For my family of five, summertime means maximum fun, maximum planning and lots of negotiation to keep everyone happy. We are an active and adventurous family; Mom, Dad and three boys ages 8, 10 and 12. As Vermonters, we are hyper-aware that every sunny day over fifty degrees is precious. During the warmer months we get out there and get after it. We love our mountains and we love our sports. As parents we are committed to doing as much as possible as a family before our kids realize we’re not that cool. The last few years, we’ve really gotten into mountain biking as a family. Mountain biking is exploding throughout Vermont. While dirt is definitely harder than snow, if you like sliding down a mountain on a plank or two, you’ll love it on two wheels.
Bike parks, like ski areas, each have their own unique terrain style, amenities and general vibe. This August our family found ourselves heading to Killington Bike Park for a downhill mountain biking race in which our 12-year-old was competing. We decided to make a weekend of it and couldn’t be happier about that decision. Killington Resort delivered family fun beyond our expectations. At the last minute, we booked a room at Killington Grand Resort, grabbed some bathing suits, clean underwear, and 3 industrial size tubs of protective downhill gear. We threw the bikes on rack and did the easy drive from Stowe to Killington. The weekend resulted in maximum fun with very little planning, and to my happy surprise, zero negotiation.
Now, forcing any of my kids to stand on the sidelines and watch one of their other brothers compete is a sure-fire way to guarantee we’re all miserable. And while I love to mountain bike, as Mom, I get anxious about our family downhill mountain biking days. Between our varied levels of ability, varied levels of endurance, a competition schedule, and not enough adults to go around, chances are, instead of mountain biking, someone will end up unhappy. Then I will end up in the lodge feeding my children chicken fingers and candy in hopes that they’ll stop whining.
Luckily for us, (and especially for me) Killington has one of, if not, the most family friendly downhill mountain biking parks in Vermont, possibly anywhere. For starters, it is not just a downhill mountain bike park. In addition to the 30 miles of bike trails and the two lifts and gondola they run to access the trails, they have all the adventure experiences any family could ask for. I mean all of them. A one day ticket to the Snowshed Adventure Center gives you unlimited access to family fun through zip lines, a jump tower, trampoline jump, alpine tubing, ropes course, maze, Woodward Wrecktangle obstacle course and the Beast Mountain Coaster. This meant that my two younger sons were excited about going away for the weekend, rather than feeling like they were getting dragged to their big brother’s race.
As for the mountain biking trails, there is more than enough to keep us all happy. My frighteningly advanced 12-year-old found more than enough drops, jumps, and double-blacks over on Ramshead to challenge him and give me minor heart palpitations. The 8-year-old really honed his skills on the perfectly groomed trails at Snowshed. And my 10-year-old found his stride on Blue Magic, a ridiculously long flow trail, and then spent the rest of the day riding the Beast Mountain Coaster. Thanks to the central location of everything, my husband and I could easily swap who we were riding with and even got in a run together.
Killington is truly built for mountain biking progression. The rental and lesson programs are set up to outfit, guide and teach the never-evers. And the extensive and varied terrain will challenge the most advanced riders and give beginners and intermediates multiple options to find their flow.
Additionally, there was this massive mountain bike race going on with over five hundred competitors and the bike park didn’t miss a beat. There were no lift lines, no trail traffic, no parking issues, and my kid came in second place, so that was pretty awesome.
While the mountain biking or the adventure center alone could satisfy a lot of customers, the beauty of Killington is that it is all right there and you don’t have to choose. From the deck of the Umbrella Bar, I was able to simultaneously watch my 8-year-old on the Skye Ropes Course, watch my 10-year-old on the Soaring Eagle, watch my 12-year-old hit the kicker on Step it Up while having a glass of wine with my husband. Family vacations are a lot of things, but easy isn’t usually one of them.
Killington even makes family fun easy for parents of babies and toddlers. Everything is stroller friendly, and even without an Adventure Center pass, there are fantastic, safe, visible and free activities for toddlers right in the heart of it all, including a playground, water games and even a mini-pump track with run bikes.
Did I mention our hotel room was also right there? Just across a foot bridge from the heart of the action, Killington Grand Resort doubled down on the how-to-make-it-easy-for families with a room large enough to accommodate all 5 of us comfortably (hello, murphy bed!), outdoor pool, free wi-fi and game room. I had happy campers all around. The proximity to the trails and adventure center made it so easy to take a midday dip in the pool, then get back on our bikes and adventure it up. Throw in the hotel bike valet and the fact that we didn’t need to touch our car until we packed it up to drive home, complaints were hard to come by.
For us, mountain biking is a lot like our weekends spent snowboarding. It’s a way to spend time as a family and encourage a love of the outdoors and a lifelong sport we hope our kids will enjoy for decades to come. But like skiing or snowboarding, it’s a heavy lift for any family, especially one with young kids. From the extensive trails to the ease of the adventure center, Killington made it easy for us to enjoy our family time. We’re already planning to go back this fall for another weekend getaway, where I know everyone will be happy, even mom.
Guest blogger, Vanessa Violette, lives in Stowe, Vermont with her husband and three very active sons. When she’s not running Violette Studio, the brand strategy and design studio she owns with her husband, Vanessa is dedicated to spending time in the outdoors with her family. She believes that encouraging a love of the outdoors and helping her kids learn these lifelong sports are some of the best memories and life skills she can give them.
For more information on family fun at Killington and reviews from the All Mountain Mamas, check out these posts: