Stowe, VT – The Vermont Ski and Snowboard Museum Hall of Fame has named its class of 2011, which includes Killington Resort founder Preston Leete Smith.
Born in New York in 1930, Smith grew up in Connecticut and attended Earlham College, a Quaker school in Indiana. After graduating in 1952, he returned to Connecticut, settling in Guilford, where he became the manager of a silk-screen shop.
At this point Smith could barely ski, but he joined the New Haven and Waterbury ski clubs on trips to Vermont ski resorts. “I had a terrible time skiing every weekend because I didn’t earn very much money,” Smith recalled. “I used to drive 12 hours in a snowstorm in an old convertible, wearing a moth-eaten raccoon coat and eating peanut butter and crackers.”
After deciding against purchasing Mount Ascutney in Brownsville, Vt., Smith, then 25, turned to the state’s second highest summit, Killington Peak, at the urging of Perry Merrill, Vermont’s commissioner of forests and parks. Smith formed Sherburne Corporation to raise initial funds from stockholders and Killington Basin Ski Area, as it was then known, opened for business with two poma lifts on December 13, 1958. In time, Killington would grow to become the largest ski resort in the eastern U.S.
Other Sherburne Corporation innovations included the lift ticket wicket in 1973, large-scale implementation of snowmaking, and the Graduated Length Method (GLM) of ski teaching. In 1984, after having purchased other resorts including Sunday River in Maine and Mount Snow in southern Vermont, Sherburne Corporation would form a new holding company, S-K-I Limited, listed on the NASDAQ stock exchange.
Smith also served as President and Treasurer of the Vermont Ski Association, Treasurer Director of the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA), and a board member of the U.S. Ski Education Foundation. He was inducted into the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame in Ishpeming, Mich., in 2000.
Others chosen to be inducted into the Vermont Hall of Fame during an October ceremony to be held at the Killington Grand include: Karen Huntoon, a five-time World Mogul Skiing Champion who appeared in a number of ski films, including Warren Miller’s classic “Ski In The Sun”; John Morton, who skied four years on the Middlebury College ski team and was Eastern Intercollegiate champion in 1966 and ’68 and a runner-up in the 1968 NCAA championships; and Greg McClallen, who organized the Otter Valley High School Ski Team before moving on to Rutland High School, where his ski teams won 17 titles and a New England championship in 1976.