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No Business Like Snow Business!

Autumn at HBS – what’s not to like? TGIF’s are still held outside, your shorts and t-shirts haven’t yet been relegated to the back of the closet in favor of (sub-) arctic survival gear, and even after a long day the sun’s still up when you get out of classes. But don’t think this country club paradise is going to last – despite last year’s relatively mild winter, the local experts are predicting a return to the typical Boston winter, which means bone-chilling winds howling across the river and lots and lots of snow.

While the Baker Scholar candidates among us may relish this eventuality as an opportunity to hole up inside their not-so-humble student abodes and study for hours without distraction, for the rest of us the silver lining to this cloud is, of course, the coming of ski season. Whether you are an experienced alpine skier or just hope to hit the bunny slopes, the opportunity for skiing, snowboarding, and participating in any number of other winter sports awaits. And what better way is there to make this experience easy and enjoyable than to join a “ski share” – a shared rental house for the duration of the winter – that is the perfect compliment to the frequent long weekends and holiday vacations on the HBS student schedule? Harbus Sports recently sat down with HBS student and experienced ski share participant Aaron Miller (OD) to get his opinions on the reasons for the popularity of ski shares and Vermont’s Killington ski resort area.

HARBUS: Why is Killington so popular among HBS students?

MILLER: Killington is a fabulous resort. It’s less than 3 hours away from campus by car and offers the best skiing in the East. The season runs through early May and the resort offers an unbelievable amount of terrain. Season passes are less than $400 for students! Between Killington and the adjacent Pico Resort, there is plenty of fresh groomed snow and few crowds, especially for those willing to hit the slopes early in the day. Most importantly, Killington is an “experience.” Skiing in the morning and early afternoon, a relaxing aprŠs-ski in the early evening and parties thereafter.

HARBUS: Why are ski shares such a popular option for the Killington set?

MILLER: Simply put, a ski share is the best way to enjoy Killington. Assuming you ski more than only approximately 4 weekends a year, a share is far more affordable than hotels. It’s more flexible-no reservations required-and it’s far more social. Why make reservations months in advance to stay at a Days Inn when you can drive up to an inviting house whenever you want that’s filled with all the amenities-sauna, entertainment center, pool table, etc.?

It’s a no-brainer! Would you rather hang out with your friends and, dare I say, “network” (a) waiting in line outside of the Border Caf‚ when its 15 degrees outside or (b) in a hot tub?

HARBUS: I see. Any advice for those interested in getting a house in Killington?

MILLER: Sure. I think there are three important points to keep in mind.
First, start looking for a house during the summer months and try to sign a lease no later than Labor Day. Houses in Killington are in short supply, generally speaking, and the turnover is light from year to year on the more choice properties. Importantly, Killington has seen a huge upsurge in demand recently due to the downturn in the stock market and the War on Terrorism. The Wall Street Journal reports that money is flowing into vacation real estate and people are traveling far less by air. Killington has become a premiere destination for New Englanders who now prefer “nesting” close to home and investing in real estate during the bear market.

Second, structure the deal well. Don’t attempt to charge guest fees and always offer an all-inclusive package to your participants including maid service, linen service, alcohol, snacks, etc. No one wants to be nickeled and dimed and, similarly, no one wants to have to hassle fellow HBS students for beer money again and again. I charge a relatively large upfront fee to join my house but charge no guest fees, include all the amenities and return any excess cash to the shareholders at the end of the season. It’s a great deal.

Finally, think big! A ski house is as much an insurance plan as it is a real estate deal. You need scale to cover the fixed costs of amenities like hot tubs, etc., of course, but you also need scale to ensure that individual guests can use the house whenever they want, generally speaking. Scale delivers greater flexibility for participants when scheduling and that’s real value.

HARBUS: That was extremely helpful Aaron. Thank you. Unfortunately, it seems that anyone who would want to start a new ski share program this year may actually have better luck looking for a job next spring that doesn’t involve flipping burgers.

MILLER: Interesting point, but that’s not necessarily true. My house, for example, has a very limited number of spaces still available. Students could send me an email if they’re interested ([email protected]). Of course, if you would rather stay in Boston all winter long at Pravda chatting with chain-smoking European “men” wearing butt-hugging leather pants, be my guest. I’ll be in Killington.

September 23, 2002
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