Snow Ridge Gets Lift From Family Dynamic

AMANDA MORRISON / NNY BUSINESS
Cynthia J. Sisto, right, and her son, Nicholas Mir are co-owners of Snow Ridge Ski Resort in Turin. They are looking to create a new image and revitalize the resort with new events and programs.

BY: Steve Virkler

Cynthia J. Sisto and Nicholas D. Mir have had some struggles during their past two years running the Snow Ridge Ski Resort in Turin.

But mother-and-son ownership hasn’t been one of them.

 “We work really well together,” Mr. Mir said. “That’s probably the reason we were willing to get into this venture.”

Prior to buying Snow Ridge in late 2015, Ms. Sisto spent 32 years as the sales and marketing manager at the Toggenburg Mountain Winter Sports Center in Fabius. And her son worked under her for 10 years, starting at age 14 while a student at Fabius Pompey Central School near Syracuse.

 “I’ve been calling her Cindy since then,” he said.

Mr. Mir, a 2009 graduate of Clarkson University in Potsdam, left the state for four years to manage ski shops at resorts in Mount Hood, Ore., and Breckenridge, Colo., before deciding to buy the Turin resort with his mother.

 “For us, it’s pretty easy,” he said. “We haven’t had any issues.”

Ms. Sisto said she has always relied on her son to come up with new ideas to draw a younger crowd to the facilities at which she has worked.

 “I throw out the crazy ideas and she reels me in,” Mr. Mir said.

Ms. Sisto said she also has a large family in the Syracuse area, and many of them helped spruce up the resort following the purchase and continue to come here to help at events.

Over the past couple years, the resort owners said they have focused on upgrading infrastructure and boosting the Snow Ridge name among ski enthusiasts.

 “I think people are realizing our goal is to improve things, not just status quo,” Mr. Mir said. “We’re putting everything we make back into the facility.”

Ms. Sisto said she has also been working with local schools to get groups of students to the hill for a day of skiing, as many have never done it before.

 “They would never have thought of it on their own,” she said. “We just have to get them outside to experience it.”

Snow Ridge also tries to work with Fort Drum officials to attract soldiers to the facility, given the 10th Mountain Division’s history with skiing during World War II, Ms. Sisto said.

 “They come down once a year (during the summer) and push a cannon up the hill,” Mr. Mir said of a more unusual training exercise.

The owners have also tried to add new events and services to draw people to the 400-acre parcel throughout the year, not just during the winters.

 “We really want to bring more people here to see this property,” Mr. Mir said.

The resort plans to offer live music throughout the winter, hosts numerous other events like snowmobile hill climbs, comedy nights, beer tasting events, mystery theater nights, ski movie showings and the Tug Mud Dare mud run, and also benefits from snowmobile and all-terrain vehicle traffic in the area.

The moe.down music festival also returned this summer after a two-year hiatus, bringing in roughly 4,000 people over the rainy Fourth of July weekend.

 “It was crazy, but it really worked out well,” Mr. Mir said.

Ms. Sisto said the event included no fights and drew an “unbelievable crowd” that included roughly 200 people who volunteered to move hay bales to help mitigate the muddy conditions.

 “They were up to their knees in mud, but they were still helpful,” she said.

The resort owners said they are also seeking state grant funding to help add snow tubing and ice skating at the Turin facility, working with Lewis County Chamber of Commerce on a possible winter festival and are considering expansion of its campground area, possibly with addition of some cabins.

One thing they don’t have control over is the weather, and that hasn’t been particularly kind over the past couple winters.

 “We got snow last year, but it just didn’t want to stick around,” Mr. Mir said.

And their first winter of ownership was even worse, with snow conditions as bad as any Ms. Sisto has seen in her 35 years in the ski business.

However, she said, there was a silver lining on their first New Year’s weekend of ownership after  the Tug Hill region got blanketed with snow while other ski resorts in the Northeastern United States had little or none.

“Nobody else could even make it,” Ms. Sisto said.

She recalled having problems getting her car door open because of all the lake effect snow, but also drawing ski enthusiasts from as far away as the New England states.

 “Needless to say, the place was packed,” Ms. Sisto said. “Thank goodness, because it gave us some revenue.”

The facility had another setback back in March when fire damaged an apartment above the Tavern230 restaurant at the resort.. However, there was insurance on the building, the damage has been repaired and the restaurant will be “back up and running this winter,” Mr. Mir said.

                The resort owners are gearing up for the upcoming ski season, and Ms. Sisto said most of the roughly 50 employees plan to return this winter. Plans are also to bolster ski school staff in hopes of being able to teach more newcomers about the sport, she said.

                Ms. Sisto said the intent is to not only draw local residents for skiing and other events but also attract people from more populous surrounding areas like Watertown, Utica, Rome, Syracuse and even Albany.

                But, as with other snow-related business owners, their success ultimately relies heavily on Mother Nature, so Farmer’s Almanac predictions of a snowy winter are very welcome here.

                “We’re hoping for a good old-fashioned winter this year,” Mr. Mir said.