News from the snow
It seems that when you try to describe Killington you end up talking numbers - the resort is one of the most impressive in the world in some respects and in the US market in many more. It seems unfair not to try to describe the place a little before giving vent to those figures. Killington is very much a ski area rather than a resort (although that is changing), hotels, restaurants and other facilities are spread out for several miles on the three lane road up to the resort's main base at Snowshed. The ski area itself extends for a massive 18km (11 miles) over seven mountains from Sunrise to Pico, the last is a small ski area in its own right, all of the rest is fully lift linked. It's difficult to resist the temptation to quote the figures, so here goes. Killington is the largest ski resort in the Eastern United States and it seems it always has been, it operates more than 1,400 snow cannons and is famous for having one of the world's most powerful snow making systems. In past times this allowed it to open trails in October and keep them open through to late June in cold years (the record is June 22nd). It averages six metres of natural snow anyway. Killington is one of only a dozen resorts in the United States to have a vertical drop greater than 950 metres (and of only two in the East that do, the other being Whiteface) - tantalisingly close to the 1000m mark that means much to the European market. The resort is keen to point out that, because of the number of its trails and lifts, it is in every way a comparable resort to the big centres out West - with as much trail length if not the acreage. Indeed Killington is one of the few US resorts to measure trail length as well as resort acres, knowing that if a lot of the 'big acre' Western ski areas dared to publish their prepared trail length stats they wouldn't look much by comparison. Killington's trails also compares favourably with most ski areas in the Alps and is therefore an increasingly popular destination resort for skiers from Europe and further afield who recognise that Killington is the exception for those who dismiss East Coast skiing as low-hill small-area weekend retreats for the residents of the local big cities. A few final fascinating facts - Killington has the longest trail in the East (Juggernaut, 10km/6 miles in length) and Outer Limits is the steepest mogul slope in the region also. Although the 12 quads, half of them high speed detachables, is not a record it's still a pretty impressive uplift, with six triples on hand also.
The largest ski resort in Eastern USA, Killington boasts North America's largest single-mountain lift system in terms of number of lifts. They include twelve quads, a further six triples and what was the world's fastest gondola with the world's first heated (and brightly painted) cabins. Famous for snow making, with capacity doubled between 1997 and 1999 as part of a $50 million development program, but averages six metres of natural snow anyway.
The Snowshed slope is a huge gentle meadow ideal for first-timers to practise on. Most soon progress on to the Ramshead Mountain where a mix of beginner and intermediate trails give a variety of descents including the gentle Timberline or the faster Header which follows the fall line. Swirl is a popular choice on powder days.
One of the resort's three terrain parks designed for fun snow sports of all kinds, not specifically snowboarding, is located here as is the Family Centre where kids day care and ski schools are based.
For tougher skiing that gets some of the resort's earliest and best snow, The Glades attracts more experts to ungroomed terrain. Like Snowden Mountain and West Glade, it has a reputation for bump runs and allows skiers on all runs the opportunity to continue down to The Canyon below. This includes the notorious Double Dipper run with an average pitch of 40%, building to 54% for the final third of its length. The high traverse leads from here to Killington Peak, the highest lift-served terrain in Vermont.
Skye Peak is the area most popular as the Superstar Trail is the target of Killington's most intensive snowmaking efforts, building up a snow depth of 6 metres (20 feet) in mid-winter. Between Skye Peak and Bear Mountain is Needles Eye, which contains the fierce steeps and tight lines of Vertigo and other more forgiving trails.
South Ridge is a favoured place for powder stashes whilst Bear Mountain, the sunniest and most sheltered from the wind, is probably the most attractive of the seven mountains for the best skiers and riders to visit at Killington, although there are some easy descents also. It includes New England's steepest mogul run, Outer Limits, competition on which has been the springboard into the national and international competitive arena for American freestyle skiers.
Sunrise Mountain has a mixture of terrain and a reputation for good skiing on powder days, particularly, The Judge trail. Finally Pico Mountain, once a ski area in its own right, has 42 trails covering 29km (18 miles) of terrain all, of its own. It's classic New England skiing and encompasses a wide variety of terrain.
bustle of the main resort but at the same time close enough for a short walk across (through an underpass beneath the road). The snow garden out back has a magic carpet lift - in short it's a wonderful place to get started. There are plenty of family-friendly restaurants as you would expect in the area for après ski nosh and the big new slopeside Killington Grand Resort Hotel has a swimming pool and kids games machines.
Ski and snowboarding school for kids starts with the Perfect Turns First Tracks program (ages 2 - 3, with on-snow learning games using rental gear provided) before moving on to Ministars (ages 4 - 6) and Superstars (ages 7 - 12). Children's snowboarding programs begin from an unusually low 4 years of age in the Low Riders school. You can even buy a 30 minute video of your children learning to ski if you want to.
Families can ski or 'board together on easy terrain such as Ram's Head mountain and there are special deals available on a wide variety of packages including a free weekday lift pass for kids aged up to 12 when one accompanying adult purchases a Monday - Friday lift ticket.
After the lifts close attractions include swimming, cinema, a wealth of child-friendly restaurants and, for 'under 21's, the alcohol and drugs free, but high-energy Bumps Dance Club open Saturday nights in the Rams Head Family Centre from 7.30 to 11.30pm.
On the other hand, many visitors from big cities, or those who like big cities, may find this cosmopolitan attitude rather refreshing, and in any case there are dozens of more laid back places to choose from that are more like the ski resort norm if you prefer something quieter.