Although Vermont began developing small downhill ski areas in the 1930s, the sport increased in popularity in the 1940s after World War II. Smith, caught up in the trend, joined a couple of ski clubs and would drive from his home in Connecticut to ski on Vermont’s slopes. Smith’s love of the sport, and motivation to find a career after graduating from college in 1952, inspired him to establish a ski resort in Vermont. He had initially considered purchasing Mount Ascutney, but was led by Perry Miller, Vermont’s commissioner of forests and parks, to consider establishing a ski resort on Killington, at 4,241 feet the second-highest peak in Vermont. Eventually Smith was able to establish connections with a very small group of investors, the first five of whom invested $250 each for a total of $1,250. More investors followed, and the Killington Basin Ski Area opened on December 13, 1958.
In the 1960s Killington continued to expand, with Smith creating beginners’ trails accessible from every lift. Also in the 1960s, Smith’s idea to install snowmaking equipment proved valuable by extending the season from October until June. In 1963 he introduced the “ticket wicket,” a piece of wire with the lift ticket stapled over it, and attached to the jacket’s zipper. It prevented skiers from sharing tickets, and also preserved the skier’s jacket without damaging the material. The ticket wicket was then patented and sold to other resorts around the country. Also at Killington, the Graduated Length Method (GLM) of skiing instruction was introduced, which starts beginners on short skis, and progresses to longer skis with the skier’s improvement.
Smith’s pioneering accomplishments at Killington led to further expansion and the acquisition of other ski areas in Vermont. Mount Snow was purchased in 1977, and while Killington remained the state’s top skiing destination, Mount Snow became the second most popular skiing destination.
Smith, who now resides in Florida, was one of the longest continuous owners of a ski area in the country. In 2000 Smith was inducted into the United States Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame. Now he joins 300 other inductees (260 were members of the WWII 10th Mountain Division) in the Vermont Ski Museum Hall of Fame. The museum, which is located in Stowe, began collecting memorabilia and documenting Vermont’s skiing history in 2002.
The museum’s purpose is to “collect, preserve, and celebrate Vermont’s skiing history,” and to “honor athletes, special contributors, and pioneers of Vermont skiing who promoted and/or contributed to the sport of skiing in Vermont.”