KILLINGTON, Vt. — There's already plenty to brag about at Killington and the ski season has barely begun.
Just 10 days after the resort announced that it will be hosting women's slalom and giant slalom World Cup races in 2016, Killington opened to season-pass holders on Oct. 18 — the first resort to do so in North America. Beyond these laurels the central Vermont behemoth, aptly nicknamed the Beast of the East, enjoys several other noteworthy distinctions. It's the biggest resort east of the Rockies boasting the highest peak, the largest vertical drop, the most skiable territory, and the East Coast's longest season.
All these superlatives are enough to spin the head of a Killington newbie, and navigating the mountain can be daunting for first-timers regardless of skiing ability. With six peaks, five base areas, 22 lifts, six terrain parks, and 155 trails stretching over 73 miles, Killington offers guests endless options for skiing and riding. Despite its size, it doesn't take long to get the lay of the land and traveling from peak to peak becomes relatively simple.
Here's a Killington primer with everything you'll need to know to conquer the Beast this winter.
Known as the resort's family zone, Ramshead is the heart of children's programming at Killington. The base lodge here offers the most extensive selection of kids' rental equipment on the mountain, and parents can gear up as well, making it one-stop shopping for families.
Ramshead is home to two magic carpets, an express quad, and a good variety of beginner terrain including a simple glades trail called Treezy where rookies can try their luck in the woods. For novices ready to up their game, Swirl is a short blue cruiser that hooks up with Easy Street leading back to the base. Little shredders will dig Ramshead's three terrain parks, especially Progression, with its easy features and mellow vibe.
As Killington's adult learning area, Snowshed is the place to start your day if you're a beginner. All adult lessons meet outside the base lodge and it's an easy walk from Ramshead for folks who need to drop off the kids first.
Three lifts and a carpet serve the Snowshed slope, which features a wide swath of groomed powder ideal for practicing new skills and making slow, easy turns. Snowshed is also a good spot for anyone looking to grab a few warm-up runs before heading to K-1 on Highlander or Skyeship along Highroad or Northbrook.
If solid blues are your passion, Snowdon is an excellent bet — you could ski Mouse Run to Great Northern or Frolic to Caper all day and never get bored — yet black diamonds like Conclusion and Mousetrap are at the ready if you want to amp up the adrenaline. Snowden's home base is the K-1 lodge and is accessed by a triple and a quad. Both are a bit of a walk from the lodge area, and if you've got kids in tow, prepare to schlep their skis to the lifts.
At 4,241 feet, K-1 is the resort's highest peak and is served by the express gondola with the same name. The Peak Lodge, revamped in 2014, is a top-notch place to hang, with a happening bar area, food that is well above par, and cushy seating areas surrounded by floor-to-ceiling windows and stellar views.
The K-1 gondola is a fast ride to the summit, where a wide range of terrain awaits. Novices will love Great Northern and Bear Trax while experts can hit Ovation, Double Dipper, and some superb double black glades.
Skye Peak and Bear Mountain
Though Skye and Bear cater more to intermediate and expert skiers, with gnarly, narrow glade runs like Growler and Centerpiece, Great Eastern and Bear Cub are ways beginners can get a taste of these two peaks. Bear is also the place for riders looking for action, featuring two terrain parks, which include Killington's 18-foot Super-
Grizzly and the Beast
No one knows Killington like Grizz. The Papa Bear of the resort's Mountain Ambassadors Program for more than 20 years, John "Grizzly" Puchalski offered up some insider tips for making the most of your time on Killington's slopes.
All five base lodges are color-coded, and the wickets on your lift tickets are your clue to where you started your day. Mountain Ambassadors, stationed at the top of every lift, need only glance at your ticket to tell you exactly how to get back to the right lodge.
Ambassadors offer complimentary "Meet the Mountain" tours at 9:45 each morning from Snowshed Base. Tours often last about two hours, during which guests cover about 15 miles of skiing. Grizz suggests tapping into Ambassadors' expertise throughout the day. They love showing folks different ways to navigate the Beast, and their knowledge of the mountain is endless.
If you don't need to rent gear, Skyeship Lodge is a great place to kick off the day. It's much less crowded and the express gondola gets you onto the mountain in a flash.
When the trails start to get skied off, don’t overlook Killington’s sister resort, Pico Mountain, for afternoon powder. Pico exudes a laid-back vibe reminiscent of earlier days and your lift ticket works here. Plus, you won’t have to fight for a spot by the fireplace after that last run.
Gina Vercesi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.