News & Articles
Ski Babe Blog
Explanation of Snow Conditions
The Links Every Skier Needs
The Big Ten "Must Ski" Trails
Top Cruisers: "Must Ski" Trails
Roster of Steep Trails
Ten Significant Amateurs
Legendary Ski Race Runs
Meet the Gondyline Team
Original Killington Gondy circa 1975
Original gondy approaching summit
Killington Resort — A Personal Perspectve
If you've read the Gondyline.com listing for Killington on our general Vermont page, you probably noticed some snarky comments and a propensity to paint K-Mart as too big, and getting bigger.
Permit me to explain.
My first experience with Killington was during the summer of 1966. My parents rented a chalet along the still-young Access Road. The neighborhood was up a side road; these are modest chalets that most people today never notice. The only other thing on that portion of the road was a small fire station. Beyond that, the road narrowed. It was a mountain experience.
One afternoon during our stay we headed for what is now the K1 base lodge, and enjoyed a scenic ride on the original yellow double chair. It looked exactly like this:
In fact, the lead chair could've easily been me with my mom. (It wasn't)
The summit was a wild, rugged place. After a few minutes on a small viewing platform, we rode back down where my dad was given a brief sales pitch about buying property at Killington. They had a large 3D cardboard model of a magnificent mountain complex, somehow built with topographical tiers, little strings representing lifts, that sort of thing.
Being interested in maps even at a very young age, I inquired as to what I was seeing. The adults hushed me with the explanation that this was the plan for the ski resort, with lodges, houses, golf courses, shopping centers, etc. "Where is it?" I asked, and was hushed again. The salesman was annoyed. My dad knew that I would persist, so he pointed out what existed at that time -- just a fraction of the planned resort. The rest would be built all over the wild land surrounding this lodge. I confirmed loudly, "so this is what they want to do?" Once I comprehended what I was seeing, I vocally offered my opinion "ha...this will never happen!" At which point I was hustled away by my embarrassed mom.
1960 aerial view. At left are Flume and Cascade, top center is the Glades Area, with the Snowdon trails at right. Looking closely, you can see that the Snowdon Poma line was a narrow route at the time. The area wasn't much different when I visited a few years later. As a precocious little monster, I thought their future plans were a pipe dream.
Of course I was wrong. Killington became all that and a bag of chips within a few years; today it has far exceeded even those spectacular plans. By the mid 1970s Killington was the beast of the east: the biggest, the best, most glamorous. It stole the spotlight from Sugarbush, and became the target for NY metro ski areas. Hunter and Great Gorge asked, "why drive to Killington?" Well, because it's Killington.
Today the Access Road is a four-lane boulevard with ritzy restaurants, trendy gin mills and shopping honky tonk of every description. Condos sprawl along the lower hills like giant centipedes. Skier visits may rise and fall over the short term, but overall, Killington seems to grow and grow.
I recently climbed Killington Peak from the "back" side, using a trail from Wheelerville Road that connects briefly with the Long Trail/Appalachian Trail and ascends the summit via a steep scramble called the Killington spur trail. After I dropped over the summit peak, I walked down to the summit lodge past the Catwalk trail. The K1 gondola now stands in place of the old yellow double. It was depositing a steady stream of sight-seers and mountain bikers at the top terminal; the summit was hopping. Looking off the sizable observation deck, I saw the bikers scrambling like an antfarm down the mountain below.
I thought back to that afternoon in 1966 on the small wooden platform, looking off at the wilderness around, and marveled at what has become of it. I won't say the growth is a negative thing, not at all; the rides and attractions bring people who would otherwise not venture into the mountains. I don't think the trappings of the Access Road are as attractive as they were proposed on that 3D model. And I don't think any of those visionary folk could foresee exactly how insanely crowded and built up their resort would become. Again, that isn't a negative...it's just a lot different than it was.
-- Rick Bolger, Gondyline.com
* * * * *
This popular artist's rendering of Killington was updated in the late 1970s to reflect the addition of Outer Limits and the South Ridge section. It also shows trail enhancements on Rams Head.
Artist's rendering of the planned Rams Head base lodge, with a rather fanciful depiction of Killington peak.
The newly completed lodge.
Changes at Ram's Head:
- Original summit abandoned due to frequent icing and wind holds. This reduced the vertical and eliminated the Header trail headwall, and eliminated the upper "expert" section of the Vagabond trail
- Prior to the addition of the Swirl trail, Ram's Head had two short "cross-country" trails off of the Header trail. These were extremely narrow, service road trails. Eventually this route was widened and called RH Road, then widened further and absorbed by Swirl.
1970s view of the Vagabond trail, dropping into the short "expert" section.
If you're really into the history side of Vermont skiing, or perhaps have ties to a particular ski town, there's a book called Lost Ski Areas of Southern Vermontby Jeremy Davis of NELSAP fame. NELSAP, if you aren't familiar with it, is the New England Lost Ski Area Program, a loosely organized group started by Davis that preserves the history of shuttered ski areas. NELSAP is affiliated with the New England Ski Museum and all sort of other history folks. Anyway, the book is terrific, the link goes to Amazon.com and if you decide to purchase, a few cents funds this website at no added cost to you.
Snowshed shortly after construction of the lodge. Notice how different Superstar was during the 1970s.
Needle's Eye trail under the original Killington gondola, circa 1972.
Another view of the original summit double, this one closer to the summit
Bill's Country Store, an iconic landmark and popular roadside stop for much of Killington's history. Here's how it appeared to 1960s tourists en route to summer chairlift rides.
For a much more complete and well-illustrated summary of changes at Killington through the years, please visit this page at Jeremy Clark's informative New England Ski History site.
* * * * *
Use this to get Lift Tickets at Discount: There is a "clearinghouse" of sorts that many ski areas use to raise cash by selling discount tickets in advance, called Liftopia . If you haven't used this service, it is usually best to know for certain that you are going on a specific date. The deeply discounted tickets must be purchased in advance; generally up to two days out. The sticking point is that some ski resorts only make a limited number of tickets available to Liftopia for any given day, so they might be sold out if you wait too long...so, as soon as you are absolutely, positively sure that you will be skiing on a certain day, click this link to get deeply discounted tickets . I've used this service many times, usually when I am absolutely certain I will be skiing on a specific date. Some resorts offer "flex" tickets with which you can specify the date, and some have a few different tiers of pricing. In other words, you might be able to get a lift ticket that can be used on different days, but you'll pay a little more for that privilege. You need to have access to a printer to print out your receipt, and you have to take identification with you to the mountain. I've knocked a third off -- even half off -- the price of some tickets. Not every area participates, but it's well worth checking before you head to the slopes.
A tiny portion of your Liftopia purchase helps fund this website, at no added cost.
Free Ski & Snowboard Stickers!
Show your passion for doing it up and keeping it real with a free "Old School" sticker for your helmet, or your board, or whatever. Just e-mail your mailing address to sticker -at- gondyline -dot- com and say "send me a snowboard sticker" or "send me a ski sticker" or "send me a ski sticker and a board sticker for my sister" or whatever. If you say "please" we'll send two. They look like this:
Ski Movies for Mere Mortals
Did you ever feel like those big money ski movies are often a big let-down? You get all pumped up for the new release from some ski film company, and it's mostly incredible footage of guys jumping out of helicopters and shredding down some un-named mountain on the far side of the globe. They're neck deep in powder, skiing lines that you'll never, ever see. If you want ski movies you could actually relate to, a bunch of guys called The Meatheads, from Burlington, VT have made a series of "Ski The East" films. They film at real resorts like Sugarloaf, Blue Mountain, Big Boulder, Mount Snow, Ski Sundown, Stowe, Jay, Mountain Creek, Killington, Sunday River...urban locations ranging from Virginia to Quebec...mogul skiing with The Hammer and Radio Ron...and backcountry throughout New York, New England, and the Chic Chocs. It's simply fantastic -- and since it's the same terrain we can get to, it's inspirational!
Their most popular current release is No Matter What , which received the ski equivalent of an Oscar for the Jay Peak powder segment, filmed during 2012 of all things. One that is probably their best is from a year ago, called Prime Cut . Another favorite is Wanderland: An East Coast Ski Thriller. All Meatheads DVDs have hours of "bonus" footage, so it's like getting three ski movies for the price of one. The links go to Amazon.com, which enables you to order and return if you don't like them. And a small percentage of the sale helps us pay the expenses of this website, at no extra cost to you.
Here's a preview, courtesy Youtube...
North Ridge masthead photo courtesy Mark Klapper, Used by permission/Creative Commons.