Inquiring minds look here!
Question: When are you making snow?
Answer: We have been actively building an entirely new snow making system that wasn't ready to go until Thanksgivingish. Actually, there is still a bit of work to do, but we are far enough along to be good to go on the snowmaking. We had night snow making guys on this week so we could get started, but the nights didn't get cold enough for long enough to make snow. We need a good cold that starts at 5 or 6 pm to go.
Question: It was 26 degrees f. at my house when I woke up and Jiminy Peak made snow how come you didn't?
Answer: As someone who lives at 2200 feet in Berkshire County, let me be the first to tell you that this happens. Friday morning, I woke up at 4:30 am, drove to Berkshire East to see how we did with the snow making that night. It was 26 at my house. In Savoy it was 31, and by Charlemont it was 33. The pond ice in the base area had actually melted during the night!
Needless to say, we hadn't made snow. The previous night, our guys were ready, but it didn't get cold until after midnight or 1ish and it was predicted to warm up early the next day. Last night, we had the temp, but we also had a storm moving in that raised the wet bulb to a point that would have been poor production. (If you didn't click on the link, the wet bulb is the combo or temp + humidity)
Interestingly and frustratingly enough, this Friday, after splitting some wood in balmy 33-degree weather, I was up at the wind turbine with the maintenance crew. While looking at the controls I noticed that the temp in the Nacelle was -2 degrees C. Two hundred feet above the top of the ski area we were having snow making weather.
I don't want to make excuses, but a degree or two makes a big difference while making snow in the early season, so does humidity. I don't know why, but we have had inversions recently where the valley floors are either a) not getting cold or b) not getting cold until 3 or 4 am.
On the flip side, last year we had a bunch of borderline rain / ice / snow events that stayed ice or snow where my house in Berkshire County got totally rained on. So if I were to hazard a guess, a combination of a warm Deerfield River and big valleys tend to hold warm air in the early season, and cold air once the winter starts.
Question: When are you going to open?
Answer: As soon as we can. We need a stretch of good cold weather. Meaning, give me 3-4 days in 20's and you can send it. A quick look at weather.com showed me that in the middle of next week we might get that run.
Question: Since you are not open and other places are, does your snow making system stink compared to other resorts?
Answer: No. We actually spent a ton of money upgrading it from a year ago. We built a new top of the mountain pond, added miles of new snow making lines, several new booster pumps, a bunch of snow guns, and dramatically improved our potential output. You, the customer will notice a huge difference! The fact is though, is that we did all the work ourselves, which means we couldn't split into our various snow making roles (because we had to finish the work) until this week, which means we missed the good weather pre thanksgiving.
Question: Does the fact that other resorts are open frustrate you?
Answer: Yes, and no. If you are not in the business you don't see the behind the scenes operations of resorts. It’s hard to notice just who owns what and how many times resorts change hands and for what reasons, because to the consumer, the company’s logo remains the same.
Berkshire East has operated as a single-family business since 1975. When my dad bought it had been bankrupted several times and gone through at least one auction. Since then, he has managed the resort in a responsible manner. How is this relevant? Just because you can make snow in marginal temps doesn't mean you should. Its like driving to work in first gear. Its insanely inefficient and its not in Berkshire East's growth and expansion model to lose money like that when it’s a long winter ahead.
Question: What are the factors that go into deciding when and where to make snow?
Answer: This is not quite as clear-cut as it may seem. One does not simply flip a switch. Factors such as how high do you want your electric bill to be, and how long of a cold snap will it be play a big role. Not to mention, how often have we seen an early cold snap turn into balmy rainy weather? (2011-2012 anybody). If we were to cover the mountain and then lose it, that would be a tough nut to swallow. Kind of like Rick Pitino, the money we would spend and lose if it were to warm up ain't coming back through the door...
Question: Is it stressful being in your position?
Answer: Yes. Its tough. We have awesome jobs and I do different things each day, but the task of managing a business that is entirely reliant on the weather, the job of betting on when to make snow, and the job of managing our expectations as well as meeting yours can be brutal. We try to serve our awesome customers as best as possible and I love making you guys happy. Seriously, I am more anxious than you to get this train-a-rolling.
Question: Do you sense the irony of you pontificating on the snow making system improvements, but you haven't made snow?
Questions: Are you making excuses?
Answer: No, I am telling the truth. I don't want to pretend to know what’s what, but I know how we have to make decisions and this season, have been working our butts off to finish a dramatic leap forward on our snowmaking system. This meant we couldn't split our work crews into snow making crews until this week, and in those couple of nights we thought we could have made snow, the temps didn't fall our way. So we will wait through a few days of near 50 degree weather and will drop the hammer soon afterword.
Question: Do you have anything else I should be excited about this season?
Answer: Besides the snow making, we have a brand new groomer arriving this week and by new I don't mean new to us, I mean zero hour meter new. This will make a huge impact on our ability to maintain the hill. Our crew is looking forward to it. We now have three top of the line Prinoth groomers and tillers. Also, Outback is covered in tower guns. The mountain is in great shape, and we are ready to rock.