By Bruce Edwards
KILLINGTON — There’s no ski trail or base lodge named after him, but as of last week the founder of the largest ski resort in the East now has a restaurant that bears his name.
Preston’s Restaurant in the Grand Resort Hotel honors Killington Resort founder Preston Leete Smith.
The former Ovations restaurant opened last week following $1.2 million in renovations that the resort says “is the embodiment of mountain lifestyle and culinary creativity.”
For his part, Smith said it took him by surprise.
“I think it’s very nice,” Smith said during a phone interview from his home in Florida. “It gives me a little vicarious tie to the operations, and I often think back about trying to make improvements that everybody can enjoy.”
Smith, along with his partner Joseph Sargent, overcame several years of natural and bureaucratic hurdles to open Killington in December 1958. The first “base lodge” was a simple warming hut. Today, Killington boasts six base lodges, 155 trails, 22 lifts, and nine terrain parks/pipes.
The resort’s newest restaurant is under the direction of executive chef Greg Lang. The revamped menu includes appetizers, soups, salads, burgers, fish, steaks and ribs. Lang’s focus is on using the best of Vermont’s food producers. His experience told him to use as much locally sourced food as possible.
“Vermont is known for some fantastic cheese and dairies,” Lang said. “Everybody talks about its maple syrup, but we have so [many] other things to offer and so that’s one of the things I try and do.”
The interior of the restaurant, with seating for 160, has been redesigned.
“We’ve had a lot of success with Ovations, but it needed some attention out there and it hadn’t had it,” Lang said.
The redesign includes the use of stone and reclaimed wood, a relocated state-of-the-art bar area, more open space, flooring, new china and glassware.
Old photos of Killington and Preston Smith enhance the atmosphere.
“It has a completely new feel and ambiance to it,” Lang said.
Smith said he likes the approach Powdr Corp., Killington’s owner, has taken to make improvements.
“They’re trying to reach some new highs here, which I think are great to treat people to something new and exciting,” said Smith, who turns 86 in February.
Under Smith’s ownership, Killington grew, but one part of his vision continued to elude him — a ski village.
SP Land Co., Killington’s partner, is slowly moving forward with plans to build a village with shops, lodging and other amenities.
Smith said that’s something Killington still badly needs.
“To think how many times that’s been thwarted or slowed or whatever,” he said. “It’s really very unfortunate because Killington really is a gem.”
Preston’s Restaurant is open daily at 3 p.m., serving a full menu from 4 to 10 p.m., bistro menu until 11:30 p.m., and drinks until midnight.
A luncheon menu is available on weekends starting Dec. 19, and on select peak dates.