There’s a New Boss at Sugarbush

This morning Win Smith, the man who bought Sugarbush Resort nearly 20 years, resurrected it, built the Lincoln Peak complex and brought new life to what was once called Mascara Mountain, announced he is stepping down as president. ” I said that I would continue as President and Chief Operating Officer for a while in order to ensure a smooth transition and to make certain that the right successor was ready to take the reins,” Smith wrote on his blog today, Win’s Word. 

That successor is someone who has done pretty much every job at the mountain since he was an intern there in 1991: John Hammond. A Vermonter, Hammond grew up just over the mountains in Middlebury and graduated from the University of Vermont with a B.S. in Recreation Management.  His first stint at Sugarbush was as an intern in marketing and, later in operations. After graduating, he joined the ski patrol, where he rose to become the director. He also worked in ski school, daycare, rental and retail at the mountain and has been, most recently,  the Director of Mountain Operations.

John Hammond, a Vermonter who started as an intern at Sugarbush, will be taking over management of the resort from retiring Win Smith. Photo courtesy Sugarbush Resort.

The move comes seven months after Smith sold Sugarbush to Alterra Mountain Company, the owner/operator of 14 resorts around the country and purveyor of the Ikon Pass.

“Life begins at 60,” Smith said, in an interview with VT Ski + Ride in 2019 for a story on Sugarbush’s “60 Sweet Years”. That was before the sale to Alterra. At the time, Smith was approaching 70.

Smith started skiing at Sugarbush while was a student at Amherst College in western Massachusetts, coming up on weekends with fraternity brothers who shared a ski house. After college as Win was working his way up the ladder at Merrill Lynch Pierce, Fenner, Smith (the last ‘Smith’ referring to Win’s father, who was ) he kept coming back, eventually buying a house in the Mad River Valley and teaching his kids to ski there. After 28 years working for the investment firm and rising to be the executive vice president, running the international client group, Win left Merrill Lynch. He later wrote about his experience there in Catching Lightning in a Bottle: How Merrill Lynch Revolutionized the World.

Win Smith, hosting a forum on climate change and skiing in February 2020 with (left to right) Protect Our Winters ambassador Aaron Rice, University of New Hampshire Climate Science Professor Cameron Blake, Ph.D  and Alterra Mountain Company Executive Vice President of Sustainability and Special Projects, David Perry. Not shown, but also part of the panel: Heather Furman, Vermont State Director of The Nature Conservancy.

In 2001, Smith and Joe Riemer bought Sugarbush from Les Otten’s struggling American Skiing Company under their company, Summit Ventures.  Over the next 19 years, they put $75 million into transforming the resort, building the Lincoln Peak base area with a swank hotel and stunning post-and-beam restaurant, adding the Gadd Brook residences and overhauling lifts, snowmaking and grooming, setting up regular ski-to dinners at Allyn’s Lodge and instituting powder-day cat skiing.

And diligently looking to minimize the resort’s impact on the environment and maximize its benefits to the locals of the Mad River Valley. In January 2020, Smith announced the mountain was being sold to the newly-formed resort aggregator, Alterra Mountain Company.

Every morning, Smith would head out around 9 am and ski, logging more than 100 days a year (and some years over 150 days) on snow. Come spring, clad in a Hawaiian shirt, Smith would forerun Sugarbush’s infamous pond skim, often making it across bone-dry.

Smith will stay on as a senior adviser and you can bet you will still see him on the slopes. But he’s leaving the mountain he helped rebuild in good hands.

“I am extremely honored and grateful for this opportunity,” said Hammond, in a release. “While nobody can fill the void left by Win in this industry, I believe our resort’s leadership team is in a strong position to continue to improve upon the guest experience and cultivate further what Win and our team has developed here at Sugarbush.

Lisa Lynn

Editor of VT SKI + RIDE and Vermont Sports.