Killington adds bubble lift, tunnels

Killington recently invested $25 million to upgrade the ski resort. Photo by Sam Reiver

Killington made some big changes this year, from new gondolas and lifts to full on terrain alterations. There are so many changes it was hard to keep track.

The new Snowdon Six Express lift is now sporting a wind guard. The South Ridge Lift is back in action. Bear Mountain, Skypeak and South Ridge all have terrain enhancements.  Improvements have been made to the K1 gondola.  Multiple tunnels are being added. There’s a new ticket scanning system, and tons of new equipment ranging from snowmaking to kitchen utensils.  That shows what a $25 million investment looks like.   

Down on the K1 part of the mountain, the gondola cabins and haul cable have been replaced. The old gondola was more compact and noisy.  The new models offer a little bit more room and a quick and a quiet ride. But one aspect the old gondolas had over the new ones is the outside chamber slots used to hold boards and skis. The new ones only hold skis. Because of the design of the new model, snowboarders have to bring their boards inside.

“I love to ski with this group of snowboarders,” said Castleton student Katie Paroline.  “And you got seven snowboarders (with their boards) and it’s frickin packed in there!”

But while the gondolas have been upgraded, the lift is still powered by cows.  Methane gas from cow manure powers the gondolas as an environmentally friendlier way to run the lift.  The Peak Lodge at the peak of Killington is also fueled by cow power.

Many of the changes at Killington were also done to improve the flow of the mountain to make it a more smooth and non-congested area.

Travel up the mountain and you can see a tunnel in the Mouse Run, Conclusion and Great Northern area. When asked about the tunnel, lift operator Ryan Young’s said it’s “the intersection of our mountain. Beginner level traffic can go over the tunnel while experienced riders can rip through the tunnel without having the look up the mountain.”

Killington marketing and social media manager Courtney DiFiore described the tunnel as a “big metal half circle large enough to drive a snow cat through and groom.”

She said the building of the tunnel required a lot of people and a lot of machinery.

“It was a symphony of people doing their thing,” she said.

On paper, the tunnel seems like a great idea.  Who wouldn’t be onboard for a less congested mountain?  But it has been getting mixed reactions.

Hans Zwaan, a snowboarder who tries to make the trip from his Massachusetts home to Killington at least once a week, is impressed by the “new terrain with sweet tubes.”

Others are not as enthusiastic.  Castleton student and 100-day club member Owen Tretter said “it will be interesting to see when mountain is 100 percent open how tunnels will work.  They are in a weird spot with the flow of the mountain.”

Kayla Henry, another Castleton student and avid snowboarder, is skeptical of the tunnel.

“I think it’s gonna cause accidents because people are gonna want to go fast and pull cool tricks and stuff while it’s meant for families,” she said. “But the tunnel makes nice rollers which is fun for freestyle people.”   

This is not the only tunnel.  There are three currently completed that will be revealed as the mountain opens and another that will be debuted in spring.

Speaking about the flow of the mountain, by the K1 gondola is the new RFID scanner and reloadable one pass system.

“RFID gives option to reload the pass without having to go to the ticket booth,” creating a “seamless experience,”  DiFiore said. “Hopefully it will increase the time you spend on the mountain.”

The South Ridge lift service has been out of operations since 2011, but those days are coming to an end this season.  The old Snowdon lift is moving over to South Ridge to make room for the new Snowdon Six Express bubble lift, which will offer a brief break from the elements while making your way back up the mountain.

“It’s good to see them putting money back into the mountain,” Paroline said.



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