By Evan Johnson
The Killington community got a preview of what the next three years will hold on Monday afternoon, April 3. Highlights of the summer kick-off event included on-slope infrastructure, a revitalized base lodge, mountain biking trails, solar power developments and events.
“Hang onto your hats,” said Tracy Taylor, business development and special project manager at Killington and Pico, addressing a crowded ballroom at the Killington Grand Hotel. “Because it’s going to be a hell of a ride.”
Killington Resort President and General Manager Mike Solimano began the presentation with an update on how the resort fared this winter. After an abysmal 81 inches of natural snowfall last winter season, Solimano said the resort had received 239 inches this season, well above the nine-year average of 203 inches per year. Solimano said skiers have noticed and the resort is projected to attract approximately 700,000 skier visits this year—its second highest since 2006-07.
Solimano said the resort has also logged a higher Net Promoter Score, a metric used to track customer satisfaction. In the past six years, Killington has gone from a score of 47 to 75.
As the mountain transitions into spring, skiers and riders can expect snowy slopes into May and possibly June with the help of massive snowmaking infrastructure. While many were not surprised to hear that the resort doubled its usual fall snowmaking in advance of the FIS World Cup Races; many were surprised to learn that the resort also increased snowmaking in March this year by 408 percent over its five year average.
“We’re going to keep the season going for a long while,” Solimano said.
Bear Mountain Revitalization
In the summer of 2018, Bear Mountain will see a $110 million revitalization project done in partnership with Killington-based Ottauquechee Realty Advisors, LLC. Development. It will be done in two phases, beginning with the construction of six to seven multi-family units estimated to cost $45 million, plus a major remodeling of Bear Mountain Base Lodge.
On-mountain developments in Phase 1 include the construction of a ski bridge and tunnel at the intersection of Skyeburst and The Stash trails to improve the flow of skier traffic. A new South Ridge Quad chair lift will carry skiers and snowboarders from the top of Bear Mountain and bottom of the South Ridge trails to the top of Killington’s South Ridge area, just below the Killington Peak Lodge. Constructing the new lift along the previous South Ridge lift’s return line eliminates the need for any significant trail clearing or rerouting of trails. On-mountain improvements are expected to cost approximately $8 million total.
Phase 2 of the Bear Mountain Revitalization features construction of 18 duplex buildings near the foot of the Devil’s Fiddle ski trail with an estimated cost of $25 million, and is expected to begin during summer 2020.
Solimano said redevelopment Killington’s South Ridge and the Bear Mountain area, combined with plans to establish a village at the Ramshead and Snowshed areas, would put the resort and region on an upward trajectory.
This year, the Killington Grand Hotel is also undergoing a $2 million remodeling of the lobby and the health club.
“You’re going to see some very exciting stuff going on in the next five to 10 years,” he said.
Solar, renewable investments
“Climate change is real,” said Tracy Taylor outlining future sustainability improvements. “We, as a company, believe that climate change is coming at us pretty hard and we need to deal with it and take responsibility just like everyone in this room.”
Taylor said this year, the Killington and Pico will install solar with a $6.5 million investment in solar infrastructure. In the next five years the resorts plan to to draw 33 percent of their energy needs from renewable sources, he said.
Killington and Pico currently receive solar credits toward their power bill from four 500 kilowatt solar farms in Vermont’s Champlain Valley. These produce 2.5 million kilowatt hours, enough energy to power about 250 homes.
This year, Pico will install a 100 kilowatt rooftop array on its base lodge and a ground-mounted system in a vacant lot. Taylor said these two arrays would produce 560 kilowatt-hours.
“We believe this is key from a marketing perspective we need people to see what we’re doing and that we care about the environment,” Taylor added. Killington and Pico will also install 20 to 30 solar trackers.
The combined solar infrastructure is estimated to produce 3.3 million kilowatt-hours. While that’s enough to power 330 homes, Taylor said, “that’s only 15 percent of the energy we need to run this place.”
Killington will also install three high-efficiency Tesla charging stations for electric cars.
Mt. biking and summer investments
Investments in summer recreation at Killington have totaled $5.5 million in the last four years. Highlights for this coming summer include further expansion of the mountain bike trails, family-oriented assets, camping area and an expanded events calendar.
Since creating the Killington Bike Park at Snowshed in 2014, the resort has seen a growth in ticket sales from 4,900 in 2014 to 12,000 last year. This year, the resort is projecting another 33 percent growth to 16,000 visitors. As a point of comparison, Whistler Blackcomb in British Columbia opened their mountain biking network in 2001 with 5,000 visitors. Last year, they saw 130,000, according to Taylor.
This summer is year four of a five-year mountain bike buildout plan with trail consultants Gravity Logic, who also designed and built the trails at Whistler Blackomb. This summer plans are to finish the Ramshead buildout adding a few new trails at Ramshead and a skills park at Snowshed base area.
“We think we’ve got great growth and we’ve got way more people living close by than Whistler ever will,” Taylor said.
But can Killington get to 130,000 visitors like Whistler?
“Absolutely,” Taylor said.
While mountain biking will remain the backbone of Killington’s summer operations, other new attractions this year include a campground in the Vale parking area, tethered hot air balloon rides, bocce courts, playgrounds for smaller children and flyboarding on the Snowshed Pond.
As part of a way to attract a local audience, the resort is rolling out a $59 summer season pass to the Adventure Park for Rutland County residents (not valid Saturdays).
Killington events and sponsorships manager Jeff Alexander and Killington parks and recreation director Kim Peters presented an expanded calendar for the spring, summer and fall, including:
Summer camps June 19-Aug. 25 for ages 4-14
Bike and Brew on June 10-11 with group rides, bike demos, a brew fest and live entertainment
The Long Trail Century on June 24 now features a 40-mile loop, mountain biking portion and adaptive biking at Killington this year
The IMBA Enduro World Series on July 1-2 will be held at Killington and Pittsfield trails as one of six stops in a series
The American Junior Golf Association Championships on July 3-10
The Killington Music Festival on July 1-29
The Dirty Girl Mud Run on July 8
Jeep Jamboree on July 13-15
The Killington Wine Festival on July 14-16
The Pro Mountain Bike Gravity Tour July 28-30
Under Armor Mountain Running Series Aug. 19-20 with 5K, 10K, half-marathon, 50K and races to the Killington summit
The Spartan Race will run Sept. 16-17
The Masters Games on Sept. 6-13 will be for ages 40 and older and feature bocce, bridge, bowling, cornhole, disc golf, golf and others
The Downhill Throwdown World Cup Sept. 9-10
Witchcraft will run on two weekends, Oct. 7-8 and Oct. 14-15
Killington saved what was arguably the most exciting event until the very end: The final slide in the presentation featured a ticking timer, counting down the days, hours, minutes and seconds until the next World Cup, due back over Thanksgiving weekend. On Monday there were 235 days left until the 2017 World Cup events begin.
Photo courtesy of Killington Resort
An architectural rendering of the remodeled Bear Mountain Base Area.