By David Schissler
(April 2014) After a long absence, I recently returned to my skiing roots. When I was a kid I linked my first carved turns at Killington. I had family living on the access road, so I took full advantage and soaked up all I could. I loved it there so much I was suspended from high school for a week for missing something like 10 Mondays in a row. I never could quite make it back on Sunday nights knowing I’d have the place to myself on Monday. I bet you can guess where I spent my suspension. Yes, I went back to Killington.
They’re proud of their “Beast of the East” label up there and with good reason. There’s more of everything. More trails, more lifts, more snow, more tree skiing, more steeps, more grooming, more cruising, more snowmaking, and more days operating than anywhere else in the East. It’s one of a handful of Eastern resorts visitors from the West actually ski. You owe it to yourself to experience Killington.
The snow was packed powder from side to side. I decided to go the nostalgic route and revisited some of my old favorites. I spent an hour or so yo-yoing the wide groomers on Snowdon, where I cut my skiing teeth on Chute, Bunny Buster, Mouse Run, and Great Bear. These trails have consistent pitch yet undulate in a way that just generates a natural rhythm in your turns. It’s sing-song with a sharp edge. For most of the runs I was just about the only one on the trails which meant I could open it up some. Sweet.
Next, I headed to Killington Peak, to the top of Rime. Back in the day, this was an outstanding slalom run, serviced by its own poma lift. Today, the North Ridge Triple is where the poma was and the trail is at least twice as wide. Even so, the pitch and length of the run haven’t changed. It’s still great fun. Perhaps the most notable change of all on the mountain was how East Fall has been transformed from the classic steep and narrow New England trail into a steep boulevard. It used to be a rite of passage to ski the steep bumps on East Fall and make it down alive. Today it’s less of a challenge given its width but it’s as steep as ever and it’s still a heart-pounding leg burner.
The fun at Killington doesn’t stop when the lifts do. Every amenity you can think of is available along the access road. No visit is complete without a meal at the Wobbly Barn. It has the best steaks in town. It doesn’t wobble because it’s old. It wobbles because it rocks. For more info on how to book your Killington experience visit www.killington.com
I was also pleased to get in a day at Pico. You should, too. It’s truly fun and under rated. You’ll find fun cruisers off of the Golden Express High-Speed Quad like Expressway and Prospector and more of those classic New England trails off of the Summit Express High-Speed Quad. Be sure to ski Upper KA and Forty Niner. The view of Killington from Pico’s summit alone is worth the visit.
When at Pico I was the guest of Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports. They’ve just completed their first season in the new Andrea Mead Lawrence Lodge at Pico Mountain. It’s a wonderful facility taking everything into consideration for the ease and comfort of those who use it. You have to tip your hat to these people and the work they do. There was a time when such centers were generally for the physically handicapped but that’s changed. Today, any disability is taken on. Whether you, someone in your family or people you know have a physical or mental impairment to overcome, these people will get you outside on the hill, on the water or elsewhere. There’s no reason to be left behind. The VASS people, with over 400 volunteers, provide more than 3,000 outings a year. Thanks to VASS’s fund raising the cost to individuals is only between $25 for a one hour canoeing session or $110 for a full day ski lesson complete with instructor, ticket and adaptive equipment. That’s right. You don’t even need to have your own specialized equipment. VASS has over $50,000 in equipment to lend.
The average expense of an outing to VASS is $140 per individual. They absorb the rest through donations. If you wish to contribute please contact Kim Jackson at 802-345-9730 [email protected] Learn more at www.vermontadaptive.org
While in Killington I was fortunate to spend some time with a skiing legend, Dan Egan. Back in the ’80s and ’90s, Dan became famous in Warren Miller movies. His sick descents, perfect for Warren’s story-telling, gave birth to extreme skiing. Before that, Dan was out in the parking lot selling VCR copies of ski films starring his brother John and himself to pay for lift tickets. One day while at Grand Targhee, WY Dan was skiing on a cornice over a cliff when it broke away with him on it. He just kept skiing.
Dan’s clinics are about getting good fast. He has an almost Zen approach. “Start on the head, achieve your goal” he says. True to that philosophy, he instructs from the head down not the feet up. His clinics are so successful they have a 75% repeat rate. On this day Dan was holding a tree skiing clinic for a group of about 15 ski writers. We were in the glades on Ramshead, skier’s right. Dan lined us up and told us the secret to skiing in the trees. “It’s all about where you look. Look where you want to go, not at the trees!” Of course he was right. The trees don’t disappear, but you concentrate much more on your line, like on a trail, instead of the trees. The group began heading down. Never one to ski in front of a crowd I hung back and let nearly everyone else go. I was rewarded for my delay. Who came up behind me and announced, “I’m the sweeper”? Only Donna Weinbrecht. Some sweeper! We skied some easy turns down to where Dan was. As the group moved out again I was alone with Dan and had the chance to ask him, “After every place you’ve skied and everything you’ve done, what impresses you most about the sport of skiing today”? He looked about pensively, thinking about his answer and said, “I’m really impressed with the level of competition in everything. I can’t believe the records being broken all the time”.
While in Sochi, Dan heard many items of interest. I’m passing these on to you.
- He asked Bode Miller how many perfect turns he makes in a run? Bode responded, “Maybe 50%”.
- Here’s a word you’re going to hear more of: skivet. It means to skid and pivot at the same time. It’s a new move being credited to Ted Ligety to help explain his phenomenal dominance in GS.
- When Dan asked Julia Mancuso what was the most fun she had on race day she said, “Crossing the finish line knowing I had a medal”.
In the “Everything Comes Around Again” department Dan commented on how the narrow stance is making a comeback! He’s convinced most skiers have no idea about the technology they’re riding on, so here’s a tip from Dan for you to use when selecting your next pair of skis. If your binding toe is wider than your ski then you’re on a carving ski (for shorter turns down the fall line) with a waist between 72 and 78. An all mountain ski will have a waist of 82 to 88 (for wider arc turns that cross the hill more), and a powder ski has a whopping waist from 90 to 104 (for flotation).
For more info about attending a Dan Egan clinic see www.skiclinics.com