Firsthand Report: Killington (Dec. 5-7) 18
Author thumbnail By Connie Lawn, DCSki Columnist

Editor’s Note: DCSki Columnist Connie Lawn just returned from a ski trip to Vermont’s Killington Resort. During the visit, she attended an annual meeting for members of the Eastern Ski Writers Association, a professional group comprised of snowsports journalists. She describes the trip and meeting in the two firsthand reports below.

It was the best of worlds, and the worst of worlds, for Killington. The good news was powder! After the Northeast blizzard, you were in powder heaven! By Sunday, we were skiing through powder that would make a Western skier drool. It was still snowing, but most visibility had returned. Monday must have been bliss - sun and powder. Unfortunately, we were gone by then.

On the road to Killington. Photo provided by Connie Lawn.
Saturday skiing was acute pain, as it must have been in many areas. The icy snow bit into your face. The temperature at the peak was zero degrees. At times, wind gusts were up to thirty miles an hour. You do the math on the wind chill! Visibility was near zero. A few hundred hardy skiers and riders persevered for several hours, but eventually gave up. The fun race for the Eastern Ski Writers group did not actually materialize - perhaps next month at the January meeting in Stratton.

Killington is a wonderful ski area. It is celebrating its 45th anniversary, and I was proud to have started my ski passion there during the opening year. The weekend we were there, there were 60 trails open, with 14 lifts running. It was 16 degrees, with at least 45 inches of snow. Prices for a day were $59 for an adult, $49 for a young adult (13 to 18), $39 for a junior (6 to 12) and $39 for a senior - 55 years old and up. The tickets are valid from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. There is no night skiing at Killington.

When fully opened, Killington has 200 trails and 31 lifts. They list 1,182 skiable acres and a vertical drop of 3,050 feet, according to their latest press release.

The area is really built up and a bit gaudy. The cities and towns leading up to Killington look like any suburb in the Washington or New York area. I guess that is progress. But, the Killington mountain itself is still rustic and wonderful.

One of the nicest features is Killington’s system of Ski Ambassadors. They are available to help, and give great tips on ski technique. They also assist in emergencies, until the ski patrol can arrive to help. In that intense cold, however, it is best to stay intact and not get hurt!

Special thanks to all the ski ambassadors who helped our group - especially Orlando Rodriguez, the terrific Cuban skier! Many ski areas have this system of ski guides or ambassadors - it is a must for a skier or snowboarder new to an area. But Killington seems to have one of the best systems I have seen - others can learn from them.

Now, the major question of distance. There is no denying that New England skiing can be terrific. It can also be very cold and icy. And, it is far. When you have great conditions in our local areas (Pennsylvania, Maryland, and West Virginia), there appears to be little reason to go to New England. Perhaps it is best to put off a trip until pre- or post-season here.

Even under great conditions, a typical drive to New England from this region is about 10 hours. It took us 12 in the snow, and there were dangers to the drive. Best to investigate package deals that will include train, bus, or plane fare with the lodging and lifts. In addition, have an escape clause so you can cancel if another blizzard moves in. Of course, we had a ski writer’s convention to go to, so no one wanted to cancel.

In short, it was a great weekend at Killington, and is an area I highly recommend. But patronize our local areas first - they really are wonderful, and deserve our support!

The Eastern Ski Writers Association Meeting and Killington

Anyone who attended the meeting in Killington should get a special award for endurance - but it was fabulous! The best news is, no one got killed, or even injured in the drive up during the Noreaster. Everyone registered appeared to have arrived intact, although the usual 5-hour drives took longer. Our commute from the Washington, D.C. area took a mere 12 hours - thank God my husband Charles is a superb driver!

The other good news from the meeting is that Killington coordinator and communications manager Kim Jackson did not have her baby. She was very pregnant at the time, and having a blessed event in the middle of a major convention and blizzard would have been a challenge. What a trooper - she managed to hold off and make it through the meeting. Good luck Kim!

The 2-day meeting, from December 5 to 7, was a resounding success. About 230 people attended, and all of the sessions were packed, despite (or maybe because of) the mounds of snow outside. The meetings are a great chance for serious, committed, passionate snow sports writers and broadcasters to get together and compare notes and ideas. All contributions by members spread around the good word about the snow sports industry. The convention produced a number of superb publications, including a book called “From Liftline to Byline” - it was developed and coordinated by ESWA official Janet E. Franz, with help from the other dedicated officers and members.

The current President of ESWA, Mitch Kaplan, wrote about the benefits of membership in the organization. He says his membership “resulted in a lot of assignments over the years.” He also writes on “the professional benefits of membership.”

The convention was packed with activities, meetings, and lectures. They included several meals, a banquet, and cocktails and a party at “The Wobbly Barn” - one of the most popular apres ski spots in New England. For the younger set, there was also a special kids pizza party at the Grand Resort Hotel - site of the Meeting.

Some of the outside events, such as the fun race, were cancelled, because the blizzard and below zero cold made it too miserable. That was Saturday - by Sunday, the 3 feet of new snow and powder transformed Killington into a dream world of powder skiing. It equaled anything the West could offer. Monday was a dream of sun and snow - perfect for those who phoned home and said, it was just too dangerous to travel back on Sunday!

Snow sports is a big business and is growing bigger. All of the members in attendance love the sports, and put up with great expense and hardship, at times, to experience those few minutes of ecstasy achieved by hurtling down the mountains in the snow. But the professional friendship is important too, and that is achieved by meetings, trips with ski clubs, and membership in the growing number of ski organizations.

About Connie Lawn

When she wasn't skiing, Connie Lawn covered the White House as a reporter since 1968.

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Reader Comments

December 10, 2003

I'm heading up to Killington in late December. From the sound of your report, I chose the right resort.
Connie Lawn
December 10, 2003
John - You will have a blast! Look up the ski Ambassadors - especially Grizzly and Orlando. Let me know about your trip! Yours, Connie
December 11, 2003
Good luck on Kojo Nnamdi. He's a favorite of mine--his shows get re-broadcast at night and are fun to listen to on long drives to WV.
Connie Lawn
December 11, 2003
Thank you JOhn - calls to Kojos show would be appreciated - especially while I am on the air at 1:40. Yours, Connie
December 11, 2003
Ok. I'll try and call in with a good question.
December 11, 2003
Just a few quick notes...

Killington opened in 1958, not 1963.

Killington is perhaps the absolute LEAST "rustic" resort in the East -- by design. It was designed from the start to be a full-service behemoth of a ski area.

"The cities and towns leading up to Killington look like any suburb in the Washington or New York area" -- really? Not every city and town in Vermont has to conform to an out-of-stater's stereotyped belief that all Vermont villages should look like something from a Currier & Ives postcard...

"Now, the major question of distance. There is no denying that New England skiing can be terrific. It can also be very cold and icy. And, it is far. When you have great conditions in our local areas (Pennsylvania, Maryland, and West Virginia), there appears to be little reason to go to New England. Perhaps it is best to put off a trip until pre- or post-season here."

Sounds like a good reason for New England resorts NOT to bother advertising as far south as D.C., especially when journalists (ahem) visiting these same resorts for free turn around and encourage their readers not to follow suit.

Other than that, a beautifully written article.
December 11, 2003
Very nice article, but a couple of bones to pick.

Killington is 45 years old, not 40. You were probably confused by the Wobbly Barn celebrating its 40th year this month.

Being at a ski resort in a 3' snowstorm is nirvana, not something to carry trip cancellation insurance for.

The mountain is far from rustic, but with all the snow coming down the weekend you were here it was hard to tell, I'm sure.

Lift ticket prices you showed were still early season rates. Mid-season, single day tickets are still higher than that, but discounted tickets abound. He who pays full price didn't look very hard.

If you're suggesting that skiing in PA, MD and WV compares at all to Killington and other large New England resorts, I suggest you start a new drug rehab program. :-) There is no comparison.

Even with those nits to pick, however, I enjoyed your article and I'm glad you enjoyed your stay in Killington. Please come back, and bring another epic storm with you.
December 11, 2003
ArtinKillington - .. and if you suggest that skiing in New England compares to the West I suggest you start a new drug rehab program ... LOL that's not what it is about!
Everybody has their likes and dislikes .. not everone needs sub-zero temps and ice along with the good like more skiable acres and steeps. Some like a nice experience with moderate cruisin' or a friendly beginners slope and a hot Irish Coffee at the end of the day.
PA/VA/WV has lots of nice areas where you can have a fun day and chill (and not get chilly). I skied PA/WV for over a good 10 years before I lucked out and moved to Park City UT. And guess what; while I still do my warm-up on Great Scott chute at Snowbird, I still crave an easy blue-bird day at Ski Liberty or Whitetail, layin' out on the groomed snow on Limelight or Heavenly or Ultra, skiing with my buds on the WSI race circuit, and knockin' back a Jack Daniels at the Liberty Tavern (something I can't do here in UT damn it).
.... and I didn't needn't need to go outside of PA/VA/WV to be happy. Like Warren Miller said .... the best ski resort is the one you are at right now; there's snow on the ground and the lifts are runnin' !
December 11, 2003
"Like Warren Miller said .... the best ski resort is the one you are at right now; there's snow on the ground and the lifts are runnin'"

You got that right!!!
December 11, 2003
I find this article to be somewhat dubious.

How Rutland compares to Bethesda or Reston goes way beyond my limited imagination, and the resort itself seems somewhat contemporary to me.

Also, while I love (some) of our local resorts I really don't see how you can compare them to Killington. The skiing there is.... well... I think "better" is the word I am searching for.

If Almost Heaven is built then I could see that surpassing K, but our local resorts just are not as good - even if K periodically turns into a Satanic ice bowl.

I can see how Vermonters would be insulted by placing Wisp in the same league as them. Wisp just flat out stinks, and is worthy of some napalm.
December 11, 2003
.. gatkinso - B/C my dear fellow, maybe you should realize that it's not the size( within reason) but the fit that counts ... if it works 4 U go with it .... however driving 3.5 hours to Wisp for 600 vert is a stretch for the average DC type. Maybe Vermonters have a security issue!
December 11, 2003
LOL the poster "rush" me Crush the "C" got lost ... hmmmm maybe I should change to rush LOL nawwwww I'll stay Crush LMAO whatever I busted up my leg on Wed. when I ran my ski up under some deadfall (f&ing fallen tree) in the powder and it damn near pulled my leg out of the socket ... too much wine for pain killers LOL! whatever .... my comments are 4 entertainment purposes ONLY!!! :-)
December 12, 2003
...not me.

BTW I live in Baltimore and predominately ski WV.

My only rebuttal is that today people are making turns at Killington. What is open around here? Snowshoe (may as well drive to VT). Seven Springs (be interesting to see how they fared in the down pour). Canaan had the baby slopes open. Timberline with one top to bottom trail. Wisp had six trails... need I say more? Just at Killington they have more skiing open than our entire region does.

We'll resume this discussion in late April when they are still skiing and we are waiting for it to get warm enough for the beach.
December 12, 2003
Comparing Mid-Atlantic skiing with VT skiing is an "apples to oranges" comparison. You just can't do it. Enough said.
December 12, 2003
..... "the name Portocolis means Orange in Greek. Miller well that comes from the Greek word Milos which translates to Apple. So we are Apples and Oranges ... different but we are all fruit!"

- Mr. Portocolis' wedding speech at his daughter's wedding the the film My Big Fat Greek Wedding.
Connie Lawn
December 12, 2003
Wow - You guys are tough! I am doing my best. First of all, in response to one writer, I paid my own way. We all pay to attend the ESWA and National ski conventions.
I love Killington, but I also love the local areas. Wherever I can ski, is great. I have dreamed for 35 years that our Capitol was in Utah or Colorado, but it hasn't happened.
Our convention celebrated its 40th year and you are right - the Wobbly was also 40. I was repeatedly told when I was there that Killington was also celebrating its 40th - guess I was misinformed. Hey, that happens all the time at the White House. I can only report what I am told!
IN short, K is great, and so is New England, where I skied for years. But, it is still great to have terrific local areas, where we can ski for a day or for a few hours. Happy snow sports!
December 13, 2003
.. like the Beach Boys said, "Don't worry baby.."! You do it great! It like we are not doing something huge here ... we are just enjoying sliding down a hill with sticks on our feet. Skiing is good and f&k all the up-tight types that need to justify themselves. Take care and if you ski in The Canyons again this season shoot me an email at see ya!
Connie Lawn
December 14, 2003
Dear Crush L ove your comments, and they are much appreciated. Hope we can meet you some day.
I am still trying to get an official confirmation on the opening of Killington and will correct it. But, up there, no one corrected me when I refered to 40 years.
Anyway, it's a great day and Saddem Husseing is caught. Maybe we can push him off an icy peak, without skis. Yours, Connie

Ski and Tell

Speak truth to powder.

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