When Greek Peak was put on the auction block this past spring Marc Stemerman and John Meier stepped in to grab the opportunity to save the mountain they’ve skied for decades. Greek Peak’s new owners announced some of their plans for the mountain at a recent press conference. We interviewed Marc and John about their vision for the resort.
NYSkiBlog: Who are the new owners of Greek Peak? Where are you from? What is your background? Are you skiers?
Marc Stemerman: I’m 43, my wife is Shannon, Chloe is 11 and Jack is 7. I’m the owner of the Chemung Supply Corporation, an 81 year-old wholesale highway distribution business, started by my grandfather. I’m from Elmira and have lived there all my life. I’ve been skiing for about 35 years, most of that time at Greek Peak.
John Meier: I’m 44, my wife is Christine, Madeleine is 12, Alexandra is 9, and Gavin is 5. I’m the owner of four manufacturing business’ in Elmira that comprise Meier Industries. I’ve been skiing Greek Peak for more than 20 years.
NYSB: Where else have you skied in New York or the East? Out West?
Marc: Growing up I skied at Greek Peak, Swain, Bristol, and Holiday Valley. We took a few trips a year to Stratton, Bromley, and Stowe. When you’re young it’s all about the skiing and not as much about amenities. I enjoyed all the New York areas I skied. It was time with friends and sometimes a chance to skip school. In the past two years I’ve skied at Crested Butte and The Canyons. I loved both for the diversity of terrain and the offerings at the resorts.
NYSB: What inspired you to get into the bidding for the resort?
Marc: My dad first took me skiing at Greek Peak in 1976 and I never left. My family has been skiing here for the past 5 years and John and I have shared a home with our families for the last two. Our families have fallen in love with Greek Peak and the community here. It is hard to explain the feeling, but it has always felt like we had ownership in the mountain. The employees and the customers make you feel so welcome and safe that as entrepreneurs we could not let what was so important to our families, the customers and employees, die. We knew we had to bid to try to save Greek Peak.
NYSB: Which ski resorts do you see as models for Greek Peak?
Marc: We definitely look to see what others in the industry are doing. No one resort encompasses everything we’re planning for Greek Peak, but it will be a conglomeration of good ideas from a variety of places. We’ve met with the owners of Bristol, Holiday Valley, and Hunter and we’ll use the good ideas they shared to build our resort. We’re looking to everybody from New York to Colorado to Utah for ideas. We will build a unique resort that will encompass much of the input we’d accumulated.
NYSB: In your mind, what makes Greek Peak unique?
John: We believe Greek Peak Mountain Resort offers the best value in Central New York: the ability of the mountain to hold snow, the sheer amount of skiable acreage, our glade and back bowl potential and our overall variety of terrain. Our new investments in snowmaking and the PB 600 Groomer will certainly enhance that experience. That said, we definitely need to improve our restaurants and facilities. That can all be fixed and some of it will be underway in time for 2013-2014 ski season.
NYSB: What are your priorities for improvements at the resort?
John: Our goal is to improve the skiing and riding here. As we’ve said from day one, we’ll upgrade the experience for skiers and boarders; many of those upgrades have been announced. To list a few:
- The first high-speed quad in Central NY
- The only load conveyor in New York
- 1100 pairs of new Rossignol Skis and 200 new snowboards
- New high-efficiency snow guns
- A new model 600 Piston Bulley, only one in Central NY
- A ZAAG attachment for grooming of new half-pipe
- $1M revamp of Base Lodge Bar with the largest deck in Cortland County.
NYSB: Is extending Chair 4 a possibility? Would you consider dropping the orange fence on lower Atlas?
Marc: We plan to add a new lift from the bottom to beyond the top of Chair 4 opening up all new terrain. Atlas will have to be discussed because it’s a safety issue, but it’s all on the table.
NYSB: There seems to be potential for new trail development accessed via Chair 5. Are there plans to develop this area further?
Marc: We have plans to clean out some new glade trails for this season — the kids seem to already know this. We’ll add trails as we add lifts to access the new terrain. Stay tuned for new glade run announcements.
NYSB: What are the long term plans for Hope Lake Lodge? Any thoughts of trying to re-gain the AAA 4-Diamond rating?
Marc: We have hired a new GM for Hope Lake Lodge, Dwayne Spitzer. He’s raised the bar for the level of service our customers can expect to receive during their stay. Also, we’re revamping the menus and venues offered to our guests.
NYSB: How do you plan to position the hotel for success? Are you considering summer music series, festivals, etc.?
John: We’re known as “Four Seasons of Fun for Everyone” so we have plenty to offer our customers during the “off-season” from our Adventure Center, Mountain Coaster, Zip Lines and our Ropes Course team building. Our Water Park doors open up to make it a nice oasis in the hot summer months and a warm and cozy atmosphere in the winter. With the planned expansion of our ski-side restaurant, including the largest deck in Cortland County, we’ll introduce concerts and various festivals to expose more people to the beauty of Greek Peak.
NYSB: Which markets will you target for Greek Peak?
Marc: We’ll target the local area and beyond to Rochester, Syracuse, Utica, Oneonta, Binghamton, Ithaca, Elmira-Corning and destination markets all over the country. We have a tremendous product to offer our customers and we will market it aggressively.
NYSB: How will food service be handled?
John: Currently, all of our food operations are done in house and we plan to expand this operation. Our new Mountain Bar/Restaurant will be a year-round venue along with our other outlets. We also plan on catering and delivery of our food services to the surrounding area.
NYSB: Your pass pricing for next season is aggressive and was welcomed by our audience and the Greek Peak faithful. Are there any plans to put day tickets in line with costs at Song, Lab and Togg? Has there been any discussion of reciprocal passes with those mountains?
Marc: We felt with the bankruptcy that we needed to embrace our loyal skiers and riders. We could think of no better way than to offer them a special season pass price. We believe Greek Peak is very fairly priced when you consider the diverse terrain and new investments we are making. We have no plans for a reciprocal pass at this time.
NYSB: In the past passholders got discounts at Whiteface, Gore and Hunter. Will those continue?
Marc: We’d like to continue those programs. Whiteface and Gore have not been confirmed for this year. Hunter indicated that they were interested but this has not been finalized.
NYSB: Some locals seem to feel that the recent business/operating focus has been the Hotel, Adventure Center and the new tubing center. How do you envision the resort in the future and do you foresee more emphasis on updating the ski area infrastructure?
JOHN: The short answer is YES. Look at that list above. Our new high-speed quad — the first and only in Central NY — is step one. Our new Piston Bulley 600 groomer is step two. Our new tuning center is step three. Our new fleet of skis and boards is step four. Our new restaurant/pub is step five. Not bad for the first 75 days of ownership? While we won’t top that in the next 75 days, but we will be making many more investments in the mountain in the years ahead.
NYSB: Are there any plans for mountain biking on the property, either cross-country or lift-assisted downhill?
Marc: We plan on embracing many new opportunities at the mountain including mountain biking, hiking and cross country skiing. Our new high speed quad will really help us to make it happen. Plus we do have plans to open the mountain for various motor sports.
NYSB: Which members of the old Greek Peak team are still involved with the resort? What is Al Kryger’s role?
John: Marc and myself are the General Partners. Wes Kryger is our General Manager. Al Kryger, while no longer an employee per se, is consulting with us.
NYSB: What do you feel is the greatest challenge as the new owners of Greek Peak?
Marc: Our biggest challenge will be to re-establish our brand. It has been damaged by the bankruptcy and we’ve got to let our skiers and riders know that John and I are dedicated to delivering on our promises for years to come.