Have you been to the Beast lately? I hadn't skied Killington in years, I grew up respecting Killington as The Beast of the East, the biggest skiing and the boldest après ski in New England. Ownership changes brought a departure from the Beastly branding and a break from the race to open first. In fact, I was reprimanded by one Killington PR guy for referencing "The Beast" a decade ago. My ski trip last week revealed that The Beast is back, snow guns blazing, six mountains open, and the 4,241' summit now showcases a new panoramic Peak Lodge.
Things are looking up at this high elevation, huge ski area in Vermont - run by Powdr Corp. since 2007 when it was purchased from American Skiing Company, along with sister Pico Mountain. Powdr operates nine ski resorts including Park City, Copper, Bachelor and Las Vegas.
Killington is back in the race and winning first to open and last to close in the East, with a serious rededication to snowmaking. Other upgrades include a European style Umbrella Bar at the base of Superstar, better learn to ski and snowboard programs at Ram's Head, and ramped up parks at Bear Mountain.
What hasn't changed is how beautiful the Beast of the East is. The view from atop Killington Peak at 4,241' is always impressive. In the distance you can see defunct Ascutney marked by the signature A, Okemo, Stratton, even Magic on a clear day. Classic Killington trails like Cascade and East Fall feel familiar, steep and fun.
When you take a peek at the new Peak Lodge, you see the new side of Killington. A brand new modern mountaintop cube settles into the summit with glass, steel and wood, ready to face the harsh elements and embrace skiers inside with phenomenal views out the floor to ceiling windows. Leather couches, fireplace, flat screen TV and free wifi welcome skiers into the open space. The food is loftier too - food stations serve farm raised local fare and the bar has Vermont micro brews on tap. The main event at the Peak Lodge though has to be the spectacular views.
Out the west windows stands Pico Peak at 3,967' - sister resort to Killington, which could clearly connect with a lift or two and minor trail work. That doesn't seem to be in the works, but your Killington ticket is valid at Pico - just six miles drive for a completely different ski experience. In fact, you can split your day, ski the morning at the Big K, then take the pace down a notch in the afternoon skiing Pico's peaceful pretty ski trails with a handful of other people.
Of course, there is plenty of skiing at Killington, over 1,500 acres on six peaks. I still find myself needing a trail map at Killington, The Big K remains a confusing mountain with many lift pods (22 including two gondolas), intersections, 155 trails, and five base areas from Bear to Ramshead. It's a Beast.
By Heather Burke, Photos of Killington and Pico by Greg Burke
Eric Wilbur is a lifelong recreational skier who spends most of his winter and spring in the mountains of New England. He does not ski in jeans. You can read more of Eric's work here.
Heather Burke is an award winning ski journalist with over a decade of ski news coverage. As a former ski instructor and a ski parent, she knows the ski biz from the inside out. She and her family visit New England ski resorts, as well as the West and Canada, to report on the latest trends and their best family finds. Her husband Greg takes all the accompanying photos, and their work can be seen at www.familyskitrips.com and www.luxuryskitrips.com.