Editor’s note: The Mountain Times receives many questions from readers every week about Killington Resort and Pico Mountain operations. In order to best answer some of the most common questions we will pose them directly to Mike Solimano, president and general manager for Killington Resort and Pico Mountain, who has agreed to respond in an honest and timely fashion. Here are a few concerns many residents have raised recently:
1. The Uphill Travel Policy downhill recently changed, requiring folks now to ski/ride/hike down the same designated trails they went up. What is the reason for this change? Was there an incident?
As a resort team we are very proud of our Uphill Travel Policy – it was years in the making and we think it provides a great balance for public after-hours access to the mountain, while keeping our mountain operations staff and our uphill guests out of each other’s way so everyone can do what they set out to do. There have been no negative incidents since the program’s rollout — the policy was always meant to keep uphill and downhill traffic on designated routes after hours while the mountain ops team is on the hill, while permitting downhill traffic during operating hours on all open trails. Clearly this was not explained well enough at the beginning of the program, so we are making another push to ensure that all rules – from acquiring the appropriate pass to wearing reflective clothing and a light, to keeping pets off the resort trails. All of our regulations are listed online at killington.com/uphill.
2. Killington just passed the 100 inches of snow mark and is about two weeks away from the 100th day of operations this season, how does this year compare to past seasons? Are we ahead of average?
It has been a great season! Our natural snowfall is significantly ahead of this time last year, and the entire mountain is skiing tremendously well. We have been very fortunate to get a great mix of natural snow and sustained cold snowmaking weather, so our snowmakers could flex their muscles. As you can see by looking at Superstar, Jeff Temple, our director of mountain operations, is not taking his foot off the gas, even when we get natural snow. His team is working hard to make sure that conditions surpass guest expectations every day. We began our season a couple weeks later this year that we had hoped to, but even with the early November start we are optimistic that we can pass last year’s total of 199 operational days. We are always pushing for June, and hopefully Mother Nature will cooperate and let us operate until at least mid- or late-May! For the halfway point of the season, though, we are thrilled to have had so many gorgeous powder days – and to spend so much time in the glades!
3. The resort recently hosted the annual National Ski Areas Association conference and tradeshow. The sessions covered a wide range of topics some of which included best industry practices, new technological resources, solar power and other sustainability initiatives, and how drones may change resort operations. What are some of the biggest changes/adaptations that the ski industry is expecting? Is Killington well positioned to be at the forefront of such developments?
Hosting the National Ski Areas Association show was a great opportunity to show off the resort and our region to ski industry professionals from all over the country, and the weather was perfect. A lot of the West Coast guys reps were very impressed with the conditions and I think we dispelled some misconceptions about Eastern terrain and weather.
The educational sessions covered topics from drone technology to social media and I was really pleased that none of them caught us off guard. President Michael Berry and the NSAA are working hard on how to effectively bring drones into the industry without making them a hazard, and are working with the regulators at the FAA to find a commercially viable solution. Drone technology is very new and currently not permitted at Killington for any purpose, but we may amend our policy in the future based on what the FAA and NSAA work out.
There were several programs dedicated to retention and conversion, and we saw that Terrain Based Learning is gaining significant traction in the industry. Our Terrain Based Learning facility is the largest in the country, and we are running many programs in parallel to the NSAA to monitor beginners and how well we retain them. On the whole, I am very happy that Killington and Pico had already addressed pretty much every topic covered at the show internally over the past few years. We are positioned within the industry as a forerunner and leader, which is exactly where I want us.