by: Powder Bud - 24th March 2014

  • 3
  • Beginner
  • Intermediate
  • Expert
  • 3All-Mtn. Terrain
  • 5Family Friendly
  • 1Nightlife
  • 4Terrain Park
  • Value
Bumps, northern exposure
Intrawest, lift management, crowds

Full review

I used to ski WP/MJ almost exclusively for over 10 years. They used to be the best managed ski mountain in the country, and I've been to most of the ones in the western U.S. and many in Europe. A few seasons after Intrawest gained more access and control from the City of Denver, things went downhill fast and seem to be still going that direction. I ski only a few days per season at Mary Jane anymore and each time I'm reminded of why I stopped buying a pass there: Their management practices are severely aggravating for anybody who want more than a few groomer runs in their day. Intrawest will stop the lift because a lifty needs to pee; because someone looks nervous getting on a lift; because a glove or pole was dropped, and apparently a TON of other very minor issues that could be easily addressed without stopping 400 people who would like to get to the top and start skiing. This is great if you're a beginner or intermediate on the WP side, but MJ has NO GREEN RUNS and thus, no beginner runs other than the short jaunt between the "C" lot and the Super Express chair. Yet, Intrawest prefers to cater to people who are in terrain far above their ability level and make the rest of the customers pay that price. They will close lifts seemingly for no reason, then if you ARE able to get somebody to give you any answers, they'll give you the Corporate B.S. to brush you off. It's sad. This used to be run by very personable people who actually cared to deliver the most fun to all their customers as they possibly could. Now the mentality seems to be "Shut up and stay in the herd. We don't want to hear anything we don't like". The management there clearly doesn't understand or more likely, couldn't care less how excited a customer may be to hit some fresh powder after slaving away all week at our jobs. They have stopped lifties from scanning passes & tickets prior to the lift opening time so now you have a bunch of very eager people trying to get past the scanners to just get on the lift and ride. Also, the loading at the Super Gauge Express at MJ is the dumbest design I could imagine. I have seen this loading design pop up at one or two other resorts with poor results as well. Why do you give people LESS time to deal with an approaching chair than before and hope for better results? And if you can't load and unload a lift, why are you at an area that serves only intermediate and largely expert runs?? Part of that answer may be the screw job that WP has done to it's base area. It's such a cluster F getting from your car to the runs, that many (too many!) people are opting for the less hassle of Mary Jane parking lots. That brings more and more beginners that aren't knowledgeable or experienced enough to not cause congestion problems. Yes, I have a long list of reasons to give a poor review of WP/MJ, but if only Intrawest management could see past the end of their luxury 3rd home drive way, they could turn WP around and once again make it one of the best run resorts in the country. Unfortunately, their primary interest is real estate development for people who ski 10:am to 1:00pm on blue groomers which is not the core demographic of WP customer base. There are some steeps at Mary Jane and Vasquez Cirque, but they're pretty short, yet still fun. So many trees trees have been cut down due to beetle kill, that the sun bakes a lot of the steep sections fast and crust is no fun on a 50 degree chute with rocks all around you. You need to be there on powder days and hit your favorite runs early as everything gets beat down fast compared to some other resorts I go to. This would indicate the popularity of MJ and WP. Locals will hit it hard on powder days but then leave around noon if it's not still snowing. Berthoud Pass screens out some squeemish drivers from the Denver area and front range, but not enough. Too many people drive that pass as if 5 mph is the only safe speed and will NEVER move over to the side to let normal confident drives by. Get up there early, it's much better sitting in your car in the parking lot relaxing than being stuck behind poor drivers on Berthoud Pass. WP/MJ does have fun terrain for pretty much all levels of riders/skiers, the mountain itself is great. What drags it down is primarily the management practices employed by Intrawest. I was very glad to see them sell Copper Mtn, but Intrawest had already ruined the base area there just as they're doing with Winter Park. If you don't live in Colorado, I highly suggest trying other resorts here as well as WP/MJ and do your own comparison. You'll spend a lot less time sitting still on a chair lift at other resorts.
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