It’s been a year since Bobby Murphy took over as vice-president and general manager of Stowe Mountain Resort, under Vail Resorts ownership. Since then, he’s managed to weather a storm of rumors. We sat down with the former Vail ski school director and PSIA Alpine Team member and director of communications, Jeff Wise, to get the facts on what’s up for this season
Q: There have been some rumors flying so let’s set this straight: what’s the opening time, closing day?
A: “We’re not changing the opening times, which I think are the earliest in the country. On weekdays, we’ll open the Four Runner Quad at 8:00 a.m. and weekends, at 7:30. We’re also going to be closing on April 21. Historically, Stowe has closed around Easter. Last year, Easter just fell a little too early for some.
Q: Stowe revamped its parking last year. Did it work? And will you be charging for parking or any VIP spaces?
A: We’re really proud of how well parking and public transit worked last year. We had a great team. It was one of the team who came up with the idea of painting blue lines on the snow, like we do on race courses, to keep the cars spaced better. The kid’s parking area drop off also really worked well and we worked closely with Green Mountain Transit to improve the public bus access and to have regular times and stops. And no, we’re not charging, just trying to help families with kids who need to be dropped off have easy access.
Q: We keep hearing “Vail Resorts is buying Smuggler’s Notch.” Is that happening, and if not, what would it take to reconnect the two resorts, so you could once again ski back and forth and have a lift ride (or pass privileges)?
A: Sorry, but we’re a publicly-traded company and we can’t comment on anything having to do with acquisitions. And that’s not part of my job, I focus on Stowe. We have not had any conversations about connecting the two resorts.
Q: You’re eliminating the RFID gates and bringing the EpicMix app to Stowe. What are the coolest things that app can do?
A: We’re replacing the gates with hand scanners, which are much more efficient. We’ll also have gantries that can read your Epic pass and relay information to the EpicMix app. EpicMix is pretty cool: it can tell you how long lift lines are, track your vertical, read digital trail maps, track your family and even earn you badges for things like skiing all the lifts at one resort in one day. We even have a Jetsetter badge which one couple and an instructor earned by skiing Vail, Park City, Utah and Heavenly, in Lake Tahoe, all in one day and flying their private jet between them.
Q: There’s been talk of a redo of the Octagon and the Midway Lodge. Any more details or a timeline? And, most important, will the Octagon breakfast sandwich stay the same?
A: We are planning to invest in all of our on-mountain lodges and look for ways we can be more efficient – maybe offering something like an “Open Table” function on the EpicMix app, but don’t worry, the breakfast sandwich will stay.
Q: Someone recently mentioned you had a plan in place for mountain biking trails. What is that plan and when do you foresee lift-served mountain biking coming?
A: There’s been a plan in place for years, but we have a lot to do and that’s something we’ll have to study further.
Q: Tell us about the new Adventure Zones and signage for the glades. Will you be thinning more acreage?
A: We’ll be maintaining some of the low-angle woods and clearing out hazards and adding some signage so people know where to go in and out of places like Tres Amigos and the woods off Lullaby Lane.
Q: Both Vail Resorts Epic Promise and CEO Rob Katz and his wife Elana Amsterdam have set up generous foundations to both protect the environment and support local mountain communities. What are some of the ways that Vermont has or will benefit from that this coming season?
A: Well, the Katz’s privately donated $100,000 to the Stowe Land Trust last year and Vail Resorts is committed to supporting mountain communities, education and the environment in many ways. One example: We just had an EpicPromise day where Stowe employees working with the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps helped pick more than 800 pounds of carrots that will go to families in need. EpicPromise Foundation grants also help with schooling for children of employees.
Q: We heard the Stowe team made quite the splash at Vail Resorts annual conference in Keystone recently. What was that all about?
A: Even though it’s not necessarily a black tie event, we wanted to stand out and represent Vermont so we all wore tuxes with red buffalo checked bow ties and wraps for the women. Stowe won the “Drive Value” award for “growing profit through smart and innovative business practices.”