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Killington, Vermont 2010

Continued from the Canada page..

Sunday 4th April
Easter Sunday and all are in good spirits (no pun intended).  We get a cab to the airport and pick up our rented car.  As suspected the backseats do not fold down, so the coffin does not make it on our journey to Killington Ski Resort.  When I hired the car I tried to get a car that was big enough, or with seats that folded down so that my ski bag would fit.  But as usual, rental companies are not able to tell you exactly what car you will get until you arrive.  It is always a case of something like xyz model.  Anyhow, the bag is at the rental agency and my skis are on the backseat.  Our journey is pretty uneventful and the highways are empty.  We drive through some small towns where nothing much is happening, except we do pass a huge barn on the outskirts of a Montreal that has a huge billboard outside advertising an erotic extravaganza!  How bizarre.   Our car is in fact a full size Chevrolet Impala and like most cars in on the road, an automatic.  I feel like an old man in this car with no need to change gears or use 2 hands on the wheel.  Dukes of Hazard spring to mind, with me being the sheriff!  After a stop off at Montpelier (capital of VT) for food where lots of families are strolling around, the kids are riding bikes and all the restaurants closed.  A bit like Pinelands, nothing happening that’s not family orientated after 3pm on a Sunday!  A pity as we saw the greatest diner stuck in a time warp it could have come straight out of Grease.  Round seats on swivels, a curving counter and the smell of burgers and waffles coming from the kitchen.  Vermont is a pretty state with lots of forest, granite outcrops and rolling hills.  We make it to Killington, Vermont.  Our condo is awesome compared to a hotel room with a whirlpool / bath, open fireplace with wood supplied, 2 TV’s, a hi-fi and porches both front and back.  We nip down into Rutland to get some food for the week. Stopping at Wal-Mart is an amazing experience to me.  All the different foods and sweets on offer.  Lots of oversized packets, no wonder the Americans are overweight.  Looking around a lot (nearly all) of the girls are carrying weight, some are hugely overweight.  We see a 16 inch pizza in the  store (these things wouldn’t even fit into our ovens back home, I mean it was the diameter of a car wheel on 4 x 4.  M and M’s are in giant packs and it’s not an anniversary pack, it’s just the way sweets are packaged.  We get home and I realise I have paid for some shopping and failed to collect it from the checkout so I drive back to collect it!  Doh!  We relax and have a nice home cooked meal.

Monday 5th April
We meet at the base lodge and Zoë gets her rental skis from a girl on the counter who is intent on finishing her scrambled eggs while trying to advise Zoë on what ski’s to rent.  Meanwhile, I try to find out what time and where her lesson will finish and I get three different answers.  Zoë heads off to her 9.15 lesson and later at lunch I find out that the instructors spent so much time messing about that the lesson only got going at 10.  She ends up being the only one of intermediate ability and gets an instructor to herself which is bonus.  He’s called Rick and pushes her to ski faster and get out of her comfort zone.  He tells Zoë that she is a control freak and scared to feel a little scared!  Good on you Rick.  I ski over on the K1 side of the mountain.  The runs are not long and the snow is very definitely on its way out.  The snow is very soft and slushy, even though they have groomed the slopes.  It is a weird feeling skiing in this thick gloop.  There is no spray as you turn hard or stop.  Carving is not on the cards, some parts are hard and bumpy and you ski a lot slower than usual, making turns not as easy.  I ski a steep on my warm up run (this always happens to me – I start off on a gentle run meaning to warm up, get my bearings, feel my way back into balance etc and before I know it I am haring down the mountain on a steep doing moguls and looking out of shape!)  Anyhow, in some places there is absolutely no snow.  Coming up on the chairlifts, there are huge swathes of dry grass then the snow cover starts again.  It looks as if someone has peeled the snow back in these areas to allow the grass underneath to get an early start for summer.  Lots of British folk here, all helmets and school groups so I ski a few runs and meet Zoë for lunch. 

Killington Ski Review:

There are no restaurants on the slopes, only at the base are there 2 waffle cabins (sheds selling waffles) and a food hall (sort of).  It’s more like a long bland building that has 5 different serving hatches each selling different fayre, from pizza to chowder.  No cute and quaint coffee stops on this mountain.  We ski a few more runs together with me egging Zoë on and her skiing is coming along nicely.  So after day1 the verdict is very much with skiing in Europe over skiing in Vermont. Maybe if the snow was awesome it would make up for the short runs, the slow lifts and the handheld ticket scanners you have to pass.  Yes, people stand in the lift lines and scan your tickets as you pass by hand.  No electronic pass gates or system to automate the entry onto the lifts.  There is a very frequent free shuttle bus that runs around the resort but no signs to let anyone know where this bus stops!  The rental skis are scratched and dinged badly and the boots that were handed out are very basic models and still damp form the day before.  The quality and model of gear you get as standard rental on the continent is definitely better than what we have been handed out here.  They have runs that are so close to each other; they are only separated by a line of trees and then shown as 2 separate named runs on the ski plan.  Even the slope that cuts across these 2 is a named separate run.  So far I like Europe better; it’s probably a little cheaper too.  Yes they are foreign but that’s the whole point of going to a different country and in Europe they tell you what you need to know and start on time.  Overall the resort here is acceptable if there is not much else to do.  I won’t rush out and buy tickets to come ski here again.  The resort management is not so great, the website is awesome but the actual ski area is over exalted in blog spots.  You could probably ski the whole area out in 3 days if the lifts were a bit faster.  There are no benches to chill out on, even at the base area and the whole atmosphere is kind of amateurish.  It is actually a small area with lots of trails close to each other, thus making the resort look bigger.  Think of 5 hills with lost of short runs coming down.  Besides the views are far from as good as the Alps! 

Tuesday 6th April
Up early and a bit stiff but raring to go.  The weather is cloudier and the temperature over night was cooler so the snow is better, crisper and easier to ski on.  I concentrate on more moguls and some small turns on the steep sections.  I meet Zoë after her lesson and we head into town to the Pizza Jerks Pizzeria.  Awesome little chill out spot, so we get some buffalo wings and a pizza to share and I get a local root beer. Zoë decides it’s time to move to the next level, so we head into the ski shop and Zoë gets a pair of Salomon boots at great price after the 50% discount is applied.  It’s about 4 by the time we finish up and head home to relax and plan the next section of the trip.  Probably head up towards Stowe, then Jay Peaks on the way back to Montreal for the flight to Toronto, then London. 

Wednesday 7th April
Last night we had thunder storms and lots of rain.  This morning it looks like a true blue bird day.  Clear sunny skies so I head out to ski in a t shirt.  Zoë goes to her lesson in her new boots and I head up the mountain to ski some steep runs. Basically, due to the weather of late, there are about 5 different greens (easiest runs), 3 blues and the rest are diamond black or double diamond black.  Of course none of these steeper and more challenging runs has been groomed so it is mogul practise again.  I ski about 8 runs and am definitely improving.  I don’t fall and seem to know what to do, it’s just getting everything together at the same time so that you are in a dynamic enough position to turn, absorb, turn, extend and look downhill and still pick a line!  It really kills the knees and thighs.  I see so many Americans skiing well and some skiing better than average and making it look easy.  I notice that some of the old boys are on very short ski’s, as in chest height, making it exceptionally easy to ski moguls because the turning between moguls is a lot easier, the ski’s themselves are narrower making turning easier and they don’t catch the back end of their ski’s on the previous mogul.  My skis are powder skis, thus they are fat underfoot and are the same height as me, making it a lot harder for me to keep the turns going.  Anyhow, when I do get another set of ski’s they’ll be a piste set so I can rip like the best.  I meet Zoë after her lesson and we ski a few runs together.  She really is picking up speed and getting more confident after the last 2 lessons.  It is great to see her actually enjoying it more and feeling a little less apprehensive.  Onwards and upwards.  I ski another mogul run better than before and with a little more speed.  I meet Zoë at the car before we head into town for lunch except that this small resort is so dead we try 3 different restaurants before we find one that is open, so we settle for burgers at The Lookout Tavern.  We are served by Ali, an all American looking twenty-something, complete with surfer blonde hair, good uh set, wide smile and low cut tight vest.  Nice.  Anyhow, the food was okay but the inside of the pub is pretty cool.  It’s 4pm when we leave and all the crew seem to be pulling in for happy hour.  I keep thinking, with no public transport system in this area and all the big pickup trucks in the parking lot, who comes to a happy hour just for a soft drink.  Or are these guys only coming there for a single beer at half price? I think not but hey.

Thursday 8th April
We pack up and leave Killington to head over to Stowe for 2 days, which we find empty of snow and with only 1 lift running, they were still asking for $58. Bar Humbug to that. Read the rest in the Canada pages.

Pictures in the Gallery