“When Titus went up for sale in 2011, my family had no intentions of purchasing the mountain,” explained Bruce Monette III. “It was only when we heard some of the bigger mountains in the Northeast were trying to buy the lifts, motors, chairs, etc., for their own mountains and were planning to gut and shut Titus down that we decided it was the right thing to do for the town, community and the greater North Country.”
In their first year of ownership, the Monettes rebranded the mountain, revamped the logo and changed its name to Titus Mountain Family Ski Center. “Without many affordable activities for today’s youth, we saw the importance of keeping Titus alive,”
THE DEVELOPMENT OF TITUS MOUNTAIN
Under the Monettes’ stewardship, Titus Mountain (a trio of three mountains: Upper, Middle and Lower) has become a family fun center with a total of 50 trails (groomed, ungroomed and glades); mountain topography of 200 skiable acres with a base elevation of 1,043’, a summit of 2,025’ and a vertical drop of 1,200’; robust snowmaking over 85% of terrain; multiple lifts; a snowtubing slope; and popular night skiing.
Unlike any other ski area in New York State, the Ski Patrol at Titus is staffed by volunteers who pass a certification exam. On a busy day, there are about 30 ski patrol members on the mountain. In addition, there could be anywhere from 125-140 employees depending on the number of arrivals that day and the skiing conditions.
Following are excerpts from my conversation with Bruce Monette III:
Q: What is the Monette management philosophy? What works in terms of
running the businesses?
A: My father and uncles like to oversee everything and are involved in any big decisions, but leave the day-to-day operations to the general managers. Their philosophy is to find the best general manager for each enterprise and let that person run the business. Many of these people have been in their respective positions for a long time, so we trust them and rely on their experience. In Titus Mountain’s case, Zach White, our General Manager, has been in the industry for 30 years. His experience has helped him have a better understanding about when snow should be made, or what should be the first day we open each year.
Q: What are the rewards of running this business? Challenges?
A: The rewards are seeing all the smiling faces on the kids. One of the biggest rewards of all though is being able to teach more and more kids how to ski and grow the sport. With over 3,000 kids in the learn-to-ski program last year alone we know we are helping to develop the skills of the next generation of skiers and snowboarders.
Like any business, there are always going to be challenges. In the ski industry, the biggest challenge we face is the weather. You could have the best marketing plan, an energetic staff and the mountains in amazing condition but if the weather doesn’t cooperate, none of that matters. It can get tricky too. We love it when we get big dumps of snow but if they come in the middle of a Friday night, many people can’t get out of their driveways to get to the mountain.
Since the Monettes purchased Titus Mountain in 2011 they have:
• Renovated the lodge and doubled its floor space, added a kitchen and dining experience upstairs and expanded
• Added parking spaces and locker perks for Titus Peak Pass holders.
• Replaced the handle tow off the Bunny Hill and added the Magic Carpet.
• Added the chair lift on the Bunny Hill (where young skiers can practice before heading up the mountain).
• Added Little Tykes Park (a terrain park), which offers small rails and jumps for kids to start their practice.
• Cut over 20 new trails to offer glade skiing and brought the first double Black Diamond trails/glades to the mountain.
• Built a new warming hut on the tubing hill that can host up to three private parties.
• Built four overnight cabins for guests to stay slope-side, each equipped with a propane fireplace, bar, shower, bedroom, and living room.
• Constructed two larger homes that are ski-in, ski-out properties. One, called the Wyndham, can sleep 15 people.
• Offered private lots for purchase for additional ski-in and ski-out homes.
• Created ski and stay packages in conjunction with the Holiday Inn Express in Malone.
• Added three mascots: Titus Teddy, Shredding Betty and Duder the Tuber.
• Bought new, more efficient snowmaking equipment and increased snowmaking capability for the mountain.
Q: How many people can “play” on the mountain at once?
A: With almost 1,000 acres (300 of which are skiable), two separate lodges and three mountains, we have always been able to accommodate as many people as would like to attend. From the top of Upper Mountain to the bottom of the Lower Mountain Lodge, we have over 3.5 miles of trails. We have some groups — schools and businesses that take advantage of the “Own the Upper”. It gives customers the ability to rent the entire Upper Lodge and Mountain for a private party. We keep the lifts running and have a groomer there for them. That way it is always like first tracks.
Q: What percentage of your business, in past seasons, has come from Canadian skiers? What plans do you have in place to make up for this for the upcoming season?
A: We’ve relied on the Canadians. Not only were a good number of them season pass holders but a lot of our weekend visitors traveled from across the border. We are hoping this year brings new families out to try skiing or tubing. Because of the pandemic, there aren’t the same options that there usually are whether it be hockey tournaments or basketball leagues. We are hoping that some of those folks think of us as a way to get the family together and have a blast.
Q: What is your snowmaking philosophy?
A: At Titus, we like to make sure that the weather is cold and is going to stay cold. We never rush to be the first ones open, so we don’t worry about blowing snow in early November. We would rather wait and make sure we offer our skiers and snowboarders a great base with amazing conditions.
Q: Tell us about your Skibanas. Are they heated?
A: The Skibana was an idea that came after COVID-19 when we were thinking of ways to keep our visitors and staff as safe as possible and still serve them good food. In Mo’s Pub and Grill, we were used to the 50% dining capacity rule for inside spaces, so we figured that when the state came out with guidelines for ski areas that would be in place. We wanted to make sure guests still had somewhere warm where they could relax, have a hot meal and a refreshing beverage, and not have to worry about the big crowds. Now they’ll have the option for their own private space exclusively for their friends and family. They text us their order, and it is brought out to them. And yes, Skibanas are fully heated.
Q: What practices will be in place to ensure the safety of your visitors?
A: We will adhere to all guidelines established by New York State and Ski Areas of New York, Inc. Our dining room will have a reduced seating, masks will be required in the indoor common areas and other social distancing guidelines will be in place. Being a small family owned mountain, we don’t have a lot of the same issues some of the bigger mountains. Also, we think we are at a nice advantage with the trails spread out over three mountains and the Upper and Lower Mountain lodges. It gives people a lot more room to spread out as they ski, and still have multiple places to warm up.
Q: What would you like people to know about Titus Mountain?
A: We want people to know that it is not the old Titus Mountain. So many people from around the North Country who skied here before we purchased the mountain in 2011 can’t believe the upgrades. We have worked hard to turn it into a fun and affordable family resort, and we are accomplishing that. Liftopia, an online marketplace serving the mountain activity industry, awarded Titus Mountain Family Ski Center the #1 Family Friendly Resort in North America in 2018 and 2nd in 2019. We know we may not have the big vertical that some other mountains have but we will put the experience you receive at Titus Mountain up against anywhere else.
Titus Mountain Family Ski Center
215 Johnson Road
Malone, NY 12953