Learning to ski or snowboard at an early age is the perfect way to help young children instill a love for winter. Exploring the slopes helps kids build self-confidence, meet new friends and develop a lifelong affinity for the outdoors.
Aptly nicknamed “The Beast,” Killington is Vermont’s biggest ski area, which means there is a ton of great terrain to explore. I honestly think you could spend a week at Killington and never tire of all the mountain has to offer. The ski hill is organized into four distinct areas: Ramshead, Snowshed, K-1, and Bear Mountain, all of which are connected by a series of trails and lifts. Given the size, you definitely want to familiarize yourself with the trail system and map out a plan of attack in advance to make the most of your vacation…especially when you have the kids in tow.
On The Mountain
We spent our first day on the hill skiing and riding around the K-1 and Bear Mountain areas, which afforded some spectacular views and really varied terrain, including gentle cruisers and double black diamonds. Lunch at the newly opened Peak Lodge was central to our plan for the afternoon. We purposely aimed for a late lunch to avoid crowds, but even at 1:30 p.m. the lodge was jamming. Peak Lodge is definitely worth a visit. The views are incredible and the decor has a fun, modern vibe, but families might find breakfast or a hot chocolate break a little easier to navigate on busy weekends. After lunch we headed over to the Ramshead area, and from that point on the boys could not be convinced to go anywhere else.
The Ramshead area has super fun terrain, including the Timberline and Neffland Terrain Parks, and the Progression Park, which has smaller features for kids wanting to try out a jump or rail for the first time. There is also a nice area dedicated to glade skiing. The conditions weren’t great for skiing in the woods during our visit, but the kids were able to duck in and out of lots of little chutes and find short tracks through the trees. There are no black diamond trails on Ramshead, so we interspersed runs through the parks with nice, wide groomers. For anyone who finds the prospect of a terrain park a bit intimidating, Killington offers Park Laps on Saturday mornings from 10:30-12. The mountain’s instructors and pro riders run guests through the park, offering tips on etiquette, technique and safety.
Park Laps is just one small example of how Killington aims to “tame the beast” for its guests. The mountain is teeming with ambassadors who are there to answer questions, offer advice, and generally point you in the right direction. As we always do when at a new place, we made a plan with our kids about what to do if we got separated. The little wickets you use to attach your lift ticket to your clothing are all color coded, so any ambassador or mountain employee will be able to direct (or bring) you right back to the place you started. The mountain also offers on-snow guided tours to orient newcomers. We didn’t take the tour, but in retrospect I think it would have been a good thing to do. If you have a limited amount of time on the mountain and want to make the most of it, gaining a little insider knowledge would be time well spent.
Since my kids spend a lot of time in ski school at our home mountain, we opted for a family ski weekend and did not enroll them into Killington’s youth program, but they do of course have a full and extensive offering, all of which is detailed on their website.
The Tubing Park
While skiing and riding are the main attraction, Killington is really a huge playground for families. The Tubing Park was a highlight of our weekend and a totally new experience for my kids. Sure, we’ve been sledding…but not under lights with music pumping, and definitely not with a rope tow to bring you back up for more! The Tubing Park is open all day on weekends and holidays, and early evening all other days. They sell a limited number of tickets for each 1.5 hour session to make sure the hill doesn’t get too crowded (we didn’t have to wait at all), so you’ll definitely want to factor that into your advance planning.
We stayed at the Killington Grand Resort Hotel right at the base of the mountain. One of the biggest things I look for when planning a vacation is convenience– I don’t want to waste precious family time in the car or schlepping all our gear around from place to place. The location alone wins the Grand major points on the convenience scale. We walked out the back door, across a pedestrian bridge, and right onto the lift from the lodge. The addition of a ski check and plenty of room to change out boots or tighten helmets just inside the door made the whole process that much easier.
Our suite was cleverly designed to make the most use of the space and proved plenty big for our family of four. The living space converted into a bedroom at night with two queen size beds– one a murphy bed tucked into the wall, and the other a pull out couch. Between the equipment check, a big closet and a few well placed hooks around the room, we had more than enough room for all of our gear and clothing (even with both beds pulled out). All the suites have nicely appointed kitchenettes and a table for four. There is a small store in the lobby where you can pick up essentials, but the selection is pretty limited. Next time, I’d stock up on fresh fruit and snacks, and maybe even throw in a frozen pizza just to have on hand when everyone gets hungry.
Check-in isn’t until 5:00 p.m at the Grand, but you can squeeze two days of skiing into a one-night stay with a little planning. We wore our long johns and snow pants to the resort, did a quick change in the health club, and stored our bags with the concierge for the day. The staff at the Grande were so friendly and accommodating, which helped that process go smoothly. Within 30 minutes of arriving, we were out on the hill.
Of course, the outdoor heated pool was a huge hit with the kids! After a full day of skiing and tubing, I thought we might take advantage of the hotel’s family movie night, but the kids opted instead for a post-dinner swim, and I must admit it was lovely. The pool is accessed through the health club, so you don’t have to run though the cold to get in (which would have been a deal breaker for me). Just as we headed outside, a light snow began to fall setting the scene perfectly against the ski trails and the big outdoor fire pit.
When I asked my kids what their favorite thing was, the quick answer was the terrain parks, followed almost immediately by the Waffle Cabins. At every base area, there is a waffle cabin wafting its warm, sugary aroma out into the fresh mountain air. It’s truly irresistible and I’m not saying how many we had during the weekend…but it was definitely more than one. Just be sure to have a few dollars in your pocket, as the waffle cabins are cash only.
For me, the best part was being outside all day with my family. As the kids get older, it’s more common for them to be in their snowboard program or off with friends. Our weekend at Killington offered us a chance to spend two full days in the great outdoors with our kids, cheering them on as they attempted a new trick or came flying out of the woods, and trying some new terrain ourselves. And, of course, the waffles were pretty darn good too.