Earlier this week Sugarloaf officials unveiled a plan to expand skiing onto adjacent Burnt Mountain, a move that will make the resort the largest ski area east of the Rockies.
But that’s not all general manager John Diller and Boyne East president Stephen Kircher have up their sleeves.
Three years ago Boyne Resorts and CNL Lifestyle Properties bought Sugarloaf. Kircher explained that CNL is the owner of the resort, Boyne is the tenant, for 37 more years.
At Tuesday’s press conference, the duo itemized a number of projects that they hope to tackle in the coming years, ranging from further advances in snowmaking to lift replacement to sprucing up the base lodge and village.
It’s a good time to be a Sugarloaf — and perhaps an even better time to become one.
Here are a few of the projects on tap:
ä Replace the Spillway lift.
“It would be a heavier lift that would work in the wind, which is extremely important up there,” Diller said. “And it would run faster than the lift we have, somewhere around 10 to 20 percent faster than what we’ve got.”
Diller said officials are crunching numbers they hope will justify the replacement, and hopes planning takes place over the winter, with a summer 2011 installation to follow.
“That’s our No. 1 priority,” Diller said.
ä Let it snow. And snow.
“The [big step] is to continue snowmaking [upgrades],” Diller said, pointing out that 150 high-efficiency snow guns have been installed over the past three years. “Our plan now is to add another 500 guns.”
Diller hopes to double the current capacity of 5,000 gallons a minute within 10 years. Using new technology and low-energy guns is the key.
“We really want to do it for 50 percent of the energy costs that we would have spent three years ago,” Diller said.
ä Wind mitigation. Wind is a ski resort’s enemy and can force officials to close lifts. Sugarloaf has been installing wind-mitigation panels near some lifts and will continue to do so in the coming years.
“Obviously we want to get even fewer wind holds,” Diller said. “When folks come up here, they don’t want to be sitting in the base lodge waiting for the wind to die.”
ä Spruce up the base lodge.
Diller and Kircher said making the base lodge look better — some stone is being added to the exterior and the facade is being beautified — will set the tone for the entire village.
“[The lodge] was built over an old base lodge in the early 1980s. The idea is to revitalize it and really start the process, to really revitalize the whole village area,” Diller said.
ä The bus stops here — for now.
Diller said the resort must find a way to eliminate congestion behind the base lodge, where buses drop off and pick up skiers.
“What we’re really talking about is trying to create a more friendly pedestrian village,” Diller said. “[We’ll] work on the main street, try to figure out how to get rid of the buses and all the smog. We have a great bus system but unfortunately the way we designed the main street, we need to tweak it some and get it so the buses get in and out of there much better and still support what they’re doing.”
ä How about a spa?
Diller said Boyne resorts and other resorts across the country often have hotel spas. He’s exploring that possibility at Sugarloaf.
ä Competition center needs work.
The center is a busy place, especially on weekends, when competitive skiers and snowboarders flock to the building. Diller said upgrades are being analyzed and will be made.
Olympian excited about plan
On Wednesday I told you about Sugarloaf’s plan to double its skiable acreage by expanding onto Burnt Mountain.
While preparing to attend the press conference in Carrabassett Valley, I fired off a Facebook message to Seth Wescott, Sugarloaf’s resident and two-time Olympic gold medalist and asked the snowboarder for his reaction.
During Wescott’s post-Olympic homecoming, he and I had talked about Burnt Mountain. Wescott said he was hopeful that Boyne East president Stephen Kircher would move forward with a plan the two had discussed at some length.
As it turned out, Wescott wasn’t able to reply to my message until after my story went to press … but he had a good reason.
And since he’s our own (two-time) gold medalist, and since he’s been involved in the expansion talks and serves as an ambassador for the resort, I thought you’d like to hear what he had to say. Here it is:
“Hi, John. Sorry I didn’t get back to you sooner,” he wrote. “I have been on my way home from Fiji for the last day and a half.”
According to his Facebook updates, Wescott had been in New Zealand helping to coach the U.S. Junior snowboard squad, and stopped off in Fiji for some epic surfing before returning to the states.
And his reaction to the pending expansion?
“It’s exciting news for sure. [It] all started around a lunch table in Gepetto’s this January and progressed when Steve Kircher and I got to spend time at the Olympics together,” Wescott wrote.
And the Olympian said he’s going to take a hands-on approach to the project.
“I am glad they are following through and I will log some hours over the chain saw for sure the next couple of falls to help see it come to fruition,” he wrote.