The old makes way for larger, modern K-1 lodge
By Karen D. Lorentz
From a bare bones pre-fab CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) hut that served as a base lodge during Killington’s first year of ski operations (1958-59) and the debut of the state built “ski shelter” in 1959, the Killington Base Lodge has come a long way over its 63 years, including many additions and renovations.
Henry Biathrow, who helped build a temporary first “base lodge” — a leftover CCC hut that the Vermont Dept. of Forests & Parks provided, worked with his wife, Jo, cooking and serving food to hungry skiers that first winter.
“The ski patrol brought the injured through the kitchen to get to the first aid area that first crazy year,” they recalled in an earlier interview.
That was also the year that a converted chicken coop served as an outdoor ticket office on weekends and an outhouse served as restrooms. The Killington Base Lodge (also known as KBL) replaced the hut in 1959 with a basement level that was below grade and a first floor that opened out onto the slopes.
The Vermont Department of Forests & Parks had built ski shelters for the ski areas that they leased land to, from the 1930s to the 1960s, expanded the lodge in 1965, doubling the size of the cafeteria and ski shop. (They eventually turned over base lodge expansions to the areas.)
Due to the growing popularity of the expanding ski area, Killington built its Ramshead Base Lodge in 1962 and the Snowshed Base Lodge in 1963. (Both also saw major enlargements over the years.) Following permit delays, the first Peak Restaurant opened in December 1971, but requests to further expand KBL were denied when Act 250 caused new agencies and workers to adopt a no-growth policy for several years in the 1970s.
“In a year when the ski area was not allowed to expand the Killington Base Lodge, figuring out a way to seat more skiers in the restaurant became a major challenge. Utilizing smaller trays and shaving 10 inches from the width of tables enabled us to add 10% more tables and chairs, thus creating greater seating capacity and better skier service,” noted Hank Lunde, an engineer who joined Killington in 1970 as planning and construction manager.
With several expansions and major renovations over the years to provide more services and accommodate more guests, KBL came to be known as the K-1 Base Lodge or K-1 Lodge, when the K-1 Gondola was installed in 1997 by Les Otten’s American Skiing Company (ASC had purchased Killington’s parent company S-K-I-Ltd. in 1996).
Otten, who joined Killington’s ski area management training program in 1971 and then managed Sunday River in Maine before buying that area from S-K-I, had named the gondola in deference to its replacing Killington’s first chairlift “and as a gesture of respect to [Killington founder Pres] Smith.”
Smith’s original plan was to build a gondola to Killington Peak, but lacking the funds, a double chair was installed in 1959.
While KBL was a happening place with a bar/lounge downstairs, then later expanding to the larger Mahogany Ridge upstairs where many special events were hosted, it also saw some challenging times.
In the 1960s, a (then) operations manager needed to unfreeze a manmade pond on slope in front of KBL for the famous pond skimming contest. Misjudging the amount of dynamite needed to blow up the ice, the explosion shattered some KBL windows.
But perhaps the biggest threat to KBL over the years was Tropical Storm Irene, which washed away a section of KBL in 2011. The addition of the Roaring Brook Umbrella Bars and a huge outdoor deck were the timely solutions for the lost section of Mahogany Ridge bar.
Now the K-1 Lodge is coming down after serving the public for 63 winters and almost as many summers.
The new, 58,000-square-foot lodge will be 21,000 square feet larger than its predecessor and almost four times larger than the Peak Lodge.
However, the best-laid plans don’t always work out as scheduled. Just as the new Peak Lodge met with delays caused by Irene from a December 2012 opening to a late December 2013 debut, the new K-1 construction plans were interrupted by the onset of Covid in 2020. Phase 1 of the replacement K-1 Base Lodge got underway July 16, 2019, and originally the teardown party was scheduled for March 2020, with the planned completion for the 2020-21 winter season.
After a two year pandemic, the teardown party will now be held this Sunday, March 20, with an opening of the new lodge set for November 2022.
Phase 1 construction included the new portion of the structure built in front of the existing K-1 Base Lodge — this portion has been visible for nearly two years.
Phase 2 now necessitates the demolition of the existing base lodge to make room for the final phase of construction of the new lodge. To mark this milestone, the resort is throwing a party on Sunday to offer a last chance to experience the historic K-1 Lodge prior to its demise.
New K-1 Lodge
Bread Loaf architects designed the new three-story lodge. It will be more than 50% larger than the existing lodge and will include a full-service bar, a food court, a coffee bar, additional space, and 180-degree views. It will also feature many of the characteristics that make the Peak Lodge such a popular destination for Killington visitors, including an open floor plan featuring mixed seating arrangements, floor-to-ceiling windows, a grand fireplace, and an upscale food court.
Skier services will include rentals and tune shop, lift ticket sales, retail store, changing rooms, including a mothers nursing room, bag storage and additional restrooms on all three floors.
Reached at his home in Florida on March 14, Pres Smith was asked what he thought of replacing the historic lodge with one in the modern architecture of the Peak Lodge.
“It’s the way I would want to go — modern American. There are things that I didn’t get to do, and I’m delighted with what’s happening,” he said.
“We’re excited to begin this next phase of the K-1 Base Lodge build. This is a significant step in fulfilling our vision to transform the way guests experience and enjoy Killington for years to come,” said Mike Solimano, president and general manager of Killington Resort.
Part of that vision included replacing the Snowdon Quad with a highspeed six-seater bubble chair, the triangular South Ridge Triple with a straight quad chair (former Snowdon quad), and the North Ridge Triple with a new fixed grip quad. The debut of the Woodward Mountain Park, several skier tunnels, and significant snowmaking upgrades also took place over the last few years so the completion of the new lodge really will bring the frosting to Killington’s multi-layered cake.
Party and changes
Sunday’s teardown party will include a free photo booth (12-4 p.m.), swag giveaways, live performances starting at 10 a.m. Vistors can also sign the memory wall at Mahogany Ridge, participate in a silent auction for lodge memorabilia, and enjoy a final toast at 5:15 p.m.
After Sunday, the lodge will no longer offer any services. Skiers and riders will still be able to navigate around the construction site to access the K-1 Gondola and Superstar Chair, however. Outdoor restrooms will also be available but those parking in the K-1 lot will need to boot up at their vehicles. Ticketing will be available at the K-1 Kiosk and at a ticket trailer. The upper Killington Road will see midweek closures, but the K-1 lot will be accessible by the Vale Road, which also runs by the Vale parking lots that accesses lower Great Northern for skiing to the Ramshead base area and lodge.
The Ramshead Lodge will resume full services seven days a week after March 20 so along with the Snowshed, Bear, and Peak Lodges it offers alternative warm-up, boot-up, and food. Food will be also be offered at K-1 Base via food truck and Umbrella Bars (full service bar and barbeque daily), and at a temporary structure (grab and go items).