Every year, like a moth to a flame, I get drawn to the earliest opening ski hill within driving distance. Last year, Killington didn’t open until November 6th. And my experience all season long with Killington was disappointing. Warm temperatures, lack of natural snow, and terrible crowds all conspired to make the on-snow experience mediocre. If it wasn’t for the great company I kept while visiting the mountain, I would have been completely dissatisfied.
I am pleased to say that this year appears to be the polar opposite. Mountain temperatures have been below 32 degrees since mid-October.
Snowfall has been plentiful, with over two feet falling in the past week. I went up to ski on Sunday, November 3rd, and it was great! Sure, by 11:00am it was so crowded I had to leave the mountain. But having skied uninterrupted top-to-bottom laps since 8:00am, my legs needed the rest. I couldn’t believe the variety of terrain either. There were bumps, intermediate cruisers, steep fall-line expert runs, and gentle beginner slopes; all open so early in the season. Having enjoyed my day so much, I spent $40 for a room at the Econolodge, and skied Monday too. Weekday skiing is really the only way to truly appreciate the mountain. With only 10% of the weekend crowds, it is possible to ski as fast as you like, uninhibited by crowded slopes and long lift lines.
Early season, no hill on the east coast opens as much terrain as quickly as Killington. For your November skiing, I strongly recommend the mountain. But, if you have the option, try to get a Friday or a Monday in (or better yet, a Wednesday). With 70% of weekly skier visits being recorded on the weekend, Saturdays and Sundays are just plain ugly.
Once full-out January winter is upon us, I recommend you make your move to some of the other resorts in the neighboring mountains. While the majority of HBSers go to Killington because “all my friends are there”, that is the very reason you shouldn’t go. Not only are all your friends there, but everybody else is as well. A Saturday at Killington in mid-winter is not a pleasant experience. With so many trails intersecting, they almost need traffic lights every hundred yards to prevent the throngs of people from sliding into each other. Furthermore, Killington’s much touted “size advantage” means you will spend a significant amount of time traversing from one area to another. To get a lunch table, you are best advised to bring protective padding.
You are much better advised to get a group of 10 friends together, rent a place at Sunday River, Sugarloaf or Stowe. With 10 people, you can make your own nightlife. And all of the above mentioned resorts have enough visitors to fill at least one bar on a Saturday night. Do you really need more than one bar? How many places can you be in one night? In short, your nighttime experience will hardly be compromised, and your daytime on mountain experience will be far superior. The trails of the above mentioned three mountains do not intersect as frequently, allowing for uninterrupted skiing. Sure, there are still a fair number of people on the trails, but not as many as Killington, and at least they’re all moving in the same direction, rather than criss-crossing in front of you.
In the end, whether you go to a major mountain, or nearby Nashoba valley, bring a couple of friends, and prepare to enjoy sometime outdoors, breathing fresh winter air, and having fun. Winter in Boston can be long and unpleasant, by getting out and enjoying winter’s wonders, you may end up enjoying winter so much you won’t want it to end. If you are looking for buddies to ski with, members of the Outdoors club have the option to join a skier’s mailing list. With over 100 people already on this year’s list, there is always someone with whom to share a lift (no pun intended).