Mount Snow Vermont, Hunter Mountain Win Top Awards for Ski Conditions, Safety, Friendliness

Both Mount Snow and Hunter Mountain have
made large investments in new, safe equipment.

By Joel Leyden
Israel News Agency

New York, NY --- March 3, 2012 .... When selecting a ski area in New England or New York to spend both your hours and money at, by what criteria do we go by?

First off, as a ski professional for more than three decades, I look at ski conditions. Ski conditions, snow making, grooming and honesty in reporting ski trail conditions determine whether I will be skiing on snow or mud. Whether I risk breaking my neck on ice or enjoy an easy, fun ride down. Whether the learning experience for beginner skiers will be a dream or a nightmare.

Mother nature determines much of the above. And for the 2011-2012 it has been very challenging for every ski area from New Jersey, New York and Connecticut to Vermont, Massachusetts and Maine. The ski areas ability to adapt makes all the difference to both skiers and the thousands of people that they employ. It makes a difference to those who feed themselves off being related to the ski industry whether owning a restaurant, hotel, motel, bar, ski clothes and rentals shop to the state whose education depends on taxes taken in.

And when judging the best of the best ski areas in New England and the East Coast of the US, one must transcend pure physical size. Though Killington and Pico embrace a few mountains, Stowe, White Face and Jay Peak enjoy cold temperatures ensuring more snow, and Smuggler's Notch, Okemo, Mad River Glen, Ski Sundown and Stratton project a more cozy environment, one must also consider ski safety.

Recently, Killington Pico ski resorts in Vermont had to evacuate over a hundred skiers from a chair lift which derailed. Killington would not respond to the Israel News Agency on how such safety breaches could have happened. Sugarloaf, in Maine, also suffered a major chairlift accident last year sending 8 people to hospital. The cable of Sugarloaf’s Spillway East Lift derailed causing several chairs to fall nearly 30 feet to the ground. The chairlift was built over 30 years ago in 1975.

Since the accident, Sugarloaf removed the East Spillway and another lift that ran parallel to it and replaced them with a modern $3 million quad-chair lift.

Ski lifts are relatively simple devices with established technology and a high degree of safety. However, given the large number of skiers annually using these lifts it is not surprising that after significant and repetitive cycles, design defects may catch up with the technology. Colorado, as with most ski states, has a law that ski area operators are obliged to operate their lifts in accord with the highest degree of care commensurate with the safety of the passengers.

One poster on Facebook in defending Killington stated: "things break, lighten up" while others responded to that statement: "could you imagine if the airlines, auto manufacturers and NASA said that?"

Rather than addressing skiers concerns for safety and stress tests on equipment, Killington and Pico removed almost all Facebook posts alluding to the safety of ski chairs at their resorts. Not good policy.

Ski lift accidents are rare and deadly accidents are even rarer. Industry experts say skiers are more likely to be injured or killed while driving to the slopes or skiing down the mountain than riding the lifts.

So if we were to place ski safety, ski conditions and a cordial, welcoming environment of the ski area as the primary characteristics, Hunter Mountain Ski Resort in New York would get my vote for a one day ski trip and Mt. Snow in Vermont for a weekend. Both Hunter and Mt. Snow are an easy ride from New York, Hartford and Boston and in this tough economy boast discounts on lifts and lodging.

"We’ve got periodic lift ticket and lodging specials," says Jessica Pezak, PR Director of Hunter Mountain. "The best place to view them is in the Hunterblog ( or on; I can’t really spell them out because they change all the time. We’ve got one coming up on Monday!"

"We have our annual St. Pattie’s Day special with $17 lift tickets this year on Friday, March 16," says David Meeker of Mount Snow.
"Mt. Snow will have green eggs and kegs in the morning and live Irish music starting at 1 pm. Other specials include $29 lift tickets on Leap Day, February 29; two for $49 lift tickets on Valentines Day; midweek ski and stay packages start at just $79 per person/per night; the new Vernal Eternal Spring Pass provides unlimited skiing and riding starting February 26 through the end of the ski season for just $299 and the purchase price can be applied towards a Nor’Easter or Classic Pass for the 2012/2013 season."

Both ski areas place safety first. And it shows in the grooming of their trails, a heavy ski patrol presence, their honesty when it comes to reporting snow fall accumulations, ski trail conditions and their investment in new, safe equipment.


"We are in constant contact with meteorologists," says Meeker. "We need to know and report snow and weather conditions that will enable skiers to decide whether it's safe and fun or wait another day."

Pezak addresses perhaps the biggest challenge that all ski areas in the Greater New York and New England area face: psychology and the perception of ski conditions.

"We got 8 inches of snow last week and we are enjoying a beautiful, sunny weekend. So we’re doing all right," says Pezak who has held the Hunter information position for 5 years. "Though I heard it’s raining in New York City, which is unfortunate. It’s difficult to imagine that there’s snow in the mountains when it’s pouring outside in Manhattan!"

And when addressing ski safety, both Hunter and Mount Snow have invested heavily in new ski equipment.

"We’ve got two new lifts in two years, and the only high-speed 6-person detachable lift in New York State. This year we installed a quad on the West Side – the Zephyr Express – in place of Y Lift (it takes place of Y and Z). Gets you up to the top from the bottom of Hunter West in 3 minutes! This is our second new lift in two years," say Pezak.

While up at Mount Snow the Bluebird Express was recently installed - America’s only high speed detachable six passenger bubble chair lift.
Mount Snow Marketing and Events Director Vinnie Lewis says: “The Bluebird Express is going to provide our guests protection from the elements similar to a gondola cabin, but with the convenience and comfort of being able to keep their skis and boards on their feet.”

The Bluebird Express is a high-speed detachable six passenger bubble chair, manufactured by Leitner-Poma, and will be the only one of its kind in America. It will follow the same path up the mountain as the former Summit Local, a fixed grip triple chair lift, but will cut the ride time in half to just seven minutes while increasing Mount Snow’s uphill capacity by up to 800 people per hour.

Since acquiring Mount Snow in 2007, Peak Resorts has invested about $20 million in capital improvements to the resort.

Meeker, who says that Mount Snow’s primary markets are the Metro New York area, Fairfield County in Connecticut, Boston and Westchester County in NY, is proud of his general manager.

"Kelly Pawlak has been here for over 25 years and she truly is the reason why Mount Snow is such a great place to work and visit. Kelly is responsible for running the resort, but you will see her all over the place picking up trash, cleaning tables in the base lodge or scanning lift tickets."

At Hunter Mountain, hands on family management continues.

"The ski resort is family owned and operated by the Slutzky family, says Pezak. "Three generations now work here, with the granddaughter of Orville, the living owner of the resort, serving in an operations and guest relations function. The family owned atmosphere is evident here, as staff and core customers are very close, everyone knows everyone else. This is not a corporation. It’s a warm, wonderful place for both guests and employees."


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