Gore Capital Improvements: Next Steps

We recently had a few minutes to sit with Mike Pratt, the general manager at Gore. I asked him a few questions about the season past, plans for the summer and the future beyond.

Pisten Bully PB 600

NYSkiBlog: Mike the 2011-12 season was obviously challenging in the east and across the US. How did it compare for Gore?

Mike Pratt: For starters, the season was a short. We were open for 111 days this season, compared to last year when we spun the lifts 137 days total. We had a late start and our earliest finish since I’ve been at Gore.

NYSB: Skier visits? Revenue?

Mike: Numbers aren’t official yet, but you are going to see both of those figures down by maybe 15%.

NYSB: How much snow did you make?

Mike: Probably a more objective measure is gallons of water pumped. This season we pumped 209 million gallons from the reservoir. Last season’s number was 229 million gallons, so I’d say we made 10% less snow. If you are trying to do rough math on acre feet, figure that 200,000 gallons produce one acre foot of snow. 200 million gallons would be 1000 acre feet or 3 feet of snow on 335 acres.

NYSB: Any improvements in snowmaking this summer?

Mike: We’re always tweaking things. How you route water and air to the point of contact has a lot to do with how efficiently you operate. One improvement that should help in the early season: we’re extending the water and air lines from Foxlair down skier’s right on Sunway to the intersection of Wild Air and adding four hydrants along that stretch. This will allow us to blow snow on that very wide section of trail from both sides. This will greatly improve our ability to quickly cover the widest part of Sunway.

Gore Mountain improvements on Sunway

NYSB: You mention efficiency. When we spoke last summer, you said that you’d estimated a 2-4 year payoff for the new HKDs and Ratniks. How’d the electric bill look this year?

Mike: We saw a big drop in our bill – it was 25% less than last year. Now understand that this is the bill for the entire resort, and we had fewer operating days, but we also blew snow on many days where temps were marginal. I attribute a majority of those savings to the new hardware.

NYSB: That’s a big deal. We’d heard that ORDA was awarded $4.1 million from NY Works for infrastructure and improvements. How would you spend any additional funds?

Mike: We’re looking at new grooming equipment and the completion of renovations to the Tannery Pub, the deck and the Open Pit Grill.

NYSB: What are your next big objectives for capital improvement?

Mike: There are two lift big jobs that we’re planning — replacing both the Adirondack Express and the High Peaks Chair. It’s our goal to replace both of those chairs, as part of the same project, within the next five years. We are also planning for a major renovation to the Saddle Lodge and we want to make the original gondola’s summit unloading barn a warming facility with waterless bathrooms.

NYSB: Would the High Peaks Chair go to the true summit of Gore?

Mike: Yes, that is our plan.

NYSB: I like it. Thanks for the info Mike.

34 comments on “Gore Capital Improvements: Next Steps

  1. Sounds like the snowmaking improvements really helped in this marginal season.

    I am curious about the Saddle upgrade plan, as it sounds like the same Saddle lodge I used to stop in for hot chocolate back in 1982.

    To me, the whole building reeks of 1960s architecture. Why not tear it down and build a whole new "summit lodge" at the top of the Gondola, with 360 degree views and a big outdoor deck?

    Waterless bathroom? Ecch.

  2. ORDA recently estimated a 12% decrease in visitors across all venues, which is in line with the approximate 15% decrease quoted here for Gore. IMO those are very good results given the lackluster winter weather and short season. The utilities savings (the 25% savings quoted above should equate to several hundred thousand $) and reduction in personnel costs for the shortened season should go a long way towards covering the revenue decrease.

    If ever there was a season for the high efficiency snow guns, 11-12 was certainly it. But I don’t quite understand the “we made 10% less snow.” If this year’s numbers were 209 + 15 = 224 million gallons, and the previous season’s totals were 229 million gallons, isn’t that really more like 2% less snow? Typo in there?

  3. The numbers aren’t final yet? BS! There is no reason that the numbers can't be final yet.

  4. I have an idea. Using my tax dollars to lower, not raise ticket prices. The groomers are fine, and the chairs don't have to be replaced (especially when one isn’t open over half the time), and there’s plenty of snowmaking. Give me a break, instead. Or, if you want to pretend that you are a real business slogging around in the free market, well, fine. I’ll just take my season pass money elsewhere, to the other mountains you feel justified to compete in pricing with.

  5. Benny – I thought you lived in Jersey – whats this about your tax dollars stuff?

    2 reasons not to lower lift pricing
    1) Having Orda make a profit or at least break even allows for continued investments in lifts, snowmaking etc
    2) Lower than market pricing is not fair for other for surrounding ski area businesses and hurts the entire NYS ski industry.

  6. No, I live in NY state.

    Great, so, what’s happening here, in effect, is that NY state is taking tax dollars from everyone in the state, and subsidizing an activity that only the upper middle class can afford, at these ticket rates. But, as i said, fine, I’ll just go elsewhere, if they pretend to be a real business, but don’t want to give me an incentive to use Gore over the real hills in Vermont. For instance, now that ORDA has authority over three mountains, why aren’t they offering a three mountain lift ticket? What’s the holdup? Out in the real world, say, when Vail buys Kirkwood, or Okemo and Stratton get together, bingo, instant multi mountain lift ticket. If you want to play with the big boys…………

  7. Thanks for the updates. Gore conditions were quite good this year with a lot of terrain open despite the warm snowless winter. The new guns played a big role in making the lower elevations skiable and using less energy. Sometimes you need to spend money to save money. Adding more hydrants to Sunway is huge. That spot is an early and late season rough spot.

    Whether we like it or not, NYS is in the ski business and equipment periodically needs to be replaced. NYS delays this well beyond normal lifespans. Getting the High Peaks chair replaced and back up to the top of Gore is a good thing. The HS triple was installed in 1984. It might be the oldest HS lift in the East. It is time for a newer more efficient HS lift.

    I’m thrilled Gore is adding a warming area and indoor toilets in the old gondola building. It is a good reuse of the building with much needed facilities. I also look forward to updates at the Saddle Lodge.

    Good news about Gore and comments are basically complaints. I don’t get it.

  8. Rising ticket prices, either season or retail at the window, is not good news to me.

  9. Great interview and questions. Thanks. I am so excited about the improvements Mike suggested and would not have guessed at the 5 yr plan, other than spending money on finishing the deck and Tannery. High Peaks to the top? Yeah! Then run it weekdays too? Might be more of a chance if it goes to the top.

    Waterless baths at the top, good idea and use as suggested. Older waterless baths were not good. However the new one at K1 lodge sun deck is very, very good.

    SNOW BANKING….please consider this for next year. When the weather is good to blow, blow mounds of it to be spread as the season wanes.

    NEXT INTERVIEW: Please ask about lower mountain improvements, status…whats the plan, how is it going, etc.

  10. As far as seasonal cost, I thought the season pass rate I paid for next year, was pretty much the same as what I paid last year Benny.

  11. This may sound funny but I really appreciate the plan for a bathroom at the top most of all. After lunch it would come in handy for me. Many times, if the trail from the saddle lodge to the dark side chair isn't open, I just go to the bottom and quit for the day. I think the bathroom will make Gore even more family friendly.

  12. It will be an improvement over those 2 outhouses at the top of the quad. I think any kind of facility is necessary up there.

  13. Dark side to the summit and bathrooms at the summit would be wonderful.

  14. Nice to see some positive response to this piece. The bathrooms up top will be a big improvement. There are some waterless units at the base and I haven’t heard complaints about them. And the cost of running plumbing that won’t freeze at 3600 feet would be high. I’m surprised there isn’t more reaction to the real news for skiers – two older, crucial lifts will be replaced and the high peaks chair will now end at the summit. This is huge news in my book.

  15. Great interview, Harv… sounds like some cool news at Gore with the bike trails and ski lift improvements. Hope they can make some sense of Belleayre this year, too!

  16. Snow Banking is actually done all season long. Piles are made, they let them sit for 1-3 days depending on temp., humidity, precipitation, skier traffic. Then the cats come in and push them out, or for example they stay where they are sometimes like on Uncas or Stokes this year.

    Harv, any more details on the type/ amount of cat(s) being purchased? I know that they have gotten rid of a few of the older cats.

    Would either of the two new proposed lifts be high speed?

  17. The cat of choice is the Pisten Bully PB 600. Nothing is definite, but there may be two. With regard to lifts, again plans aren’t final but the idea is to replace the Adk Express with a HSQ and the Summit Chair would be fixed grip.

  18. Um, let’s not put the cart before the horse here. Those lifts will be “huge news” when the state legislature appropriates the funding. That day is a long way away. Until then, a plan is just a plan. Anyone who’s a regular Gore skier knows those 2 lifts are near the end of their life expectancy.

  19. You realize the cat photo you published is of a TOY, don’t you? There are plenty of photos of the real thing – including the PB600 – at Pisten Bully’s website and elsewhere.

  20. We do realize the image of the PB600 is a model. The image was included for the benefit of that part of our audience with creativity and imagination. Apologies to those who felt left out.

  21. I see you’ve corrected the snowmaking numbers above ^^. Now 10% less snow makes sense.

  22. Gore did a great job with limited staff and bad weather last season, they have to – they are the life line of North Creek and the surrounding area. They did the best for the community with what nature dished out.

    I would be glad to see an upgrade to the ADK express and the end of the chair parties. However I do love the summit double, it is slow and keeps the traffic down on what I believe is the best terrain. It is one of those things that makes Gore unique – I will be sad to see it go.

    I would rather see an improvement to the North Quad – i.e. what ever it would take to speed it up so that more intermediate skiers would use that underutilized and very beautiful area.

    Once a beachhead is established in the Gondola barn at the top is it does not take a lot of imagination to see how small improvements can be made over the upcoming years. Gore must operate under a different set of constraints – being owned by the state.

  23. I also like the darkside double. It has character and fits with the area. Of course I would guess that old lifts use a lot of juice and are expensive to maintain.

    I would like to see something a little different for the ADK express. The gondi goes to almost the same spot and there is another HSQ that heads in the same general direction. I haven’t checked a topo map but if trails from burnt ridge to the north quad base and to somewhere relatively high on the east side could be cut then another HSQ wouldn’t be needed. I fixed grip chair going up to where showcase meets lower sleighride would be great for park hounds. Both Burnt ridge and ADK express are generally only open weekends and holidays so having all that capital tied up and only working 2+ days a week is hard to justify.

  24. Remember that some of these improvements have been included in previous 5 year plans (technically referred to as UMPs; Unit Management Plans). To date, no UMP at Gore has been fully realized. A lot of improvements are rolled over and over and over. It’s all a matter of prioritizing the list. The summit double is probably the highest priority as its held together with baling wire and duct tape. We’ll be enjoying the retro experience of the outhouses for some time.

  25. I also like the double and I cannot explain why as I barely have the patience for the North Quad and the Topridge Triple. I guess I like the old school feel and the way the chairs swing back and forth. Somehow it adds to the experience of The Darkside. I like the idea of speeding up the North Quad as that is such great intermediate/family terrain with easy access to The Saddle for breaks.

  26. I think that Gore should do some recycling of their own and bring the adk express over to the north side a replace the north quad. I really like Tom’s idea of a park lift and that north quad could become the park lift.

  27. @GSM – I know what you mean. I love the double too. You’ll never hear me complaining about it. It just kind of fits there. While it will be odd to see a newer lift running up that line, it’s something that, IMO, has to be done.

    I think we all get it – nothing happens without funding. The word plan was used four or five times in the post above. Nothing is set in stone. Personally I like having a gm who thinks about the path forward vs the reverse.

  28. The word “plan” was used four or five times in the post above, along with the words “news” and “huge news.” Personally, I’d rather not have some guy building up expectations that these improvements are a done deal that’s going to happen tomorrow. Makes everyone look like a chump.

  29. For me the north quad is the most painful lift on the mountain and I'd love to see it replaced. As long as I'm dreaming, I'd like to see the North quad go to the summit of bear with a midstation by the saddle. Unfortunately I don't think the existing liftline could be extended.

  30. I’d love to see straightbrook go to the other side of the old gondola house. This would make it so much better for snowboarders to get over to Rumor, Lies and Open Pit.

  31. The previous suggestion is a topographic impossibility. Unless you have the straightbrook chair make a 90 degree right hand turn.

  32. I realize that, its just that getting to some of the best trails there takes forever. You spend as much or more time getting to the trail head as you do enjoying the trail.

  33. When did they do away with the 70 and over ski for free program at Gore Mt. What a rip…you would think anyone over 70 should be skiing for free ..

  34. Many years ago I spoke on the 5 or 10 year plan, was even in the post star, the only thing that was done was plumbing for a new lodge on bear mountain, which runs down skier right of Showcase, truly a waste of time an money. so I say don’t swallow every thing they say. that was 18 years ago

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