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The front portico entrance to the Birch Ridge Inn.

The front portico entrance to the Birch Ridge Inn. 

It has been a busy spring....

With the summer solstice just behind us, and the long days of summer ahead of us, Mary and I are wrapping up most of the projects we set out to accomplish this spring. Major projects, including repairing siding and painting the exterior of the inn were have been (mostly) completed by trusted contractors. Heating system and plumbing repairs have been started. The last bit of system upgrades are waiting for parts to arrive before installation can be scheduled. Maintenance items like carpet cleaning of public spaces, installing new linoleum on the floor of the kitchen, painting an interior hallway, installing summer air conditioners, etc... have all been completed as planned.

The reality is, however, that most of the items mentioned above are "invisible", as they should be, to guests who visit Birch Ridge. But a couple of big projects that we took on this spring are directly seen by every guest who physically or virtually enters the inn.

Mary, with the help of our Chef Reggie, took on the big job of renewing the front portico of the inn. Reggie had the unenviable job of sanding all of the surfaces of the portico to remove the old weather beaten finish. Mary in the mean time took down the door and proceeded to do the same. (If you happened to be at the inn in May there were periods where the front door of the inn was just a piece of plywood to keep the local bear population coming out of hibernation at bay.) Before applying new finishes, Mary did a lot of research. Based upon the advice of our painting contractor, Mary acquired a collection of marine grade sealers which she used to revitalize and refinish the wood. A new front door lock and a brass kick plate finished the efforts intime to re-open the inn over the Memorial day weekend.

The front portico entrance to the Birch Ridge Inn before repairs.
Before and after photos of the Front Portico entrance to the Birch Ridge Inn.
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In the virtual world, we have completely redesigned the entrance to the inn as well.

Over the last couple of months, I did a complete system redesign of our inns website, birchridge.com. Several years ago I had updated our web architecture to support desktop and mobile devices. This is an absolute requirement for any website intended to be accessed by the general public. Whereas the old site architecture detected a users device and steared the user to a device specific web site, the new architecture for birchridge.com is based upon "Responsive Design" techniques. Procedures built into each web page automatically adjust how a page is displayed based upon the users screen. Users who access birchridge.com from thier desktop will see the same information when they switch to their tablet of mobile device. The information will automatically reformat to fit the users device, without the need for separate device specific web sites.

Visit the full Birch Ridge Inn website at birchridge.com.

You can see how responsive design on birchridge.com works from your desktop by changing the size of your web browser window. I have tested the site with every modern browser (IE, Safari, Chrome, Firefox, Andriod) that I could get my hands on. I even borrowed the mobile phones of several guests during my testing to verify operation...although Mobile browsers generally follow industry standards much more closely than desktop browsers with the exception of handling touch inputs. But that is an arcane subject suitable for discussion over a beer in the Great Room of the inn. No need to bore you here.

We still have a few more projects to wrap up as we head into the summer. We are also working with Chef Reggie designing the menu and selecting the wines for our wine dinner at the Killington Wine Festival in July. (It's a tough job but somebody has to do it.)

All this, of course, is a pre-cursor to being able to get out of the inn and chase the little white ball across the golf course. But that is story for another day.

Where ever you may be, keep it in the fairway, and don't forget your sun screen!

Birch Ridge Restaurant re-opens Memorial Day Weekend

Birch Ridge Restaurant re-opens Memorial Day Weekend 

That was a short break.....

With summer just around the corner, the restaurant at the Birch Ridge Inn will re-open for the Memorial Day weekend. In a change from the script of past years where we closed the restaurant for spring hiatus at the end of April to re-open just before July 4th, we decided that this year we would try something different. After a fantatic winter season (did you catch the hint of sarcasm there) which saw Killington experience record snow fall, we decided to put the restauant on hiatus at the beginning of April to re-open for Memorial day. It was still an 8 week hiatus...but did it go fast.

Speaking of Killington and record snow fall, I am of course talking about one of those records we hope to never experience again in ski country in Vermont. As of today, May 24th, 2016, the Killington Resort has received 81 inches of snow during the 2015-2016 winter season. According to a presentation done by resort management to the Killington community several weeks ago, this is the least amount of snow reported at Killington EVER since the resort began operations in 1958. Even though we had the least amount of snow ever for a winter season, the resorts investment in snow making equipment again has proved its worth as the resort is still providing lift serviced skiing and riding on the Superstar trail at the K1 base lodge.

Back to the inn....we are wrappng up our pre-season projects. During the spring when there are few guests in Killington, we try to do projects which impact common areas of the inn. This year we had the outside of the inn re-stained. The front portico and front door entering the inn have been completely re-finished. We also retiled the kitchen floor.

All this is leading up to the restaurant at the inn re-opening for the summer season this coming Friday, May 27th. This weekend, the restaurant will be open Friday, Saturday and Sunday evening; serving dinner from 6:00 PM. During June, as we head into the summer season, we will be serving dinner Thursday through Saturday, returning to our normal weekly schedule just before the July 4th holiday. If you would like dinner reservations, you can call the inn at 800.435.8566 or 802.422.4293, or go online the dinner reservation page on birchridge.com.

If you are in Killington for Memorial Day, stop bye to say hello....

Where ever you may find yourself, have a great weekend, and don't forget your sun screen.

My Honda CRV --- replaced by a Kia Sonata rental

My Honda CRV --- replaced by a Kia Sonata rental 

The phrase on the letter from Honda was in bold print and quite jarring. My car, my beautiful little 2011 mint condition CRV whose odometer just turned 30K could kill me. In all my years on the planet, it was the most blood curdling letter I have ever received from a corporation... surpassing even those few 'pink slips' I received in my youth. While no where near as emotionally gut renching as the 'We regret to inform you' letters provided to families of friends killed in military service, the Honda letter I received feels similar to the 'Greetings' letters sent out by the Vietnam era draft boards notifying people that there lives would be interruped by a period of military conscription.

But I like my Honda CRV.... but it could kill me....

My CRV is tied up in the Takata Airbag Recall. Takata, a Japanese company, is a major supplier of airbag inflators to the automotive industry. Over 32 Million airbag inflators are currently involved spread out across most automotive brands. Possibly 280 million Takata air bag inflators are at risk according to Bloomberg news. Worldwide there have been 11 deaths associated with the inflators, which, if the deflators are defective and the bag triggers, spread shrapnel through the passenger compartment. 10 deaths have occurred in the US. 10 of the 11 deaths worldwide have been in Honda cars. Car and Driver has a running blog covering everything you need to know about this fiasco as it happens.

Honda recall letter.
Honda recall letter on Takata airbag recall.

But I like my Honda CRV.... but it could kill me....

At least as it applies to my CRV, American Honda Motor Co, Inc, the official name of Honda in the United States, has addressed the matter forthrightly. While my CRV probably will not be repaired until sometime this summer, Honda has arranged, at no charge to me, a rental car to use for the duration. Yesterday I picked up a relatively brand new (<10K miles) loaded 2016 Hundai Sonata. Why Honda did not make sure I was provided with a Honda as my rental car is a bit puzzling to my friends and I. But so goes the thinking in corporate America (or Japan) sometimes.

From everything I have read about this problem, it is serious. While there is a chain of relatively low probability events that must take place for the Takata airbag defect to expose itself...for instance the car most likely is involved in an accident or other mishap which causes the bags to be inflate, there is a finite probability much greater than zero that it could occur. From NHSTA data from 2013, the odds that any individual driver would be in an accident in a year are roughly 2.7%. Now not all accidents result in airbag inflation, but the odds are high enough that if you have an impacted vehicle, you should pay attention.

To determine if you vehicle is currently impacted by the Takata Airbag Recall, or any other recall, you can check out safercars.gov for recall details.

Mary with Chuckles and Jane at base of Panic Button at Needles Eye on Tuesday.

Mary with Chuckles and Jane at base of Panic Button at Needles Eye on Tuesday. 

Spring has descended over the Green Mountains this week with a vengence. Early in the week, temperatures soared into the high 60's low 70's turing Killington into a wonderland of soft spring snow.

By mid-week, the unmentionable happened. Torrential hot r@!n drowned the area. Thin surfaces created by lack of natural snow in this El Nino winter succumbed to the torrent, drastically reducing the amount of open terrain at the resort.

Today, and for the weekend, mild weather has returned. Snow surfaces in the Killington Basin area of the resort, around Ki, Superstar, Rams Head, Snowden and Snow Shed, which were well covered with mid winter snow making, look none the worse for wear in today's bright sunshine. The Sky Ship base on Route 4 has been closed for the season. Bear Mountain, which was showing thin cover earlier in the week, was closed today to allow the resort to assess the situation and put it back together again for the weekend. ah... the joys of running a business that depends upon the weather.

Killington Basin side of the resort in the sun.
Killington Basin side of the resort in the sun. March 11, 2016.

Early reports from guests returning from a day on the mountain report conditions were "Interesting".

As the Killington Resort did minimal grooming last night to allow the snow surface to drain of water and stabilize, variable conditions were the condition of the day. Some steeper terrain was firm, down to the hard back which forms the base of skiable terrain. Lower areas around base lodges, and slopes with shallow pitches, were very soft with some puddles to navigate.

Conditions are expected to improve overnight as this weeks water continues to run into the Roaring Brook. Surfaces should firm up considerably when the sun goes down, allowing the resort to groom open terrain for this coming weekend.

If you are coming to Killington this weekend, expect spring conditions. Think Snow! and bring your sun screen!

Upper Superstar Headwall...yes the glacier is that tall.

Upper Superstar Headwall...yes the glacier is that tall. 

I have done my best to maintain a positive attitude in the face of this fickle El Nino winter. But today even surprised me.... And that is a great thing for people visiting Killington this weekend.

We have been out a couple of times this week. Early in the week the resort was the typical flat and fast conditions we have gotten accustomed to this winter. I am a firm believer in the expression "It ain't ice if there are no fish underneath it". Let it be said for the record... on Monday and Tuesday on the mountain there was a lot of ice.

But just like a caterpillars chrysalis opening up to reveal a beautiful butterfly, the mountain has been transformed over the last several days into a delightful ski experience.

Yes... there was still some ice to be found. Ice is a byproduct of the weather we have had this winter. But the majority of the mountain was a firm surface covered with a several inch deep soft layer of snow. While skiing was decidely low energy, as the base depths were not large enough to bump up, it was also quite fun. With the exception of a couple of interesting trails, you could generally relax and just ski. This is in sharp contrast to the beginning of the week where each lip could turn into a ice field of immiment doom.

I spent my morning skiing off of Sky Peak. We did several laps on the Outer Limits chair to access the terrain. Starting in the stash, we skied Bear Claw, Sky Burst and Lower Wildfire. Upper Wildfire was closed. Several in our group skied the newly groomed Outer Limits. I am still nursing my left knee so I passed on OL. Conditions on all of the aformentioned trails was very consistent. The initial runs were on well groomed packed powder corduroy. After several runs, the corduroy broke up to reveal a couple of inches of packed snow on top of a very firm base. In both cases, the trails were skiing much easier than their ratings although the boys mentioned that Outer Limits lived up to its reputation a being one of the steepest in the east.

Off the Sky Burst quad we headed towards Needles Eye. Bittersweet to High Road were in good shape. Stay away from the well marked right side of Lower Highroad as it is nothing but ice coated thin cover. Panic Button and Needles Eye were fantastic (for this season). A soft, powdery, top layer covered a firm base. The trail was very receptive to wide sweeping carving turns. Again be cautions on skiers right, as the cover beyond the reach of the snow guns is thin.

Sky Lark and Bittersweet were quite nice. Lower Sky Lark was ice covered down skiers right and in the middle of the trail. Soft snow had been pushed down skiers left, which made the Sky Lark mush easier to manage.

Superstar....hmmmm....interesting. The Upper Superstar Headwall was heinous. This purpously built ice covered mess is designed to withstand weeks long warm spells over the next few weeks, allowing the resort to keep Superstar open well into the spring. As the days get warmer, and the suface gets softer, it will be a fun place to be. But today it could only be characterized as a slide for life...and that is being generous.

Middle Superstar has towering mounds of manmade snow dominating skiers left. Easily 20 feet deep in places, this snow has been allowed to freeze solid for its own self preservation, instead of being groomed across the trail. it was fun riding up and down the snow whales, but unlike the other well groomed trails at Killington you had to pay attention otherwise the snow snakes would rise up and bite you in the you know where. Of course the icy whales of Superstar today will become the soft bumps of the spring. So it is nice to see the amount of effort the resort has taken to create them.

All told... a nice day to ski. If you can get to Killington this weekend, you won't be disappointed.

Where ever you may be.... think snow!

Building the glazier on Superstar

Building the glazier on Superstar 

It has been a few weeks since Mary and I had a chance to get out and ski in sunshine. For much of the winter, except those really cold days, the top of Killington Peak is covered in the Killington cloud. Not so today. It was sunny, bright, and beautiful!

The resort has done a fantastic job coping with Mother Natures temper tantrums this winter. Overall, ski surfaces were firm, flat and fast. Areas with recent snow making, with the exception of Superstar, had some small surface features. I would not call them bumps, but the trails with recent snow making were also not totally flat. Superstar is another story.

Major snow making efforts are being made to grow the Superstar Glacier to support late season skiing and riding. Huge snow whales are developing under the snow guns. On the sides of the whales, soft snow is rapidly accumulating. Clearly the snow makers are trying to position some of the towers to build snow whales that are both tall in stature and wide in girth.

Blue skies, wide groomers, and snow making dominated Killington today.
Blue skies, wide groomers, and snow making dominated Killington today.
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Across the mountain, trails off Snowdon were generally soft and consistent. Snow making was taking place down most of Great Northern. The Snowdon Quad was not running today, so we did not get a look at Chute. But Mouse Run, Mouse Trap and Bunny Buster skied well.

Across the top of the resort, the traverse down Bear Trax to Bear Claw was well groomed and consistent. Bear Claw was showing a few icy patches. Sky Burst was flat and fast with some beach sand developing along the lower stretches.

Cruise Control and Needles Eye were in excellent shape. Beware of skiers right as the areas farthest from snow making are shoiwng some thin cover. Panic Button into Needles Eye was chunky in spots but had no issues setting an edge. The ROTD for us was Sky Lark. Skier traffic had pulverised any grooming artifacts into a reasonably soft consistent surface. It turned into one of the days few do-overs.

The resort is continuing their efforts to assure us all a long ski season in Killington. Now if Mother Nature would give us a little help, we would all be grateful.

Let it snow.

Even in an El Nino year, Killington Peak is covered in snow.

Even in an El Nino year, Killington Peak is covered in snow. 

We have been associated with Killington for almost 30 years now. Either in a ski club, as second home owners, and for almost the last 20 years a business owners in Killington. Over that time, it is hard to comprehend the changes that have taken place in the local climate. Without getting all political, and without assigning cause and effect, the local climate in Killington has undergone some dramitic changes in the last 30 years that all but the most ostrich like of individuals should be able to easily recognize.

Since humans have graced the face of the earth, the question has never been "Will the climate change?" The real questions are "When will the climate change?"; "How will the climate change"; and "Will we be able to adapt to the changes in climate taking place?". The answer to the first two questions is obvious. The climate is undergoing change right now, and the climate in general is getting warmer. I have great faith overall that humanity will be able to adapt to the changes. That is not the domaine of this blog (at least on most days). But I am happy to say that the Killington Resort, the Town of Killington, and the people of Killington are adapting to climate change with many different approaches.

During the winter season, the Killington Resort has doubled down on their snow making efforts. With the agreement years ago to access the winter drawdown water from the Woodward Reservoir to feed Killington's snow making system, Killington's winter visitors have witnessed an awesome display of local climate engineering. Even in this, the worst of El Nino years, when we have had the least amount of natural snow in Vermont since records have been kept, the sight of the peaks of the Killington Resort covered in snow stand testament to man's ability to take control of their local situation.

Killington Resort covered in snow. February 19, 2016
Killington Resort covered in snow. February 19, 2016.

One can not help but be very positive about the snow surfaces produced by Killington's snow making and grooming teams. For weeks I have been telling guests to our inn that Killington has been providing comerically viable skiing and riding to guests all winter. And even that is an understatement. While most guests profess their desire to ski in fresh powder, the truth is that most are intimidated by a 6 inch snow fall. When guests return to the inn from a day on the slopes, with the exception of the few brutally cold days we have had this season, and the few outright r@!ny days, they are generally grinning from ear to ear after skiing and riding on the groomed corduroy that blankets the Killington Resort. The same groomed curduroy that is the result of all of the resorts efforts to plan, build and operate a huge snowmaking system and a fleet of complex and expensive grooming machines. It is all truly a marvel of engineering with the penultimate goal to make people happy. (The ultimate goal, for you those english majors in the audience, is of course to run a profitable business in the ski industry.)

Superstar Glacier underconstruction; February 19, 2016
Superstar Glacier underconstruction; February 19, 2016.

The Killington resort, and the Town of Killington, are also taking other, less visible, steps to counteract the impacts of climate change on the area. It should not be lost to the casual observer that the resort is making a concentrated effort to improve the activities it offers to its guest during the "Non-Ski Season". The addition of the Mountain Coaster, Ropes Course, and Flying Eagle Zip Line and retooling of the resorts mountain biking programs are visible attempts to entice people to enjoy the Green Mountains of Vermont all through the year, even when the mountains are not covered in beautiful white snow.

The Town of Killington is also contributing to the effort to "expand the season" when visitors journey to the area. For the last several years the town has produced the "Cooler in the Mountains" concert series on Saturday afternoons in the summer. Under active consideration is an expansion of Mountain Biking programs through out the town, interconnecting the resort to other town resources. The goal is of course to continue to have guests smile, no matter what season they visit us here in Killington.

So the next time you hear a weather forecast lamenting the lack of snow in the Northeastern United States as a result of this years El Nino, don't toss your hands up in the air in frustration. Grab your ski's, your snow board, your mountain bike, your golf clubs, and/or your hiking boots and come visit Killington. The view from Killingon Peak will make it all better.

If your travels bring you to Killington...stop in and see us. Think Snow!

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