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A mountain is a terrible thing to waste

03/27/2008

By Mike Trahan

Once again this year Sugarbush management has decided to close Mt. Ellen at the end of March, leaving behind still excellent cover and terrain to rot in the spring temperatures. For anyone who has skied Mt. Ellen prior to the current ownership, you know that Mt. Ellen has a long heritage for having some of the best early November and late spring skiing conditions in the East. 

Since the opening of Clay Brook and the new village at Lincoln Peak, Sugarbush has felt it more prudent to not open Mt. Ellen until late December and close it at the end of March. This means we only get to enjoy this wonderful mountain for 14 weeks every season -- what a waste! Last year Mt. Ellen still had snow well into June. The biggest travesty to me is the closing of Mt. Ellen regardless of how much snow is left; last year there wasn't a bare spot to be found when it closed and to make things worst, we received several storms after it had been closed. I watched people hike up in the deep snow just to get one more run at Mt. Ellen.

When I inquired about the early closing last spring, I was told by Sugarbush public relations, "To keep either mountain open in the spring requires a lot of extra snowmaking. The top of Mt. Ellen is affectionately called 'Baldy' for a very good reason. The sun melts the snow there fast unless we have stockpiled an enormous amount. The new base area with the Castlerock Pub's patio and grill and Timbers Restaurant is a terrific venue to enjoy the warm temperatures and soft snow."

I agreed to try it last year to see how it compared to Mt. Ellen. In my opinion there was no comparison. Stein's and Spring Fling quickly became mushy and there were water pools at the bottom, all the while people continued to hike up Mt. Ellen every weekend.

This year I again inquired about the early closing of Mt. Ellen and was told to reference the email response I was sent last year and to forward it on to my friends. This is public relations?

When I suggested that they just run two lifts at Mt. Ellen on the weekends in April with limited grooming and staff, I was told "To run two lifts at Mt. Ellen makes little economic sense.  We would still need to groom it, clean it, patrol it and operate it for a small coterie of people who can be well serviced at Lincoln Peak."

I ask, well served in the minds of Sugarbush management, or to the loyal locals and season pass holders who return to Sugarbush every year for the chance to experience Mt. Ellen in the spring? It also seems like a terrible waste for Sugarbush to invest so much money into snowmaking and two terrain parks, only to close them well before their time.

I encourage all of you who love the great terrain at Mt. Ellen to voice your concerns to Win Smith and Sugarbush management in the hopes that they will change this poorly thought out policy. And I encourage Sugarbush to survey your loyal pass holders for their opinion of your decision to open Mt. Ellen late and close it early. If Mt. Ellen is nothing more than an ugly step child, then maybe its time to sell it to someone who truly appreciates its quality and beauty. Long live the diamond in the rough!


Trahan lives in Fayston

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