As a professed snow snob I scoffed when a group of friendsrecently proposed a ski weekend in Killington, Vermont. It’s hard to getexcited about mountains that look more like the hills I used to sled down as akid in Salt Lake City than the exhilarating, death-defying declines that tattoothe Rocky Mountains. When you grow up within an hour of seven world-class skiresorts you tend to develop a cavalier attitude about the prospects of cleavingdown a worn, icy tilt and paying good money for it. So I opted to head for thisquaint northeastern burg sans my snowboard. Half the fun of a ski vacationanyway is exploring the town, enjoying the fresh air, eating at greatrestaurants, and plunging into the après ski scene.
Every ski town has its own flavor. Park City is home to theglitzy Sundance Film Festival and new luxurious outposts of St. Regis andWaldorf Astoria. Aspen is a hotbed for chic style, über-wealth, and Olympicstars. In Killington you encounter spots like the Wobbly Barn, Casey’sCaboose, and Pickle Barrel. The kitsch isn’t tacky, it’s a pleasant change ofpace (bartenders at Casey’s Caboose fill mugs of beer under a toy train makinglaps near the ceiling). In the era of indulgent monolith resorts, the no-frillsnature of the entire town is refreshing.
I spent my first day holding court at Long Trail Brewery (drinks for two $7). The brewery hugs the Ottauquechee River about ten minutesoutside of town. After a quick self-guided tour of the maturation tanks and apeek inside the brewing process that procreates 13 varieties of beer, I settledinto a corner window table. Out back, a fire gleamed against the pervading duskwhile people took a break from the connecting tented beer hall to huddle aroundand watch the river run. Around five o’clock, my iPhone began lighting up withtext messages from cohorts who had returned from an exhausting day on the ice.I couldn’t have been more relaxed.
Killington has some really good, understated restaurants as well. Unfortunately,the much-lauded Hemmingway’s was closed due to damage caused by HurricaneIrene’s rampage last August. But The Garlic (dinner for two $60) more than passes muster with disheslike pork osso bucco over mashed potatoes and warm, homemade baguetteserved with a whole head of roasted garlic and Parmesan. Highlands DiningRoom (dinner for two $120) at The Mountain Top Inn & Resort has a cozy, fire-lit ambiance withsprawling views of the Green Mountains and an extensive wine list.
It’s been a dismal year forsnowpack in Vermont and when I was there the mountain was ensconced by fog, butit doesn’t take a 50-inch baseand blue skies to enjoy the tubing park at Killington Resort (2-hour session$17). A rope tow hauls you to the top of the hill eliminating the ever-dreadfulhike back up and the eight lanes present plenty of room to maneuver.
If you do get the urge for a few rides, Killington Resort (lift tickets from $79) is the more robust of the two resortsalthough Pico Mountain (lift tickets from $49) is cheaper and lesscrowded. If the snowfall is fresh, it’s worth itto get out there and claim a few powder tracks.
I’ll be tipping back at the lodge.
Nate Storey is a research assistant at Travel + Leisure