old air-hogs for new efficient tower guns. The snowmaking team is also working with HKD to develop portable ground guns on tripods to cover some of the tricky terrain that made those old inefficient ground guns necessary. Add to that, Bromley now has one of the most sophisticated energy monitoring systems in the state.

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Beginners to the sport are invited to join the Bromley Ski & Snowboard School for free on three dates this winter: December 21, 2014, January 19 or March 15, 2015. Participants will receive a Learning Zone lift ticket, specially designed beginner rental equipment for the day, and access to instruction in the Learning Zone from 10:30 a.m. until noon. Also new is the Super Duper Ski Package which includes six all-day Kidsrule Mountain Camp lessons, a free pair of Elan Starr skis with Quick Trick bindings, a coupon for discounts on boots, poles and accessories at the Bromley Shop by Potter Brothers, plus a Bromley Full Season Pass. This package costs $599 for kids ages 5-14 and has limited inventory.

Bolton Valley
Young skiers and riders can live the dream this season with the new Ski Bum Pass at Bolton Valley. Ski Bums ages 18 through 25 have already missed the lowest starting price, but current pricing ranges from $239 for Sunday through Friday access, or $269 for an unlimited All Access Pass.

Every Friday night will be a Late Night at Bolton Valley this season. Lifts will spin until 10 p.m., at tickets will cost just $20 starting at 7 p.m. Ski until your legs give out then kick back in the James Moore Tavern with live music and food and drink specials.

The Hermitage Club
After more than two years in construction, the Hermitage Club’s new 80,000 square foot, state of the art Club House is due to open for the 2014-15 season. The meticulously designed Club House will offer members gourmet fine dining, a fitness center with lap pool and hot tubs, full treatment spa, day care, retail, upscale locker rooms and more, all with a breathtaking 360-degree view of the natural beauty of Vermont’s Haystack Mountain.

Over $5 million in mountain infrastructure upgrades start with the new Stag’s Leap Lift which connects the lower mountain with the upper for the first time in over 12 years and offers a mid-station unload with access to more than 24 acres of learning terrain. Snowmaking expansion and energy efficiency initiatives continue with an additional 17 new Techno Alpin fan guns, an additional new 110 HKD Impulse Tower guns, 25 new Evo Rubis towers and additional 70 new Ratnik land guns.

Magic Mountain
Magic has for the past several years made a greater commitment to snowmaking each season.  Each summer, including this past one, Magic repairs old snowmaking lines in order to expand coverage. This season Magic will have the capability of making snow on 75% of its terrain. In addition, each year Magic expands the “off-piste” opportunities by clearing out new glades, including 75 new acres available this season.

Mad River Glen
Mad River Glen’s goal is to maintain and preserve the experience rather than overhaul or upgrade it. The ability of Mad River Glen to consistently reinvest in the mountain’s infrastructure is a testament to the success of the Cooperative. Both the skier-owners and the management understand that skiers come to Mad River for the unique combination of legendary terrain, sense of community, low skier density and intimate atmosphere. In 18 years of co-op ownership, Mad River Glen has invested nearly $5 million in capital improvements.

Woodstock Inn & Resort
The Woodstock Inn & Resort has announced a new partnership with Tubbs Snowshoes, creating The Tubbs Adventure Center — a hub for testing, recreating and pairing vacations with the latest gear. The snowshoe programming will feature expert-led tours and special moonlight events complete with a private chef experience at the resort’s cozy cabin in the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park.

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