On December 14, 2022

Backyard rope tows gain popularity

By Katy Savage

When Mike Orlando bought property in Danby with a large hill and 30 acres three years ago, he knew what he wanted to do.

“I knew right away it would be great to snowboard,” he said.

Orlando, who rides at Killington Resort, spent three years cutting trees and building about 25 hiking and snowboarding trails as well as a zipline on his property. He uses it as a place to camp for his son and 6-year-old daughter.

Courtesy Mike Orlando
Mike Orlando has his own backyard rope tow in Danby.

“I pretty much have a mini resort at my house,” he said.

Orlando lives full time in Toms River, New Jersey where he owns a cell phone company. He comes to Vermont about twice a month and snowboards every chance he gets.

“I would live in the woods if I could, so for me, it’s fun,” he said.

After hiking the trails in the winter, two years ago, he had a better idea — he installed a 600-foot rope tow with lights for night riding and, “We ride with headlamps,” he said. “It’s sick.”

Orlando’s not the only person with his own backyard park. Orlando’s rope tow was installed by Towpro Lifts LLC, owned by Will Mayo and Kyle Roy of New Hampshire and Maine.

Vermont has more Towpro systems than any other state, Mayo said. There are 14 rope tows in Vermont and three more being installed this year, with locations locally in Hartland, Killington and Tinmouth. All are privately owned.

The people of Vermont are awesome and they recognize the need to be outside and in nature,” Mayo said. “They appreciate being able to use their own land and Vermont is full of hills.”

The cost of a 300-foot rope tow starts at about $7,000. There are public Towpro installations at Saddleback Ski Area in Maine, Kingvale Resort in California, Rotarun Ski Area in Idaho, as well resorts in Japan and Saudi Arabia. There is also one more local installation.

Darkside Snowboards in Killington just got a rope tow for free after winning a giveaway through Bomb Hole Podcast. Mayo installed a 150-foot ropetow at Darkside’s Darkpark in October.

“We picked the winner out of a hat,” Mayo said. “We couldn’t have picked a better group.”

Mayo customized Darkside’s rope tow to be able to carry three people at once. Darkside will turn it on for events throughout the winter.

“We’ll be able to host bigger events an hopefully we’ll get more people to come out because there really isn’t anywhere to ride at night,” said Tucker Zink, the general manager at Darkside.

Darkpark is open for free 4-10 p.m. every night as long as there’s natural snow.

“There’s not much to do if you’re a kid in Killington,” Zink said. “It gives them something to do at night.”

Mayo’s company started as a way for him to get up a hill faster without having to use snowmobiles. It gained popularity through the pandemic-fueled desire to be outside and stay at home. He said Vermont is the ideal place for his systems.

“It gets snow, it’s got hills and there are people who have wonderful, beautiful properties with lots of land and some disposable income to spend on this kind of thing,” Mayo said.

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