Hailed for his vision for Killington, Pico
By Karen D. Lorentz
Chris Nyberg, who served as the president and chief operations officer of the Powdr Resorts Division since September 2012 and prior to that the president and general manager of Killington and Pico mountains since April 2007, has left Powdr Corp. after almost eight years with the company.
No changes are anticipated at Killington, where Nyberg did a great job of improving the quality of the Killington experience and where “Mike Solimano leads an incredible team,” said Krista Parry, spokeswoman for Powdr. “Nothing has changed for Powdr’s commitment to Killington,” she added.
The reaction in Killington was one of appreciation for what Nyberg had accomplished at the two mountains and his continuing support and advocacy for investment in Killington, noted Killington spokesman Michael Joseph.
Solimano, who followed Nyberg as president and general manager of Killington and Pico and worked closely with him prior to that, told The Mountain Times, “Chris came to Killington with a vision, and he left an operational and cultural legacy here that will be felt and seen for years to come. He led the charge as we bounced back after Irene and was instrumental in adding signature environments around the resort, including the Umbrella Bars, Peak Lodge, Motor Room Bar and the Vista Deck. His impeccable attention to detail and deep knowledge of mountain operations set him apart as a leader, and really impressed me. I’m grateful that Killington was lucky enough to benefit from his foresight and diligence, and that I had a chance to work with and learn from him.”
Many accomplishments in 44-year career
Nyberg’s 44-year career in the ski industry began in 1971 when he worked at Mount Bachelor in Oregon for 11 years, first as a ski racing coach and then as director of skiing, where he managed all aspects of mountain ops from cutting ski trails in summer to directing snow grooming and removal along with avalanche control as well as logging 6,000 hours as a groomer.
In 1982 he became mountain manager of Willamette Pass Resort, where he cut trails, installed chairlifts, and built a base lodge. He was president and general manager of the Summit at Snoqalmie in Washington, operating and readying the area for sale for owner Booth Creek, when he met John Cumming in the process.
Nyberg also spent 22 years working as an executive for snow grooming manufacturers Kassbohrer, Bombardier and Prinoth SPA before joining Killington in 2007, when Powdr acquired the area from the American Skiing Company.
During his tenure at Killington and Pico, Nyberg first focused on remedying “basic deficits and fixing what was broken so as to restore the shine” to the product and its presentation. “We’re spending $3 million on upgrades no one is going to notice much,” he told me in 2007, citing a recent history of neglect. The next year saw the more noticeable $8 million upgrade including a detachable quad at Bear Mountain. Improvements totaled some $30 million during his tenure.
He also brought his grooming expertise to the mountain and often could be caught driving a groomer. He was hands-on and oversaw major upgrades of all systems from skier services to snowmaking and resort infrastructure to food services at both Killington and Pico. His overriding focus was on improving the quality of the mountain experience for guests and the financial yield of the two areas.
As the Powdr Resorts COO overseeing Killington, Nyberg followed a Powdr Corp tenet which empowers each general manager to make decisions for his resort, and under Solimano’s leadership Killington resumed its efforts to offer the longest ski season in the East as part of its “Beast” reputation (it closed May 25 this year) and brought back the popular Bear Mountain Moguls Challenge. Killington has also gone back to its roots with a recent major investment in summer programs and a focus on offering a variety of activities for all ages and abilities, as it did back in the 1970s to 1990s.
Of his tenure at Powdr Resorts, Nyberg commented on his LinkedIn site, “I had the pleasure of working with great teams at eight unique ski and snowboard resorts.” He also indicated his pride in Killington, noting: “With the efforts of some amazing Vermonters, we rebuilt this iconic resort and brought it back to its rightful position as the Beast of the East. Mountain Operation teams and the Hospitality group should be commended in particular!”
Powdr advancing unique business model
The private Powdr Corp. is one of the largest ski resort operators in North America, along with Boyne Resorts, Intrawest, and Vail Resorts. Unlike its competitors Powdr focuses on ski area operations and active lifestyle sports rather than real estate development.
Headquartered in Park City, Utah, Powdr owns eight mountain resorts, Woodward action sports camps and progression centers, the Outside Television network, and since March of this year Human Movement Management (HMM), an active entertainment and event company that produces running races, festivals, triathlons, obstacle races, and outdoor events.
Its acquisitions and changes to its business model reflected this focus beginning in 2008 when the company acquired Outside and in 2011 became the majority owner of Woodward action camps. In 2013 Powdr launched a new business model as a way to leverage its family of properties and brands, with the formation of its Powdr Enterprises Division. Defined as a sports marketing and entertainment company, the new model involved a focus on media, events, sponsorship, and entertainment.
Powdr Enterprises announced a strategic brand partnership with Boyne Resorts last fall. “This alliance brings together the corporate partnership rights of the two largest privately-owned and operated companies in the mountain sports industry to provide brand partners to reach mountain sports and active lifestyle consumers through the combined reach and influence of 19 authentic mountain resorts across North America,” Powdr announced in a press release.
In December 2013 Powdr Enterprises acquired the Emmy Award-winning television series airing on NBC, NBCSN, “World of Adventure Sports,” a TV series that tells the stories of climbers, skiers, off-road racers and other risk-takers and their sports.
With its latest acquisition of HMM, officials said the move would help further diversify its portfolio and expand its summer activities, events, and other programming at resorts. HMM produces over 100 events in North America annually, and reported revenues of $9.1 million in 2014. The company, with about 100 employees, was named one of Inc. Magazine’s 500 fastest growing companies as well as one of Outside Magazine’s Best Places to Work.
“We think it’s really important to diversify what we’re doing and really look at these properties at mountain resorts that can play a lot of different roles and do a lot of different things,” said Wade Martin, president of Powdr Enterprises.
The $4.5 million plans for investment in Killington’s summer operations over three to five years (announced in 2014) would indicate Killington will play a major role in that diversification, especially with its goal to attract over 45,000 additional visitors by summer 2019.
The $3.5 million spent on this summer’s new Snowshed Adventure Center and continued mountain bike expansion, with activities for all ages and abilities and even some ADA accessible rides like the new Mountain Coaster, is certainly a harbinger of good things to come.