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Sugarbush--Any insider insight/Anything I should know--Also Stowe v Sugarbush--what are key quantitative differences?

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 

Hello All,


Are there any Sugarbush insiders or regulars here who can give me some insight into the state of the state of the mountain? Background--I've noticed that there are a lot of good condo deals at Sugarbush (outside of report developments like Claybrook) and I wan thinking about taking the plunge. I know the mountain itself and have skied there a dozen times. 


My questions really revolve around resort development--or other issue that I may not be aware--like outdated lifts or water shortage issues or financial viability concerns. 


Originally-I was planning on buying in Stowe--I've also skied there dozens of times and know the mountain pretty well. But I was wondering if  any of the knowledgable Northern Vermont skiers ( e.g Epic, Whiteroom)  would say that buying in Sugarbush verse Stowe would be a real error in judgment for some specific reason,e.g. snowfall is so much less at Sugarbush, or the resort's   Stowe infrastructure is so much better in term of lifts and snowmaking? 


I'd really appreciate your input. Thanks David

post #2 of 9

I haven't looked at either's financials but I think both are in reasonably decent shape,....for a ski area.  I agree, I think you get more for your money at Sugarbush.  I think that continues, unfortunately, to be tied to the American Skiing Company history.  To the majority of visiting skiers, Stowe is probably more attractive.  Stowe has better snowmaking and the mountain, I think, is set up better.  But heck, at Stowe, you can't buy a place close to the mountain unless you have a pretty big mountain of cash.  I subscribe to the idea, buy where you want to ski.

post #3 of 9
Take with grain of salt from non-local; whereas Stowe seems to be set up as a rock solid self-sustaining empire like Disney World, the fate of Sugarbush seems to be more dependent on a single outstanding personality, the current owner. Terrain-wise they both offer a lot of challenge and diversity. The proximity of Sugarbush to MRG and the opportunity to get occasional cheap single day tickets for MRG off Liftopia would be a plus for me to locate in the MRV, along with the more affordable property values. Do you plan to rent your place or use it primarily for yourself? Perhaps a rental property would bring in a bit more at Stowe. As VTRich implies, it's always safest to look at 2nd home ski properties as how much fun they can bring, rather than how much appreciation they can bring? Not that you're probably eligible for it, but that 2016-17 age 65+ midweek season pass at Sugarbush for $119 sounds like a retiree's dream.
post #4 of 9

I skied at Stowe for vacations for many years with my family and 10 years ago made the move to Sugarbush where we bought our condo.  Real estate costs are dramatically cheaper in the MRV as well as the cost for season passes ( especially for a family) at Sugarbush.   Both areas have great terrain and you could debate all day which is better.  Stowe is owned by AIG which probably uses the real estate development at Stowe as a big tax write-off while Sugarbush is more fiscally conservative as the private ownership group is lead by Win Smith.  I don't see any big issues with the infrastructure or financial viability at Sugarbush.  The biggest difference for me as remote owner who spends a lot of time in VT is that I like the vibe of the Mad River Valley way more than Stowe. 

post #5 of 9

Regarding the "under the hood" questions, I can add one tidbit regarding Sugarbush and snowmaking.


Last season essentially pushed every resort's system to the max. One thing that came up on every one of my visits to the area from staff and season pass holders on the lifts (I am just an occasional day guest), was that the recent snowmaking upgrade proved a huge help.


The new guns turned out to be so efficient in their use of compressed air that staff noted they had run out of water on occasion. Season pass holders had noted in previous years Sugarbush had struggled to utilize its snowmaking resources effectively.


Sugarbush often comes up here and on other forums for more frequent lift problems. They have a recent track record of lifts being down for maintenance periodically. The new Valley House Quad shows they are willing to invest though.


You may want to consider finding out how big of drop visitor number took specifically at Sugarbush. Locals and dedicated season pass holders keeping those numbers strong in a bad year is a huge plus for the bottom line. Look in comparison at Killington which saw a huge dip in visitors, and capital improvements have remained extremely minimal recently. 

post #6 of 9
Thread Starter 

Thank you- for the replies; very illuminating. I like the MRV "vibe" observation--I tend to think I'd like the vibe too. I do know Sugarbush is owned by a sole proprietor--ex Merrill exec- I believe; I was worried, with all the pressure on resorts today, about the nightmare scenario, (i.e. you buy property and the mountain goes bankrupt); it has to cross your mind. I know Stowe is more "corporate" overall; but in tough times, maybe corporate support adds a degree of stability. I saw a Sugarbush condo on Zillow this past week that looked interesting and thought about taking a look this weekend and they already reduced the price; they're negotiating with themselves--which is not a totally good news situation--and only feeds into the question of how viable  some of these areas are...

post #7 of 9

Perrsonally I like both Stowe and Sugarbush, but like Sugarbush a little more.  And I really like Winn's attitude.  ("Make your own decisions about skiing with thin cover...you guys are grown ups.")


The Stowe and AIG situation is similar, actually, but for Stowe it happened decades ago back when a CEO could use his company's money to buy a ski resort.  So now it is just historical trivia, and the corporate connection might add stability.  On the other hand, AIG was a major "bad guy" in 2008 and very easily could have gone broke.


But my unscientific observation from driving up to go skiing is that the proportion of vacant retail properites is quite a bit higher around Sugarbush than Stowe.  That may be an indicator.

post #8 of 9

Another in the like 'em both camp.  In the past several seasons I have found conditions overall to be better at Stowe, barring a recent storm.  God to hear that Sugarbush has improved their snowmaking, an area they were definitely behind in  as compared to Stowe.  I believe that they have long had problems with access to water for snowmaking, perhaps they fixed that as well.


MRV is probably my favorite place in VT.  No there is not as much going on there as in Stowe meaning fewer restaurants, not as many lodging options, less nightlife, less shopping.  The flip side of that is lower real estate prices.  I have looked into buying a 1 or 2 bedroom condo in teh area and prices are very reasonable. However, they don't seem to increase in value.  For a place to use and spend time, possibly live - great.  As an investment - not so great.


Were I looking to buy I would also consider Morrisville, just north of Stowe.

post #9 of 9

I'm a Stowe employee, so my experience with Stowe is more extensive, but I have my fair share of time spent in the MRV and at Sugarbush in particular, so I'll weigh in. First, I have to somewhat contradict @Jamesj about the "self-sustaining" bit of Stowe. Stowe has a great big sugar daddy in AIG, who has owned us since the forties, I believe. Those huge capital improvements you see at Stowe have been subsidized by our parent company, and AIG has expressed its willingness to support the mountain in lean years, like last season. So that does lend an additional layer of security to the mountain. 


However, Sugarbush isn't exactly in the situation of a Magic Mountain. They are a hugely recognizable and marketable entity, and if the current owner were to go belly up, they would be sold to a new owner very quickly, without any closure. Heck, look at Jay Peak. That's about as big a mess as you can imagine, but their lifts will turn and their guns will make snow this fall. 


For infrastructure, Stowe's is better. All of the primary lifts on the mountain are high speed, the gondola is over 20 years old, but has been upgraded and maintained meticulously, it looks and operates like new. The next oldest primary lift is only 12 years old. However, Sugarbush has just recently upgraded a major lift, and I would predict more upgrades are in the offing in the near future. Just a matter of what the life cycle is on different lifts. Stowe's lifts were older, so they got replaced sooner. Sugarbush's time is soon. 


For other infrastructure, pretty much every mountain in Vermont has recently upgraded their snowmaking capabilities. Efficiency Vermont offered significant subsidies to all the mountains in the state to upgrade to more modern, more efficient guns and systems. As far as I know, every major mountain took them up on that. So the snowmaking system at Sugarbush is going to be as good as the one at Stowe. The problem, mentioned above, is that Stowe's snowmaking reservoir is considerably bigger, so we have more water on hand for really tough years like this past one. That being said, I spent a lot of time looking over at our reservoir and worrying last season. It got low. 


Really, it's six-five and pick em when it comes to Sugarbush and Stowe. If you're in the MRV, you can drop a day trip into MRG, which is awesome. At Stowe, you can slide across Sterling pond and drop into Smuggs to day trip there. I give Sugarbush the nod there. Stowe has the Alchemist, MRV has Lawson's... draw. The big difference across the board is going to be cost. Stowe is more expensive. Both to live in and to ski at. If you are finding good deals on condos in the MRV, I'd pick Sugarbush. Yes, I'm a Stowe guy saying to pick the 'bush. 

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EpicSki › The Barking Bear Forums › On the Snow (Skiing Forums) › General Skiing Discussion › Sugarbush--Any insider insight/Anything I should know--Also Stowe v Sugarbush--what are key quantitative differences?