After a 20-year hiatus, the next generation of DesLauriers are at the helm bringing new ideas, energy, and the labor of love to the resort.
By Kelly Nottermann, Flexible Capital Fund, L3C
Even though it’s October, Lindsay DesLauriers’ skis are propped in the corner of her office, her helmet hanging off the tips as though she might head out for a few runs any minute. I get the feeling her mountain bike is somewhere nearby too, maybe just out of the Zoom frame. The fact that she loves mountain sports is not a trivial detail to her story; in fact, it’s at the heart of her family’s return to Bolton Valley and their vision for the resort’s future.
Lindsay grew up at Bolton Valley. Her dad, Ralph DesLauriers, was the original developer of the resort in the 1960’s, which he owned and operated for 30 years until he was forced to sell to the bank in 1997. “There was always a feeling of sadness around losing the resort,” recalls Lindsay, who was just graduating high school at the time. “My siblings and I grew up here—three of us were born here—it was our home.”
So, when Larry Williams and Doug Nedde, the then owners of the resort, contacted Ralph in 2015 to see if he would be interested in a future with Bolton Valley, the answer was a resounding “yes.” In 2017, the DesLauriers family bought back the resort with a group of local investors, with the family as largest shareholders and owners of the management company.
“We were given an opportunity to fight for our roots and come back home,” said Lindsay, president of Bolton Valley.
With Ralph in his eighties, the next generation of DesLauriers are at the helm this go round. Lindsay, an avid skier and mountain biker, is the president. Her brother Adam runs the growing backcountry program and heads up the resort’s visual identity. Evan manages special projects and capital improvements, including his personal passion—a disk golf course. They all live on the same street. Her two older brothers, Eric and Rob, live out west and consult with the company, and Ralph, at 86, is board chair, picking and choosing pet projects.
“The resort is our whole thing,” said Lindsay. “It’s the center of our lives.”
Investing in Infrastructure
Along with the old memories came an aging resort. “There was a lot of deferred maintenance,” said Lindsay. “You just had this sense that it was not well-loved. It was sad. And it was not self-sustaining.” The family made a strategic decision to shore up the infrastructure first, infusing capital into water treatment, snowmaking, and hotel renovations.
“We felt strongly that we needed a solid foundation not only for growth, but also for basic sustainability,” said Lindsay. “That was our first priority.”
To date, the family has completed a two-part $6 million capital raise, with $4 million in equity and $2 million in debt. “A lot of people don’t like to sell equity,” said Lindsay. “It’s an expensive way to raise money but leaning on equity was an intentional decision we made to minimize risk. Sharing ownership with a group of local investors felt like the right way to go in order to ensure that we could continue on no matter what.”
One of those investors, the Flexible Capital Fund (“the Flex Fund”), invested $100,000 in the first round and another $50,000 in the second to support the infrastructure improvements.
“When Janice and I first started talking, we fundamentally agreed that the ski resort is working lands,” said Lindsay. Her grandfather bought the land that now encompasses the resort when the interstate came through and divided his farm. He used the money from that sale to buy the Bolton property, generating income through timber harvests. “Now we’re snow farmers,” jokes Lindsay.
The resort owns just under 1,000 acres and leases another 1,200 from the Vermont Land Trust. “Bolton doesn’t fit squarely into any of our market segments,” said Janice St. Onge, president of the Flex Fund, “but does encompass Vermont’s working lands and forests. It’s also a big energy user and our investment supports their transition to wind and solar.” St. Onge adds that the resort is a woman-led business with strong gender diversity on the management team, which was also attractive.
Bolton is doing a lot right when it comes to sustainable business practices. The resort is currently building a solar field on Route 2 in Bolton flats. They have also installed LED lights for night skiing and converted 35 snowmaking guns from diesel-reliant air compressors to highly-efficient electric compressors. They recycle and compost across the resort, donate used cooking oil to the Alternative Fuel Foundation, and use Skyway trash bags made in the U.S. from recycled agriculture plastics.
A Four-Season Resort for the Community
At the same time that Lindsay and her family work to ensure a stable foundation, they are also pursuing their vision for a vibrant, four-season resort. The new mountain biking trails and bike park include lift-served downhill trails that were intentionally built with very little canopy disturbance. The Timberline Base Lodge, currently in construction, will expand seating during busy weekends and allow the resort to host weddings and corporate events. They are expanding the already popular summer camps for kids and exploring other ideas to bring new life and energy to the resort year-round.
“The best part about owning the resort is that we get to lean into the things we love to do,” said Lindsay.
One of the crown jewels of the resort property is the backcountry experience, which rivals any in the east. From Bolton, skiers and riders can access over 12,000 acres of untouched wilderness on some of the highest faces in the Green Mountains. New last year, Bolton now offers season long leases of backcountry equipment in addition to their daily rental fleet.
“When he built the resort, my dad wanted to have night skiing so people could come after work,” said Lindsay. “Another manifestation of that spirit is what Adam is doing with the backcountry program—removing barriers to the backcountry with lessons, guides and equipment leases. It has always been about making the mountains and nature accessible to people in our community.”
That was especially true during Covid-19 with Vermonters looking for ways to recreate and socialize outdoors. Night skiing and backcountry skiing both saw record numbers of locals last season as people sought new ways to get outside and stay socially-distanced.
Energy, Optimism and Hope for the Future
The momentum and energy at Bolton Valley this season are palpable coming from Lindsay—even through Zoom. “We’re turning a corner as a business,” she said. “I’m so excited about the enthusiasm we are feeling as we wrap up capital projects. It’s one thing to look at a business plan on paper and another to see it come to life.”
“It gives me hope for the future,” says Lindsay. “Not just for my family, but for everyone that feels like this is home.” While the DesLauriers family is undoubtedly the beating heart of Bolton Valley, it’s the community of skiers, riders, and bikers that are the lifeblood of the resort.
“Bolton offers a sense of family to so many people,” said Lindsay. “We have families who have gone through three generations of the after-school program and employees who love this place as much as I do. My own connection to Bolton is mirrored and reflected by the people who work and visit here.”
About the Flexible Capital Fund
The Flexible Capital Fund, L3C is a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) and impact investment fund that provides flexible risk capital in the form of subordinated debt, revenue based financing (also known as royalty financing) and alternative equity structures, to growth-stage companies in Vermont and the region’s food systems, forest products, and clean technology sectors.
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