Interview with Shawnee Mountain’s Josh Urciuoli

Interview with Shawnee Mountain’s Josh Urciuoli

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I heard that Shawnee moved their main freestyle terrain
park from one side of the mountain (The Bushkill run) clear
to the other side (The Delaware run) near their beginner
terrain park Incubator (located on the Country Club trail) for
this season? If that’s true, what can we expect to find on
the original Bushkill run as well as the new Delaware terrain
park and what was the reasoning behind the move?
Josh Urciuoli: Well, really multiple thoughts went into it. Our
biggest priority was easier lift access. By having it on the other
side of the mountain, we can access that trail from a high
speed quad. So skiers and riders can get up the mountain
much faster and it’s much closer to
the terrain park. Our old terrain park
was serviced by an older double
chair lift that will still be in service
but it just did not get the terrain
park riders to the top fast enough.
One of the other benefits is that
we redid all of the snowmaking on
that side of the hill. So we have all
new snowmaking lines, new guns,
new hydrants and more of them. So
we are able to make snow much
faster and better on that trail than
we were on Bushkill. Since you’ve
ridden here you might recall that
Bushkill is a very wide trail. So it
took so much volume of snow in
order to really open that terrain park. The design of the new
park offers smaller features with a better layout. When we
consulted several different terrain park builders we learned
that everyone in a resort type setting is going smaller. A
place that has an entire ski area dedicated to a terrain park is
different but when you have it on one trail in a 23 trail facility
like here, you really have to accommodate everybody.
The new terrain park seems like a smart move and the
snowmaking operation there sounds amazing. Did you
improve other areas of Shawnee as far as snowmaking goes
for this season?
Well, every year we invest about 20% back into our snowmaking
facilities, if not more. We added a new Centac compressor this
year and we also added some more automated trails. Mountainwide
we make significant snowmaking improvements each
and every year.
I first came to ski at Shawnee through the Denville, NJ
Recreation Ski Program. This was a great way to introduce
my kids to skiing and to cut some turns at a mountain I had
not realized was so close to my home. What types of other
clubs and opportunities does Shawnee offer to get more
kids and people in general into skiing and boarding?
Well, we still do our multi-visits, our after school programs as
well as our recreational clubs which tend to be on Saturday
and Sunday. Those numbers are
pretty consistent throughout the
years. What we’ve seen a nice rise
in is our Liftopia ticket sales. A lot
of people don’t necessarily want to
commit to a four, five, six or even
seven week commitment. But they
might look at the weekend forecast
and see that the weather is going
be great with maybe a little natural
snow and so they go online and
buy a ticket. Those sales have
definitely increased.
Metropolis Nights has a huge
social media reach but our print
readers are mainly from central
and northern, NJ. Shawnee is just a short ride from there.
Do you find that you are pulling customers from there or is
it more spread out?
We are really a mixed bag. The majority of our business I
would say comes from north Jersey but also from Long Island,
Staten Island and New York City. We are so close to New York
City but we also pull from Philadelphia because that is not far
away either.
To be honest, I was surprised to meet people from Philly and
Long Island when I was there last year but when you chat
it up with people on the chairlift, sure enough you see just
how far they are willing to travel to ski Shawnee.
Yeah, even people from Maryland make the trip here. In our
rental shop everyone has to fill out their information including
their address when renting gear so you see where they are all
coming from. There are actually a lot of Shawnee customers
from Maryland and even Delaware.
There has to be a reason they are coming to Shawnee
because they could certainly visit other resorts much
faster. Why do you think they choose Shawnee and make
the extra investment of time to get to you?
Well one of the things I know
we do really well here is the
beginner and intermediate skier.
Whereas other ski areas might
be improving other parts of
their resorts with non-ski related
things like zip lines, waterparks,
rope courses, hotels, etc… you
only have so much of a pie. And
a lot of that pie has to go to your
chlorine levels and other non-ski
related aspects. I’m not bashing
any of those places but I think
that people that are still core skiers and riders who enjoy
a wood fed fireplace and great beginner and intermediate
terrain come to us for that reason.
You can’t always be all things to all people and as you said,
you can focus your budget on the one thing people have
come to know you for when you stay true to the sport and
your customer base. So what is going to be on the Bushkill
trail now that the terrain park has been retired?
Well, Bushkill has now been leveled out. It still has the same
gradual rollers that it used to have but it’s really just a nice,
wide cruising trail now. Honestly, it’s one of my favorite trails
here. You can make nice GS turns down it and it’s just a very
solid intermediate cruising trail now. Were you ever here
before it became a terrain park?
No, it’s always been a terrain
park in my experience at
Shawnee.
Ah, then you missed out. (laughs)
One of my favorite parts of this
move is getting that trail back. If
you think about the top pitch of
that trail, it’s a little steep. You
can make two nice turns on that
and then carry that all the way
through sweeping GS turns in
very nice terrain. Also- since most people don’t want to take
the F lift you will have that mostly to yourself if you choose to
stay on that side.
And now the terrain park fans are going to be on the other
side of the mountain so I’d imagine you’ll have it even more
to yourself if you are just looking to cruise on Bushkill.
Yeah, for sure. What we started to see more and more were
some really good athletes wanting to get on the Incubator
park because small technical jib-style rails are what’s in. I
don’t mean small in size, I just mean they don’t have to be
on top of a 20 foot pile of snow. The technique has taken
more precedence over the size. What you can do on a 10
foot hip is more exciting than what you can do on a 60 foot
table top. So what we started seeing was more and more
better snowsports athletes spending time over in the little
kid’s park. So basically what we did was create this whole
area just for those people to enjoy. The other thing that I love
about this place, and I’ve been
all over the place, is that you
don’t see the 20 year old guy
on the snowboard or pair of skis
whose been doing this for years,
barreling over the 13 year old.
What you do see is them usually
stopping and helping them
because they know they’re the
cool kid. Instead of the cool kid
being like, “Get out of my way!”
They’re more like, “Hey man, I
see you’re trying to do a 180. Let
me help you.” I think that this new park because of it’s style, is
gonna lend itself to that. That’s because Delaware is a twisty,
narrow trail and Country Club is small though wide and what
you’re gonna see is pockets… You’re gonna see a couple
people session in the hips and stay there, hiking it over and
over. You’re gonna see The Rail Garden which is at the bottom
of Delaware and you can see it from the chair lift, the parking
lot and the base area because it’s a gradual slope. You’re
going to see them on there and see them hiking it because
why wouldn’t you hike the 3 rails you love the most? I think
you’re going to find this new park although linear with a really
good flow, is gonna have pockets of people that are going to
stick to a good area for a while and then move on. Whereas
with the old park you entered it through a rail and then you
had 3 big jumps and went to another rail… You almost had to
ride the whole thing to enjoy it. I think this new layout is going
to be more receptive to sit-and-stop type riding.
For those out there who may
not be avid enthusiasts just yet,
what can they expect if they
were to rent gear onsite from
Shawnee?
We’ve got an impressive ski and
rental facility but for the coming
season we purchased 500 pair
of new Elan skis, 200 new Flow
and Rossignol snowboards and
200 new Giro helmets to add to our inventory. Fun fact- The
Shawnee Mountain Rental Shop one of the largest in the USA
and is able to outfit over 4000 skiers/snowboarders.
Thanks for your time Josh and see you out there in the
white!
You can follow Shawnee at Facebook.com/skishawnee,
@Skishawnee or learn more at www.shawneemt.com.

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