By Stephen Seitz
KILLINGTON – Speaking on the PEG-TV program “Insight” recently, Killington and Pico President and General Manager Mike Salimano told interviewers Polly Lynn, editor and co-publisher of the Mountain Times, and Herald news editor Alan Keays that the resort had plans to boost summer attendance.
Part of the goal, Salimano said, was to make Killington a more family-friendly resort year-round.
“One of the raps on Killington is, ‘Great mountain, great party place, lots of great restaurants, but not a lot to do for the family.’ We haven’t got enough other things for families to do, so now we’re adding those, mainly for summer. “
Salimano said the resort had an ambitious plan.
“We’re adding mountain bike trails, we’re adding a two-seat zip line, we’re adding a ropes course,” he said. “It’s a four-level course which can handle 40 to 50 people at a time, all ages. Underneath that there’s going to be a maze. The ropes course will look down on the maze. At the same time, the really big thing we’re doing this summer is an alpine coaster. We just announced that. It’s a $2.2 million investment we’re making. The whole thing is about $3.5 million in total assets going into Showshed just relating to summer. We’re looking to open at the end of June. The coaster’s going to take a little more time, however.”
Salimano also discussed the current ski season, which is now in the heart of the much-anticipated spring skiing phase.
“We’re busier than ever,” he said. “We’re trying to slowly shrink down for spring, but we still have 130 trails open. It’s full mid-winter. Business has been great, and it looks like we’ll be going for a long time.”
Despite February’s rash of weekly snowstorms, Salimano said that snowfall at Killington had been about average.
“What’s different is that typically we get a bunch of warmups,” he said. “Typically, in January we get rain. That’s why we don’t have a lot of snowbanks around. The rain wipes that out. This year, obviously, it was cold. The average temperature in February was 5 degrees, so it was really, really cold. Everyone sees the storms coming into Boston and New York, so that was unusual as well, so I think everyone takes that and thinks, ‘It’s been an unbelievable year.’ Business has been great.”
Lynn asked, “Are you seeing the tourists spending more or staying longer?”
“From our standpoint,” Salimano replied, “it sure seems as if the economy is getting better. In the last two years, our increase in revenue has been higher than our increase in skier visits, so that says people are spending on our ancillary businesses: food and beverages, lodging. Fewer people are bringing their lunch, they’re staying overnight, so that’s been good.“
Keays asked about changing demographics, noting that Vermont is becoming an older state.
“It’s a mix,” said Salimano. “The millennial generation is obviously getting pretty big, so we’re focused on that. There’s a balance. You have to try to cater to both. We try to do a little bit of everything. We spend a lot on our parks, and a lot of things that would really work for the millennial generation, and try to listen to them, but on the other hand, there are a lot of baby boomers who are still skiing, and we’re trying to encourage that.
“The concern in the whole industry is that the baby boomer group has most of the money,” he added. “The younger group doesn’t have as much disposable income, so you’re trying to figure out how that all balances in the equation.”
The full discussion also covered Killington’s energy efficiency measures, the decline in snowboarding, and how Vermont’s ski season has been faring against those of other states, like Colorado and California. To see the complete discussion, check your local listings for PEGTV’s “Insight” on cable channel 15 or watch on demand at pegtv.com.