By Polly Lynn
Last year Killington embarked on the first of a five-year master plan to create world-class downhill mountain biking. Consulting firm Gravity Logic says Killington could see 50,000 bikers annual, if the master plan is followed to completion. The master plan includes not only trail design, but plans for marketing, instruction, and an improved rental bike fleet that caters to all levels.
Dave Kelly, co-founder of Gravity Logic, as well as most of the team members in the company, have worked in the ski industry for 20-25 years in various positions, so they know the common challenges and advantages that exist within the ski business model.
“It works well,” Kelly noted in an interview last fall.
Despite being one of the first in the country to offer lift-serve downhill mountain biking (opening 25 years ago), Killington has not seen much growth in the sport, especially compared to other resorts in recent years.
Kelly is not surprised. “Typically bike parks at ski areas don’t offer the right product,” Kelly explained. “There is just too much vertical.” Before opening lower trails and retrofitting the Snowshed quad for bikes, all downhill riders at Killington had to face a 1,700 foot vertical from the top of K1 to the base.
“That can take hours for some people and scare them away forever,” said Kelly. “Although they are working hard at developing more family friendly product, most of what they [currently] have is comparable to a ski mountain that offers only double black diamonds with no grooming so there are 10-foot moguls to contend with, too… it only caters to a very small percentage of riders.”
Biking is growing exponentially across the country and worldwide, with the biggest growth coming from bike parks, but the masses will never be “extreme,” just like in skiing and riding, Cowan added.
The Killington Plan
Phase 1 of the master plan, which will be mostly completed this season, calls for the development of Snowshed as the main base area for biking. It will have ticketing, proper marketing and full services including guided rides. It will also be the main hub for Killington’s additional summer businesses such as zip lines, ropes courses and a mountain coaster.
Snowshed offers ideal terrain for progression, Kelly explained. The 500 vertical from the top of Snowshed is much friendlier and less intimidating for beginner and intermediate riders, and it’s not as much of a commitment, so folks can ease into the sport, he said.
There will be about half a dozen trails at Snowshed, which will include green, blue and black runs — a diverse mix to encourage progression, but no double black, by design, Kelly explained. Short trails will connect the top of Snowshed to the bottom of K1 via blue and black runs (no green trails to K1, by design), he continued.
“Everyone knows how to ride a bike, which should make the sport accessible to everyone,” said Kelly. “However, there are many tips and tricks to learn with downhill mountain biking that most folks just don’t know, which is why it’s important to offer guided rides.”
One example of a common misconception is “only use your back brake” when going down hill. Kelly recently heard a parent give this advice to their kid, “It’s terrible advice, both brakes are needed,” he said. “This outlines the importance of being taught by properly trained coaches who will ensure guests have the best possible experience… it dramatically increases the likelihood of visitors returning and the likelihood of them recommending the experience to others.”
“We’re very excited to see this plan through to completion and we are confident in its success,” Kelly added.