Cycling shops see big increases in business
KILLINGTON, Vt. (AP) — Five years after it began beefing up its bicycling infrastructure, Killington Ski Resort is seeing a boom in the number of cyclists visiting its trails, and it’s affecting the surrounding area.
At the end of last year’s cycling season, the mountain saw 23,000 bikers on its trails. With three weeks left to go in this year’s season, it’s already seen 30,000, said Ben Colona, mountain bike program manager at Killington.
For perspective, four years ago the resort only saw 2,000 cyclists, he said. Two years ago, there were 12,000, and that number nearly doubled last year. Next year, the resort is projecting even more cycling visitors.
Ultimately, the resort wants to see 70,000 cyclists per year, or about 10 percent of what it sees in skiers during the winter months, he said.
What changed? According to Colona, Killington connected with Gravity Logistics, the company that helped build Whistler Mountain Bike Park in Whistler, British Columbia, Canada, a world-renowned biking area.
“They gave us a business plan, which we essentially followed to the letter,” Colona said.
During the past four or five years, Killington has added two chair lifts to its mountain biking trails and increased the number of beginner and intermediate trails, opening the activity up to a wider range of people, he said.
“We were able to get a lot more people into the sport,” he said.
Mountain biking has a reputation as an extreme sport, Colona said, and it certainly can be, however, there’s now plenty of options for beginners at Killington. The resort has invested heavily in more women’s bikes, repair services, and cycling-related retail. All told, Colona thinks $5 million has been invested over a five-year period.
“We feel like it’s going in the right direction,” he said.
Five years ago, there were eight people working in the resort’s bike shop, he said. Now there are 25. While many are seasonal, some change roles for the winter months.
Cross-country bikers aren’t without options, either, he said. The Killington Mountain Bike Club (of which Colona is president) and the town of Killington have used state grant money to build 4 miles of cross-country trails. These groups aren’t officially linked to the resort, but everyone connected to cycling in the area tries to work in concert.
Local bike shops are seeing the results of the boom, says Michael Boisvert, bike shop supervisor at Basin Sports, located at 2886 Killington Road. He’s been an employee at Basin Sports for 15 years and managing the bike shop for two. “Besides the obvious increase in traffic, we’re seeing an increase in kids bicycling,” he said. “Because of the new trails they put in up there, more people can get into it.”
Before Killington added the beginner and intermediate mountain biking trails, its cycling options were somewhat daunting, even for those with experience, he said.
Boisvert noticed the increased popularity of cycling in the area three years ago.
“Now we’re definitely the most popular area in the northeast,” he said.
The Basin Sports bike shop was once seasonal, but last year decided to operate year-round, Boisvert said. It’s had to double the number of bike mechanics it employs — it’s now up to four — and expects to hire one more next year.
The boom in Killington is being felt across Rutland County, according to Shelley Lutz, volunteer at Rutland City’s Pine Hill Park and Rutland Recreation and Parks Department. Lutz said Slate Valley Trails and Sherburne Trails are all seeing increased cycling activity. She believes families go to Killington where some members like the more intense downhill cycling experience, then they travel a bit for cross country.
“It’s exploding,” she said. “We are seeing an increase in people using (Pine Hill) park.”
Information from: Rutland Herald, http://www.rutlandherald.com/