By Katy Savage
Advance planning, masks and social distancing will be part of the new normal at Killington Resort this year. But no après drinks at the bar.
The resort, nicknamed the Beast of the East, typically opens as soon as temperatures allow (often around Halloween) but opening day won’t start until Nov. 14 this year, weather permitting.
Killington’s sister mountain Pico will open at the end of December.
“We’re not going to open the resort until we have top-to-bottom skiing,” Killington Resort President Mike Solimano said in a message to guests on Sept. 10.
The Peak Walkway, which beckons early season skiers, won’t be open this year and nor will uphill travel until the resort opens.
“We’re aware that many pass holders have ignored our closures in the past, but this season, our uphill policy will be strictly enforced and you will be at risk of losing ski privileges if you’re caught on the mountain,” Solimano said.
Unlike previous years, snowmaking efforts will focus on upper mountain terrain first to encourage people to spread out on the trails. Snowmaking will begin in the North Ridge area and Killington Peak then expand to Snowdon.
“This means we don’t plan to offer beginner terrain in the Snowshed or Ramshead areas until mid- to late-December instead of Thanksgiving weekend like we have in the past,” Solimano said.
Killington will limit the number of people at the resort each day by requiring everyone to make a parking reservation in advance.
Details on how the reservation system will work are still a bit unclear, but Killington Resort Communications Manager Courtney DiFiore said those riding in groups, using public transportation or getting dropped off won’t need a reservation.
“The only reservations that need to be made at this point are parking reservations,” DiFiore said in a phone interview. “If you’re not parking with us, you just come to the resort.”
While ticket sales will be limited, the resort will encourage more people to ski mid-week by offering price discounts.
Occupancy at chairlifts, gondolas and inside lodges will also be limited to 50%, in accordance to state guidelines.
Solimano acknowledged that that would be a challenge: “50% capacity makes it difficult to operate,” he said.
As a result, no bags will be allowed in lodges and people will be asked to use their car as much as possible. “It’s going to be important for many of you to boot up in the car and go directly to the lift,” Solimano said.
Due to limitations on group gatherings, guests
may not be able to enjoy the après ski scene like usual. There will be more outdoor bathrooms and lodges will act more like warming huts instead of places for people to congregate.
“We will want people to come in, warm up and leave as quickly as possible,” Solimano said.
To accommodate guests, the resort is planning to expand outdoor dining options with new food and beverage trucks. People will also be able to pre-order grab-n-go style meals.
Vermont’s face mask mandate will be required at the resort at all times.
“We’re blessed to be able to have a sport that happens outdoors where we are already used to wearing masks, gloves and goggles,” Solimano said.
All purchases at the resort will be contactless as well.
There will be ticket kiosks instead of ticket windows this year for people seeking day passes.
“We introduced these ticket kiosks last season at select base lodges but are accelerating our rollout of the kiosks at all base lodges for the coming season,” Solimano said.
New software to enable contactless credit card payments at food and beverage outlets will be used. This means customers won’t be able to use resort charge or Beast or Pico Bucks at food outlets this season.
Another technology in the works is a Killington app for guests to view real-time lift and trail statuses and lift wait times. The resort will also be able to send push notifications and text messages with updates and information to cell phones.
“The likelihood of needing to communicate with guests outside of email and social media is greater than ever this coming season,” Solimano said.
Lessons will begin in mid- to late-December with restrictions. Only private lessons will be offered with related parties at Killington Resort and Pico Mountain. The Unleashed and 4241 seasonal lesson programs will be available, but the Ministar program, youth group lessons, childcare and group programs will not be offered this season.
DiFiore said many of the details surrounding reopening were still being worked through.
“Even though we didn’t have all the details, we thought it would be better to get something out,” DiFiore said. “We want to be completely transparent.”
While the changes are significant, Solimano said Killington was doing what it could to provide the best skiing available on the East Coast.
“I think the skiing could be the best it’s ever been,” Solimano said, adding that there will be 50% fewer people on the trails, leaving better snow conditions.
DiFiore echoed those sentiments.
“Every change that’s been made this year will have some kind of impact,” DiFiore said. “Hopefully it has more positive impacts.”