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Expanded Snowmaking 
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Joined: Tue Apr 15, 2014 4:17 pm
Posts: 1
Post Expanded Snowmaking
Expanded snowmaking will be the start of a death spiral for Mad River Glen.

Here is the process that will inevitably unfold: In order to pay for the capital and operating costs of snowmaking, MRG will need substantially enhanced revenues. To meet that need, it will have to implement significant increases in ticket prices. But this will diminish the number of skiers, and MRG will have to attract new ones. To achieve this it will have to do at least two things: (1) eliminate long lift lines by installing high-speed lifts, and (2) change the public perception that the mountain is mainly for expert skiers, and to do this, it will straighten and widen its trails.

So what will we get? Much higher ticket and pass prices. The loss of interesting and uncrowded trails. And worst of all, poorer, not better, skiing. Artificial snow has a very high water content. Skied over by the number of skiers delivered by high-speed lifts, it quickly turns to ice. And trails left for natural snow will just as quickly get skied down to ice or bare ground..

How can I say all this with such confidence? Because, without exception, it has happened to every ski area that has decided to rely on snowmaking. Go to Stowe, Killington, Okemo – anywhere – and you will see that the skiing is almost always poor: crowded, icy, and giving you the sense that, even though you may be out of doors, you are almost completely removed from nature.

One other thing. If Mad River goes the snowmaking route, I would be willing to bet that within five years it will sell out to Sugarbush or to an outside investor. It will have to; it simply will not have the resources on its own to continue in the business model that it will have taken up.

It’s an unfortunate fact, but true: snowmaking and good skiing simply cannot coexist, at least not in the Northeast. We have to face up to that fact. Adopting snowmaking as a strategy to provide good skiing is like bombing a village in order to save it. It is also inconsistent with our mission statement to “protect forever the classic Mad River skiing experience by preserving low skier density, natural terrain and forests [and] varied trail character.”

Tom Wies

Tue Apr 15, 2014 4:29 pm

Joined: Mon Sep 06, 2010 5:47 pm
Posts: 11
Post Re: Expanded Snowmaking
We're not talking about putting snowmaking on the whole mountain. Only enough from Birdland up on Broadway. Your analysis is not accurate for what we are talking about and is certainly not "inevitable" regarding the consequences suggested. We lost a month of skiing this year because we couldn't get through the center of the mountain. Adding a thousand or so feet to the existing snowmaking can prevent many closings. Avoiding the loss of day ticket sales will offset a lot of the costs. Our upcoming capital campaign, if successful, can pay the capital costs, and possible establish an endowment to cover future expenses. We are a Coop that is losing money. If we keep closing down every January, we'll eventually go broke. We might already be in a death spiral.

Bob Rogers (brmrgskier)

Tue Apr 15, 2014 9:43 pm
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Joined: Wed Sep 08, 2010 11:27 am
Posts: 20
Location: Bradford, MA
Post Re: Expanded Snowmaking
Tom, I agree that conventional snowmaking will not work for us both due to our limited water and the operational costs. The capital expense would also absorb way too much of any future charitable giving campaign funds that we may receive. Jamey's white paper on snowmaking forecasts annual operational expenses of $406,000 vs our current $33,900 budget (an increase of $372,100) against our average net operating income of $100,000 per year. That turns our small average profit into a $272,100 loss per year, clearly unsustainable. Even if we tap Mill Brook down by The Battleground, that only helps with an additional 500-700gpm and incurs additional capital costs for storage and pumping infrastructure and operational costs for pumping the water up to the base area.

Perhaps an unconventional snowmaking system for an unconventional mountain that works within our physical and financial constraints? Designed, developed, and built by a true-blue Mad River Glen skier for 50+ years who "gets" and shares MRG culture, moguls and natural snow "tastes", so to speak?

All without increasing ticket prices (above normal inflation) or increasing lift capacity or changing trails at all (except continuing to restore glades back where they used to be) or grooming anywhere we don't already groom (even the occasional Cat Bowl or one side of lower Canyon) or creating White Ribbons of Death.

"Impossible!", you say? We'll see...

“Most of the things worth doing in the world had been declared impossible before they were done.” - Louis D. Brandeis

Dave Stein

Wed Apr 16, 2014 12:11 am

Joined: Fri Sep 03, 2010 2:11 pm
Posts: 68
Location: Burlington vt
Post Re: Expanded Snowmaking
I reluctantly must agree with Bob and Dave on this one. We are losing customers by the all too frequent closures. Very limited snow making will Allow us to keep the place open when bad weather happens. Mad river skiers are a special breed and I think will come if only one trail is open. Besides think of all the great corn snow we'll get from the machine made fluff!

Wed Apr 16, 2014 10:11 am
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Joined: Fri Sep 03, 2010 7:11 pm
Posts: 46
Location: Ashland, NH
Post Re: Expanded Snowmaking
I haven't picked a side on this topic yet but blowing just a bit more snow to ensure we can keep at least one top to bottom groomed run from the top of the double (that is always groomed, any ways) isn't going to turn MRG into Killington. And, quite frankly, I ski a LOT of GREAT ski areas with GREAT trails and trails that have extensive snow making. Suggesting snow making is going to lead to high speed lifts is ridiculous hyperbole that doesn't add to the discussion or support the anti-snowmaking position.

We need to be really careful on this and if the expenses exceed lost revenues due to closures, maybe we need to stay the course. We really can't afford spending a big fortune to make a small fortune, so to speak. But I really think having one top to bottom snow making groomed route from the double that can stay open from start to end of the season is worth exploring, if it can be done right at minimal cost.

-Steve Rheaume
"Skiing is not a sport, it is a way of life." - Otto Schniebs

Wed Apr 16, 2014 5:29 pm
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