Frank DeBerry, new president and COO of Snowshoe Mountain Resort, sees good things ahead for his resort, including good snow right through closing day, now set for March 27.
DeBerry, former head of Mountain Creek in New Jersey, describes Snowshoe as "gorgeous, drop-dead gorgeous."
"Truly, I'll put it up against anything in the Northeast," he told OnTheSnow. "It has better snow than anyone would imagine in the Southeast. It just stunned me."
Snowshoe has 244 acres and 60 trails, a summit elevation of 4,818 feet, and vertical drop of 1,500 feet.
DeBerry says priorities are clear: "Right now the focus is going to be coming out of the recession, and drawing people in by growing occupancy on a three-season basis. The goals are to grow our midweek occupancy in winter; grow summer all around through a more intensive festival approach, bringing in additional attractions, and creating more partnerships with the entire Appalachian Mountains area of West Virginia; and then grow the fall, since there's really no program for the fall right now and everything I've seen just screams for increased visitation in the fall because of the beautiful foliage that's there."
DeBerry's experience in the Northeast may have inspired his thinking along another line - maple sugaring: "There's a strong maple syrup program in the area that we can bank for festivals and so on."
No. 1 priority: grow occupancy and visits, and lay groundwork so that if and when development opportunities revive in five years Snowshoe will be in a position to take part.
Beyond the immediate three-part goal, DeBerry said, he would be working with Snowshoe's management team to develop a resort wish list for capital projects.
"I could throw out the same laundry list as 90 percent of the resorts out there, but we're putting that together over the next few months. It will be a balance of basic ski infrastructure improvements and new business growth opportunities," he said.
DeBerry comes back to Intrawest, owner of Snowshoe, toward the end of a pretty good winter.
"It started a little late, then got cold enough, fast enough to open a lot of terrain very quickly. Conditions and visits got stronger, but not as strong as they should be weekdays, which is why I stressed the need to do more with midweek visits. Then right around Presidents Week the weather really turned against us. Right up until yesterday we were in a snow drought, with warm temperatures.
"It's certainly not going to be a record season, but not the worst, somewhere in between. We had a slow start, a good middle, and what seems to be an abrupt end ahead," he said.
"We got six inches of snow March 6, so we're making some noise about that. But it's difficult to convince people to come out since they're already mowing their lawns in some places," DeBerry said.
"That's the challenge right now. We've got three weeks of the season left, and we're going to finish with 41 of our 42 trails open in Snowshoe Basin/Western Territory, so people who come up will have a good experience."
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