Vail Resorts has done a great job communicating about the improvements at Mt. Brighton, and with the season opener right around the corner it seemed like a great time to get some more details. On Wednesday afternoon I caught up with Taylor Ogilvie, General Manager at Vail Resorts for Mt. Brighton, for a quick Q&A.
While Mt. Brighton has been around for over 50 years serving the Metro-Detroit area, it’s no secret that Vail Resorts pretty much reinvented the place this summer. What’s been the most exciting part of being involved with a transformation like this?
Probably the excitement in the community about what we’re doing here. So many people are incredibly excited to see Mt. Brighton finally get the love that it deserves, to make it a nice place to be. There is a lot of love for this ski area, and the appreciation of the community really excites me.
And what’s been the biggest challenge so far?
The unknowns. Renovating an older facility is always a challenge, working through these unforeseen circumstances and problems that need to be repaired so that we can get everything in great shape.
Mt. Brighton has done a ton of development to the terrain, lift system, and snowmaking capabilities. All of these things together should improve the skier/rider experience at Mt. Brighton. Care to elaborate on any of these?
It really does speak for itself. We’ve put in an entirely new snowmaking system. We have lifts that don’t break (laughs). The base lodge will be a place that’s nice to spend time in; it will be a place where you want to hang out with your friends.
With an investment of this nature, I expect it will probably be phased in over a few years. What can we expect for the upcoming season, and what sort of continuing improvements can we look forward to in the future?
We’ve really gone for broke on this. We’ve gone huge — base lodge, lifts, re-grading terrain, etc. You’ll see incremental improvements on the golf course, new sand, moving the tee-boxes, etc. new mowers.
We will continue to evaluate the restaurant offerings for creative menu options. Longer term we’re considering other activities like tubing or a mountain bike park, but for right now we’re fixing winter and then moving on from there.
Nothing is off the table in terms of other fun things we want to do but we want to fix winter, first.
There’s a lot of competition in the state of Michigan, has more ski resorts than any other state except New York. Three of these are within 30-40 minutes of Mt. Brighton. For a ski area this presents some challenges. What do you consider will be Mt. Brighton’s strongest point?
I think our facility will be great. The snowmaking also will help us stand apart from the rest. I also think that our product and pass offerings are very competitive. The Mt. Brighton season pass is cheaper than than the competitors’ passes, and for about the same price as theirs, you can get the Epic pass that works at the Western resorts.
The addition of a more upscale dining option, with the Ore Creek Mountain Grill, is a nice alternative to the standard cafeteria fare. While I’m sure the food will be great, what I’m really interested in is the beer list. Can you share any information about what breweries you’ll be offering?
This is still in the works but our guests should expect a good mix of microbrews primarily from Michigan and Colorado. The Colorado brews of course to tie us back to our roots, but Michigan is an incredible beer state and it will be fun to pair the two in one restaurant.
You’re planning for early December which is especially reasonable in light of all the development you’re doing. Around here, even Thanksgiving is often overly optimistic, yet a few ski areas nearby will be opening this afternoon. Some people are asking why you’re not “all hands on deck” to open early. Any comment?
We don’t have a definitive opening date just yet. We’re hoping not to open with a marginal product; we’d like to open with a great product. We are doing the lift inspections, working through kinks and testing our snowmaking right now as we speak. We will be ready to make snow in the next week or two and making sure everything (lodge) is buttoned up.
I’m happy people in the area are already skiing, and that they’re excited for an early season. It’s great that some of the other ski resorts have been able to open early.
So my daughter is 19 months old right now, I’m assuming she’s still too young for your Children’s Ski & Ride School Center, but hopefully I can get her there in a few years. What age group are you targeting with the Children’s program? And what other activities will you offer?
We’re going to start at 3 years old. I’ve had a ton to do with ski school in Vail where we’ve had great success with 3-6 year olds. It’s a great opportunity to bring pre-school kids here.
We understand people are busy, I’m busy, everyone’s busy. We want to offer an experience where you don’t have to plan four weekends of ski school in a row, so if you want to bring your kid day-of, and drop off for a great day of skiing in a fun and safe environment, that’s what we want to offer. We will have a children’s center with ½-day and full-day experiences. They will meet in the morning, ski with an instructor, have lunch, ski some more in the afternoon. Of course this will be for kids 7-12, too.
Over the last few years, both Cannonsburg and Nub’s Nob have cracked the Top 3 terrain parks in the Midwest. With Snow Park Technologies at the helm of Brighton’s terrain design, it looks like you’re gearing up to give them a serious run for their money.
Snow Park Technologies has done all our design. We want our guests to have a blast at our terrain parks and in addition to the freestyle terrain we will be continuing the boardercross course, too. We will keep the terrain park fresh, we’re not going to do it once and say “that’s it”.
We’ve heard about the 20 boxes and 10 rails and the signature features being delivered from out west but what’s in store for the jump lines? How many and how big?
Some of it will be experimenting this season, with the pitch, the hill, but I’d foresee four in back, medium sized in the 30-40ft range, and on the front side maybe one that’s close to 50ft and smaller jumps throughout.
Will Mt. Brighton be hosting any special events– holiday festivities, big air/slopestyle, rail jam contests or series, etc.?
Yeah we have some rail jams scheduled on our website it will be coming up soon. We will have some family events in the lodge, like the New Year’s Eve blowout with fireworks and a midnight torchlight ski. And we are adding a USSA ski race in early February. We just launched the website last week so content is going up daily and that’s where you can find out about these and other events.
I would like to thank Taylor/Vail Resorts for making themselves available and taking the time to answer some questions, and I would also like to thank all of you who submitted questions on Facebook. I think we covered all of them!