They hold this information very close to the vest and it was only with great reluctance did they finally admit the truth. My dispute began because of the deceitful ruses I encountered in response to requests for information about the operating status of the Slide Brook Express. There was a pattern of fraudulent misrepresentation that started with the parking lot attendants, continued along to the cashier, then it was spread around the mountain by the lift operators, it was posted on the magnetic board at the Mt. Ellen Lodge and it finally finished with customer service in the front office.
The first email I received even made the claim that "Sugarbush by no means participates in the deceptive practices" regarding this "truly special chairlift ride". My next email to Sugarbush mentioned that the Slide Brook Express was not operating on Wednesday, March 5, 2003. I received a reply that stated "the Slide Brook is not running today due to wind." A lift and trail report I printed that day showed a 3 mph wind and the temperature was 39 degrees Fahrenheit. I am aware that the present management inherited this problem and perhaps this is a recent policy, Yet instead of taking the opportunity to explain this at the outset they chose to try to conceal the truth
Be forewarned... you will hit a stonewall if you need to deal with customer service...expect a thinly veiled apology, long lame justifications, transparent deceptions and hardball nitpicking to top it off. They never did issue me the refund I requested. Nobody should have to go through the process that I went through before I was finally able to extract this tidbit of truth.
I believe that it was only after Sugarbush Resorts realized that they were dealing with someone who wasn't easily brushed aside and two hours after they became aware I was posting this grievance in another venue that what I would describe as a damage control operation occurred after their final refusal to issue me a refund. I was finally able to get a straight answer about the Slide Brook Express. Here are the essentials as supplied by the Guest Services Manager at Sugarbush Resorts:
For safety reasons, Slide Brook Express does not operate when temperatures,
combined with wind chill factors, plummet below a certain set value. I understand
your confusion with respect to the fact you were still able to ride Castlerock,
Super Bravo, Heaven's Gate, and the rest. Reasons specific to a conservative
approach to running Slide Brook surround the fact that Slide Brook -- over
two miles long -- traverses non-serviced terrain, making it isolated,
difficult, and time consuming to evacuate should there be an emergency
The issue of Slide Brook Lift not running M-F during non-holiday periods
including Tuesday 3/4, is one of utilization, redundancy of services, and
responsible use of energy. At less than 4% utilization of Slide Brook on
non-holiday mid-week days, and with a contracted inter mountain shuttle
service that averages just 2 minutes longer than riding the lift, it is
irresponsible use of energy on the part of Sugarbush to run that lift on
non-holiday mid-week days. Shuttles leave Mount Ellen every half hour from
8:45 to 4:45 for Lincoln Peak, and correspondingly leave Lincoln from 8:30
to 4:30 every half hour, headed for Mount Ellen. The inter mountain shuttles
ran faithfully twice an hour from both mountains on both 2/17 and 3/4/03.
Though not stated directly I believe it is cold-blooded economics that is behind their limits on the use of what should really be called the No Wind, Warm Weather, Weekend & Holiday Express. They don't seem to run their Magic Carpet out of the parking lot up to the lodge "M-F during non-holiday periods" as well. If they have no intention of running either of these devices most of the time it should be so noted on the daily lift and trail report. To refuse to do so and to continue to try to parcel out this information only under pressure is fraudulent.
What about the expectations of customer's that expect there will be a chair lift that can whisk them between mountains? The reality more often than not is that they must trudge down to the parking lot in their ski boots dragging their equipment along, wait for the twice hourly shuttle being run down German Flats Rd and then repeat the process again for the return trip. Customer's such as myself that are being lured to one of the most expensive resorts in the east by a myth. Customer's who don't know that if they want to try the "truly special chairlift ride" of the Slide Brook Express they shouldn't ski at Sugarbush "M-F during non-holiday periods" or "when temperatures, combined with wind chill factors, plummet below a certain set value" which is unstated.
I would venture that attempts will be made to fudge the lift and trail reports posted at the website and in the absence of specific numbers it is highly likely that the parameters of this "conservative approach" are affected by the attendance at the mountain on those few weekend and holidays left when they actually bother to run the Slide Brook Express. What is most unique about this "truly special chairlift ride" are the limited opportunities available to try it.
What about other businesses that are dependent on the largest magnet for customer's in the Mad River Valley? The transparent deceptions being used to perpetuate this myth will surely cost everybody money. Some people will just silently skulk away never to return. Some people will convince others never to visit by passing along their tales of woe. Some people will turn it into a crusade by endeavoring to convince friends and strangers alike through both direct contacts and through the amazing communication tool known as the Internet. Search Open Cut Paste Send...
If you fully subscribe to their reasoning something that is such an "irresponsible use of energy" should not have been built at all especially since "a contracted inter mountain shuttle service that averages just 2 minutes longer than riding the lift" existed prior to the construction of the Slide Brook Express. Maybe it borders on negligence that something so "isolated difficult, and time consuming to evacuate should there be an emergency" is even being run at all. It would have been better left on the drawing board. A hopeful plan that one day Sugarbush and Sugarbush North would be connected...."The Myth of Sugarbush" certainly as far as any non-holiday non-weekend skier is concerned.
Seriously tho, I've also been annoyed when I found that one or more important lifts were not running when I visitied a mtn. and found that I (or my family) couldn't get around as easily as I had anticipated. OTOH, I've never let it under my skin quite this much.
About the only situation like this that has really annoyed me is when I have based my lodging on the presumption that a certain lift was running (based on advertising), and it turned out that the mtn hardly ever ran that lift.
For example, suppose Mr. Northbay got a good deal on lodging over at Glen Elen, assumed he could park the kids and Grandma over there and bop in regularly, but really wanted to mostly ski the signature runs at the Bush. Another example might be if access to your lodging could be done on greens when a particular lift was open, but had to be done on steep trails when this lift isn't open. This could easily spoil the skiing experience for parties containing novice skiers.
In cases such as these, a misrepresentation such as he claims/describes could be a major pain in the neck. I could see getting a bit steamed over something this, but not to the extent that he appears to be.
Either something is behind his rant, or maybe he just types fast.
Tom / PM
The feedback I have received thus far has been valuable both from people who agree and disagree with me. The clumsy lies followed by the belated admission from Sugarbush changed my focus from mere compensation to a determination not to stop until the information about the status of the Slide Brook Express is easily available and not just being parceled out under protest.
If you really want to see what's behind this the complete correspondence of this dispute as well as my contacts with other entities regarding this matter has been ordered chronologically, labeled and color-coded. It is available upon request as an email or a wordpad file. It has grown to be 87K in size to date. The nature of these things is that it is very repetitive but it does show how this process evolved.
As long as they think I am just one lone nut they will continue to try to ride this out. A corporation after all is an entity that exists for the purpose of making money. They probably think they have lost my business anyway. If more people contact them about this "myth" expressing outrage and the intention to take their business elsewhere, perhaps even mentioning the source of their enlightenment, it would help dispel the notion that they can continue this charade. I know that at least one other person feels he was a victim of this policy. Are there any others out there who feel cheated?
Actually I have evolved beyond upset. Call it the quixotic urge to make a difference.
Glenn, I suggest you go out and buy Hal Clifford's book and read it. It will show you how financially fragile this industry is. Even with all the condo sales and other real estate deals, many resorts barely squeak by even on good years. Operating and insurance costs have skyrocketed in recent years. We as skiers and boarders need to be more sensitive towards resorts and the tremendous financial pressures they are under. We need to cut them some slack from time to time and realize that every ski experience will not be perfect. I quite frankly don't understand why you didn't just drive between the two mountains in your car. Parking is no problem midweek. This is what I often do when I go to Sunday River, Snowshoe, or Stowe midweek, and it doesn't bother me one bit.
You all know I like to support fair and open discussion, but I want to step in and make a few points. DCSki is not a forum for bashing resorts. If you have a bad experience at a resort that you feel others should know, then sure, that can be mentioned, although I prefer it to be mentioned in a constructive-negative-feedback kind of way. We strive to keep the tone positive here.
Secondly, Sugarbush is outside of DCSki's coverage range. DCSki doesn't cover resorts north of Pennsylvania. Although Mid-Atlantic skiers do ski other places, DCSki really is not an appropriate (or effective) forum for airing this complaint.
"The tram at Jay Peak, VT (60 passenger/2100' vertical approx) was the one that got away from me. My one and only visit to Jay Peak, which is somewhat remotely located near the Canadian border, was on a typical February weekday in 1989. I was disappointed to find the tram down due to high winds. The wind was slight in my opinion. There was a very small crowd that day and I suspected a different factor might have been the real cause for the shutdown, a cost saving measure by management."
Here's a link to part two:
This excerpt from part two relates closely to your complaint:
"A couple of years ago I rode the unique high speed Slidebrook quad chairlift at Sugarbush, VT. This chair moves laterally, making a connection with the slopes of Sugarbush North. Riders embark at either end from loading stations located well uphill from the base of each area. Essentially, it replaced a shuttle bus formerly operating between the two bases. This chairlift feels like it moves at about 20 MPH, covering 2 miles in about 11 minutes. I can attest that it generates its own wind chill factor. Much of the terrain it passes over is a protected wilderness area with no downhill ski runs and little access. If that lift ever broke down while loaded with passengers it would be a horror story to evacuate."
While it is beyond ironic that Slidebrook is now left inoperative much of the time with a shuttle bus offered in its place, I have to agree with comments from jib714 and johnfmh. Give it a rest. I believe Slide Brook was a misguided project initiated in the heady days of Les Otten's brief ownership of Sugarbush. It was an exciting concept to finally lift link the two resorts; Sugarbush and Sugarbush North/Glen Ellen. But with hindsight it does not now appear to be very practical given the expense of operating an often lightly used two mile long lift and the safety issues associated with the inaccessability and undeveloped nature of the terrain it spans.
I usually get up to SR only once every couple of seasons, but every time I've been there, this lift is never in operation. I've never looked at it closely: Is it relatively new? Is it another Les Otten special? How often do they fire it up?
Also, can the SB ski patrol use mechanized vehicles to access points under the Slid Brook chair given that someone said that it is a wilderness area. Did you really mean wilderness (ie, truly protected, no mechanized vehicles), or just backcountry? If the latter, there are lots of lifts with no ski runs under them for access.
Tom / PM
Jay Peak has since recognized the difficulties caused by the frequent Tram closures; a new chairlift has been added which goes nearly as high up the mountain as does the Tram.
WRT to the Slidebrook express. If it was closed, you didn't miss much. It is one of the most miserable lift expererience I have ever undergone. It is indeed a "truly special chairlift ride." It's long, cold and boring. You waste half your day on the lift and don't get any additional vertical for it. Skiing North/South in the AM, having lunch, then driving over to South/North for the PM is a good strategy and what I would do.
The only times I have ever been more miserable on a lift were at ABasin in 80 mph winds (and no safety bar) and at Keystone when I was really, really, really hungover and a buddy pulled out a day-old bologna sandwich, waved it in front of me, and proceeded to eat it. Along with Slidebrook, those chairlift rides are permanently seared into my synapses.
As to the question of how isolated the Slidebrook lift is, it travels horizontally about 0.25 miles(?) across wilderness. The terrain it traverses is outside the ski area boundaries, and is probably some sort of protected wilderness area. (Though I know they used to advertise guided backcountry tours of the area.)
Please drop the closing of the Magic Carpet lift from the closing of the Slide Brook Express argument. While you may have some points about how Sugarbush is advertising the Slide Brook Express, the mere existence of the Magic Carpet ride is an embarrassment. If someone can't walk 20 feet up a hill, they shouldn't even be allowed into a ski area.
Your primary recourse is simple and traditional: never patronize them again. This will injure both their self-esteem and their pocketbook.
"If you really want to see what's behind this the complete correspondence of this dispute as well as my contacts with other entities regarding this matter has been ordered chronologically, labeled and color-coded."
Uh, yeah, show that to me... <starts sidling away and looking for the nearest exit>
The very next ski season Killington discontinued operating the last mile of the Sunrise trails & lifts going down to Rt 100 because they were so lightly used and required so much maintenance. The nearest lift to the motel/timeshare became the Skyeship gondola base a couple miles up the road. Never did the sales people speak of this possible development. Somewhere there are a few owners of "slopeside" timeshare units with a real bad mythical lift problem.
Killington earns it's nickname of KMart, IMHO. It's big, crowded and geared for the masses. Since a good portion of the masses are from the New York - New Jersey area and ski like they drive, it's not exactly a relaxing experience on a weekend. Lot's of fender benders on Bear Mtn. (Although I'm sure a KMart regular can find hidden nooks and crannies in the area.) The nightlife at various restaurant-type places on the access road is a good as it gets in ski country.
Stowe's layout is disjointed, making it tough to get among the three main sections. Stowe has pretty bad lift lines, especially at the two main lifts: FourRunner Quad and the Gondola. I've heard the Spruce Peak section across the road is pretty empty, but the terrain is not as good. Goat is certainly an epic trail, but I think Liftline and National are a bit overated. (At least not worthy of the front four mystique.) The groomers off the Gondola are very nice, though I wish there were a few more trails on that section to reduce crowds.
Between its two mountains, Sugarbush probably has 2/3 the terrain of KMart and at least 1/3 more than Stowe. (Rough guesses but the trail maps should give the exact stats.) Several lifts at Sugarbush can as crowded as those at KMart and Stowe. However, the lift lines servicing the expert terrain at the Bush are much, much less than at Killington and Stowe. In addition, the upper mountain lifts at SB North and South service a lot of groomed blues and blacks and have short lift lines. I find it a lot easier to avoid the crowds at Sugarbush, even on weekends and Xmas week.
The Castlerock section is worthy of it's reputation. All it's trails are classic Vermont: narrow, windy (sp? I mean curves not the breeze), variable pitch/terrain, and natural-snow covered. Though there are some very tough trail sections (Liftline and Rumble), you don't have to be a super expert to ski Castlerock. Middle Earth and Castlerock Run are really not that steep. Their main challenge is the natural snow conditions (often icy at the top but crud-like at the very bottom with a rock or two thrown in). IMHO, Extrovert @ Blue Knob is a much tougher trail than either of the latter two trails.
Night life and dining options are very limited at Sugarbush. Stowe (Waterbury?) has much better options. But Stowe is just a short drive up the road (< 30 minutes as I recall).
[This message has been edited by JohnL (edited 03-14-2003).]
"If you really want to see what's behind this the complete correspondence of this dispute as well as my contacts with other entities regarding this matter has been ordered chronologically, labeled and color-coded."
That's nuttin. I've got 24 8x10 glossy photographs with circles and arrows and a paragraph on back explaining what each one was
I grew up skiing the Bush and try to go back at least once a year. It is an excellent mountian whether you are skiing North or South -I prefer North, due to FIS, Exterminator, and Bravo where I earned my wings so to speak. North is also a lot less crowded. The SlideBrook Express was the creation of a guy named Rob Apple (who happened to live down the street from me) -he later moved on to work at Stowe. Mr. Apple fought for many years to get the Slide Brook Express open and traverse what is known as the Green Mountain National Forest. There was a lot of concern that Moose territory and general environmenntal quaintess would be disturbed by loud skiers and construction equipment, thus the project languished for years. Finally Act 250 approval went through and it was built, along with several other renovations including the interuption of high speed quad service over the Lift Line trail to the Glen Ellen House (which has subsequently been restored). On this I will agree -dumb idea in the first place. Ironically, Apple left Sugarbush a season after the lift was completed.
Still, you need to relax a bit. The lift never really worked and I will sacrifice sitting in a bus for 13 minutes over freezing my ass off on a chairlift for 11. Who cares what is advertised -talk to any local and you will know that most pick South in the morning and then ski North in the afternoon once everything has warmed up a bit, and they ride the bus or take their cars.
Or, you could do what we used to do when we were a bit younger, hike from the top of the Summit Chair at North to the Paradise trail at South via the long trail -takes about an hour but is a great adventure.
Freddie Says Relax!!
Seem to have started a discussion...
I was there on during a holiday week and it was the cold weather that was the cause of the closure. Never expected all of the lifts to be running. Do insist that I not be lied to. That kind of behaviour isn't going to improve their finances because people will take their business elsewhere. I did drive over to the other mountain...wasn't going to wait for the bus coming and going. When I got to the other lodge that is when I saw that the posting on the magnetic board was wrong as well. Demanded a refund. Got a voucher. Spent the rest of the day at Mad River Glen two miles away.
Sugarbush has its charm. Enough detachables to keep me happy. The "Less Otten, More Rock" bumper stickers were a response to the plan of the ASC to change the Castlerock chair to a detachable. The present owners are locally based and they replaced the Castlerock chair but they kept it a double and they pretty much let nature take care of the snow cover and don't groom it. That's the way the true aficionados wanted it. The Mt. Ellen base area (Sugarbush North) has a higher elevation, more vertical but fewer trails and amenities. The Slide Brook Express runs more lateral than vertical and connects the two complexes. Actually got to ride it once when the ASC was still running the place. Some people think it's a waste of time but it beats the bus both as a time saver and scenically. It gets pretty high up in the sky strung across the valley. My personal preference is your list is Stowe first...the Front Four are a rush! Sugarbush second and Killington last...to much crowd and to diffuse.
I am relaxed actually. Since I am one of those people that can't easily let something like this go I find trying to do something about it therapeutic.That day I had a couple of beers and plenty of fun at Mad River Glen. Then two days at Whiteface doing a few 3200+ vertical top to bottom runs in about seven minutes. Then a day at Gore on the way back home to Long Island...no skiing here since they took down the rope tow at Bald Hill.
Basicly been told to get a new life before. Which hobby are you talking about...Skiing or Complaining?
Sorry if it seems like just bashing but my goal is a positive outcome in the sense that I do not wish for others to wander blindly the trap. Knowledge Is Power and The Truth Will Set You Free etc. There seems to be a lot of interest it Vermont skiing in this discussion. If it is a subject of interest and I am not being profane or rude about should it not be considered appropriate?
Trams suck...too much like cattle cars and too much waiting around. At Jackson Hole last I was there they even charged $2 a ride to keep the traffic down as well as pocketing a couple of dollars along the way. Still like Jackson Hole though it is in my top five.
The Slide Brook never replaced the shuttle it just supplemented it. Sugarbush had wanted to develop what they now refer to as the Slide Brook Wilderness since the acquisition of Sugarbush North/Glen Ellen but the enviros found a couple of bears living there so with great difficulty they were able to get approval for the Slide Brook Express. Ultimately I can accept all of the reasoning that Sugarbush uses for not running it. They shouldn't display it like the crown jewel that makes it possible to ski the entire area without taking off your skis when basically it just runs two days a week. Most people prefer the truth.
Refering to your Killington entry it I think it's a joke they advertise 3000 vertical...the northeast passage is a long meandering waste that will leave you ten miles from your car at if you get lost at the end of the day.
My understanding is that they run a guided/paid tour through it. Don't know how the bears feel about it though.
Your right the Magic Carpet is a waste...it is quicker to walk up the hill. But for the same reasons mentioned above don't advertise something as an integral part of your operations when the reality is it is only run weekends/holidays. Most people don't care or just shrug it off...but a few are going to be upset enough to go elsewhere in the future.
Been on the Slide Brook once...liked it. Better than the bus!
See above To johnfmh: Second Paragraph for more about Castlerock.
Have you been to New Hampshire and tried Wildcat? Most awesome view on the east coast looking across Pinkham Notch to Mt. Washington. Plenty of other areas. Cheaper than Vermont. Maybe a little austere. Live Free Or Die! is the motto on the license plates.
Have you been to New York and tried Whiteface? Though technically not New England close enough for me. The Olympic Authority spent lots of money upgrading the place.
Have you been to Maine and tried Sugarloaf? Long trip way out in the sticks but the only above treeline skiing in the east.
Ever see "The Green Pastures"..."Forty Acres...And A Mule!" It is the 1930's version of the "Ten Commandments" with an all black cast. Guess that's a no on seeing the whole 87K mess...not trying to force it down antbody's throat.
I dress warm and I don't like bus. Personal prefence. And I did relax...at Mad River Glen. Complaining is therapy when done right. Squeaky wheel gets the grease.
To Northbay, JohnL, and RideVT1:
I've skied Waterville, Sunapee, Gunstock, and Pat's Peak in New Hampshire; Stowe, Killington, and Mt. Snow in VT; and Sunday River in Maine.
Of these mountains, I was very impressed by Sunday River's combination of decent terrain, and efficient lifts. Killington didn't do much for me when I was younger, but I haven't been there in a while so I can't really judge it. Mt. Snowe is too easy: too many kids straightlining the mountain and not too much challenge on North Face. There's a special place in my heart for Stowe: it has some epic terrain for all abilities. The problem is lift system but all that may change due to the new Spruce Peak development. That project should finally allow AIG to make some money and improve skier services. Better grooming, snowmaking, lifts and lodges on Big Spruce will absorb some of the intermediate traffic on Mansfield and ease the lines at the Gondola and Fourrunner Quad. Another thing going for Stowe is Nordic and back country skiing. Finally, Stowe has one of the best collections of restuarants of any area in North America. Miguel's is a fabulous Mexican place; Trattoria rocks for Italian; Trapp serves authentic Austrian food; and Pie in the Sky has some of the best pizza going.
Waterville, Sunapee, and Gunstock are all decent commuter mountains for Bostonians but none really ranks as a destination like Stowe, Killington, and Sunday River.
From reading all these posts, Sugarbush sounds like a mountain that I would enjoy. I also like Northbay's idea of going to Whiteface and Wildcat. You must be a mindreader Northbay becuase those are all places I dream of evntually visiting.
One thing puzzles me Northbay. Why did you post on DCSki if you are from Long Island and skiing mountains in VT? We're certainly interested in VT because many of us go up there from time to time and want to know where to go, but it certainly is not the focus of the site.
Thanks again for all the information people! I've learned quite a bit about where to ski in the big VT.
Saw enough references to Vermont that I thought it might be a subject that people would be interested in and thought I had a compelling subject. Certainly seems to be the case. Most of the forums I visit seem to be more about the skier experience and less about where it occurs. I appreciate all of the feedback - whether pro or con - because I don't live in a bubble where I think that the only opinion that matters is my own. Thanks to all who responded!
I have been putting off going to Sugabush. Now I am definitely making a trip next year! Knowing I won't come across you is a real plus!
Johnfmh, Just tried Killington again after a few weekend disappointments over the years. Skied on Monday and Tuesday. What a great mountain! Go Midweek if you can. The crowds on weekends just make it suck and it really clouded my opinion of the mountain in general. Oh yeah, almost forgot about Pico! Nice and NOT crowded. Don't tell anyone though.
Maine - only Sunday River
New Hampshire - never
New York - only Huntah (though Plattekill is next)
Vermont - Sugarbush, Stowe, Mad River, Smuggler's Notch, Bolton Valley, Ascutney, Middlebury College Snow Bowl, Killington, Pico, Okemo, Stratton, Bromley.
(Leaving out Mass & CT.)
Is it that you have tried NH and don't like it or that you have never been? I think NH is worth a shot. Wildcat and Cannon have some interesting terrain and Wildcat has some of the most beatiful scenery east of the Rockies. Some of the trails have really spectacular views of Mt Washington. In S. NH Gunstock is also a nice area. 1500 vertical and not real crowded. In my experience, NH is less crowded in general than Vermont.
Cheap Shot! Maybe you better wait another year. Still got a voucher. Being offered two more to shut me up! I won't be there this year though. Better yet try it now. They plan on running the Slide Brook for the rest of the year during the week. Trying to turn me into a liar.
[This message has been edited by DC_Skier (edited 03-18-2003).]
Apologies to anyone I offended.
[This message has been edited by johnfmh (edited 03-18-2003).]
More cheap shots! There is more here than "endless complaining about something really moronic." Just a thought to all who urged me to let it go: Where does healthy laid-back detachment cross the line to complacent apathy?
I'm glad I was able to inform. That was one of my intentions. I have taken some of your criticism to heart about trying to see this from the other point of view in regard to the costs involved. The Slide Brook is 11,022' in length and runs at 1100" per minute. It is longer than most of these chairs, requires loading attendants at both ends and it passes through inaccessible wilderness. All of the costs involved - electric, maintenance and manning - are probably higher.
so its 11,022 ft long and travels at 1100 in/minute. That means this thing takes 120 minutes or 2 hours to ride. GEESH, JUST WAIT FOR THE BUS. its MUCH faster
Hope that all of you that have friends & relatives in harms way in uniform or otherwise return safely to their families.