Commentary, Opinion

Win-win opportunity in Killington Valley initiative

Dear Editor,

“______ Rolls Down Hill” you’ll hear the old Vermonters yammer. It has been my experience, however, that the main thing rolling downhill from Killington/Pico’s direction toward Rutland… is opportunity.
I am a Rutland (city), Vermont native. Born and bred as they say. I grew up on Lyman Ave, just off of Jackson in a lower-middle class Italian home. Skiing was not in our family’s budget growing up, so my experience with snow sports was pretty much limited to standing up on my sled and hoping for the best. I remember seeing kids leaving for the mountain from school, with their raccoon tans and fancy duds, but I never saw anyone skiing and really never even visited the mountain other than the occasional wedding at Cortina. My only encounters with visiting tourists as a kid, were cars with orange license plates driving fast and honking their horns at my dad who drove at a more Vermont-ish pace.
Everything changed for me one day way back in 1977. I was 11 years old, and off on a day trip to Londonderry for shopping with the folks. I’ll never forget seeing this little shop, with a hand painted sign that said “Burton Snowboards,” snowboards… what could that be? I was an avid skateboarder, (with the help of Ffej Sanborn, we had one of the the first skate ramps in the state), so they had my attention.
I met Jake Carpenter and his partner Doug who had just opened, and watched a video of these guys surfing down the snow and I had to try it. There was no ski lift access, only back country hiking, no plastic boots, only Sorels. This was right in my wheelhouse, and myfamily’s budget, so off I went with my Burton ‘Backhill’ board to the snow-covered hill at Whites playground. From that day on I was hooked. I ended up purchasing boards from Jake at a discount and selling them back to my friends at Christ the King School Rutland at retail, allowing me to support my new habit. In hindsight, I’m pretty sure I was one of the first snowboard dealers, if only in a small way. What a world!
By my junior year at Rutland High School, Stratton Mountain had opened it’s mind and slopes to snowboarding. I started traveling down country to snowboard on a board with metal edges on groomed snow. Again, mind blown. I ended up working for Burton in Manchester shaping boards as they came out of the heat press with a huge belt grinder. Not very sexy, but I was around the sport I loved. The trek down to Manchester every day was a drag, so I arranged a meeting with Joe Wood of Pico Mountain, and somehow convinced him to let me to start up a snowboard instructional program. That was 1987. Then in 1990, Killington Resort was rumored to allow snowboarding, so of course I pitched them on why they needed to hire me, and low and behold they did! During these exciting seasons I watched snowboard instruction grow from yours truly teaching solo on the Bonanza slope at Pico, to a staff of 50+ pros raging out of Snowshed, turning on thousands to snowboarding. What a blast it was. Along the way I made friendships that have lasted to this day.
When I was just brainstorming on starting Awesome Graphics, I had a large print sample I was dragging around showing potential clients, testing the waters for interest. No one had ever seen anything like this type of printing before. When I showed Tracy Taylor, the then Killington VP of marketing, the sample and told him the approximate retail, he said ‘if you buy that equipment, I’ll have uses for it.’
You know what? We did, and Tracy did what he said, and the rest is history. I would never have had the opportunity of working for companies like Burton, Smith, Rossignol, etc. if it weren’t for my time on the hill. Our business was greatly impacted from the infusion of work coming from outside our city limits, and Killington helped make many of the introductions.
So as far as the new initiatives for our communities working together under the ‘Killington Valley’ designation, promoting the strengths of the entire ecosystem of the Rutland/Killington area as an exciting, viable place to abide. I am behind the efforts 1,000 percent. I believe this move is critical for growth and prosperity to the Rutland (city), Vermont area.
To my older colleagues who seem to have concerns with the collaboration and want to keep things as they are, I remind you all to remember how far that thinking has gotten us so far. Let’s shake things up and give the world a look at how amazing our community is and why they should consider it a place to move to, open businesses in and raise families. We need more people to open their hearts and pocketbooks to Central Vermont, and this is one great way to help that cause. I do love a win-win!
Thank you Killington for being just up the road, and for providing me a world view beyond my borders at the time. Thank you Rutland for giving me such a great place to grow up, raise a family and work in. I really do love you both. So lets raise a pint to the ‘Killington Valley’ of which Rutland is the heart. Where would we be without you?!

Mike Napolitano, Rutland City

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