After a decade of turning its back to its reputation of the earlier, latest, longest, biggest season skiing in the East, there were signals that the lost years were over and sounds and cries that the “Beast was Back”. The evidence was two consecutive October openings and missing June skiing by only six days last season making it the longest ski season in the East again…after all these years.
MadPat hadn’t returned to Kmart since May 2005 and I was curious to return to see if Killington was really mighty again? Had Kmart returned to its glorious Spring days of the last millennium. For this mission, I enlisted Lucky Luke, frequent Kmart late season skier and partner from the 1990s. We hadn’t been together at K since June 1997.
The night before skiing, I joined Lucky Luke to squat in a huge unfinished home just North of the Vermont border. A quiet early crossing into rural Vermont until we reached the metropolis of Stowe. Our first glimpse of Killington was on I-89 where we saw the low clouds hanging over Skye and Killington Peaks. I hadn’t been this far South on I-89 in a long time, but still remember the road. A major things had changed since my first visit almost 30 years this May.
Once we arrived at K-Base, we noticed a few things : it was gray and colder than anticipated. Temperature was just 34F.
I used to be a regular at Kmart in the late Springs back in the good date (1984-1997). What I saw yesterday wasn’t the domination that existed back then. I was shock and disappointed when we arrived yesterday morning. Not that I forgot my ski pants and had to ski … in jeans, but that so little was open. Killington was only running the Superstar Express. Three hour drive for only 9 open trails which was actually less if you could it as actual ski runs? Lucky and I were so much looking forward to ski more than the usual “last Killington” terrain of May. It wasn’t going to be…the official morning runs were limited to Bittersweetness…and some Skye Lark. The steep pitch of Bittersweet was even bitterclosed with a bit-of-snow.
To make matters worse, some people were calling it a day, because everything was frozen and chunks without any grooming. There wasn’t any open bumps when we got to the top of Skye Peak, only refrozen chunks of corn. Superstar wasn’t flat, nor bumpy, but it was closed as well as the Skye Hawk bumps. Luckily that would change later on.
But sometime you need to seek out “joy” and overcome deception. There was so much that we had looked forward to ski…runs like Needle Eye, Panic Button, Vertigo…which I remember skiing with my pregnant wife in late May ‘97. This wasn’t Late May 1997 and it wasn’t open. And what about the double diamond steep Ovation…or was Lucky Luke just seeing double again? Maybe it was just Vertigo? Late season skiing at Killington from the mid 1980s also brought back memories skiing runs of the K Peak like Downdraft with some walking required…but not possible today. It’s neighbours also looked very good. The Killington Peak Double with a midstation is long gone and the K1 Gondola is in the garage for the remainder of the ski season.
Eventually conditions corned up, bumps bumped up as the rope dropped on Skye Hawk and Superstar. Not the best bumps on the mountain, but the Skye Hawk bumps and lower Superstar started looking real sweet for coming weekend. Like the conditions, we eventually up having a great time, but we had to make a take a few steps and duck the ropes of deceptions to take matters in our your hands.
In hindsight, if we looked at quality/price/open terrain/distance (for us) analysis, Sugarloaf or Jay with each close to 40 open runs would have been a logical preferred choice. The Beast is awake, but not back to what it was, the “Dominator of Spring”, but at least it is a late season game once again.
And the question that is always ask : “Is Killington going to make it to June this year?” It is my observation, but from what I saw yesterday on Superstar and my recollection from the 1990s. Unless May is cold, I would be surprised if K make it to June this season.
Killington VT – April 29, 2014