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Monday, Jun 18, 2007
Analyzing News from Killington - Six weeks after the sale of the resort by ASC to Powdr/SP Land
Killington Peak with winter snow

Killington Peak with winter snow

Killington Peak with winter snow

Killington Peak with winter snow

It has been an interesting week from a news perspective at Killington. Everyday the new Killington president, Chris Nyberg, and been quoted with some pithy remark in the local press, or there has been some other titbit of news filtering out from resort management. Needless to say, because no one has experienced mountain operations under the new Killington management team, and because the people are still relatively unknown in the local community, the reaction to the various comments have ranged from congratulatory to the proverbial gnashing of teeth. If you are planning to visit Killington, or if you live elsewhere but own a second home in the region, it must be difficult to cut through all of the chatter concerning the region. But with a little work, a consistent message is beginning to emerge about the near term future of Killington.

"We get to eat what we kill!"
The local news week started Monday with an above the fold story in the Rutland Herald headlined "Powdr vows to polish Killington".Within the article is the memorable comment from Chis Nyberg "We get to eat what we kill!". In the visually saturated society we live in, this sound bite conjures up all kinds of images for people to "chew on". If you matured in the 90's who could forget the scene in Jurassic Park where the T Rex ate the Lawyer, cowering in the outhouse, for lunch. If you came of age in the late 70's/early 80s, you are filled with imagery from the movie "Jaws" of the great white shark eating the tourist swimming at night off the beach. But if you came of age in the 50's and 60's, like Chris Nyberg, your imagery might be of Uncle Jed Clampett from the TV show Beverly Hillbillies "shootin for some food and up from the ground comes some bubblin crude". It is very clear from public and private statements that unlike the American Skiing Company, which in recent years failed to invest in the resort and actually exported money from Killington, that Powdr Corporation intends to use money generated by operations and re-invest to continually improve the Killington experience. "Swimmin pools, movie stars" indeed!

"Pass Prices"
Monday and Tuesday brought more news from the resort with the announcement of season pass prices for the 2007/2008 ski season. Pass prices for an unlimited seasons pass to the Killington did increase by $380 dollars versus what was charged by the soon to be defunct ASC, which resulted in another above the fold story in the Rutland Herald on Tuesday entitled "Season ski pass price increase". The chatosphere on Killingtonzone also went wild with many blustering posts on the price increase, and a little nugget buried in the season pass announcement stating that the passes were valid "from Mid-November to Mid-April"(more on this later). Off course lost in all the comments was the fact that Killingtons 2007/2008 season pass prices are very competitive with other eastern resorts. Also lost was the fact that the pricing promoted by ASC in the last several years was clearly not sustainable from a business perspective resulting in untold problems for the area. Also, it is also important to remember that the prices announced for the 2007/2008 ski season are still significantly less than season pass prices for Killington during the late 80's, early 90's, which many now view as the heyday of the ski scene at Killington. Many in the chatosphere need to take a deep breath please! Season passes at Killington are still a great deal if you plan to ski multiple days at the resort this coming ski season.

"Mid-November to Mid-April"
Buried deep on only 1 of the pages Killington posted on their website was the comment " Killington/Pico season pass is valid from mid-November through mid-April, weather and snow conditions permitting". Oh my God! The sky is falling! What does this mean....In reality, from a PR and an historical perspective, I was rather shocked at this item, and equally amused by the buzz it has created online and around town. I have done some checking, and from a PR perspective it was totally unnecessary. The resort is trying to set expectations that they will manage the ski season as a business. Passes will in fact be valid from when they open to when they close for the 2007/2008 season. What the resort is really trying to do with this comment is start to manage expectations concerning the new realities being faced by the ski industry in general and Killington operations in particular. And the major reality check is that in an age of global warming the ski seasons at northeast resorts are shrinking. In recent history, the ski seasons for the vast majority of skiers and riders in the northeast have kicked off in Mid November, and they are basically done in Mid April. I am sorry to point this fact out, as I personally love to ski, but until we figure out ways to manage our environment better (no political statement meant here) we all have to adjust to the fact that the climate in the northeast is changing. Unfortunately, in stating the obvious, the Killington Resort created a PR flap they could have avoided. Of course we all would like to see a return to the glory days of skiing from September until June (I did it myself 15 year ago). But the reality of the world we live in today is different and we all need to adjust.

"Killington lifetime pass holders form group"
Buried deep in the middle of Wednesdays Rutland Herald and picked up by the AP for circulation around the globe was an article concerning the formation of the "Killington Skiers Advocate Association". This group has been formed to put pressure on Powdr Corp to reverse it's decision not to honor lifetime passes issued to early Killington investors. Many of these passes have been actively traded through the years to different people, or passed down in families to succeeding generations. At this point, I can't guess how this issue will be resolved. But I do know that each side is starting to harden it's position, and that will not bring good future press for Killington. Powdr and SP Land are clearly staking out the position that "lifetime passes" are not their responsibility. As far as they are concerned, the "lifetime" was that of Killington LTD and Ski LTD, which are still part of ASC but will soon cease to exist. Of course, pass holders consider a different meaning of lifetime. I would guess that we will be hearing more on this story as the matter gets reviewed by the Vermont Attorney Generals office. This one could be a wild ride for a few months, so hold on.

"Elephant, birds, and bugs"
No matter what you think about the resort, the new president Chris Nyberg is a colorful character. In the recent issue of the Mountain Times in the Mountain Musings column, Chris is quoted at the select board meeting commenting that the resort needs a "symbiotic relationship" with the community "like... the friendly birds that live on the back of an elephant and pick the bugs off". Now comparing Killington to an elephant, local business to birds, and visitors to bugs is an interesting syllogism which has amused some and infuriated others. Historically Killington and local businesses have worked together to attempt to delight guests so they would come back again and again, not feast on them one time and say good bye. I do not know Chris personally, so I don't want to put words in his mouth, but I will give him the benefit of the doubt on this one. Chris' syllogism was close, but to quote Don Adams of agent Maxwell Smart fame: "missed it by that much".

Goodbye ASC
Finally, the denouement... ASC is dead. Long live Killington. In a formal posting to the Securities and Exchange Commission, the American Skiing Company announced that they will dissolve with the completion of the sale of their properties in Maine. Of course, we would not even be having a conversation about Powdr and Killington if the business model used by ASC had been successful. Except for the common stock holders of ASC (and I know a few), everything at Killington should work out for the best. We can all come out and play now because the " Wicked Witch is Dead". Long live Killington.

Through out it's history, colorful characters have made Killington a premier ski resort. Vision, determination, and some times a little wackyness, are all part of the equation. Mary and I believe that Killington is a great place to visit, and a great place to live, otherwise I would not be writing about it. We truly believe that Powdr has a shot at renewing the resort and improving the overall experience of visitors to the region. Come on up to Killington to visit. You might like it so well you will decide to move here permanently... We did!

Where ever you may be, just remember to keep it in the fairway and use your sunscreen.

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