by Paul Maraschiello
Whenever I go on a ski trip, I am always comparing the ski areas I visit to Killington. My old home area still outshines most of its competitors and once again, I have decided to name this world-class ski area as the BEST SKI AREA IN THE EAST. Killington is big, it is bad and has some of the toughest terrain east of the Rockies. Now you may argue that this ski area has a steeper trail, a longer run, etc., etc. BUT Killington has one thing that sets it apart from almost every other ski area in the nation . . . the Killington access road. This one little road has more partying going on, seven nights a week, than any other ski area I have visited in the East. In many ski areas there as a lot going on during the weekend but the bars are dead during the week but not Killington.
It's a GREAT time to visit Killington, according to the weatherman, they have just received a couple of more inches of snow and Killington has lots of cover. They have over 205 trails and the skiing is GREAT!
I was there a little over a week ago and was amazed at how much they had open. I skied Flume and Devil's Fiddle, Outer Limits and Double Dipper. The grooming team has done a great job and there were moguls for the bumpers (they were soft of the Fiddle) and loots of groomed steeps (if you like to go real fast). It was fun to zoom down the groomed side of Outer Limits, nonstop. I had a blast there but the Dipper did me in. I took the longest fall I have ever had on the Dipper. I was cruising at Mach I, when I came over the lip where Rim Run crosses under the Canyon chair. I took a little air and started to crank even more speed on the frozen hard pack when I hit some soft snow. It knocked my skis right out from under me and I began to slide, creating one of the most spectacular "yard sales" the Canyon had ever see. I was sliding down the mountain at about 30 mph. AND picking up speed. I had a long time to think about the virtues of wearing a helmet before I came to a stop. My injuries were slight, my ego being my most damaged part. Whenever I start to feel a little too cocky, the God of the Mountain knows how to take me down a peg or two.
KILLINGTON, HOW I LOVE THEE, LET ME COUNT THE WAYS
The first reason I picked Killington is because they are the biggest ski area in the East with seven mountains and over 200 trails (if you count every little connecting path) and thousands of skiable acres. Outer Limits, Superstar, Double Dipper, etc. are some additional reasons.
They have the longest ski season in the East. They ski from mid-October until June and in the spring, some of the very best skiing of the year is combined with super bargains on lift tickets, lodging, skis and equipment. When other skiers have hung up their skis for the year, the Killington crowd knows that the best skiing is just about to begin! I make it a point to head up to Killington every spring to enjoy the warm weather and abundant snow.
The nightlife is the third reason. After a hard day on the slopes, the Killington access road offers some of the best happy-hour fun in the country. Bars and restaurants vie with each other to attract customers. The Avalanche Bar & Grill at Snowshed features live entertainment from 3-6 p.m. and other establishments offer music, free food and happy-hour drink specials. The Wobbly Barn features a free taco bar and the Pickle Barrel has free pizza. At Charity's, The Grist Mill and Mother Shapiro's there are free chicken wings and the hottest and BEST wings can be found at Casey's Caboose. Other bars and restaurants also offer comparable free happy-hour fair. You can eat your fill for the price of a beer at Killington, a long honored tradition for real ski bums. I am convinced a man can live on chicken wings, popcorn and beer, the three basic food groups.
Killington consistently has the best conditions because of their excellent snowmaking capacity. I have been known to say, "The only one that makes more snow than Killington is God . . . and that's only some days." It can get a little cold In January, February and March are still winter and can also be a little chilly, but spring skiing at Killington is spectacular and my favorite tine to visit. In April, the weather is warm, the sun shines day after day and the skiing can't be beat. Every night, they turn on the snow guns and make snow. They like to stockpile snow on slopes like Superstar, where it is not uncommon to find 30 feet of the white stuff on deposit for those warm days, when it can be pushed around to cover any bare spots that might show up. A week at Killington in the spring could be the best week you ever had on skis. No lift lines and the absence of crowds, lures laid-back locals into serious skiing and riding on the best snow in New England. A mellow party atmosphere permeates the air and talegate cook-outs, free kegs of beer and house parties are common.
There is more to Killington than observing "hot" skiers from the chairlift, much more. Killington has six interconnected mountains (soon to be seven), 205 trails and over 1,000 skiable acres. There are 33 lifts, including new high speed quad chairlifts at Rams Head mountain and Needle's Eye. Superstar, the death-defying Canyon and Snowdon mountain are all now serviced by quad chairlifts. You can park at the Skyeship or ride Killington's new gondola K1 to the top of Killington Peak in comfort and ski, Snowdon, Snowshed, Killington, or over to Bear Mountain on over 200 trails.
You can meander down the 10-mile long Juggernaut, the longest ski trail in the USA, ski the bumps on Outer Limits, or ski a combination of other trails somewhere in between. You can pick and choose the kind of skiing you like. Often, there will be excellent spring conditions at Bear Mountain and great winter conditions on the Killington Peak side of the resort. The best way to ski Killington, is to ski the trails on Bear Mountain in the morning, before the sun has soften-up the snow too much. As the day progresses, you can work your way toward the trails that lead to the Killington Base Lodge and always have perfect snow.
There is so much to ski at Killington that it is almost impossible to ski it all on one visit. For the beginner, there is Snowshed, a wide and gentle slope, an ideal place to learn how to ski. In addition to Snowshed, there are a host of novice trails that allow even a beginner to ski all of Killington's mountains. At Killington, there is something for everybody, even a beginner.
From the Killington Base you can also access the Superstar high-speed quad the leaves you on the top of Superstar, Ovation and Skylark. These trails are steep and challenging. Superstar is usually covered with bumps and only a skiing superstar can ski it well. Ovation is very, very steep and one of the few trails at Killington without snowmaking. It tends to be icy and is only for the truly expert skier. Skylark is less difficult and is rated as an advanced intermediate trail. The Superstar chairlift also accesses the Needle's Eye, Bear and Sunrise Mountain areas.
Directly in front of the Killington Base Lodge is the K1 Gondola that takes you to the top of Killington Peak (almost a mile high), where you have a breathtaking view of three states and can ski legendary expert trails like Cascade, Down Draft and Flume, or you can ski down easy trails like Rim Run and Goat Path to get to the incredible Canyon (VERY, VERY STEEP) or delightful Glades areas, or continue over to Snowdon Mountain for intermediate trails like the Chute. When you get to the bottom, you can ride up the Snowdon Triple Chairlift and ski Highline Racing Trail, Conclusion, or the less intimidating Bunny Buster. If none of these trails interest you, there is always the new quad chairlift at Snowdon that accesses even more novice, intermediate and expert trails.
You can spend all day skiing Bear Mountain. Mogul maniacs can show off under the Bear Mountain Chair on Outer Limits. Devils Fiddle offers big mogul skiing out of the sight of the chairlift and smaller moguls can be found on Bear Claw and Wildfire. The Skye Peak Quad offers access to the new Needles Eye Quad and a lot of interesting, challenging terrain. From Bear Mountain you can ski over to Sunrise Mountain and cruse miles of scenic trails.
Killington has not forgotten the snowboarders. There are halfpipes and Radical snowboarders take "big air" off the bumps on Outer Limits and Superstar, doing 360's as they take "hard hits" and zoom down the mountain in funny hats and baggy clothes.
Many "hot dog" skiers and champion snowboarders work in ski shops, waited tables, tended bar or washed dishes to earn money to ski and compete. They come out to play on warm days and you can see them fly through the moguls, run after run, offering inspiration to all those who see them perform.
If you are interested in watching outstanding head-to-head style mogul competition, plan on attending the Annual Bear Mountain Mogul Challenge with me in April at Killington, I never miss it! You can see top amateurs competing on Outer Limits, the steepest mogul slope in New England, where the moguls REALLY ARE the size of Volkswagens.
The night life at Killington has been rated #1 by Skiing magazine. Killington is one of greatest place to party, with dancing to rock music at the Wobbly Barn, Grist Mill (older crowd) and Night Spot, and progressive music the Pickle Barrel. Country and western music and dancing can be found at Kicks on Rt. 4, only a few miles away. A more mellow evening can be had at the Summit Lodge, Charities and a host of other small bars located in restaurants and ski lodges up and down the access road. Next to the skiing, it is the most important reason I picked Killington as the Best in the East!
If you are looking for a really great ski experience, Killington is the place to head for, especially in the spring. What ever your skiing or snowboarding ability, there is an abundance to attract you to this resort. Skiing, snowboarding, competitive events, shopping, and night life ... Killington has it all. Even if none of these appeals to you, there is still the tranquility offered by the mountains with their scenic vistas and New England picture post-card charm. Quiet walks in the woods, snowmobiling and cross-country skiing are all available at this major resort area. Swimming, tennis and other activities are available year round.
Killington is located in central Vermont, just a ½ hour from the city of Rutland. From points south you take the New York State Thruway to Albany, the Northway to the Ft. Anne exit and follow the signs to Ft. Anne and then Rt. 4 all the way to Killington. You can get there by plane ($42 one way, from DC to Manchester, NH via Southwest Air) or car. There is a FREE shuttle bus also travels up and down the access road, that now has a plowed sidewalk, making a car no longer necessary at Killington.
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