The Mountain Times

°F Sat, April 19, 2014

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Gala grand opening celebrates new Peak Lodge with an occasion to remember



After three years of design, demolition, construction, and infrastructure projects totaling a $7 million investment, the highest lift-served skiing in Vermont now boasts a lodge befitting Killington's mountain majesty.
The 15,000-square-foot, energy-efficient Lodge at Killington Peak, which is also the highest in the Northeast, was officially opened with a gala celebration and ribbon cutting on Jan. 9.
Some 200-plus invited guests, resort personnel, and dignitaries attended the late afternoon cocktail party, which featured an open bar, elegant hors d'oeuvres, a champagne toast and impressive fireworks display. The clear skies showcased the beautiful views, with a colorful sunset, too!
"The original lodge lasted 45 years; may this building outlast all of us," Killington President and GM Mike Solimano said as guests raised their glasses in honor of the occasion.
Commissioner of Tourism and Marketing Megan Smith praised the new facility, noting that it will also serve the shoulder seasons with the ability to host weddings and special events and boost the state's year-round tourism and travel industry in the process. 
Forests, Parks and Recreation Commissioner Michael C. Snyder noted that Killington is "mostly on lease land," and pointed out that the state's ski leases were the model "for ski leases in the West." Citing the leadership roles of Vermont and Killington in skiing, he added that with the new lodge "Killington continues to lead nationally."
In reference to the man who convinced Killington's founder Preston Smith to take a look at the mountain and consider developing a ski area there, Snyder said, "I believe Perry Merrill would be very proud."
Merrill's dream was to create ski areas on the state's highest mountains, but he couldn't find anyone to develop Killington Peak, Vermont's second highest peak, when it was given to the state in 1938.
Nevertheless, Merrill persevered and, as the Commissioner of Vermont Forests and Parks, eventually leased land for seven ski areas, including Killington, which opened in 1958.
Solimano noted that his predecessor Chris Nyberg (now Powdr Corp COO) originally planned the new facility and architects Dan Partt, Jay White, and Steve Fenn of  Robert Carl Williams designed the two-story building that can withstand category 3 hurricane winds (130 mph).
He thanked Engelberth Construction, builders, and Killington's own staff who were responsible for infrastructure and the logistics of site management, including James Tomlinson, Greg Hilz, Dave Lacombe, Alan Patch, Corey Tredtin, Jeff Boyce-Doran, Jim Shands, and Jeff Temple.
He also acknowledged those who worked on the interior design - Kelly O'Brien, Kim Williamson, and Chandler Burgess - and Hospitality Director Scott Harrison and Peak Lodge Executive Chef Rusch for their contributions and making the event possible.

An amazing feat
The inch-thick, double-paned window walls of the new lodge offer amazing views of mountain ranges in New Hampshire, Vermont, and New York along with spectacular sunsets.
Noting the challenge to take down the old lodge without blasting, architects Steve Fenn and Jay White told The Mountain Times that it was important not to disturb the adjacent well that supplies water to the building. In addition to a large kitchen, the first level hosts five water tanks that supply the sprinkler system and two tanks for drinking water - all supplied by the well. Each tank holds 3,300 gallons of water, they said.
Additionally, there are two huge gas tanks buried in the ground that supply the gas stoves, grills, and fireplace. They have to be filled before winter, Fenn said, noting the complex logistics involved with the building.
Engineer Don Marsh of Montpelier, who was also a guest, said it took two years to build the sewer line that serves the new lodge, noting it was demanding work both in design and construction since they were dealing with rocky terrain.
But the result of all the various projects is a modern, six-sided building - chosen for to resemble the shape of snowflakes, which also have six sides, Solimano noted - that is stunning from its entry lobby to the vast open room that creates a top-of-the-world experience due to the magnificent sea of mountain ranges seen in every direction.

Of progress and plans
The Peak Lodge is not only part of an overall plan to accommodate guests skiing over from Pico in the future - an Interconnect between the two resorts is still on the drawing boards - but to serve the many skiers who currently prefer advanced skiing in the K-1 lodge and lift area, Solimano explained. He noted that the many improvements and upgrades to this section of the mountain, including the Umbrella Bars and new heated lift maze at the K-1 Gondola are meeting with approval from the resort's guests (as reflected in recent surveys).
Now the new Peak Lodge will complement the lunchtime offerings of the K-1 Lodge and Umbrella Bars with its elevated dining experience in a more refined and relaxing atmosphere that sports leather couches as well as a full service bar, gas fireplace, and food court with chef-manned stations.
The three chefs prepare daily specials along with food court items featuring homemade soups and chili, sandwiches, deserts, and other fare. One normally doesn't find a catch-of-the-day special in a base lodge, but red snapper can be found at the peak, Solimano noted.
Plans include offering Saturday night dinners at the Peak as soon as various finishing touches are completed - exterior lighting being one.
Already several weddings are booked and special functions such as a dinner and fashion show to be held for media from around the country in March are scheduled.
Capping off the opening celebration, Atlas Pyro Vision Productions, Inc. provided a spectacular fireworks display. Set off at the South Ridge area just below Killington Peak, the colorful starbursts wowed the crowd with a grand finale worthy of the occasion.
The night ended with a peaceful ride back down the mountain in the cow-powered K-1 Gondola under a starry sky. With hand warmers and a wool blanket provided, it was truly a night to remember as well as an occasion that bodes well for the region's travel and tourism industry.