AlpineZone Challenge 2011 – Chris Nyberg of Killington

The AlpineZone Ski Area Challenge was designed to provide a method for our forum members to get official answers to skiing-related questions directly from a ski area representative. Chris NybergPresident of Killington in Killington, Vermont, took the AlpineZone Ski Area Challenge and provided the following responses on 11/26/2011:

deadheadskier: There are several questions about Pico. deadheadskier wonders if there are any plans to offer expanded lift operations at Pico this winter? He notes that he skied Pico twice last winter, on a Friday and a Monday and that those visits, the Little Pico Triple and Outpost Double Chairs were both closed. He continues by stating that the Outpost area offers some of the better ‘character’ trails at Pico and in my opinion, A Slope, though short, is the best Expert terrain on the Mountain.

While I know the focus is on family programs at Pico, it would be nice to have A Slope open whenever possible. It was pretty frustrating to see both the Bonanza Double and Gnomes Knoll Triple chairs running and see the other two lifts closed. The Outpost you can hike to fairly easily, A Slope you cannot. Your thoughts?

Chris Nyberg: Pico’s operating model during the week, non-peak, will remain the same as last year. Additionally, opening more lifts mid-week at Pico would increase the operational costs into the red. Under the current operating model Pico has become a fiscally sound business.

Oakapple: Regarding the former South Ridge Triple: Oakapple and Rogman wonder if you can outline the plans for replacing that lift.

Rogman also notes, “The sudden removal of the South Ridge Triple means that under the current trail configuration, there is effectively only one way out of Bear, the Skye Peak Express. On busy weekends, the mid-day wait is already substantial. This will make it worse, especially during the Dew Tour. Are you considering any changes that will mitigate this issue?” Also, can you provide information as to how folks can purchase former South Ridge Triple chairs?

Chris Nyberg: We left majority of the return towers with the hope that we could use some of them when we move an existing lift to service that terrain. The replacement of the South Ridge Triple will be in a few years, we are focused on finishing the new Peak Facility next year.

killtoski: I have skied Killington since the mid 70s and am on my 3rd vacation home in the area. Like many, I am upset with the season pass price increases, when compared to Okemo & Stratton. In this bad economy when I have to travel 5 hours, the increase in gas prices and now lift tickets will force many to spend less at the lodge and in the region in general. How about these ideas for modifying your pass prices?

  • The Pico Season pass should allow skiers to ski at Killington the days Pico is closed at a reduced rate
  • Midweek pass holders at either resort should be able to ski weekends at a reduced rate.
  • Maybe include an Express card with the purchase would be a reasonable accommodation.
  • Maybe Sundays or 1/2 days Sundays could be added to the Pico Midweek for the week days that it doesn’t operate;

Debit card type system, for those people that can’t commit to a season pass, a DTL card which would debit the ticket price and reduce the price with each day skied, so that they would never exceed the season pass price, but the reduction in daily ticket price would provide incentive to get more days in.

Your thoughts on pass products and pass pricing?

Chris Nyberg: The My Pico Pass does offer 20% off daily window rates at Killington Resort. All of Killington’s Season Passes including the Unlimited, Blackout and Midweek passes are priced appropriately for the amenities and variety of terrain that Killington Resort provides. If you’re looking for the best deal, I suggest purchasing a My Pico Pass.

Highway Star: There were many comments and questions about the opening and closing of Killington and season length.

Highway Star, Bobbutts, and Geoff all wonder when you think Killington will open for the season, and when will you close (Editorial note: Killington was among the very first in 2011 to open).

This is of course weather and condition dependant, but what are your intentions this year and in the future? Will we see trend towards a return to Killington’s traditional October to late May ski season?

Highway Star observes that “opening in October and staying open until mid May would satisfy many customers whom have been disappointed in the season length the past several years.” Bobbutts suggests that one approach may be to open on weekends in early and late season. Lastly, Geoff notes, “in the last two seasons the season pass sale announcement had language indicating ‘From early November to Early May’ that language was excluded this year.”

Your thoughts on season length?

Chris Nyberg: For the past four seasons, we have opened as early as possible given climatic constraints. This year we were able to open on October 29. The Peak Walkway was installed in 2010 strictly so we can open early. We are not in a race to be the first ski resort to open in the East, our goal each fall is to open as early as possible with a quality product and to stay open daily.

Regarding late season skiing, once we approach May, the skier visits drop significantly. There is just not enough business to remain open in May. Provided there is ample snow for a decent product, we will continue to operate through the end of April each season and perhaps into the first week of May.

Rogman: Are we going to see any temporary facilities at the peak this season? Either food or porta-potty options?

Chris Nyberg: Not this year, well have to tough it out.

Newpylong: What are the long term plans for the unused lift towers on Devil’s Fiddle and Sunrise? I assume the Sunrise towers will be left to rest due to cost of removal but I would think the Devil’s Fiddle Quad towers will be used again or sold? Any insight to either would be appreciated.

Chris Nyberg: The Devil Fiddle’s towers were left for convenience. The cable has been rolled up, it’s ready to be dismantled and taken down. It’s on the market to sell right now.

Highway Star: What is the current status on the Killington-Pico Interconnect? There were some observations about this project and suggested that Killington fund a reduced scope initial phase of the Killington-Pico Interconnect, such as just the Pico side lift (fixed quad), traversing trails, and limited snowmaking. Your thoughts?

He also observes that, “the Killington-Pico Interconnect is by far the most important project for the re-growth of Killington and its position in the eastern skiing market. Not the Ski Village. At full build out (four lifts), plus some glades, it would put you at 1500 skiable acres, by far the most in the east

It would improve access for day trip skiers coming from the west. It would improve revenue yield per visit due to spending at lodges from people exploring the mountain. It would certainly increase skier visits. And, it would sell real estate, or at least give the town a good reason to support building a Ski Village.

Why has there been little to no talk about the Interconnect?” Any thoughts about having SP Land or E2M Land fund the project to jumpstart development?

Chris Nyberg: I have a plan for the Interconnect of Killington and Pico and it’s sensible for all good reasons cited by Highway Star. As I have stated many times before, it’s our intent to connect the two mountains, but not in the first five years of our new ownership.

This decision has been made because we have many projects that needed to be completed before the Interconnect. For example, the Skye Peak Express Quad, major snowmaking pipes needed to be replaced, upgrading the Peak Facility, etc. As many of you know, the prior owner struggled financially in their later years and a number of capital upgrades and improvements did not get done that certainly should have. To date we have spent over $20 million in capital improvements and sadly not much of this money was for anything sexy, besides Skye Peak express.

We are getting closer to finishing these projects with the replacement of the Snowdon Quad in the headlights. Please keep in mind, our focus is on the quality of experience that our guests have at Killington and Pico, so we will improve lodges, trails, snowmaking and lift infrastructures so when we Interconnect, we can safely handle the additional visitation. Timing for the Interconnect and the Village is in the playbook.

frankm938: Regarding trees and bumps: Any plans to expand on the seeded mogul trails to some steeper terrain? Top to bottom Outer Limits skiers left would be ideal and leave the rest of Outer Limits natural. Also, there are a lot of low branches that need to be cut in the tree runs (Julio, Anarchy, etc.) and some areas that could use some thinning. What are the tree skiing plans?

Mediamogul also wonders if there any chance that we will ever see some of the old mogul runs restored to their previous glory of being left to mogul up?

Chris Nyberg: Last season, our Mountain Ops crew laid down sections seeded bumps across Killington including Ramshead, Snowdon, Skye Peak and Bear Mountain. We will be expanding the program this year including Outer Limits and North Brook runs.

This past summer, we had a dedicated trail grooming crew at Killington and Pico that focused on trail widening and we will continue to be active in the woods this winter as well. Additionally, Pico had two new gladed runs added this year: Sunset Woods and Exhibition Woods.

Furthermore, we’ll be making more snow on Devil’s Fiddle and we’ll have a Mega Skier/Boarder Cross Course at the bottom of Devil’s Fiddle and a Mini Skier/Boarder Cross Course at Ramshead on Swirl.

skiersleft: Looking for some updates on the Killington Base Village project. Last time you took the challenge, you indicated that the ski village was an integral part of the future of Killington.

  • Do you still feel the same way?
  • Why do you feel the village is important to the future of Killington?
  • There has been absolutely no news regarding the village during the last year. Is this still on track or has it been paralyzed because of the economy?
  • When can we expect to see the beginning of something resembling a village?

Chris Nyberg: The current economic climate for real estate is at an unhealthy point. The plans for Phase One of the Village are essentially done and look great. We continue to feel that a Village and surrounding real estate parcels will be integral to the future growth of our resort region.

When we see a strengthening of the real estate market, our partner SP Land should be poised to begin Phase One of the Village Project. SP Land continues to wade through the Vermont permit process and plans to make an Act 250 application this winter.

Xlr8r: Lastly, there is a lot of interest with regards to Snowdon and the next step for Killington’s facilities.

How much longer can we expect until Snowdon is served by a high speed lift? Will it be a quad or a six pack? Will the new lift replace the triple or the quad?

With the new peak lodge coming next year, are there any plans to build a second lift to access the new lodge? Could the eventual replacement of south ridge go higher up the peak to reach the new lodge?

What other work is slated for Killington?

Chris Nyberg: Snowdon Quad is certainly the next lift on the replacement list. As stated earlier, there have been numerous items that we needed to address prior to updating this lift. The Snowdon Quad will not be replaced next summer, our capital funds will be tied up in finishing the new Peak Facility. We certainly hope to replace this lift in the next several years with a high speed quad.

We have no plans to run a second lift to the peak. Eventually, the replacement for the South Ridge Triple will terminate at the same location. There is no viable unloading point at the Peak for an additional lift.

Additional work projects going forward include finishing projects slated for this summer that tropical storm Irene halted, re-grading specific runs so reduced snowmaking will be needed, widening existing runs, upgrading snowmaking systems with additional energy efficient equipment, replacement of snowmaking pipe, rotating grooming equipment, renovation to lodging facilities, improving our roads and parking lots as well as improving our storm water management systems. Furthermore, our all-new invessel composting system will be up and operational in a few weeks. All of our food waste generated by our kitchens will be tossed in the composter instead of the garbage.

To view forum comments on this Challenge and the Challenge Results, please visit the following page: