Suddenly: Ski Lodge Envy

Fall Line
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As any wistful New England sports fan can tell you, a luxury skybox in Boston hasn't had drawing power since Celtic greats Larry Bird and Kevin McHale left town. Wachusett Mountain plans to change that. The Massachusetts day area, just a half-hour's drive from Boston Garden, is transplanting the luxury-suite paradigm from the professional basketball and football arenas to the ski slopes.

The second floor of the ski area's newly expanded 38,000-square-foot base lodge will be off limits to the masses when it opens this winter. It will feature 10 private, above-it-all luxury day suites, loaded with amenities perfect for corporate perks and client-schmoozings¿or just for skiers of certain means. The idea came to Wachusett General Manager David Crowley late one night as he was working on a budget for his much-needed base lodge expansion. While he was flipping through his financial ledger, Crowley had one eye on a sports news show. "I saw (New England Patriots owner) Bob Kraft at the Foxboro Stadium ribbon-cutting, explaining how much he was getting for each skybox," he says.

It was one of those "eureka" moments. "The next morning I got the architect back in and we went to work designing luxury boxes," Crowley says. "I got a few cockeyed looks at first, but then people were like, 'why didn't we do this before?'"

The new luxury suites will offer an exclusive menu of amenities: food and beverage catering, concierge services, professional meeting space, gear storage, equipment demos and service, in-suite restrooms, gated parking, 16 transferable season passes and full-year access. Five of the suites will be rented out on a daily or weekly basis.

Costing $45,000 per year to use, the five 500-square-foot luxury suites will be a solid new revenue stream, and well worth it for corporate clients, Crowley believes. "I can't think of a better way to spend time with clients or customers¿with the successes and challenges of skiing and all that time alone on the chair."

Crowley also sees the suites as an innovative perk for corporations looking to retain employees who¿even in Boston¿might not give a hoot about professional sports. "There are a lot of people who don't care how the Pats or the Celts or the Bruins are doing, but would still like to be entertained by their firm," Crowley says. "They can bring their children, so it's another way a company can help employees juggle work and family."

Elitist, you say? Certainly. But consider this: First-floor renovations to the base lodge¿where the everyday skiers rub shoulders, munching their backpack lunches¿wouldn't have been affordable otherwise.