Have you ever wished you owned your own private ski area? Seriously, who hasn’t. But unless you’re extremely rich or have some sort of organization behind you, the chance of that happening is very, very slim. That said, there is a way to have an entire ski area at your disposal for a single day:
Think of it: empty trails, no lift lines, staff on hand to take care of your every need. And yes, it’s something you can do. There are a few areas in the east that offer this option. Plattekill (NY), Magic (VT), and Pico (VT) are all available for rent. I’m sure there are ski areas you can rent in the west, too.
So today I’d like to feature someone who actually went ahead and did this: Polly Nemitz of Rindge, New Hampshire. In late February, Polly rented Pico for a single day. But instead of hogging it all to herself, she went ahead and turned it into a fundraiser for Vermont Adaptive, an organization that’s dedicated to empowering people of all abilities through sports and recreational programming, regardless of their ability to pay.
She called it the Pico Mountain Takeover, and the whole thing was a blast. I know, because I was there.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with Pico, here’s some background. Owned by Killington Mountain Resort, which sits conveniently next door, Pico covers 468 acres and has 19 miles of trails. What I particularly like about the mountain is its laid back vibe. Pico is chiller than its more intense neighbor. It’s rarely crowded and has some lovely, meandering trails. The trees are great, the views terrific, and it’s loads of fun.
And now, my conversation with Polly:
SD: There aren’t many people who individually set out to rent a ski area. So can you tell me how this came about?
PN: Last season I called Magic Mountain to find out about their hours and learned they were closed for a private event. So I posted about this on Facebook — you know, wouldn’t it be nice to rent a ski area, and so on — and people responded, ‘yeah that would be so cool.’ So being a do-er, I thought, why not just go ahead and rent one? Someone commented that Pico was available, so I checked into it and decided that that was the way to go. I’d heard that the conditions there were pretty reliable and the terrain was good for a wide range of skiers, and both of those things were important to me. The mountain is also closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays, which was perfect for holding an event. I settled on a date — February 25 — and then I went to work figuring out how to handle it, financially. While I wished I could take on the entire burden myself — the rental cost more than seven thousand dollars — I figured the best thing to do was to sell tickets.
SD: I love how you turned this into a fundraiser for Vermont Adaptive. Can you tell me about that?
PN: One day last season I was skiing at Bretton Woods and saw an adaptive skier on a sit-ski ripping down the mountain, making the most beautiful turns. I’m a bit caustrophoic — I hate being wrapped up in layers — and I’m afraid of heights, and both of those have been a bit of a problem for me in skiing. But after seeing this guy, my problems seemed pretty minor. He was so inspiring! Then last summer I was in an airport and overheard a girl in a wheelchair. She had MS and had recently gone blind and was talking about how excited she was to finally have the chance to go skiing. But she was also saying how she regretted that she’d never gone when she was more able. Both of those, together, convinced me that Vermont Adaptive was the way to go.
SD: Was it difficult to organize?
PN: I had a terrific partner: Ryan Orabone from Till I Die Apparel out of Killington. Ryan’s been in the ski industry for a long time, so he had a lot of the knowledge and connections that helped along the way. We also got support from Ridj-it, an adventure platform that designed our website and sold our tickets. And we publicized the event like crazy on Facebook. Even Dan Egan, the US Ski Hall of Famer, posted about our event in his blog. We also had support from a lot vendors, and that made the event even more fun. Parlor Skis, Facet Skis , and Jones Snowboards had demo tents set up, and there were tastings and raffles featuring lots of donated gear from places like Ken Jones Ski Mart.
SD: So how many people came?
PN: We needed to sell 150 tickets to break even, though I think we reached 250 or 275, which was pretty much the limit we were able to host. Because of this, we were able raise over $5,575 for Vermont Adaptive.
SD: So now that the event is over, what do you think?
PN: I’ll be honest: it wasn’t easy to do, and it was stressful to pull it together. But it was so worth it. The whole point of the day was for people to have fun, and from everything I saw and heard, everyone had a great time. Plus raising all that money for Vermont Adaptive made it even better.