By Merisa Sherman
A young man was banging on doors, a large blue cardboard poster under his arm. In the center was a large black and white photo of a random mountain in Vermont. It was taken from an off angle, and you could see the wing of the plane in the corner of the photo. But the image was clear — there was a beautiful looking mountain filled with trees. The young man was pitching this crazy idea of developing this mountain into a ski resort. He had plans for converting a chicken coop into a ticket booth and plenty more cardboard signs.
All he needed was a friend. Just one person who would believe in him and his dreams. Meeting after meeting ended in disappointment and frustration; his shoulders began to slump and he almost gave up. Until that moment, when Killington went from being a dream into reality. As the door closed from yet another unsuccessful meeting, another young man slipped out behind him. “Pres? I’m Joe,” he said, “and I think you’re onto something.”
Together, those two men were able to accomplish something magical. They drew more and more folks to the dream, creating a community of like-minded individuals that thrived on adventure and were willing to stand on the side of a mountain, slinging chainsaws and raising lift towers, learning everything as they went along. They started so much more than a ski resort. Pres and Joe started a family, working and partying together in the mountains of Vermont.
My family wouldn’t even hear of Killington for another 10 years or so. On Dec. 13, 1958, when the first lift ticket was sold, my dad hadn’t even learned to ski yet! It wasn’t until one year out of college, when his fraternity brothers decided to gather in Killington for a weekend getaway, that he truly fell in love with skiing. After that, he couldn’t get enough. I have a great photo of my dad rocking wooden skis and sporting a super creepy mustache while he deliberately makes his way down the weekly ski school race. You can see the focus in his eyes, his engineering brain analyzing every inch of his technique.
My dad quickly fell under Killington’s magical spell, becoming a dedicated addict to the old fashioned ski weeks. Five full days of skiing with the best instructors, and a dedicated party spot each evening. You didn’t just learn to ski, you learned how to be a Killington skier. They skied in the rain, in the powder and just had the best time ever. Sometimes, they didn’t even come home, and stayed drinking in the base lodge until the wives had to call the ski school looking for their lost husbands.
That’s how I grew up skiing. Each year, I would be in Superstars and meet the most amazing kids from all over the world. My first legitimate pen pal was Heather from Truro, Nova Scotia. She had the most amazing jacket that would change colors when you put your warm hand on it. We made our own happy hours, swimming in the pool at the Summit Lodge while our parents stayed drinking at the bar on the premise that Loon was looking out for us. Every single person we met at ski school became our family.
And then my dad got invited to the school for instructors and our family lives changed forever. My dad was one of five individuals offered a job at the Killington Ski School. That summer, my parents bought a condo in Trail Creek, we joined the Killington Ski Club, and my dad got a purple and black North Face jacket with a shiny gold nametag. With one fell swoop, my sister and I went from regular visitors to ski school brats. Our family became part of the ski school family. That first family photo with dad in his uniform jacket had the place of honor on the mantle — and that first $4.27 paycheck hung in a frame right next to the skis.
But more than that, we were now part of the dream that Pres and Joe started over 60 years ago. It was our job to make sure that people feel the magic surrounding this place, the dream that unites all who cannot seem to get enough of this mountain. So, I started dreaming of becoming a ski instructor when I got older and passing on the joy and I am pretty sure my dad was more excited to see me in that hideous blue and yellow Karbon jacket than when the college acceptances came in. And so here I stay, passing on the joy of life well lived, wrapped in the love of this beautiful community and the magic of skiing this treasured mountain. May you find the spirit of the mountain within you.