2018-2020 Winter Games Announcement

Special Olympics Vermont is excited to announce a new partnership with Killington Pico Ski Resorts, LLC for Winter Games 2018-2020. Please review the Frequently Asked Questions below for more information about this transition.

Winter Games 2018-2020 FAQ

Where and when are the 2018 Special Olympics Vermont Winter Games?

Special Olympics Vermont is excited to announce a new partnership with Killington Pico Ski Resort Partners, LLC for Winter Games 2018-2020. The 2018 Special Olympics Vermont Winter Games will be held at Pico Mountain Sunday, March 18th through Tuesday, March 20th. Cross-Country competition will take place at Mountain Meadows Nordic Center. Delegations will arrive on Sunday evening with opening ceremonies and competition events on day two and three (Monday, Tuesday). The School Unified Snowshoe Competition will also take place at Pico Mountain on Wednesday, March 21st.

2018 Winter Games; March 18 – 20
2018 Unified Champion Schools Snowshoe; March 21
2019 Winter Games; March 17 – 19
2019 Unified Champion Schools Snowshoe; March 20
2020 Winter Games; March 22 – 24
2020 Unified Champion Schools Snowshoe; March 25

Why did Special Olympics Vermont select a new venue for Winter Games?

Since 2013, winter sport participation has grown 35%, with coaching and support numbers following suit. Winter Games feedback from coaches and program leaders has included a lack of indoor lodge space, accessible facilities and adequate beds for all participants.  After ten wonderful years at Suicide Six, Special Olympics Vermont determined that the venue and lodging can no longer accommodate our needs.

Following an extensive request for proposal process beginning Summer 2016, Killington Pico was selected with a three-year agreement, hosting Winter Games 2018-2020. Killington Resort has proudly hosted the training camp for the Special Olympics USA delegation that competed in the 2017 Special Olympics World Winter Games and the 2016 Special Olympics Vermont Conference.

Was Suicide Six & the Woodstock Inn considered during the RFP process?

Yes. As a longstanding partner, we invited Suicide Six to participate in the RFP process. Due to space and housing restrictions, staying at Suicide Six would require Special Olympics Vermont to introduce a quota process, limiting total athlete participation in Winter Games. Special Olympics Vermont’s goal is to increase participation and provide authentic, competitive opportunities for all athletes. A quota system does not help us progress toward that goal, nor does it align with our five-year strategic plan.

We have been lucky to have the tremendous support of Suicide Six staff and the Woodstock community over the years, and understand it may take years to develop relationships with our new hosts. We are hopeful that much of our existing community support will continue, given Woodstock’s proximity to Killington. We are also committed to forging new relationships within our host’s welcoming community.

What is a Request for Proposal (RFP) process?

A Request for Proposal process is a best practice in the world of event planning; allowing potential partners to view your event’s needs and if they have the capacity to meet those needs. It is also a financially responsible practice, allowing organizations to weigh potential costs versus benefits of any potential proposal or bidding party.

Special Olympics Vermont began our process in June 2016, by identifying our overall needs for the event: competition venues, event spaces, participant numbers, lodging accommodations, meals, etc. We also factored in growth based on annual trends and reviewed previous Winter Games feedback surveys. A formal proposal was written outlining the needs and sent to all Vermont ski resorts.

Following the RFP distribution, we fielded many questions from interested parties regarding logistical needs for our event. All resorts denied our request for Friday – Sunday dates, noting that the tourism industry is an integral part of their survival and that weekend rates are astronomically higher versus weekdays. Additionally, after learning more about the sheer size and complexity of our event, many resorts chose not to move forward with the proposal process.

After receiving two serious proposals, site visits were conducted and input on sport venues was captured from Venue Directors. Negotiations and inquiries unfolded to ensure that necessary measures were being taken to replicate the logistics of our event while capitalizing on the benefits of the potential new spaces.

Ultimately, many factors contributed to the overall selection of Killington Pico (Pico Mountain). Highlighted below are several benefits of the new venue:

  • More appropriate ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) facilities; greater accessibility including access to the lodge and mountain
  • Considerably more indoor space for delegations to gather, stay warm, store gear and enjoy meals
  • Increased bathroom space, overall public space and room for indoor activities as needed
  • Family-style lodging that includes kitchen/kitchenette, living space and a minimized need for cots
  • Greater elevation and snowmaking capacity; better trail conditions for more weeks of the season
  • Games as focal point of the Mountain: Pico is closed to the public on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and would open specifically to run our event
  • Variety of terrain and a robust cross-country skiing venue; Mountain Meadows
  • Retention of long-standing Winter Games volunteers, only 25 miles from Suicide Six and the opportunity to capitalize on volunteer relationships built during USA Training Camp and at Castleton University
  • Increased capacity to accommodate more athletes as our winter sports grow
  • Maintained centralized location for programs statewide
  • Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sport Headquarters

Why are Winter Games moving to a week day?

Special Olympics Vermont winter sports participation has grown nearly 35% over the past four years. Our current size, along with projected continued growth, requires moving to a larger venue that can handle the size and complexity of our event. During the RFP process, all mountain resorts denied our request for weekend dates, noting the tourism industry as the cornerstone of their business models. Additionally, resorts stated that comparable events (X-Games, World Cup, etc.) take place on week days due to significant lodging requirements and on-hill time constraints for using courses and lifts, and less congested base lodge facilities. This is a common challenge for Special Olympics programs nationwide; consequently, most states hold their Games during the week.

We recognize that this may be a difficult transition for some delegations, and this decision was not made lightly. Much consideration was given to the specific dates that were chosen to reduce the potential adverse impact on coaches, athletes, and volunteers with a Sunday arrival and Tuesday departure. We hope that providing the dates in advance will aid in the planning process. Furthermore, if a program anticipates the need to recruit new or additional coaches/support, please notify Justin Graham, Program Director at [email protected].

How will volunteer recruitment be managed?

We recognized that shifting the competition to week days may present a challenge to day-of volunteers. A volunteer save the date will go out with an explanation of all changes as part of our Winter Games communication strategy. We will be working to leverage volunteer power utilized for USA Training Camp (a week day event), building on existing partnerships with the Killington Resort and their affiliates, and targeting corporate volunteer groups. Additionally, to maintain the availability of college volunteers, dates have specifically been chosen to avoid Castleton University’s spring and mid semester breaks.

Why are Winter Games so late in the season?

The 2018 Winter Games dates were selected based on several factors. These factors include:

  • Allow for a minimum of 8-week training period prior to competition with unpredictable snowfall throughout the season
  • Reduce training conflicts during robust holiday season
  • Avoid potential conflicting dates/events such as: Vermont school and college spring breaks, Town Meeting day, Canada week (heavy tourist week in March), etc.

We recognize individuals may have concerns regarding the late dates and potential snow conditions. Comparably, Suicide Six’s elevation statistics are; base elevation (550 ft.), peak elevation (1,200 ft.). While Pico Mountain’s are; base elevation (2,000 ft.), peak elevation (3,967 ft.). With the increase in elevation and Pico’s increased snowmaking capability, we are confident trails are more likely to be open, even if climate conditions prove unfavorable.

What will the housing arrangement be for delegations?

Killington Pico offers a variety of family-style housing options. Delegations can anticipate condos with multiple bedrooms, a common area, and a kitchen. Delegations will all be housed within a 7-mile radius of the venue and will be responsible for their own transportation to and from the mountain each day. We are working to simplify commuting logistics by exploring various options like storing equipment at the base lodge during competition.

Are accommodations available for families of athletes/non-credentialed individuals?

Yes! Killington, Vt. is a major ski resort town with a wide variety of accommodations, restaurants, and other amenities. As in years past, families wishing to stay overnight for the event will be responsible for making their own lodging arrangements.

Will there be a dance?

Yes! The dance will take place at the Killington Grand Resort, the same location as the 2016 Special Olympics Vermont annual conference.

Will there be an increase in Winter Games fees?

For 2018, the per-person cost will increase from $70 to $75. This includes all housing, meals, and mountain access for the event. Please note that Special Olympics Vermont has not changed Winter Games fees since 2015. This increase is an adjustment to cover normal inflation increases. Special Olympics Vermont will be exploring options for an event-rate (non-lodging rate) for Winter Games 2018. Athlete support ratios for Winter Games will remain the same, 4:1, with additional support increments per the standard support table.

Are there other new opportunities?

Special Olympics Vermont is working to incorporate Unified events into Winter Games. We look forward to introducing Unified Snowshoeing events in 2018. Additionally, we hope to create an “extended division” for our advanced Alpine athletes by providing quotas to other US programs in hopes to increase the overall level of competition. Finally, we plan to further our partnership with Burton by hosting a Riglet Park in conjunction with our Winter Games and Unified Champion Schools Snowshoe Competition.