The Mountain Times

°F Sun, April 20, 2014

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KMS Trails initiative to improve Killington Mountain venues

Enhancements could bring larger race events to town

KILLINGTON - Excavators will begin work this June cutting a trail between Highline race trail and Chop Chop Glades on Killington Mountain, creating a new 220-meter mogul course for KMS training and competitions complete with is own snowmaking. KMS also plans to widen the Highline race trail and re-contour the slope to create a more gradual and consistent fall line. Then the school hopes to install a surface lift (T-bar) or a mid-station on the triple so the 280 racers that train with KMS on the weekends can access these trails efficiently.

A short distance away, behind the umbrella bars at K1, a permanent, four-season bag jump venue will be build for action-sports athletes to practice for jump and trick development progressions.

For the last two years Tao Smith, head of Killington Mountain School, has been working with Killington Resort and the Killington Ski Club board to plan these developments. Trail design and permitting was completed last summer and the trail work is scheduled to begin this June.

"KMS is proud to announce our new 'Trails' initiative, designed to enhance and improve our training and competition venues at Killington," said Tao Smith in a recent letter to the KMS Community. "Our goal is to enhance the training opportunities for our junior development programs at KSC and our students at the Killington Mountain School, by providing better venues."

The project is divided into three phases. Phase one, includes cutting the trails, laying snowmaking pipe and conduit, and building the bag jump venue. Smith estimates the cost will be approximately $700,000. "It is our goal to accomplish this in year one, bringing these venues on-line for our athletes in the winter of 2014," Smith said.

The second phase, scheduled for completion for the beginning of the 2015 season, includes timing buildings for the start and finish of the courses, lift access and lighting for night events, which Smith says offers an opportunity to stage exciting, viewer-friendly, evening events that often draw large crowds. Phase two is estimated to cost $500,000.

Phase three includes modernizing the snowmaking capacity, which will cost approximately $250,000 and will be completed in time for the 2016 season.

"Combined, these improvements will give our young athletes a modern, world-class training and competition venue, vastly increasing their ability to train for peak performance," Smith continued.

The project is necessary as many other nearby ski academies already have Acrobags (including Okemo) and newly enhanced venues for competitions. Stratton Mountain got the Freestyle Nor'Am from Killington this year, due to having a better venue, Smith noted. This three-day event was the single biggest revenue producing race KMS had held. "We're confident we can get it back in a few years," Smith said. "We also have our eye on some other big events, that consistently bring in many spectators (and dollars) to our community."

Among the big events Smith has his eye on, is partnering with the US Ski Team to host a night Nor' Am slalom race and party on New Year's Eve, an event he expects would draw thousands.

Smith says the funding for these improvements will come from a multitude of sources including corporate donations, KMS alumni, foundations and friends. About $50,000 of the money raised last year was earmarked for the Trails initiative, most of which has been used to cover designs, permits and plans, Smith says. About $50,000 more has been committed, thus far.

"Our campaign to improve our venues is just barely underway, and we need your help to make this dream a reality," Smith wrote in the community letter.

KMS has grown from 53 students in 2008 to 75 this school year in its 5-month and 9-month programs combined, and nearly 300 racers join them for the weekend program.

40-60% of the weekend racers and 25% of KMS students come from Vermont, with the majority of the remainder joining the team from Connecticut, New Jersey and Massachusetts.

Smith estimates that the impact of KMS related activity pumps about $700,000 each year in to the local economy. It could be even higher, Smith says, if Killington and KMS are able to attract some of the bigger events. Smith presented an analysis that shows how one such event, the USSA Eastern Region Junior Championship with approximately 160 racers, brings in an estimated $333,950 in direct spending over the three-day competition. Killington does not yet have the venue to host such events but the Trails initiative- a dedicated mogul course, improved Highline race trail, snowmaking, lights and lifts, in addition to the Acrobag jump - is designed to put them in the running. Smith says the mogul course, which will have five lands (three A Lanes for advanced competitors and two B lanes for novice freestyle athletes) will be best venue in the east.