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SUBSCRIPTION PASS OPTION, TEASING SKIING’S FUTURE

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Article by: Stuart Winchester

"Skiers do this too. At some point we all think we would buy and rescue a ski area and it would be the greatest ski area in the world. Lifts everywhere and zero grooming and tree-skiing all over and cliffs and nothing roped off ever and at the base only a bar and a hot tub because who gives a shit about anything else? Ski school is for Jerrys and rentals are for Jerrys and what's with all these Jerrys wanting to Jerry up our ski area, huh?

Jon Schaefer runs a ski area that way, though with a version more anchored in a reality in which families and beginners exist. In a typically energetic note posted last week to his mountains' websites, the Northeast's most fearless ski area operator announced two new lifts for Catamount and one for Berkshire East. Both would likely come with immediate terrain expansions. Massive snowmaking upgrades are coming. They're exploring "battery backup systems" to "disconnect our demand charges from the grid." He admitted their terrible e-commerce system was terrible and would be replaced this offseason. Oh, and they're still making snow. These announcements continue years of furious and continuous development at both ski areas.

Why don't more people run ski areas like this? Why don't more people do all the things skiers want them to do and do it fast and do it in furious tornadic fashion that's blinding and bewildering to behold? Why don't more people turn boring ski areas into tenaciously interesting ones, glading and burning new trails and tossing lifts up through the trees and burying the place in snow from the first frost to the last? Why don't more people run ski areas like we all know we would run a ski area?

The answer is simple: most people don't run a ski area like Jon Schaefer because most people can't run a ski area like Jon Schaefer. Like some kind of apprentice of the howling North, he literally grew up on the slopes of Berkshire East, every spare minute of wintertime childhood spent absorbing the arts of ski area operation. When his father Roy arrived from Michigan in the 1970s, toting three kids in a station wagon, he found a beaten-down and ramshackle operation and kept it alive through a fantastic devotion to the frugal and the inventive, the whole outfit a Frankenslope stitched together from two dozen broken and lost ski areas across the country. Like a clan of samurais practicing and perfecting their arts in the high-mountain caves over centuries, the Schaefers have honed the improbable craft of making skiing function at a high level in, of all places, Massachusetts. Like a man raised among wolves, Jon is wired for a different world. He is not like the rest of us. He is a mountain wizard in an artform us terrestrial people can study but never truly master."

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Friday, 19 April 2024