Resorts already have an eye on next ski season
By Bruce Edwards
STAFF WRITER | May 12,2013
Vyto Starinskas / Staff Photo
Construction was under way last week for the Andrea Mead Lawrence Lodge at the Pico Mountain ski resort in Killington.
The ski season has barely ended but resorts are already planning tens of millions of dollars in capital improvements for the 2013-2014 season.
Projects include everything from new hotels and base lodges to expanded snowmaking and four-season amenities.
The parent company of Killington Resort and Pico Mountain is investing $11 million in projects and upgrades at the two ski areas.
Powdr Corp. of Utah is pumping $9.8 million into Killington, with the bulk of that money earmarked for completion of the $5.1 million Peak Lodge. Another $2 million is being spent on upgrading the snowmaking infrastructure, while three new trail groomers will be purchased at a total cost of $1 million.
At nearby Pico, the Andrea Mead Lawrence Lodge is being built at a cost of $1.3 million. It will be the headquarters for Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports.
Pico will also have a new food and seating venue.
Together, the $11 million in projects is the largest single investment Powdr has made since it purchased the two resorts in 2007.
Jay Peak Resort is continuing to add to its more than $300 million in improvements. This summer the resort has $25.6 million in projects ready to go.
A new hotel and 80,000- square-foot base lodge with restaurants and rental center is planned for the Stateside area — the oldest part of the resort. The base lodge is expected to open in December.
Jay Peak is also building 84 mountain cottages along the golf course and relocating the resort’s main entrance on Route 242.
In addition, The Barn, a 2,000-square-foot wedding and event center, is already under construction and is set for a July opening.
Jay Peak spokesman J.J. Toland said the “if you build it, they will come” strategy has paid off with a significant increase in business.
This season alone the resort exceeded its revenue projections by an average of 32 percent across all business sectors, Toland said.
“Lodging revenue itself was up 41 percent, against where we hoped it would be,” he said.
During this past ski season, Toland said Jay Peak had an occupancy rate of 94 percent “with every holiday sold out to being over-sold, and every weekend, if not completely sold out, at about 98 percent.”
The resort has financed the bulk of its expansion through the federal government’s EB-5 visa program. The program grants permanent resident status to foreigners who make either a $500,000 or $1 million investment in a commercial enterprise, creating at least 10 full-time jobs.
Jay Peak is also investing $108 million over the next three years in its new resort, Burke Mountain in East Burke. New lodging facilities are planned for the Mid-Burke Lodge and Sherburne Base areas.
“It’s a great place to ski but there’s no place to stay,” said Parker Riehle, president of the Vermont Ski Areas Association. “The new bed base at that mountain will truly put that resort on the map.”
Tim McGuire, Burke vice president and general manager, called construction of the 116-room hotel a “game changer.”
“Throughout Burke’s history every owner or manager, who has come in here, has had to fight that battle,” McGuire said. “We’re a little too far away to be a day ski area. We’ve got the size of a destination resort but we don’t have the amenities or the bed base that’s needed to really fill the resort.”
The hotel will also include a conference center, restaurant, bar, small pool, fitness center and retail.
Construction is expected to begin in July with completion by December 2014.
Also on the drawing board are several amenity projects, including an Olympic size indoor pool, indoor and outdoor tennis center, ski trail expansion and mountain biking facilities.
While not as sexy as new hotels and base lodges, a number of resorts continue to make investments in snowmaking, including Burke, Okemo, Magic Mountain and Mount Snow.
With the vagaries of the weather, Riehle said expanding snowmaking is critical to the industry in the state. He said statewide snowmaking covers 80 percent of skiable terrain.
He said anything resorts “can do to improve upon that, all the better to ensure a virtual snow guarantee for our skiers and riders.”
Okemo will spend around $500,000 on upgrades to its snowmaking system,
“We are also planning to build a new challenge course as part of Okemo’s Adventure Zone at Jackson Gore,” Okemo spokeswoman Bonnie MacPherson said in an email. “We will be upgrading the rental department with a new computerized system, replacing seat pads on the Green Ridge chair and constructing a turning lane on Route 103 at the Jackson Gore entrance to the resort.”
The following is a partial list of projects:
Jay Peak Resort: Projects include an 80,000-square-foot base lodge, 84 mountain cottages, and a wedding and event center.
Burke Mountain: Slopeside lodging facilities at both the Mid Burke Lodge and the Sherburne Base area and new services for skiers and riders and additional resort amenities.
Smugglers’ Notch Resort: Splashville, a splash pad water playground designed for youngsters opens this summer as part of three-tiered pool and 140-foot water slide. A bathhouse and picnic pavilion are located close by. Splashville is an addition to the resort’s eight pools and four water slides.
Sugarbush Resort: Construction continues on a slopeside living development, Rice Brook. The residences, which are comprised of 15 townhouses and condominiums, are scheduled to be completed by late fall. This is expected to be the first of three phases, with additional homes and mixed-use space to follow.
Killington Resort: Completion of the $5.1 million Peak Lodge facility, $2 million on pipeline infrastructure, $200,000 on Snowsports uniforms, $240,000 on additions to ski and snowboard rental fleet, and nearly $1 million for the purchase of three new groomers. Also, Glade trail improvements and additions, will add to a 200-plus trail count at both Killington and Pico, all skiable on the same lift ticket. Infrastructure improvements include snowmaking pipe installation, pump rebuilds, additional hydrants; K-1 gondola upgrades, seat pad replacements, lift drives and other lift components.
Pico Mountain: $1.3 million Andrea Mead Lawrence Lodge.
Okemo Mountain Resort: The Ludlow resort will upgrade its snowmaking system and open a new wedding garden where the old Ranta Farm’s barn once stood.
Magic Mountain: Continued improvements to the snowmaking system, which resulted in expanded trail coverage last season. The Londonderry ski area will improve its snowmaking capacity and efficiency.
Mount Snow Resort: Upgrades to its snowmaking infrastructure, including the replacement of almost three miles of pipe.
Trapp Family Lodge: Expansion of its mountain bike trail system. The expansion will link up local trails including, Hardy’s Haul, Kimmers, Tapline and Pipline. Once finished, riders will be able to descend or climb nearly 1,500 feet.
Top Notch Resort and Spa: Completion of the multimillion-dollar renovation. The final stage includes a new lobby bar and restaurant, guest reception space, outdoor terrace areas with views of Mount Mansfield, a wedding/event venue, renovated meetings and events facilities and guest rooms.