Looking Forward, a new vision for the 2012-13 winter season
Posted October 4, 2012
I am truly excited to take on my new role and responsibilities at Killington Resort and Pico Mountain as President and General Manager. In an effort to improve communication with all Killington/Pico stakeholders, I wanted to share my vision through a blog and continue to write blog posts regarding the resort’s progress on that vision.
While I am new to this position, I have been with the company for 12 years and my executive team has an average of 21 years of ski resort experience. All but one of my team members has over 15 years’ experience at Killington and Pico; we know the resorts well and understand what makes them so great.
Powdr Corp., based in Park City, Utah, is Killington and Pico’s parent company, as well as a holding company of mountain resort and action sports companies. Powdr is a privately held, family owned business with a decentralized approach to resort management. Simply put, decisions on how to run the resort are left to the local management team and Powdr’s main influence relates to capital allocation. Therefore, I take full responsibility for any decisions made moving forward at our resorts. One of my goals is to balance the variety of priorities that are important to our guests’ experience on and off the mountain. Although it’s tough to please everyone, I hope that explaining the business reason behind the choices we make will help our guests understand our strategy and thought process.
First, I would like to review some items from the past. Last year was one of the most challenging winter seasons on record, but we were able to open on October 29 for daily operations and provide some of the best skiing and riding in the region. Tropical storm Irene hit us hard, and we have rebuilt and improved the resort. Last year, over $8 million was spent on our capital investments including the removal of the original Peak Lodge and rebuilding after Irene with the installation of the Roaring Brook Umbrella Bars and deck. Additionally, several hundred new low energy snow guns were purchased. We have invested over $25 million in the last five years in our resorts and have another $10 million in investment planned for next year, highlighted by the completion of the Peak Lodge in December of 2013.
Our resorts were built at a time when the sport was seeing significant revenue growth, which allowed us to operate the resorts profitably. Times have changed, and we operate in an extremely competitive and capital intensive business. We have spent the past few years restructuring the company and trying different strategies to make us more efficient and more profitable. This is important because our business model allows us to invest all our local profits directly into capital investment thus improving our resorts.
With tough economic times and our focus on efficiencies, at times we lost sight of what has made Killington great. Our approach moving forward will focus on bringing back the best of Killington and truly live up to our name, “The Beast”. Killington is the biggest mountain resort with the most extensive and varied terrain, offering more snowmaking horsepower, more snowmaking coverage, and more lifts than just about anyone else in the East. These are the superlatives that describe who we are and what we do best. We need to regain that swagger that allowed us to have bragging rights in almost every measurable category of operation. Look for us to return to the roots and essence of whom and what we are.
In that regard, I will focus on the changes we are planning as we move forward:
We are committed to providing the longest on-snow season as possible, after all that’s The Nature of The Beast. This means we will open early and stay open late. While our focus will not be on "being the first to open," we will be more aggressive than in prior years to get open as soon as possible. Our snowmaking team is on high alert and will begin to make snow as soon as we have a good window of weather opportunity. In addition, we understand that our guests love Killington in the spring and we are committing to staying open until we can no longer provide a quality product.
Make this place fun again
In today's business climate, insurance concerns and business risks can sometimes drive businesses to make decisions that are not always guest focused. Killington has let this happen in certain circumstances and sometimes become too corporate in instituting new policies. We understand that our guests are coming to our resorts as a release from their normal lives and want to enjoy the outdoors and have a great time. One change that we hope will help move us in this new direction is to bring back the Bear Mountain Mogul Challenge (BMMC):
- This was an event that made Killington famous. Over time, various rules and restrictions slowly killed this event. I bear responsibility for many of these changes as I was part of the management team that slowly instituted many new restrictions on the event.
- As a part of the NOR’BEASTER, a ten-day event to kick off the spring season, we will bring back the BMMC this year. The goal is to return the festivities to the way they were in the past while being able to follow all VT Laws.
8:30 a.m. opening on weekends
As many of you know we have decided to open on weekends and holidays at 8:30 a.m. This decision was made based on the fact that there are many operational issues with opening early and many of our competitors are moving in this direction.
- We have heard different opinions on this decision from various groups of stakeholders. Even though the 2012-13 Killington Trail Guide has gone to print with the 8:30 a.m. opening, we have decided to be responsive to our guests and make a change to our morning operation time:
- We will continue with the plan to open operations at 8:30 a.m. on weekends and peak days, but we will open the K-1 Express Gondola at 8:00 a.m. giving guests who want to start early, access to the main part of the mountain with the most varied skiing, while allowing us to continue to groom the rest of the mountain for the 8:30 a.m. opening.
There will still be a commitment to many other areas that have made our resorts great such as racing programs, snowboard and ski events, seeded moguls, parks and pipes and a major focus of bringing more beginners into our sport.
For those with local ties, look for us to roll out plans that describe how we intend to drive these initiatives of growth in more detail in meetings and presentations that my team will be doing this fall. This includes home owner association, Chamber and other civic organizations meetings.
We are excited for the upcoming season, and we hope you are too.