My family gathers every year with another over the President’s Day in Southern Vermont to do some skiing. Since the lodge we stay at is equidistant from Mt. Snow and Stratton, it is asked, “Where shall we ski?” To my astonishment, not one of the eight people in our group, not one, had a strong opinion, though some of us have been skiing at both areas for 40 years. So, we decide to spend one day at each, and I set out to take a close look at the guest experience at both of these venerable institutions.
The parking/lodge experience is a wash. Both areas have satellite outposts that allow you to avoid the mosh pit at the main ski lodge, a big thing for our families. Easy in, and easy out.
The staff members we encountered at both areas were universally friendly. The ticket agent at Stratton used my name. When I returned a rented helmet, I was asked how the ski day was and to come back again. Mt. Snow ticket agents were friendly and resourceful, but I give the edge to Stratton for guest recognition.
In regards to skiing, we couldn’t find a single mogul at Stratton, but the glade skiing was a blast. Lift lines were long at times, but our group broke up as singles, and we never waited more than 10 minutes, even at peak times. On the way home, happy, tired faces filled our cars. Great day at Stratton.
Mt. Snow did a better job with the ski terrain. The Canyon Express chair is the perfect family set-up. It doesn’t go to the top (cold and wind are fun killers), and it serves several intermediate trails that run parallel to others, which are ‘bumped up’ with extensive moguls which keeps the experts happy. This chair also allows access to the North Face which offers legitimate black diamond trails, though they were scraped pretty good. Mid-day, they opened ‘The Trials’, which provided the best glade runs we had all weekend. Great skiing at Mt. Snow.
So, what’s the difference? I left my ski helmet home and had to rent one at each area. Everything about the rental experience was virtually identical. Both rentals cost $10 a day (a fair price). Service was breezy, which is good; when you rent equipment, you want it fast.
Oops! All ready to go for the first run at Mt. Snow, and I noticed that the retainer strap that holds the goggles on the back of the helmet was broken. Hold on everyone, I will be right back. I run down to the rental shop, and I was given an apology and shrugged shoulders when I was told that every helmet they rented had a broken retainer strap. How could this be? It is strap? If it breaks, fix it.
So, each wonderful moment I had at Mt. Snow was laced by the fact that my goggles kept coming off or slipping down onto my neck. It nagged at me all day.
I realize this is not even as remotely serious as the accelerator problems at Toyota, which Adam talked about this week on GuestIQ, but it shows how one seemingly remote defect can tarnish the experience and by extension, the brand. The accelerator problem at Toyota has a lot of complexity and layers, but a $2 retainer strap doesn’t. It just takes someone at Mt. Snow to stop tolerating it.
So, which ski area is better? Before I answer that, I have to ask if you might need a helmet.