20. WIN SMITH: SUGARBUSH’S SAVIOR
Thirty years ago, Stowe’s Spruce Peak didn’t exist. Jay Peak had no waterpark, no Tram Haus Lodge. Killington had no bike park and many of Vermont’s ski areas looked quite a bit different than they do now. But it is hard to imagine any single person who has been able to make the impact Win Smith has on a Vermont ski area in the past 30 years.
Smith, whose father helped found the investment bank Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith, bought Sugarbush as a passion project in 2001 with his then-partner in Summit Ventures, Joe Riemer. Smith and his family had been skiing there since he was in college and he had watched the resort deteriorate under previous owner, the American Skiing Company. At the time, Smith planned to turn Sugarbush around, manage it as a side-gig and maybe sell it. But the ski area became much more than just real estate to him.
In 2004, Smith moved to Vermont and mapped out a new future for the resort with a new base area and lodges at Lincoln Peak with a stunning hotel and restaurant, improved snowmaking, and seven new lifts along with a number of other improvements at both mountains.
Smith also made “community” a keyword in Sugarbush’s brand. After selling to Alterra and retiring this past year, Smith wrote in his outgoing letter: “I am proud to have partnered with the likes of GMVS, VASS, the Kelly Brush Foundation, High Fives, Protect Our Winters, and other philanthropic organizations and to have been a responsible member of this great Mad River Valley community.” Smith’s parting gift was appointing Middlebury native and veteran Sugarbush employee John Hammond to take over his role.