Last week, we reported on Mount Sunapee’s disastrous weekend that saw their main upper mountain lifts be inoperable due to ice issues. Around that time, a petition on Change.com came out that called for the state of New Hampshire to intervene. According to In-Depth NH, the state is now in discussions with Vail Resorts on how to improve the guest experience. They are in particular working on methods to improve their “parking to signage and notifications.” The Governor of New Hampshire, Chris Sununu, said the experience has been negatively affected due to the overselling of passes, a depleted workforce due to the lack of worker visas, and a lack of traffic mitigation. State Representative Dan Wolf said the problems arise from “overselling and having inadequate staffing, he said, or perhaps inadequate compensation for its workers.”
Sununu noted that “I can’t tell Vail ‘you can’t sell this number of passes,’ I don’t think.” The Governors’ family owns Waterville Valley in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, and the state runs Cannon Mountain as well. Sunapee was originally state-run but has been leased since 1997. The Muellers, who ran Okemo and Crested Butte, ran the mountain through its glory days before being sold to Vail Resorts in 2018.
After their ice issues two weekends ago, Mount Sunapee has tried to improve transparency on their crowding issues. Last Wednesday, they posted on social media suggesting guests arrive earlier and carpool. This was met with widespread scorn from guests, with their being 235 comments on that post demanding drastic improvements to the guest experience. Over the weekend, Sunapee picked up the frequency of their posts and which parking lots were open and closed, but still dealt with crowding issues.
For me, Sunapees situation won’t improve until the following two things happen: setting caps on season pass sales and tickets sold, and the implementation of their Master Development Plan. I don’t think Vail Resorts is ever going to commit to reducing the capacity based on their need for stockholder satisfaction, so I’ll just focus on their master plans. Their 2020-25 Master Development Plan, which was approved by the state last year, includes replacements for nearly all the main lifts on the mountain, a new terrain pod and base called the West Bowl, a lift that connects the Sunbowl and North Peak, and adding more off-season activities. In order to improve the customer experience, all they need is a thumbs up from Vail HQ.
Adam White, who is the Northeast spokesperson for Vail Resorts, said the following: “We are always listening to our guests and working to make improvements every day. Mount Sunapee faces some unique challenges in that the roads to access our resort are limited and lack public transit options beyond our own resort shuttles. We continue to evaluate our options in the short- and long-term, including expanded use of electronic roadside signage and increased messaging of arrival updates to guests using online and mobile resources. We will continue to share regular updates on our operations Twitter channel @SunapeeMT for our guests to track arrival considerations in real-time.”
Image Credits: Mount Sunapee Resort