This spring, the private investment group Mill Town Capital announced that it had acquired the Bousquet Mountain ski resort in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. After promising a revamp of the 85-year-old outdoor recreation facility, a new general manager was named last month. WAMC spoke with Kevin McMillan – formerly the GM of Zoar Outdoor Adventure Resort in Charlemont – about what he hopes to bring to Bousquet, as well as the local ski hero he’ll be working with.
MCMILLAN: I've been working for Zoar Outdoor for the past 30 years. And prior to that I worked with Schaeffer Resorts for about seven years. And it's kind of interesting because Schaeffer Resorts purchased Zoar Outdoor this year in February. And so it's kind of full circle for me. I'm back working for the Shaeffer Adventure family, which is kind of nice. And as you know, Zoar, I'm sure, is a recreation company focused on whitewater rafting, zip line canopy tour camping and an instructional area.
WAMC: So you're stepping into this role at Bousquet. What's your vision for the mountain? It's a beloved local staple, and a lot of people want to know where it's going to be going moving into the future under new ownership.
Yeah, it is a beloved mountain. We've had a lot of community support with this project, which is great. So what I'm hoping to do is- Zoar has a very strong focus on community culture and a strong operational focus. And so I'm hoping to export that to Bousquet. We're revamping operations there. We've done a lot of capital projects on the mountain and those are sort of continuing currently. We've got new groomers, new snowmaking going in, a new chairlift. And what our plan is to really just sort of work with the community, figure out how to wow that community in a covid year with extraordinary customer service and just have it be a great place to visit, a great place to work. Yeah, it's it's kind of cool. It's exciting project.
What do you see as the greatest strengths of bosquet?
Well, it's an urban ski area. So it's close to the Pittsfield, area close to the Pittsfield community. So from a marketing perspective, it's, that's a fairly easy nut to crack. Our job really is to just serve that community well. If we do a good job of serving them, providing them with great ski conditions, a great place to visit, there's no reason for those folks to ski anywhere else, really. Bousquet is such a convenient place for people to go visit. And also, the other advantage Bousquet has is that because of its proximity to Pittsfield, we have a great employment pool there as well. And so we're hoping to tap into that. We're excited to get new snowmakers, new lift attendants and folks just who are either interested in making a career in recreation or just working as a winter job for their time while they're on college break or high school, after-hours, that would be great.
There's been a lot of conversation about, given the pandemic era, a lot of attention focusing on outdoor recreation moving forward. Do you see that as a trend in the industry?
Yeah, well, if our summer is anything to go by, we're expecting a very busy winter. People are just itching to get outside. I think that people have reevaluated what's important to them. And recreation in the winter really is a perfect COVID activity view. It's easy to socially distance, you're wearing a mask most of the time when you're skiing or snowboarding anyway, we can control lift lines, and we can control capacity. We'll have a focus on the outside at Bousquet generally, and I think that it'll be an exciting, it will be an exciting winter for everybody.
As far as visuals, will the people be seeing a different Bousquet when they return this winter?
They will. Change is inevitable. Again, because it's a COVID winter, our focus is going to be on outside recreation. So we're not spending a lot of time improving the lodge. And we're gonna sort of table our decision making on what to do with the lodge in that area and just really focus on the mountain, ski conditions and good chairlifts. We've brought in a couple of food trucks from Holyoke Hummus, they're going to be upthere serving food. We have a s'mores cabana that will have a couple of fire pits. We'll have an outside seating area that's comfortable with heated propane lamps, a bar and really just focus our efforts on capturing sort of memorable moments outside so people can ski, they can spend some time with their family. But the sort of the après ski scene I think is probably not going to be quite as robust this winter as it has been previously and then next year, we'll be able to sort of expand on that and and provide everything that people expect at Bousquet.
Will this revamp of the mountain see a hiring run as well?
Oh, sure. Yeah. So we're currently hiring multiple positions. Some of them are full time, and some of them are part time, seasonal. But we're at right now that's that's our major focus, is to just build up the team and get a group of people there that are passionate about the industry that want to have fun this winter and serve the community well.
In this revamp of the mountain, you're also working with a sort of local ski hero- talk to me about that.
Yeah. Krista Schmidinger has been really helpful in sort of pushing us in the right direction, sort of expanding our knowledge around what's possible in the ski industry and, and really, she has such a deep rooted connection to Bousquet anyway. She's passionate about it, that she's really been advising us on lots of different roles, from snow sports to racing, to operations, to possible launch designs or redesigns. The only downside is that Krista is in Switzerland right now and so a lot of this has been remote. But she is planning to come out this winter for opening day and do some mini clinics and really, and really help us sort of launch Bousquet into a new season.