As a professed snow snob I scoffed when a group of friends recently proposed a ski weekend in Killington, Vermont. It’s hard to get excited about mountains that look more like the hills I used to sled down as a kid in Salt Lake City than the exhilarating, death-defying declines that tattoo the Rocky Mountains. When you grow up within an hour of seven world-class ski resorts you tend to develop a cavalier attitude about the prospects of cleaving down a worn, icy tilt and paying good money for it. So I opted to head for this quaint northeastern burg sans my snowboard. Half the fun of a ski vacation anyway is exploring the town, enjoying the fresh air, eating at great restaurants, and plunging into the après ski scene.
Every ski town has its own flavor. Park City is home to the glitzy Sundance Film Festival and new luxurious outposts of St. Regis and Waldorf Astoria. Aspen is a hotbed for chic style, über-wealth, and Olympic stars. In Killington you encounter spots like the Wobbly Barn, Casey’s Caboose, and Pickle Barrel. The kitsch isn’t tacky, it’s a pleasant change of pace (bartenders at Casey’s Caboose fill mugs of beer under a toy train making laps near the ceiling). In the era of indulgent monolith resorts, the no-frills nature 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 minutes outside of town. After a quick self-guided tour of the maturation tanks and a peek inside the brewing process that procreates 13 varieties of beer, I settled into a corner window table. Out back, a fire gleamed against the pervading dusk while people took a break from the connecting tented beer hall to huddle around and watch the river run. Around five o’clock, my iPhone began lighting up with text 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 Hurricane Irene’s rampage last August. But The Garlic (dinner for two $60) more than passes muster with dishes like pork osso bucco over mashed potatoes and warm, homemade baguette served with a whole head of roasted garlic and Parmesan. Highlands Dining Room (dinner for two $120) at The Mountain Top Inn & Resort has a cozy, fire-lit ambiance with sprawling views of the Green Mountains and an extensive wine list.
It’s been a dismal year for snowpack in Vermont and when I was there the mountain was ensconced by fog, but it doesn’t take a 50-inch base and 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-dreadful hike 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 resorts although Pico Mountain (lift tickets from $49) is cheaper and less crowded. If the snowfall is fresh, it’s worth it to 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