First time visitors to Killington can be intimidated by the resort's massive layout. The complex trail map can be as confusing as it is helpful at times, but the resort does a good job of providing signage to different base areas.
Twenty Six percent of the 200 trails are graded "easier" (53 beginner trails), 34 percent "more difficult" (67 intermediate trails), and 40 percent "most difficult' (80 trails). But the ski trails are tightly packed into 1,215 acres (492 ha) so the ski area is quite complex -averaging only 5.9 acres (2.3 ha) and 0.4 miles (0.7km) per trail. All together the ski trails add up to 87 miles (140 km) with the longest trail (Juggernaut) at 6.2 miles (10 km).
Killington is also home to the largest learning complex in eastern North America-this area is called Snowshed-and Rams Head is an ideal mountain area for families. Outer Limits, the steepest mogul slope in the East, covers 1,200 feet (365 m) of vertical in half a mile (0.8 km).
Of the seven mountains, nearby Pico is altogether much more low-key and deserves a detour for a few quiet trails and the quaint intimacy of old-time New England skiing on less-crowded slopes over 14 miles (22 km) of diverse terrain. This includes a 1,967-foot (600-m) vertical and 48 trails, plus a central base village and lodge complete with roaring log fire. Or, for a little of that 1960s-style, drop in at Suicide Six close to Woodstock.
Killington's 19-vehicle Stealth Grooming fleet-one of the best around-is state-of-the-art and busy each night. Some trails are half-groomed, allowing bumps and terrain features to develop on the other side of the trail. Killington has thinned out some forest areas to create so-called "Fusion Zones" (the resort's official glades) and although they get tracked quickly, they offer great rides for intermediates and above when covered in fresh powder.
Killington Peak with K1 Gondola on left and Canyon Quad on right (Photo Credit: Killington Resort)
The K1 Express gondola takes just six minutes to reach Killington Peak-one of the highest lift-serviced peaks in New England-and at 2.5 miles (4 km) the Skyeship Gondola (2 stages) is the longest continuous gondola in the east. There are also six high-speed quads-each accessing a different mountain area-six fixed grip quads, six triple chairs, four double chairs and eight surface lifts.
The powerful lift system has an uphill capacity of 43,446 riders per hour which means that very rarely will you find lift lines, although the trails can get crowded on Saturdays and busy holiday periods. Lifts operate from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm Monday-Friday, and from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm at weekends and on Public Holidays.
Aside from merely offering a lot of uphill capacity, the lift system at Killington is incredibly well conceived. The lifts interconnect the resort's 6 peaks in an efficient manner. Navigating from base area to base area can take some time, but after a few days most skiers are able to grasp the layout.
Killington beginner skiers will enjoy the ability to travel across all of Killington peaks and down to all of the resorts' base areas. The novice terrain ranges from long green cruising trails (like Great Eastern, Juggernaut and Bear Cub) to wide open slopes (like the Snowshed Slope and Yodeler). Killington's adult learn to ski terrain is found at Snowshed, while kids learn to ski programs are based out of the adjacent Rams Head base lodge. Killington is a great resort for beginners who like to wander and explore a resort.
Great Eastern and Great Northern are the most popular beginner trails at Killington. Great Eastern runs from Sykpe Peak all the way to the base of the Skyeship while Great Northern runs from Killington Peak in the opposite direction and ends at Rams Head base. While Great Eastern is indeed a "great" trail, we suggest skipping Great Northern; it was never intended to be skied as a single run and is merely an amalgm of previously independent trails stuck together to make nagivating the mountain easier.
Below, we review the beginner skiing at each base area/peak. However, the itinerary also can serve as a suggested tour route to familiarize yourself with the mountain.
The most common starting point for most beginner skiers is Snowshed, where the wide Snowshed Slope serves as Killington's main bunny slope and a magic carpet lift services a shorter learning slope. The Snowshed Slope is serviced by its own express quad and two double chair, it can get crowded. Skiing the Snowshed Slope on a holiday weekend can often feel more like survival than learning. Thankfully, Killington has plenty of other beginner terrain.
Beginners can also explore a few other options in and around Snowshed and begin to get a sense of the wandering possible throughout the remainder of the resort. From the top of Snowshed, the Highlander trail brings skiers within sight of Killington Base - home to the K1 gondola and Killington Base Lodge. A right turn on Yodeler or Idler brings them back to Snowshed base.
Heading the other direction, Killington beginner skiers can down the Northbrook trail to the midstation of Killington's other gondola (the Skyeship). A quick ride on the Northbrook Quad brings skiers back to the top of the Snowshed Slope.
After exploring these three beginners options, a quick walk or pole through the tunnel under the Killington Access Road brings skiers to Rams Head.
Rams Head is home Killington's children's ski school and many younger skiers will learn to ski on one of Rams Head's magic carpets. Confident beginners can hop the Rams Head Express Quad. From the top of the lift, Easy Street is the only green option that brings skiers back to Rams Head Base. Easy Street winds its way across the face of the hill repeatedly intersecting several trails along the way. These constant trail crossings break up the rythm of the run and make Easy Street worth skiing once before moving on.
Back atop Rams Head peak, a run down Caper brings skiers to the base of Snowdon Mountain.
Snowdon is home to some of Killington's best high altitude wide green slopes. Three parallel beginner trails - Upper FIS, Mountain Run and Mountain Training Station - are often overlooked by skiers of all ability levels. They are wide, gentle and catch the morning sunshine. When the Upper Snowdon Poma is open, a few laps on these three trails without descending to the base is a great beginner option. Just watch out for the poma!
Great Northern winds its way across the face of Snowdon and after exhausting the limited offerings at the top of Snowdon Mountain, beginners can follow Great Northern back to the base of the K1 gondola or take Frolic back to Rams Head. Using the lower section section of Great Northern to get back to Rams Head is not advisable as it is incredibly flat and will require strenuous poling or walking.
From the top of the K1 gondola, beginner skiers are able to enjoy the same long views as experts. It's well worth the trip. To head back to the Snowdon/Rams Head side of the resort, skiers can take Great Northern. The first section ending at the base of the North Ridge Triple is the only tolerable section of the trail.The Juggernaut and Solitude trails look tempting from the Peak, but are amongst the flattest beginner trails in New England. We recommend skipping them in their entirety. Instead, take a lap to the base of the North Ridge Triple, avoiding all of the double black diamond headwalls that plunge into the Canyons area (no beginner skiing there!). After riding up, cut under the peak on the High Traverse trail to the top of the South Ridge.
The South Ridge offer some of New England's best beginner terrain. The South Ridge area is often overlooked by beginner skiers because it is now impossible to lap after the removal of the seldom-used South Ridge Triple. Pipe Dream is a wide, very gentle green slope with long views east towards the White Mountains. Skiing either Pipe Dream or Bear Trax (the two merge before Pipe Dream becomes a blue) brings skiers to the Bear Cub trail which falls gently on the shoulder of Bear Mountain down to Bear Mountain base area.
Bear Mountain is home to Killington's sunny expert terrain. Outer Limits - the East's steepest mogul run - looms over the base area like a sentinel. There's not a lot of beginner skiing to be found at Bear Mountain, but Bear Cub (accessible after a ride up the Bear Mountain Quad) is a long and pretty green run through a hardwood forest. Bear Cub also provides access to a beginner pod of terrain at Sunrise Mountain.
Sunrise Mountain offers limited beginner skiing on two runs - Sun Dog and Rendezvous. Sunrise Mountain used to offer far more skiing, but Killington chose to eliminate the bottom 3/4 of the mountain. All that remains is the last portion of the old Northeast Passage Triple (now, the Sunrise Village Triple) and a few chopped of beginner runs. Unless staying at one of the condominiums in this part of the mountain, Sunrise's limited beginner skiing does not merit a special visit.
Returning to Bear Mountain base from Sunrise, beginner skiers should take the Skye Peak Quad. The Skye Peak Quad doesn't run to the true summit of Skye Peak (only the Skyship gondola does). However, the top of the Skye Peak Quad is a great place to pick up Great Eastern. Every beginner skier should take at least one run down this lengthy green trail. Apart from the dead-flat Juggernaut trail, Great Eastern is the longest green run on the mountain. It is also unquestionably the best beginner trail on the mountain. Dropping over 2500' from the top of Skye Peak to the base of the Skyeship, beginners should set aside at least 20 minutes to complete the run.
To return to where the tour started, skiers can hop the Skyeship and disembark at the midstation. From there the Northbrook Quad to the top of the Snowshed Slope.
Rams Head is home to Killington's designated family skiing area. The slopes at Rams Head are also amongst the easier blue runs at Killington.
Another fun option is the Squeeze Play woods wide open glade on the looker's left side of the mountain. The trees have been heavily thinned and the underbrush cleared entirely, so much so that it really amounts more to a series of criss-crossing paths slaloming around trees more than a true glade. In that regards, Squeeze Play is a great introduction to tree-skiing, but also a fun place for small kids to ski lines between the widely-spaced hardwoods.
In a word, the skiing at Snowdon might best be described as choppy. Lots of short runs intersected by criss-crossing switchbacks makes for less than inspiring skiing.
Much of Bear Mountain's terrain is marked blue for intermediates, but it's definitely on the harder end of the spectrum. In fact, blue runs like Bear Trap and Skyeburst were black diamonds until the mid-2000's.
Skye Peak has skiing on several faces
One of the best blue runs on the mountain is
Expert skiers love Killington and with good reason. Few resorts in the East can match the breadth of Killington's offerings. From long, steep groomers to unrelenting bump runs and tight trees, Killington will challenge even the best skiers. The largest concentrations of expert-only terrain can be found in The Canyon (directly below Killington Peak) and Bear Mountain (home to famous bump run, Outer Limits). However, great steeps are also found sprinkled throughout the remainder of the resort.
Killington's largest pod of expert terrain is found in the Canyon, just below the summit of Killington Peak. Experts love the terrain, but also really love that only double black and one lone black run lead to the Canyon Quad that services this terrain. Translation? No lift lines.
The dozen or so runs that funnel down to the Canyon Quad vary in character and difficulty. The easiest run to the base is actually not the lone single black diamond (East Fall) in the area, but rather the double black diamond Cascade run directly under the gondola. The best tree skiing can be found in Big Dipper Glade, a very wide open tree run with well spaced hardwoods. Escapade and Downdraft are often left moguled and are a stern test. The longest run in the area is the Flume trail which bypasses the Canyon Quad and returns skiers to the base of the K1 gondola.
Near the summit are also a handful of black diamond runs worth trying. Upper Escapade under the gondola is a quick, steep shortcut that takes skiers directly to the top of the Canyon. Up the stairs from the K1 is the narrow Catwalk trail which is an excellent choice early on powder days because the 5 minute hike scares off most. In the North Ridge area (formerly called "The Glades") just below the peak, Powerline and Ridge Run are two short natural snow options that form nice bump lines with sufficient natural snowfall.
Bear Mountain's expert terrain is legendary. As the home to Outer Limits - the steepest bump run in the East - this portion of the resort has bona fide expert terrain that will challenge even the best skiers. Outer Limits plunges almost 1,100' from the top of the Bear Mountain Quad and every foot of that is in full view of the gawking bystanders on the deck below. On a sunny spring day, the bumps can truly become, as the resort's PR slogan goes, "the size of Volkswagens."
While Outer Limits grabs all the headlines, our favorite expert trail at Bear Mountain Devil's Fiddle. Just to the skier's right of Outer Limits, Devil's Fiddle is noteworth for the large cliff band in the top center of the run. Every bit as steep and bumpy as Outer Limits, Devil's Fiddle is never groomed and the wide open slope interspersed with rocks and trees is more reminiscent of Colorado than Vermont.
From the top of Bear Mountain there are also several single black diamond runs, with our favorite being the oft-groomed Wildfire trail. There are also several gladed runs, but the lower elevation and Eastern exposure can leave these trails a bit thin. Glade afficiandos would do better elsewhere.
Snowdon has Killington's most underrated expert terrain. While most advanced skiers will head straight for the Canyon or Bear Mountain, Snowdon has much to offer, particularly its glades and natural snow trails. Northstar and the tree runs that adjoin it are great choices on windy days since the snow tends to blow into this natural horseshoe area. On the other (looker's left) side of Snowdon are a handful of fantastic black runs. Our favorite is Royal Flush, a steep, natural-snow trail that drops down to the base of the Canyon Quad. Catch it early in the day though because it faces south and tends to become sun-affected.
Although the bulk of Killington's expert skiing is found in the Canyon, neighboring Skye Peak actually is home to the resort's steepest trail - Lower Ovation. This double black run is steep enough to get any skier's attention and actually skis easier when it's ungroomed. When rolled flat the snow tends to slide off making it an icy mess. One trail over, Superstar is Killington's signature spring run. The resort stockpiles snow on Superstar to allow skiing until May (or in previous years, even June).
The best classic New England black run on Skye Peak is Bittersweet. This windy switchback black diamond trail is not the steepest on the hill, but it is our favorite for its dips, turns and rolls. Neighboring Skyelark is also a popular choice.
Over at the Needle's Eye area of Skye Peak, skiers will also find a small and often overlooked pod of expert terrain. Vertigo, skier's left of the the Needle's Eye run, is a short, steep shot that is easy to lap because the Needle's Eye Express Quad is one of the fastest rides on the mountain. Hop on the Skyeship gondola from midstation to reach some of the steeps above the top terminus of the Needle's Eye Quad. The entrances to these runs are a bit difficult to find, meaning trails like Thimble and Upper Needle's see a lot less skier traffic.
These three mountain areas do not offer any black diamond trails. Ironically, however, both Sunrise and Rams Head were formerly home to some excellent expert trails. The now-removed Northeast Passage Triple at Sunrise had several excellent runs from its midstation. These expert runs are now part of a snowmobile area.
Rams Head's expert terrain met a similar fate when the Rams Head Express Quad was designed to stop short of the summit. The handful of now-closed expert trails can be seen above the top lift station. Killington is considering resurrecting these trails when the long-awaited interconnect to Pico becomes a reality.
A 430-foot long Superpipe is located just up from the Bear Mountain Lodge and features its own rope tow. The beginner and more advanced parks have been expanded at Ramshead with rails, hits, boxes and a minipipe. The Stash (a natural terrain park built by Burton) headlines Killington's offerings for snowboarders.
Please note: This page reviews Killington's on-mountain dining options. For information on restaurants in the Killington area, please see our Killington Restaurantts & Bars page.
It's the place to be in the spring for deck parties, live music, barbecues and loads of sun and snow. Or you can try a little Tex-Mex at Raul's Burrito Stand on the Skyeship trail. If you want a real sweeping view of the mountains head up to the Killington Peak Restaurant where on a good day you can see five states. That done, don't forget to drop in at either the Mahogany Ridge Bar or Max's Place, good watering holes for thirsty skiers. Better make it both.
The brand new Killington Peak Lodge (located at the top of the K1 gondola) was redesigned to maximize views from Killington 4241' summit. Long views of much of New England, New York and Canada are possible. The food is also superb - far better than a typical ski lodge burger and fries. Hot soups and locally-sourced entrees are highlights.
Off the mountain Hemingway's Restaurant (the only four-diamond restaurant in Vermont) is housed in a traditional 1860s homestead off Route 4 and has been cited in the Top 25 restaurants in all of North America, as voted by Food & Wine magazine. Zola's Grille at The Cortina Inn is also recommended for its food and extensive, quality wine list. The Long Trail Pub at Snowshed is a rustic pub that pours fresh the local brew of the Long Trail Brewing Company, made just 15 minutes down the road from Killington.
The Bakery at Snowshed offers freshly baked bread daily and mile-high sandwiches made to order, plus cakes, pastries, and other goodies. Roadhouses and diners offer traditional hamburgers, hot dogs and chicken to salads, sushi, Mexican, pizza, and Italian.
The main ski area lies at the end of Killington Road in the heart of the Green Mountains of central Vermont, surrounded by beautiful vistas and mountain terrain. Most of the 100 or so places to stay, and a similar number of bars and restaurants are built up along the five-mile Killington Access Road.
There is a good shuttle bus service between the many lodges, stores and restaurants on the Killington Road, but in spite of this most people would consider it essential to have a car for getting around.
Plans are underway to convert the Snowshed Base (pictured above) into a true pedestrian style village. However, at present there is no village in the traditional sense. Those expecting a New England style village along the lines of Stowe will be disappointed. Killington is all about the skiing and the nightlight on the Access Road. Vermont charm is something certainly lacking.
The Killington Access road is home to the vast majority of Killington's restaurants. If staying at Killington lodging property, skip Ovations in the Killington Grand Hotel - there are better options elsewhere. For Asian food, we recommend Sushi Yoshi. For Italian, the choice is Peppino's or, if you're not looking to attract a mate, The Garlic. For traditional American food, Casey's Caboose is a local favorite and the Wobbly Barn is the place to get a great steak.
Amongst the hustle and bustle of the access road, there are a few restaurants farther afield that are easy to miss. Near what was formerly the base of Sunrise Mountain on Route 100 is our personal favorite - the Back Behind Saloon. This Killington staple has been serving hungry skiers in an authentic caboose for decades. For fine dining, Hemmingway's on Route 4 is a great choice. Closer to Rutland, the Countryman's Pleasure serves excellent Austrian/German cuisine in a rustic Vermont Country Inn setting.
Killington is therefore known among the alpine cognoscenti as a Party-ers' Paradise. Strong men and women alike have been carried home from the the Wobbly Barn (the name says it all), Killington's signature nightspot. For live music, it's difficult to beat the Pickle Barrel. Just across the street, Charity's is an excellent choice for a slightly quieter bar.
You might try Bear Lodge- as described above, it really is great in spring for eating, drinking, parties, and fun in the sun and snow. Killington ranks number one in après ski in ski country and has hundreds of bars on and off the mountain, including Mahogany Ridge in the Killington Base Lodge, The Lookout Bar and Grill, Casey's Caboose, and the Grist Mill.
Apart from the usual places selling equipment for skiers and boarders, the shopping opportunities are limited. You can catch a movie, read a book, or go bowling-but compared to many other resorts there is little else to do and non-skiers will soon get bored.