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Tuesday, Apr 4, 2017
Breathing life into the beast.
Announcements by Killington Management team to have profound impact on the resort.
Skiing at Killington before yesterdays announcements.

Skiing at Killington before yesterdays announcements.

Skiing at Killington before yesterdays announcements.

Skiing at Killington before yesterdays announcements.

No matter what the outcome, history was made yesterday at Killington.

Before a gathering of several hundred people from the Killington community, the management team of the Killington Resort completed the exorcism of past questionable management practices and announced a series of bold and far reaching steps to return Killington to its rightful place as one of the top ski resorts in the United States. While success is far from certain in the ever evolving ski industry, Killingtons management team laid down a bunch of not so subtle markers indicating that they are in the game to win it, not just to survive. It's about time!

Breaking down yesterdays announcements, there are layers of texture not seen in almost 20 years at Killington. While the infamous and much delayed "Killington Village" development was barely mentioned, except for pointing out that the developer has received an Act 250 permit from the State of Vermont, it was readily apparrent that the Killington management team is determined to move the resort forward...village or not. Specifically:

Killington on the world stage!
While this was the last announcement of the day, it was also the most profound from a Killington perspective. Mike Solimano, President and General Manager of Killington, announced to the Killington community that the resort and POWDR (the parent company of the Killington Resort) had inked a deal with the International Ski Federation (FIS) to hold the Audi FIS Ski World Cup at Killington the next two years over the Thanksgiving weekend. Herwig Demshar, VP of International Business Development for POWDR was at yesterdays community meeting to support the announcement.

Beyond the raw excitement of the event, which was on full display last Thanksgiving at Killington, there are 2 very important takeaways which are highlighted by this announcement. The first is that POWDR is very serious about promoting the Killington Resort on the world stage. The Beast of the East deserves international recognition, and committing to hold a highly visible World Cup event in late November in Vermont, when ski conditions can be notoriously difficult, is a throwdown to every other resort in the world that Killington is a place for their patrons to come and visit.

The second takeaway is much more subtle, but equally profound. POWDR, and the Killington's Management Team purposefully announced the signing of the World Cup races at a community meeting first, before issuing public press releases. Contemplate that for a moment. The company whose initial mantra 10 years ago likened the community to "the friendly birds that live on the back of an elephant and pick the bugs off" has come full circle viewing the Killington community as a respected partner. It would have been easy for the PR machine of Killington to have fired off a press release about the World Cup before yesterdays meeting. But they didn't. They chose to share the announcement with the community...then tell the world.

The return of the South Ridge Chair Lift and the Snowshed Crossover
Oops....Pres Smith really knew what he was doing when he designed the Killington Resort.

While I jest with some tongue and cheek commentary, without admiting it, this is exactly what the Killington management team did yesterday. Beyond the World Cup, seasoned Killington skiers and riders will mostly likely be impacted directly (positively) by the return of the South Ridge chair lift, and the Snow Shed Crossover.

First... the South Ridge Triple.... In 2011, Killington removed what the then management felt was a dysfunctional and underutilized triple chair lift on the back side (South Ridge) of the Killington resort. Without question, the South Ridge Triple was a distinctive chair lift, with it's sharp left hand turn midway up the southern reaches of the resort. Initially installed in 1977, it quickly became a insiders chair lift for those who skied at Killington during the crowed Baby Boomer times of the late 80's and early 90's. In addition to providing access to some interesting terrain on the back side of the resort, the South Ridge Triple offered an efficient way to traverse from the south side to the north side of the resort, without going through the congested Killington Base Lodge area. With skier days moving up again, the Killington Management team appears to have convinced POWDR that increased congestion at the Ki Base Lodge is not necessarily a good thing.... hence, South Ridge will be back....this time as a straight line fixed grip quad traversing the original return path of the removed South Ridge Triple. Work on the lift will commence in the summer of 2018.

The Snowshed Crossover is another Pres Smith creation that Powdr initially rejected. During the 70's and 80's as Mr. Smith was expanding the Killington Resort to cover 6 different mountain, he wanted to make sure that skiers of all ability levels could enjoy each peak. In particular, he made concerted efforts to install "Green" trails off of each peak to allow beginners to get the full Killington Experience. Great Northern from Killington Peak is one such trail. Another was the Snowshed Crossover which connected Skye Peak to Bear Mountain back to Snowshed. POWDR, rightfully so, was aware that these crossover trails had unintended consequences. In addition to exposing beginners to Black Diamond terrain if they took a wrong turn, they also created numerous opportunities for skier collisions on intersecting trails to occur. When POWDR took over the resort, in addition to redesigning Great Eastern, making some minor changes to Great Northern, they closed the Snowshed Crossover. This had several unintended consequences. In addition to making it more difficult for beginner skiers to enjoy the full Killington resort, with the elimination of the South Ridge Triple, exiting Bear Mountain on busy skier days was bottle necked to the Skye Peak Express Quad. And if the quad broke down.... the horror.....

This season, if you were paying attention on certain days, the Snowshed Crossover was open again. I am not sure if it was by accident, or design, but we took it several days out of Bear Mountain without geting stopped by the distinctive orange netting that had been used to close off the trail to skiers and riders. Yesterday, the resort announced that the Snowshed Crossover will return after construction in the summer of 2018. It will be re-imagined with the use of new bridges and tunnels to eliminate collisions at trail crossovers. Many at Killington will welcome its return.

Killington does not need a village to build Ski On / Ski Off accommodations
SP Land was conspicuous in its absence yesterday. But that does not mean that nothing exciting is being built for housing at Killington. Bear Mountain is going to see some major development. In addition to the previously mentioned South Ridge Chair and Snowshed Crossover project, the Bear Mountain lodge is going to receive a major facelift and a new condominium project, called the Basecamp at Bear Mountain will be built starting in 2018. The total investment between Killington and its partner, Vermont-based Ottauquechee Realty Advisors, LLC led by Steve Malone, is estimated to be between $60 and $70 million dollars. In addition to the on slope improvements, several multi-family buildings will be constructed at the base of Bear Mountain. Once that work is completed, the next phase of the project includes 18 duplex buildings near the foot of the Devil's Fiddle ski trail.

More Summer
Killington does not survive on winter alone. During summer months, mountain biking and events take center stage. The resort announced continued investments in developing it's mountain biking assets across the resort. Work will continue this year to build out more trails on Rams Head mountain. On the event side of the docket, the resort in conjunction with the town has events scheduled for basically every weekend during the summer of 2017. From the Vermont Bike and Brew to the 16th Annual Wine Festival, Cooler In the Mountains concert series, Dirty Girl mud run, and the Spartan Race, there are events for everyone at Killington this summer.

But Killington is still a business. Climate change is a concern.
And the first shall come last.... While the 2015-2016 ski season can only best be described as yesterdays news, the Killington Resort has rebounded during this season. Snow fall at the resort during the season has returned to normal levels (239 inches as of yesterday). Skier visits are rebounding to around 750,000 this year. But all is not golden in paradise.

Even though this year has seen a return to more snow, the average temperatures the resort is experiencing is continuing to climb. Climate change was openly discussed and is impacting the resort. The resort is dealing with it using a two pronged approach. Obviously they are continuing to heavily invest in their snowmaking infrastructure. But they are also heavily investing in renewable energy resources. Solar panels will be sprouting up all over the resort to cover some of the resorts energy needs. By 2020, the resort hopes to cover 33% of the electricity it uses with renewable sources. And they exhorted the Killington community to follow their lead and invest in renewables. In simple terms, the resort can make up for lack of natural snow.. but they need cold weather to do it. Pursuing renewable energy sources, and encouraging others to follow suit, is an attempt by the resort to keep winters cold and the mountains snow covered.

There were many other items covered in yesterdays presentation. One of the audience members did publish the complete presentation on Youtube if you are interested in watching it in all its glory.

Next up at Killington is the Bear Mountain Mogul Challenge this coming Saturday and Sunday. And remember...Let It Snow!

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