Vermont Ski Resorts Invest Big In Off Season Attractions
Ski resorts across the state are gearing up for the winter ski and riding season. But many resorts have seen a pleasant uptick in summer and fall business thanks to recent multi-million dollar investments in lodging and non-skiing activities.
Killington resident Jim Grimm and his stepdaughter Karen Meierdiercks walk their mountain bikes to the chair lift at the base of Snow Shed Lodge at Killington.
Longtime skiers, they say new trails and a larger fleet of rental bikes have made the resort much more inviting to beginner and intermediate cyclists like themselves. “It’s awesome,” says Grimm. "They’re bringing in a lot more people. I know this summer, before the kids went back to school, this place was jamming every day, right?” he asked his step-daughter.
“Yup,” she answered. “Even during the week.”
Killington spent more than $3.5 million this year on non-ski attractions like the expanded, lower level mountain bike trails, a new $2 million roller coaster, a multi-level ropes course and a high-speed zip line.
Mendon resident Ted Manning loves it and says he can now mountain bike at the resort with his 6-year-old son. “Oh, it’s been phenomenal. The difference between five years ago and now is night and day," he says. "There's much more of an attraction now for a huge variety of riders. And for the resort, I can only image that it evens out their visitor base throughout the summer.”
Killington spokesperson Michael Joseph says it’s starting to. “It’s been tremendous,” he says. “Summer operations, which is the mountain biking, the coaster and other activities, is up over 130 percent over levels last year. And that was growth we were expecting, from the size of the investment.”
Joseph says even after additional wages and other costs are factored in, revenues are up over 30 percent from last summer.
And it’s not just Killington. Parker Riehle, President of Ski Vermont, the state’s largest ski industry trade association, says resorts across the state have been investing big in recent years in off-season attractions.
“We’re finding, and Killington has found, as has Stowe and Jay [Peak] and others, that those new amenities — the new mountain coaster at Okemo for example — those are real draws for the market to come on up to Vermont and take a vacation in the summer time,” says Riehle. “Which is a great use of the mountain infrastructure when it’s not snowing out.”
In addition to million-dollar roller coasters and water parks, ski resorts such as Stratton, Q-Burke, Killington, Stowe and others have also spent millions to upgrade their lodges, encouraging off season weddings and conferences.
“Jay Peak is a great example,” says Riehle. “They are booking three to five weddings a weekend through Columbus Day weekend. I think they’ll top nearly 100 weddings for the summer time season. It’s just incredible and other resorts around the state are really ramping into the wedding business as well.”
Riehle says the ripple effects of that benefit the entire state. He points out that the revenue from Vermont’s sales tax this summer was up 4 percent over last year and revenue from the state’s rooms and meals tax for June, July and August was up 6 percent.
Back in Killington, Christine Torrey, President of Basin Sports, stands between a rack of ski jackets and a row of mountain bikes.
Torrey says local restaurants have already seen an off-season boost in business thanks to the new traffic at the mountain. For stores like hers she thinks it may take a bit longer for the trickle down. But she’s optimistic. “I think the next three to five years our business is going to see a significant growth,” says Torrey. “We’re extremely happy.”
So are second homeowners, she says, who now have more reasons to drive up to Killington year round.