KILLINGTON, Vt. (WFFF) — On Wednesday, Vermont’s ski resorts were packed with visitors checking out the fall foliage, and there’s hope the tourism boom will transition to the slopes next month. This time last year, resorts like Bolton Valley, Killington, Jay Peak, and Smugglers Notch were planning to begin the season with shuttered base lodges and no out-of-state visitors.
Lindsay DesLauriers, President of Bolton Valley, said there were some silver linings – the transition to online lift ticket purchases, for example. Skiers and riders will still be encouraged to pick up online to keep wait times down, but other aspects of the 2020-21 season won’t be missed.
“There were some downsides of course,” DesLauriers said. “Lodging was really restricted, food and beverage was very restricted.”
This year, there’s a little more hope on the slopes. In Stowe, hotel bookings are currently pacing +6% ahead of the 2019-20 winter season for stays from November through January. That’s likely due in part to out-of-state visitors returning to Vermont, a factor that Killington Resort’s President Mike Solimano said should help the bottom line.
“For this year, we’re expecting a much more normal year,” Solimano said. “I don’t think we’ll get back to a normal year yet, but we’re very optimistic. There’s a lot of demand for skiing and riding.”
Killington is typically home to some of the biggest competitions in winter sports, including the Women’s Ski World Cup. It had to be canceled last year, but its grand return is now set for Thanksgiving weekend.
“People have been excited to bring such a high-level event to the state, and I think we’ve shown people on the East Coast really love watching ski racing,” Solimano said. “We’re really excited to bring it back.”
Other resorts like Smugglers Notch and Bolton Valley spent their downtime planning some big upgrades they’re excited to show off this winter. “People will notice this year that we’ve built an addition to our Timberline Base Lodge, we’re working on that now,” DesLauriers said. “It’s going to be a race to the finish!”
Smuggs has upgraded its snowmaking and grooming in a push for efficiency. “We’ve got high-energy-efficiency guns going into place, and the Snowcat we just purchased has a GPS that will tell us the thickness of the snow,” said Steve Clokey, VP of Marketing and Promotions.
Meanwhile, Jay Peak is expecting a big rebound from Canada. Last year, the resort had to go an entire season without Canadian visitors, and while the uncertainty is still lingering, there’s optimism the border could be fully open by the time skis hit the snow. Season pass sales are also up 30%.
“We were guaranteed the border wasn’t going to open at all for 2021, and now it’s still a moving target but we’re hopeful we get it when the snow starts to fly, that still remains to be seen,” said JJ Toland, Communications Director.
Jay Peak and Smugglers’ Notch is hoping to begin snowmaking early next month and open the day after Thanksgiving. Weather permitting, Killington will begin snowmaking later this month.