On March 24, 2021

New Base Camp owners plan ski and bike hub

The scene after a Tuesday ride

By Polly Mikula

“We plan to keep Base Camp going and add in the bike piece,” said Ben Colona of his plans for Base Camp Outfitters in Killington, which he purchased last week with co-owner Phil Back.

Colona is the current president of the Killington Mountain Bike Club (KMBC) and Black is the vice president. For the past five years, KMBC has built and maintained single track mountain bike trails in Killington through partnerships with the Green Mountain National Forest, Vermont State Parks, the town of Killington, and private land owners.

Colona is currently the manager of Killington Sports Retail and Bike Shop, a position he will leave in the coming weeks to pursue the opportunity at Base Camp Outfitters full-time. Colona started working at Killington Resort while in college in 2008 at (then) Castleton State College while earning his degree in marketing/management, according to his profile on LinkedIn.

Co-owner Phil Black is the owner of The Lookout Tavern in Killington, a fun “burger and beer” joint on Killington Road that he founded with his wife, Joy, in 2000.

Over the years, Colona and Black had talked about collaborating in various ways to create more cross-country mountain bike trails in town and further help Killington become a welcoming bike community.

They started looking seriously into Base Camp Outfitters this past winter.

“It was last December that I first put the bug in Phil’s ear,” Colona said. “Phil and I have been working closely for the past five years at the Killington Mountain Bike Club and one day I just said to him, ‘Hey, you know Base Camp is for sale’.”

At first Black thought the asking price was too high, but then the parties began to talk creatively about how to strike a win-win deal and longer-term partnership.

Over a month before the closing, with details still needing to be resolved, Black was confident. “It’ll take some time,” Black said. “But I know we’ll work something out because we all know it’s what this community needs.”

“I’ve had this vision to create a hub,” Colona said. A place he visited  in North Carolina in 2013 simply called “The Hub,” exemplified this vision, he said.

According to its website: “The Hub shop offers awesome bicycles, killer outdoor gear, friendly service, and the latest in demos and rentals. The helpful and energetic staff is ready for anything. When your adventure is finished, join us for a local brew and tell us about it. There’s no better place for bikes, outdoor gear and beer.”

“That’s what I wanted to create here,” Colona said. “Killington wasn’t ready for that in 2013, but I think it is now. Summer has evolved here.”

“Phil was on board with that vision and Mike saw the vision, too, but he wanted us to do it, I think, he was on his way out the door; we’re on our way in the door,” said Colona.

Because of mountain bike popularity and the pandemic, Colona expects that there will be a bike shortage this year and doesn’t expect to have many for sale at his shop. “We will be selling bikes when we have them, but this year will be focusing on service (maintenance and repair), rentals, the retail side for bike gear,” he said.

He expects the rental fleet to arrive in April and May.

“There is so much space here, so much opportunity… Eventually we hope to develop downstairs as a full service station with two guys wrenching on bikes all day,” he said.

Colona also hopes to build a skills areas in the back of the shop for folks to practice on “skinny rails” and other elements.

Base Camp will allow e-bikes and e-fat bike on their trails, since it’s private land (e-bikes are not currently allowed on National Forest land), Colona explained. And he expects e-biking will continue to grow in popularity.

Colona also envisions bringing more activities to the trail system — from clinics and group rides to multi-use activities.

“Beth has some cool ideas, too,” he said, referring to Beth Roberts, founder of Killington Boot Camp, which will be relocating its fitness business from behind the Lookout Tavern to the upstairs of Base Camp Outfitters.

“We expect things will change as we go, and I look forward to all future opportunities,” Colona said. “The more you know, the more you can learn,” he said, paraphrasing John Long, a long-time Killington resident, and personal friend, who helped build the bike park at Killington resort.

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