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(NECN: Jack Thurston, Killington, Vt.) - Vermont's popular Killington Resort will celebrate the grand opening of its new $7-million, 15,000 square-foot mountaintop lodge Thursday.
The Peak Lodge is accessed by a gondola, sitting at 4,160 feet above Vermont. It boasts seating for 300, an upscale farm-to-table menu, a bar and other amenities.
"The views are pretty insane," said skier Nathan Duquette of Lincoln, R.I.
Skiers and boarders have been previewing the lodge before the resort's celebration Thursday. That party, which is scheduled to include a fireworks display, comes at least a year later than planned.
Tropical Storm Irene devastated Vermont and Killington in August 2011. In 2012, New England Cable News checked out the delayed construction progress for the Peak Lodge, and asked the resort what it learned from the mega-storm.
"When humanity is faced with going off a cliff, they always find a way to not go off the cliff," Chris Nyberg of Powdr Corp told NECN in August of 2012.
Thankfully, Irene was an exceptionally rare event, but skiing and snowboarding are always subject to the whims of mother nature. This season, the weather has handed Vermont's ski industry snow, rain, warm temperatures, and frigid cold.
"It definitely is challenging to keep the morale high," said Mike Solimano, Killington's president and general manager.
Solimano said his 300 snow guns have been blasting full-bore to combat icy conditions left by recent melting and re-freezing. He added that all of Vermont's major destinations for skiing and riding now have sophisticated systems to help them endure thaws and low-snow stretches.
"That's East Coast skiing, that's Vermont," Solimano said. "We're used to it."
Nathan Duquette said he and his friends were surprised the skiing wasn't worse after the weird weather swing, and figured that's thanks to the snowmaking technology.
"How can you not have fun? You're not sitting in an office, you're here!" Duquette said, describing how he enjoys skiing, even in imperfect conditions.
Duquette said part of that enjoyment from this visit was having lunch and a new place to warm up, in front of those dramatic views from the new Peak Lodge. "We were pumped to check it out," he said, smiling.