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AT KILLINGTON, ICE IS NICE
By Paul Maraschiello
It was raining and it turned to freezing rain as I started up the dirt road to my house. I had a hunch that Killington would be ne a little icy in the morning. We arrived at Killington around 10 A.M. the Tuesday before Christmas. We decided to take a run to test the conditions. My suspicions were correct, Killington was bullet-proof. We opted for a quick-tune before the next run. Jessie's skis needed sharpening but the boys in the shop said my skis were just fine. Twenty years of skiing at Killington had taught me the importance of keeping my skis SHARP. I had lived a long time at Killington and believe in the motto: "Tune Then To Turn Them." Anyone who skis Killington on a regular basis knows that sharp skis are key to skiing Killington well.
Jessie was a lot happier now that her skis were sharp and my old Volkl P-9's were real ice skates. We cruised Goat Path to Bunny Buster and shot over to the Superstar Chair. We had the whole mountain to ourselves. Skylark was in great shape. The conditions might have been a little faster than I liked but the skiing was pretty damn fine. It was a GS kind of a day. Fast cruising down the mountain, run after run. Jessie's bionic knee brace seemed to be working well and she was skiing quite well, in spite of her knee surgery this past summer.
Killington was blowing a lot of snow and it was a Christmas fairyland. We planned out runs around the snow guns and had a great time doing "Chinese Downhills" down Skylark and the other trails at my favorite mountain. After a day of high-speed skiing, we headed back to the house, changed and headed to our favorite Italian Restaurant, the Pasta Pot. After stuffing ourselves on Pasta Pete's cooking we headed back to the house. We were tired but psyched for another day of skiing.
KICKIN ASS ON KILLINGTON HARDPACK
When I got back to my place at Hawk Mountain in Pittsfield, I was tired. I hung out the rest of the evening with the guys I shared the house with and made plans for the next few days of skiing. Phil Salzone had agreed to ski with me the next day at Killington. He was a ski race coach at Killington and had just finished a great article on ski tuning for the Ski Bum News.
Phil was up and gone at the break of day. I knew I would catch up with him on the mountain, so I took my time. It was foggy early that morning, so I knew that I would not miss much if I checked my e-mail and took care of a little business before heading to the slope.
Killington was in good shape when I got there that morning. I put a call in for Phil before I left the house and stopped in at the Mountain Training Center in an effort to locate him. "He's on the mountain was all I could find out. I thought I'd ski around for a while and see If I could spot him. I heard that Phil had been skiing Skylark, so I headed to the Superstar chair. There were too many guys in yellow parkas and I realized that my chances of just spotting him were pretty slim, so I left a message for him to meet me at 1 P.M. at the Killington Base Lodge (KBL) and hopped back on the chair lift. Every day, there were more and more trails open at Killington. Their extensive snowmaking activity kept opening up more terrain. They had made a pledge to have at least 70% of their trails open for the holidays and they were making a valiant effort blowing snow.
I decided to check out Needle's Eye. Someone on the chair had mentioned that the skiing over there was pretty good and I was interested in checking out that part of Killington. I knew that I could get to Needle's Eye from Great Eastern, so I began down that really long (3 mi.) beginners trail. It was almost empty, so I could really cruise. Unfortunately, every time I came to a trail that led to Needle's Eye, it was closed. In a few minutes, I found myself at the bottom of the Killington Skyship, their name for the gondola that runs from Rt. 4 to the top of Killington, near the Bear Mountain access road.
I got on the Skyship with a couple from Atlanta. I introduced myself and had a pleasant chat with them. I had performed in the Renaissance Festival in Atlanta a few years ago, so we had a little more to talk about than just the skiing. I had a chance to look at Needle's Eye from the gondola and decided that I hadn't misses anything except skiing in some snow guns, so I decided to ski back down to KBL and see If I could tie up with Phil.
I entered the base lodge and began to look around. I found Phil, grabbed a quick lunch and we were back on the slope. Phil is a coach for the J3 Killington Ski Team and a real outdoors man. He eats and sleeps a steady diet of skiing, hunting and fishing and I was looking forward to making a few turns with him. I was skiing fairly well (for me) and wanted to show Phil that I didn't ski that BAD for a writer. We hopped on the Superstar chair and took a quick run down Skylark. It was in perfect condition and we had a great time flying down the slope. We were back on the chair and Phil suggested a run down Superstar. They were blowing snow on the lower half but the moguls on the top looked really GOOD.
We got off the chair and pointed our skis straight downhill. I skied the headwall on Superstar quite well. My weight was where I wanted it and I was able to carve some nice turns down that steep slope. We ran through the bumps on the middle of the slope, making turn after linked turn in the newly-made snow. Then Phil decided to take a line close to the snowguns on the lower part of Superstar. The moguls were VERY big and you couldn't see squat but that didn't bother Phil. I decided to follow his line into the snowguns and big bumps and I lost it. Pushing my big skis (Atomic ATS 203s) around in the big bumps with no visibility was more than I could handle. I crashed and burned, leaving a trail of ski equipment among the bumps - YARD SALE. I was embarrassed that I had fallen but I knew that I could never keep up with Phil. I had known that he was good and skiing with him only confirmed that I did not even deserve to carry his ski poles.
On the next run we headed back to Skylark and cooked that trail a few more times. We did the headwall of Superstar and cut over to Skylark and sped down the mountain. Phil looked great and took a little air off a bump for the camera. It was good for me to ski with a really good skier, especially when he was my housemate. We took a few more runs, talked about skiing and really enjoyed our first day together.
I'D RATHER PAY TO SKI KILLINGTON THAN SKI SOMEPLACE ELSE FREE
That evening, my other housemate, Jesse (not to be confused with my daughter Jessie) mentioned that he was getting up early on Christmas day and was going to ski at Killington. I had never skied with him ether, so I was anxious to make a few turns with this guy. It was Christmas morning. Killington had given me a free pass to ski with Phil the day before and I did not want to push it by asking for another free ticket. I had thought about doing another visit to a different ski area but I was convinced the best snow would be found at Killington and I was proven to be correct. We were putting on our boots and waiting for the chairlift to open well before 8 A.M.. We were the first people on the K1 gondola and were thankful for the heated conveyance that brought you to top of Killington Peak in comfort. It was a little brisk, to say the lest. We put on our skies and headed down. We hit the Glades and skied to the top of East Fall. We looked at the un-skied snow on East Fall and decided to take a quick run under the Glades chair. We took another run and hit the Alpine park on the West Glade and hopped back on the chair. It was early Christmas morning, it was a little cold (colder than a witch's teton) but the sun was shining and we had Killington all to ourselves. We skied the East Glade non-stop and once again stopped at the top of East Fall. They had blown snow on it all night and they had NOT groomed it. It looked a little wind-blown but it looked GOOD. Jesse pointed his Volkl P 40 Platinums down the fall line and I joined him. It was FABULOUS, the snow on East Fall was just like carving through butter. We were making 1st tracks down East Fall and it definitely has the best snow on the mountain. We were all alone in the brisk Vermont air and it was like we OWNED Killington, we had it all to ourselves. It made you really appreciate the grandeur of the mountain and the beauty of the second tallest peak in Vermont. Jesse's comments reminded me of why I had loved Vermont so much when I as a "local" in the old days. We took a couple more runs down East Fall and then headed in for a cup of well-earned hot chocolate.
After thawing out, we headed to the Superstar chair. We popped over to Skylark and it was in great shape. We ran it non-stop and were back on the chair heading up Superstar, I told him about my fall the day before and checked out the slope. The snowmaking had stopped and it looked like it was in good shape. We decided to let it soften up a little more and took another run down Skylark, "Chinese Downhill", top-to-bottom non-stop. Superstar was calling us from the chair, so we pointed our skis down the headwall at Superstar and carved some nice turns in the frozen headwall snow, thanks to our sharp edges. Superstar was great! The moguls in the center section were nice and the line right under the chair and the line to the far right were great on the bottom section. I made up for my fall yesterday and made the 203 Atomics I was skiing that day, dance in the bumps. It's always a good day when you can ski Superstar, rather than just survive it. We headed back to the lodge. Jesse had a buffet offer to look into before reporting to work at Northern Ski Works, where he works as a technician. If you stop in there, ask for Jesse and tell him the Ski Bum News sent you. He really knows his stuff and he can tune a set of skis so well you can shave with them. Don't forget to tip, ski bum wages suck!
SHARP SKIS SHARP SKIER
I had been talking to Phil the day before about ski tuning (keeping your skis waxed and SHARP). With conditions like I found all over (man-made snow , cold temperatures and ice) it is very important to sharpen your skis on an almost daily basis. Give your skis a test every day. Pass your fingernail across the edges of you skis at various points from shovel to tail. If you can't slice of thin little bits of your fingernail, you need to sharpen your skis. I had touched up my skis the day before with a gage and file I had borrowed from Phil. He had written up a ski-tuning guide for his racers and had given me a copy for publication. It's a great guide and I was embarrassed at all the things I knew I should be doing to my skis but was too lazy to do, especially waxing.
After Jesse split, I ran into Jon Lamb and his Daughter Crista in the KBL having lunch. Jon is one of the best ski instructors at Killington and had promised to do some ski tips for me. I was really glad to get a chance to ski with Jon. He is one of the best skiers at Killington and skiing with him and his daughter reminded me of the days when my daughter was just a little tyke the size of Jon's Crista. We rode the Superstar chair to the top. It was starting to blow as we skied over to Skylark. As we passed by the top of the headwall, Jon's daughter started to chant HEADWALL, HEAWALL! To hear this little girl chanting like a hard core ski bum was really funny. Her dad made her pass on the headwall and we skied over to Skylark. Jon told Christa to "tap" her pole, meaning to make a light pole plant. This translated in her little girl mind to tapping her poles together BEHIND HER when she was skiing. She looked pretty funny. When her dad noticed what she was doing, we both laughed and he corrected her. Se kept doing it anyway because it was FUN, bad form but FUN. We skied the top of Skylark and then crossed over to do the middle section and bottom of Superstar. Jon was skiing like he always does, flawlessly. He was on short, shaped skis, a pair of 185 Rossi's with a spider on them. He made them dance in the bumps. He was explaining to me how someone had pointed out that he always initiated his turns in the bumps with a down unweighting motion on the top of the bump and an extension in the troughs between the bumps. He demonstrated how he rolled his knees to the side and down the hill as he made his turns. I skied a few more runs down Skylark to Superstar with Jon and his little girl. The snow was soft, Jon looked great and I was looking pretty good too. After saying goodby to Jon and Crista, I rode up the chair and did a few runs right down Superstar. The headwall was in great shape, it isn't that hard to ski. I was skiing Superstar fairly well (for me) and decided to call it a day.
I hit a few places for happy hour but the chicken wings were gone. Checked out the situation in a couple of restaurants and decided to have dinner at Charitie's. There was a seat at the bar and I had a nice roast Vermont turkey dinner with gravy and all the trimmings for Christmas dinner. All that skiing had tired me out, so I hit the sack early that evening.
FRIENDS FROM AFAR
On Thursday, I met a small group of friends at Killington. They had come from as far away as North Carolina and Virginia. We had decided to meet at Bear Mountain and were on the chair by 9:30. We road up the Outer Limits chair and looked down. The bumps were VERY big and the snow guns were blowing, so we opted to ski Wildfire. It was a little thin in spots but we had a great time. We were at the bottom quickly and jumped on the chair for another run. The lines were very short and you could get on the chair as quickly as you could ski to it. W found that the best skiing of the day was at Bear. We traveled over to the Killington Peak side of the mountain but it was overcast. We skied a couple of runs down Skylark and then went up the K1 gondola. The Glades were in excellent condition and we skied them all. East Fall was almost as perfect as it had been on Christmas morning so we took a few runs. At the end of each run, we just had to go down AGAIN, it was so good. The sun was out at Bear, so we headed back after doing a couple more runs.
After lunch at the Bear Mountain Base Lodge, we proceeded to ski the run under the other chair at Bear. The run right under the chair was great. Small bumps at the top (the kind that make you look good) so we skied it a few more times. Then we decided to head over to Needle's Eye. We rode up the chair and I noticed that they hade roped off a small NARROW section and some freestylers were pounding the bumps and doing "air". We skied over to their practice area and I took a few shots. "If only I could ski that well," I thought. As I watched these young athletes do their thing.
By around 3 P.M., things were getting a little skied off. The light was beginning to get flat and thigh-burn was beginning to set in. We caught up with the rest of the group at the base lodge. All of us were tired but it was that really GOOD tired feeling that comes with pitting yourself against the mountain and doing OK. I invited the group back to my place for dinner. After a meal that couldn't be beat and a little conversation, I hit the sack and slept like a baby.
It was New Years Eve and it was time to PARTY. I got cleaned up and headed over to the Grist Mill. It has become one of my favorite haunts at Killington. They were charging $30 at the door ($15 for those of us with a Season Pass) and the joint was jumping. I found a bar stool and struck up a conversation with some of the folks that had come out to party. My old buddy Carl was tending bar and I was in a party mood. The band belted out rock songs and the dance floor was packed. I shot a few photos of happy revelers and brought in the New Year with the festive crowd at the Grist Mill. A really attractive gal jumped on stage and rocked with musicians. My camera really liked her. She just had qualities I really admire. I had to admit it. There were a lot of really beautiful girls t the Grist Mill New Years Eave. I went home early and was in bed by 2 A.M..
The next day, I wanted to cover the Budwiser Aerial Assault show at
Killington. The team is made up of: Russ Magnanti, Peter Irelan, John
Ledford, Darcy Downs, Tom Flaco, Tristan Herbert, Richard Cobbing, Brad
Suey, Jean-Damien Climonet Bottom: Philippe LaRoche, Francois
Ampleman, Britt Swartley, Lance Rouleau, Liam Barrett, Francois Jean,
and Jack Fleming and they are really HOT!
I am a real freestyle buff and I was really interested in seeing the show. I skied Bear mountain in morning and found that the best snow was on Bear, right under the chair lift that goes to the top of Skylark. The sun was out and the skiing was great. I had lunch at the bar in the new addition to the Killington Base Lodge. They had a diskjockey spinning records and the Budwiser people were there giving away prizes. After lunch, I climbed up to where the areal events were to take place. In a few minutes the show began and I was not disappointed. They had a team of freestyle aerialists and high-flying snowboarders doing their thing. They came down the ramp in pairs and thee at a time. In between runs there was a performer doing acrobatic stunts on a trampoline. Every few minutes another group of high-flying dudes on skis and snowboards would come flying through the air. They came off the jumps and filled the air with outlandish areal jumps. In the grand finale they had the entire team ether on the ramp, in the air or landing ALL at the same time. It was raining hotdoggers and high-flying shredders doing "Zoodnicks" and helicopters and other tricks.
After the show, I took a few more runs and called it a day. There was a BIG party going on in the new bar. The band was rocking and the Budwiser people were giving away prizes galore. I stuck around for around an hour but it was New Years Day and the festivities the night before had tired me out. I went to the Pasta Pot for dinner and had a nice salad and some chicken lasagna. It was so good that it was gone in moments. The place was really busy. Groups of skiers kept coming in and they were running out of EVERYTHING. Pasta Pete was working so hard, that he didn't even have time to stick his head out and say hello. His assistant was moving fast and the food was going fast too. I headed home, tired and stuffed after a great day on the snow.