Working in his winter wonderland
Last year’s skier days broke records at The Canyons and across the state. After making more than $10 million in improvements over the summer, The Canyons President F. Scott Pierpont hopes those records are shattered in the 2006-07 season.
With lifts scheduled to start carrying skiers and snowboarders up the mountain at 8:30 this morning, many will be able to get a small taste of what the state’s largest resort has to offer.
"This is my 33rd season in the ski business, six at The Canyons, and they all have their moments of excitement on opening day because you’ve been working hard all summer long making improvements and now you get to showcase them," Pierpont said.
But many of the additions won’t be available for a few more weeks until the entire mountain is operating.
"On Saturday we should have the Gondola, Saddleback, Pine Meadow and Sweet Pea going," he said. "We should have the whole mountain open by Dec. 9, weather permitting."
Pierpont said the $10 million expenditure will be seen and felt by every guest throughout the season, be it in quality of service and amenities or available terrain.
"Our focus has always been on the mountain and has always been on service, and we’ll always continue to improve in both those areas. They go hand in hand," he said.
Snowboarders will be likely be pleased, Pierpont said, will the improvements made to the terrain parks, adding new features to ‘Rider’s Heaven.’
"I think we’ll be wowing all the guests who come and use the parks this year," he said. "Add to that the seven natural half-pipes at The Canyons and it’s just a great place to ride."
The most noticeable addition is the new high-speed detachable quad DreamCatcher lift, which will add more than 200 acres of skiable terrain to the mountain. But Pierpont said the newly opened area wouldn’t just be more of what they already had; rather it will be unconventional and progressive environment.
"When we went to the county planning commission we said we wanted to do some non-traditional ski runs," Pierpont said. "We wanted to make it blend more into the landscape. We’ve created pods of islands and a lot of great glade skiing that’s all black diamond."
Another out-in-front change guests will notice is the upgrade made to the Tombstone lift.
"The Tombstone lift was a detachable quad and it’s such a critical area for us because if you’re going to the north or to the south you have to get on that lift," Pierpont said. "So we decided to change it out to a high-speed 6-pack, which will turn out 3,200 people an hour, which will really decrease the bottleneck there. It should open Dec. 2."
Pierpont said one of their major concerns they wanted to address over the summer were long lines and crowding. By adding the DreamCatcher and upgrading Tombstone, many would say the mission has been accomplished, but The Canyons took it one step further.
"We added an additional 12 cabins to the Cabriolet which will help get you on the mountain quicker and get you down to your car at the end of the day," he said.
"We also added space to Red Pine Lodge this summer and completely remodeled both the first and second floor," he continued. "We were able to add 175 seats on the second floor as well as some seats on the deck. We remodeled the kitchen with a new food-serving area and the addition of a carving station. It’ll have its grand opening next week."
Stemming from an increase in conference bookings and recent awards for the food at Lookout Cabin, The Canyons is also adding a new groups-only feature.
"We’re going to add a new product there for groups of 40 or more where you can take a gondola ride then a sleigh ride," he said. "It’s just a new product we can add to our quiver in the winter time for our conferences."
The Spring Concert Series will also continue, as will the Western Barbeque at the top of the Gondola.
In response to the rapid increase in demand for on-mountain lodging, four new condominium hotels are currently under construction at the base area. The first will be finished as early as February 2007.
"We put $10 million into the resort this summer so we’ve been extremely busy," Pierpont said. "From all of our survey results we identified what the top three areas to improve were and we addressed all three of them. When our guests speak we listen to their concern and within our powers we do what we can to make it a better experience for them."
Pierpont doesn’t plan to just view the new lifts and amenities from his office; he is, first and foremost, a skier.
"I’ve been skiing for 47 years or so and I love it," he said. "To get to do this as a job is amazing."
"I lead tours twice a week all winter long on First Tracks because I love skiing in the morning, so I might as well show them some of the secret places not all of them of course," he joked. "But we usually don’t see anyone else until 9:30 a.m. and we start at 7:30."
The tours he leads are anything but unresearched. He said he spent his first few years at The Canyons "exploring the north side of the mountain and the last few years exploring the south side."
He said he currently favors the southern slopes because "of the vistas, how the trails are set up, glade skiing and the vertical drops" on that side of the mountain.
"When I ski I usually head south to Tombstone and go to Grande and then move to 99-90," he said. "And then off of that I’ll go on the north side and go on Fantasy Ridge. Then I’d head off of Peak-5 to the Abyss, and then in the woods at DreamCatcher. Now that’s a great day."
Pierpont said it’s the size and variety of The Canyons that sets the resort apart from the rest.
"We’re really billing ourselves this year as the ultimate winter playground," he said. "If you look at the 3,700 acres, eight peaks, five bowls, 19 lifts and terrain for all abilities, it’s just a amazing mountain. It’s a great place to come to work; my job is one thing I’m never late for."
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A member of the Park City Planning Commission for at least the second time in less than a year spoke publicly about a concept that would financially involve City Hall in a development proposal at Park City Mountain Resort. Planning Commissioner John Phillips did not address the concept in any depth during a lengthy meeting.