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New owners try hand at Killington

Email|Print| Text size + By Tony Chamberlain
Globe Correspondent / November 11, 2007

KILLINGTON, Vt. - At its height in the late '90s, the American Skiing Co. was the proud owner of 11 ski resorts and assorted properties, hotels, and holdings.

Les Otten, founder and president of the corporation, who pilots a private plane, joked that operating the snow sports behemoth was a little like trying to land an F-15 fighter jet on a carrier deck if one had never had flying lessons.

And though Otten had been eased out as president, his metaphor still proved prescient. In the last year the corporation crashed, brought down by a combination of huge debt and too many spotty winters when returns were not enough to keep up.

Killington/Pico, the largest of the properties in New England, which in good times would sell nearly a million skier visits annually, was sold to Powdr Corp. of Park City, Utah. In August, the last two resorts - Sunday River and Sugarloaf - were sold off to Boyne Co. Other resorts in the region once owned by American Skiing include Mount Snow/Haystack, Sugarbush, and Attitash/Bear Peak.

With the first winter layer of machine-made snow on the ground, Killington residents are cautiously optimistic that their first season without ASC should result in more of the resort's income invested in improvement.

"For the last few years under ASC we were really going in the wrong direction," says Rick Torrey who has lived in Killington since 1971 and owns The Basin Ski Shop in town. "It was like seeing deterioration of a beautiful place. But now I take a walk around the [resort] and there has been a renewal already. It seems like somebody cares again, it looks so good."

Killington is well known for its sheer size and excellence in a wide variety of terrain, including miles of glade skiing that some regard as the best in the East. With 200 trails and runs spread over seven peaks, the resort is the kind of destination that has so much for everyone; it is workable for large groups and for long periods.

Its 4,241-foot summit elevation makes it one of a handful of plus-4,000 peaks in the East, and all that terrain averages about 250 inches of natural snowfall in a season.

These days, diversity of terrain means everything from classic trails and slopes to a good dose of back country skiing and various offerings for boarders and twin-tips free skiers.

Killington's 430-foot long Superpipe is augmented with terrain features in slopestyle boarding and skiing, and the resort offers cross-country skiing, rock and ice climbing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, and dog sledding among the outdoor activities.

Tony Chamberlain, a freelance writer in Duxbury, can be reached at sloops@aol.com.

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