Snowmaking. That's the most prevalent improvement at Vermont ski resorts for the 2014-2015 ski season. A big reason is a program with Efficiency Vermont that provided incentives to replace old, less-efficient snowmaking equipment with new, high-efficiency equipment.
A $5-million rebate program from Efficiency Vermont helped initiate a $15-million investment in high-efficiency snow guns at resorts around the state. The resorts say that the new snowmaking guns can create a lot more snow in less time, and can deliver piles of snow earlier in the season than the old-school snowguns. (For more on this incentive program, <link http: www.sevendaysvt.com vermont vermont-resorts-invest-in-energy-efficient-snowmaking _blank>check out this Seven Days article.)
Here's a recap of what's new at central and northern Vermont ski resorts this season.
An 180,000-square-foot hotel and conference center is currently being built just below the Mid Burke lift, although it won't be open until next year. The building will include a restaurant and pub. The $105 million project, which will eventually include a tennis and aquatics center, is expected to open in December 2015.
Killington is investing about $1 million in lift maintenance/ improvements (including upgrading a number of lift drives with new electronic controls) and continued trail and glade maintenance, as well as $2 million in new energy-efficient snow guns. Killington will retire 317 snow guns in a variety of older styles and will add 396 new guns to its fleet in five models: 159 Snow Logic sled-mounted mobile guns, 144 Snow Logic tower guns, 50 Ratnik Baby Snow Giant 2 tripod guns, 36 TechnoAlpin Evo guns and 7 Ratnik Baby Snow Giant 2 fixed towers. The resort is adding 150 new tower bases for these more efficient snow guns, most notably along Ovation and Outer Limits. Mounting guns on towers allows for more “hang time” in snowmaking, adding to efficiency and output while reducing noise for skiers, they said.
Smugglers’ Notch Resort
The addition of 156 new high-efficiency tower guns and one additional fan gun this year completed Smugglers’ conversion to a fleet comprised fully of high-efficiency snowguns. 250 new guns were incorporated into the fleet over the previous two winter seasons. The high-efficiency guns yield faster terrain coverage, they report.
Stowe Mountain Resort
This year marked the completion of three years of snowmaking improvements at Stowe. Totals for the $9.8-million project include more than 100,000 feet of new snowmaking pipe, 615 HKD SV10 tower guns, 150 Ratnik Baby X2 land frames, 20 SMI Super PoleCat snow towers and 8 HKD Turbo snow towers. As reported in <link http: www.skimaven.com post vermont-ski-resorts-with-lift-improvements-this-year external-link-new-window lift improvements>our post about lift improvements, Stowe has also refurbished its famous red gondola cabins on Mt. Mansfield and it is replacing two double chairs on lower Spruce Peak with a new quad chairlift. At the base of the Spruce Peak slopes you'll find a new food market and a new coffee shop. You'll also find a large building under construction — it will become a childrens’ adventure center.
Over the summer at Sugarbush, mountain ops crews installed 351 new Snowlogic, HKD, and Ratnik low-energy snowguns, and made 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. Parking has also been expanded with 450 new parking spaces. In addition, the resort spent more than $1 million on both mechanical and electrical upgrades to the lifts. In all, the resort invested $4.5 million this year in infrastructure.
Bolton Valley, Jay Peak Resort and Mad River Glen have not reported mountain improvements for this season. Cochran's Ski Area alluded to some snowmaking improvements but has not published details yet. In central Vermont, Middlebury Snow Bowl, Northeast Slopes, Pico, Quechee Ski Hill and Suicide Six have not reported mountain improvements for this season.
STAY TUNED: Soon we'll recap what's new at ski resorts in southern Vermont.
Photos: New snowguns arriving at Smuggs (top) and being installed at Killington. Images from those resorts.