Killington resort got its first dusting of snow this week. The resorts’ new president, Mike Solimano, hopes it’s a good omen for the upcoming season. The 43-year old isn’t new to Killington. He’s headed the resort’s financial department since 2001 when American Skiing Company owned the business.
When Powdr Corp purchased Killington and Pico in 2007, Chris Nyberg became president and Solimano stayed on as head of finances. Last month when Nyberg moved to Utah to head up Powdr’s Resort Division, Solimano was tapped for Killington’s top job.
Solimano admits that when Powdr bought Killington and Pico five years ago, the company did some things that ruffled feathers – changing ticket price policies, doing away with lifetime season passes, closing some Killington base lodges mid-week and closing Pico two days a week. "I think originally when Powdr came in," says Solimano, "we had a little bit of the mentality to charge a little more – charge for what the product is worth and have fewer people coming in and get the cost structure under control."
Solimano says the changes raised needed revenue. But he admits some of their efforts, like closing base lodges to save money,were a mistake. "While it made sense on paper, those type of decisions didn’t make sense to customers." Solimano says, "it’s all a balance. We have a diverse group of people that come to the resort and we’re trying to balance all the decisions we make to make everybody happy."
The new Killington president says one of the good things about Powdr Corp – which owns eight ski resorts, including Park City Utah and Colorado’s Copper Mountain – is profits generated at Killington are put back into Killington.
Since the company took over five years ago, Solimano says its invested $25 million – installing a new high-speed chairlift and upgrading snowmaking and grooming equipment.
Solimano rides the gondola to show off the resort’s latest project, a new $9 million restaurant under construction on Killington peak. If all goes as planned, he says it’ll open by Christmas 2013. "This first level is going to be a food court with a bar," says Solimano pointing out the concrete foundation. "The bar will face here toward the gondola and then above it will be the bar with the fine dining area and no matter where you sit you’ll have a beautiful view of all the scenery."
Last year Killington incurred $5.5 million worth of damage from Irene and the ski season that followed was the one of the worst in recent memory. But Solimano is optimistic about Killington’s ability to lure in new skiers and riders and its role in the community – both as a business and as a neighbor. "You know Killington is a big driver in the area – so we need to be part of the solution for not just the resort and trying to be successful here but also for the region." Solimano says, "I’ve lived in Vermont for a long time and love this place. I want it to be successful."
If the weather cooperates, Solimano says opening later this month for skiing and riding is also near the top of his to-do list.