The Beast of the East

How top-notch terrain, pristine parks and perpetual celebration turned the tables on skiing’s western bias

The Beast of the East

How top-notch terrain, pristine parks and perpetual celebration turned the tables on skiing’s western bias

Killington by the Numbers

Snowfall: 250 inches
Acreage: 1,509
Vert: 3,050 feet
Trails: 155
Lifts: 22
Parks: 6

Trail Breakdown

Beginner: 28%
Intermediate: 33%
Advanced: 39%

You hear it all the time: East Coast skier, “born from ice,” crushes New England’s steeps, trees, parks and moguls and buys a one-way ticket westbound for the big mountains. End story.

But Kevin Merchant (a.k.a. “Tweak”), an Alaska native who came to Vermont for college, turned that narrative on its head when he first set eyes on Killington: The Beast of the East.

For the past decade, Merchant has been shredding all The Beast has to offer—which is a veritable ton. Killington’s 4,241-foot summit and its six surrounding peaks encompass a network of over 90 miles of trails. An average annual snowfall exceeding 250 inches blankets 1,509 skiable acres of incredible terrain that rivals that of any other resort in the Green Mountains.

For years, Killington’s calling card has been the East Coast’s most notorious mogul line: Outer Limits, a 1,200 vertical-foot leg-burner of the steepest, gnarliest bumps on the “right coast.” (Don’t blow it… Guests riding the Bear Mountain Quad will be rating your every move, serving up applause for top form and ridicule for mishaps.) But as Merchant says, that’s only the beginning of what the mountain has to offer.

“From Sunrise to Pico [nearby sister resort] there are endless options for in and out of bounds skiing,” says Merchant. “With all that terrain, no matter the angle of the sun or which way the wind is blowing, you can always find a zone that is prime to enjoy.”

If you’re into steep and deep trees, Killington Peak’s upper reaches feature double black glades—home to some of The Beast’s most-coveted powder stashes. From the K-1 Lodge, there’s easy access to freshies in the Big Dipper, Anarchy and Julio glades.

Merchant also recalls some of his deepest days occurring over on Bear Mountain, but the reward comes with a price. You’ll have to brave the monstrous moguls of the never-groomed Devil’s Fiddle—adjacent to Outer Limits. But a successful traverse through the burly bumps will dump you in Devil’s Den or Centerpiece where you’ll score cliff drops galore and much-desired pockets of snow.

But for Merchant, what really sets The Beast apart from the competition is its park system. As a grom in Juneau, Merchant grew up skiing Eaglecrest—the varied terrain helped him polish his skills, but the resort “had nothing resembling a jump” during his time. It wasn’t until he came east that he had his first true park experience.

“Alaska didn’t have any parks at the time, so I was super hyped when I saw the huge set-ups at Killington,” he explains.

That was more than 10 years ago—a nod to Killington’s longstanding commitment to the freestyle community. Today, the resort manages six terrain parks with varying degrees of difficulty, with the most popular, The Stash and Dreammaker, nestled between Bear Mountain and Skye Peak.

Merchant’s favorite park, The Stash—located off the Skye Peak Express Quad—offers an au natural take on jibbing that he says brings skiing back to its roots, quite literally. More than 65 features crafted from locally sourced wood and on-hill recyclables wind through this park nirvana.

“It brings me back to when terrain parks weren’t the status quo and you’d just find a tree and hit it because you didn’t have a park,” says Merchant. “There’s so much stuff in [The Stash], it brings back the adventure in finding something new. It’s this great youthful fun.”

The creative possibilities for unique runs through the park will be greater than ever this season thanks to a brand-new run dubbed “The Stashmaker.” After years of bushwhacking from The Stash to Dreammaker, Killington will now offer a new link-up, completing the ultimate top-to-bottom, jib-centric run.

“I’m so hyped about it,” Merchant gushes. “Starting at Stash, you hit 65-plus all-natural features, and then you cross the long winding [Dreammaker] park into the 18-foot superpipe and finish at the rail garden below. There’s nothing like it on the East Coast and the comprehensiveness rivals that of even Breck’s Freeway and Mammoth Unbound.”

Though Merchant is able to hit the early-season park sometimes as early as Halloween, he lives for December when Killington Parks hosts Rails 2 Riches—the East Coast’s most prestigious under-the-lights rail jam.

“Rails 2 Riches is better than Christmas,” says Merchant. “All the [local] homies come back. It’s a huge homecoming—even the guys out west come back to throw down and entertain each other.”

Remarkably, the parties only get bigger as the temperatures warm up. By springtime, Nor’Beaster is in full swing, celebrating the best of spring skiing with rail riding, pond-skimming and mogul challenges right down till the end of the season.

The icing on the big Killington cake is that the end of the season seemingly never arrives. Even when unreliable East Coast weather (like that of the 2015-16 season) spells doom for neighboring resorts, Killington’s top-notch snowmaking system kicks into gear; featuring a network of 1,700 snow guns supported by 17 snow cats, the operation covers more than 600 skiable acres of The Beast’s world-class terrain, earning the mountain the longest season in the East.

“We don’t have to have great snow years and it’s still going to be entertaining,” says Merchant. “It’s ridiculous that people shun the East for its terrain; we’ve got everything here and it’s good every year, no matter the conditions. The East Coast is about taking whatever is put in front of you and making it as fun as possible.”

Luckily for New England shredders, Killington puts a lot in front of you. Whether you’re a local or a “left-coaster” visiting for the first time, you’re going to keep coming back for more. From early-season rails to T-shirt weather turns, The Beast is big enough to keep you around all-season, if not forever.

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