Just in time for every bike park in North America to be prepping their snow guns and switching their bike carrying chairs over to people carrying chairs comes the review of the right coast’s Whistler, the Beast of the East – Killington.
I am exceptionally lucky in that Killington is my “home” park. From the VT outpost, it’s a 26 minute ride to the Snowshed Base, which is almost certainly where you’ll start your day. Note that this ride time is based on using the East Mountain Road route, which will send shudders through the spines of Killington Stage Race veterans – this is the big climb on the main stage. From the east, West Road takes a couple of minutes more and the main access road takes a few minutes even more. From the North or West, the main access road is quickest.
Killington has three main peaks: Snowshed, Ramshead, and K-1. Snowshed and Ramshead are high speed detachable quads, and K-1 is a gondola. The view from the top of any is spectacular, but from K-1 on a relatively clear day the view is jaw dropping. As I said at the beginning, you’re likely to start your day at Snowshed, since that’s where the ticket window, bike shop, rental center, and retail stuff are. You’re likely to end your day there as well, since the very good bike wash station and umbrella bar are there.
For calibration purposes, I’ve been riding an Ibis Ripmo AF with 2.4” Maxxis Assegai tires. This is a pretty big bike, worlds apart from an XC bike. You don’t strictly need a bike this big to ride at Killington, but it sure is fun.
The runs on Snowshed are shorter and heavily favor blue and green runs. The two most popular are Jump Start and Step It Up, which feature in a bunch of YouTube reviews. Step It Up is the most popular warmup trail, with flowing berms to get you started, and a few nice jumps. Jump Start starts off with some big steep berms (Berm Start?) and then quickly turns into a jumping bonanza. The greens on Snowshed are nice, but the better half considers herself more of a green-level rider and really enjoys Step It Up.
From the bottom of Snowshed, you can transit over to Ramshead or go back up for another run or a transfer to K-1. I now start at Ramshead because it’s spectacular for me, so I’d just go right there but everyone needs to ride the gondy at least once. My one recommendation on K-1 is don’t take Off The Top. It’s a wide double track with loose large gravel and it’s not fun. If you’re not ready for Scarecrow (and Scarecrow is a handful), get onto a blue tech trail ASAP and then get off K-1 because there’s much better blue stuff elsewhere. If you’re into rugged classic east coast bony and stony tech riding, just lap the gondy all day.
While the lift lines at K-1 and Snowshed are always quick (3 or 4 minutes max in my experience), Ramshead is always a walk on. This makes no sense to me because it is so. freaking. awesome. Start with Sideshow Bob for a nice long moderate tech freeride trail. To note, there are no features on any blue trails I’ve done (which I think is 100% of them) that can’t be rolled, so you don’t have to clear gaps to survive on these. Keeping with the Simpsons theme, make Krusty your next run. Mike LOVED this run when we did it together, and I hated it but I was on a cross-country bike at the time. I’ve since had a blast on it a few times.
Save some time and energy for Blue Magic, because this one is the cat’s ass. If there was a park that just had this trail, I’d have a season pass. Take a mellow run down it to suss it out (again, you can ride it slowly no problem) and then set your phaser to SEND and give it a rip. This trail singlehandedly made me understand and fall in love with park riding. Once you’re clearing everything on Blue Magic, it’s time for Black Magic. Black Magic is everything you love about Blue Magic but bigger. I’m not yet at the point where I can full send the whole thing, because about halfway down I generally can’t believe I haven’t yet killed myself and ease off for a hot sec before lighting it back up. But the berms are SO fun to take at full rip, and while the jumps definitely press your red line, you can do them and you can roll any of them – no gaps.
If you’re hardcore and want to do some World Cup style downhill, Goat Skull starts right from the top of the lift and lower Steel Panther is accessible from Sideshow Bob.
If there’s a better place I can ride without getting on an airplane, I’d like to know it. As it is, Killington is about as good as it gets for riders of a range of levels. It’s awesome.