By Patrick McArdle
KILLINGTON — Officials at Killington Resort announced plans last week for a $60 million to $70 million two-year renovation project, expected to begin next year, that will add residential units, make improvements to the mountain, and remodel the Bear Mountain Base Lodge.
What’s being called the “Bear Mountain Revitalization Plan” is a partnership between Killington Resort and Ottauquechee Realty Advisors LLC. A news release sent last week stated that when the project is complete, the value of the additions will be $110 million.
The first phase, “Base Camp at Bear Mountain,” is planned for a summer 2018 start. That part of the renovation will include six or seven buildings, estimated to cost $45 million.
The first phase also will include a “major remodeling” of Bear Mountain Base Lodge, although the changes will stay within the original footprint.
A fixed-grip, four-seat chairlift will be installed on the south ridge, and improvements, including bridge and tunnel work, will be done to improve the flow for skiers.
The work on the mountain is estimated to cost about $8 million.
The second phase is expected to include construction of 18 duplex buildings near the foot of the Devil’s Fiddle ski trail at an estimated cost of $25 million, Work is expected to begin during summer of 2020.
The housing units in both the first and second phases would be for sale as condominiums.
Mike Solimano, president and general manager of Killington Resort, said the plan was “especially exciting” because it involved the construction of a new lift on the south ridge. The previous lift was removed about eight years ago, Solimano said.
Replacing the south ridge lift has been the top request by Killington visitors, Solimano said: “For us, it’s exciting that we’re doing the lift. But we’re not just doing the lift, we’re also reconfiguring some trails to kind of get the best of both worlds. The skier flow is going to be a lot better. Then, at the same time, we’re going to do some updating to the base lodge and bring that up to a whole other level,” he said.
According to Solimano, there was a path for skiers who wanted to go from the top of Bear Mountain to the main area of Killington, but it intersected with a group of trails and made it harder for other skiers who wanted to ski from the top of the mountain to the bottom.
The resort closed off some of those trails, but that made it more challenging to get around, Solimano said.
The new south ridge chairlift will carry skiers and snowboarders from the top of Bear Mountain and the bottom of the south ridge trails to the top of Killington’s South Ridge area, just below the Killington peak lodge. Because the new lift will be built along the previous lift’s return line, the need for any significant trail clearing or rerouting of trails will be eliminated, according to the news release.
Tunnels and bridges will reduce traffic congestion and get people to new skiing areas they can’t easily reach now, according to Solimano.
Killington Town Manager Deborah Schwartz said town officials were optimistic about the proposal.
“It certainly seems to support the town’s goal of making Killington the premier resort community in New England. Anything that supports tourism and year-round employment is welcome,” she said in an interview.
The principals of Ottauquechee Realty Advisors, Steve Malone and Richard Saunders, have an extensive background in ski resort development in New England, including the Topridge project built in the early to mid-2000s, and the lodges at Killington, built around 2009. Both projects were in Killington.
Malone said the Bear Mountain project was being planned for a number of years, but American Skiing Company was unable to enter a contract because of other commitments. When Killington and Pico were sold to SP Land Company in 2007, the project was revived.
Malone said he also funded the RiverWalk Resort at Loon Mountain in Lincoln, New Hampshire.
“What we’re trying to do is improve the overall skiing experience by these mountain improvements,” he said.
One example Malone used was a bar at the base lodge that will look out at the ski trails.
Solimano said the project’s permits are not in place, but because the principals from Ottauquechee have developed other projects, including those in Killington, he said Killington Resort officials were confident they will be successful in acquiring the permits needed for the work to go forward.
The project is not expected to interfere with skiing seasons. Solimano said the next ski season will go on as normal, and construction of the first phase of the project is expected to start in spring 2018.