When most people think of skiing in North America, they think of places Aspen, Whistler, Squaw and Jackson Hole. Rightly so; they are all great places to ski. But it’s a mistake to dismiss the skiing lies east of the Mississippi. Ski resorts like Tremblant, Mont Ste-Anne, Sugarloaf, Killington and Whiteface are steeped in skiing history and mountain culture and their terrain, especially when it’s storming, rivals what’s on offer in the west.
I’ve lived in Whistler for over fifteen years and have been lucky enough to sample the goods in the west and the east. Yes, the pow at Alta and the terrain at Jackson are epic. The west is riddled with mountains, large and small, that are mind-blowing. But the most epic ski day I have ever had was in Vermont. Yep. You heard that right. Vermont. I remember it vividly. We arrived at a local resort one Monday morning to over 50 inches of snow on the ground and subsequently spent the next three days skiing chest deep, Northeastern cold smoke until our legs turned to spaghetti.
Ski culture runs deep in the east. It’s been around there for longer than just about anywhere else in North America and ski resorts are numbered in the hundreds. Sure, they may not have the size and the snowfalls that some of their western brethren do, but they certainly have the character and when it snows? It can be all-time. The one exception to the size rule is Killington, Vermont. Killington is massive, on par with many of the large western resorts and offers up some of the best terrain on the continent.
Cowbells will be a common sight at the races this Thanksgiving!
Ski culture encompasses more than just big mountain shredding and backcountry missions. Ski racing is a huge part of ski culture and the athletes that race on the FIS Alpine World Cup Circuit are the best in the world. This has always been the case. Nothing compares to the raw talent, technique and in the case of downhill racing, the courage, that racers have in the starting gate at a World Cup. Ski racing is part of the fabric of skiing and this year, after a 25-year absence from Eastern North America, the FIS Alpine World Cup is returning. This time to Killington, which will host two world Cup events this coming November, a Women’s Slalom and Giant Slalom.
Killington has one of the most advanced snowmaking systems in the world with a ton of horsepower behind it.
The World Cup has a long and storied history in the east, where races have been held since the 1960s in places like Stratton, Franconia, Sugarloaf, Lake Placid, Mont Ste-Anne and Waterville Valley. But Killington is the cat’s meow. Boasting one of the longest ski seasons in North America (I’ve skied moguls there as late as June!) Killington is a sprawling world class resort with awesome terrain and one of the most advanced snowmaking systems in the world. The race venues will be on their world famous Superstar run, winding its way down under the Superstar chair to finish in the K-1 base area. In a recent VPR interview, Killington’s Communications Director, Michael Joseph, said, “…we’re going to host a women’s world cup race and we couldn’t be more excited about it.”
One racer to watch is Mikaela Shiffrin. The young American racer was the slalom champion in 2013, 2014 and 2015 and is a hometown favourite. Although she was born in Vail, she moved to New Hampshire at aged 7 and is a product of Burke Academy, one of the nation’s best ski schools, in Burke, Vermont. Other big names from the east include Bode Miller, Andrew Weibrecht and Billy Kidd.
But what’s most exciting is the fact that within just a few hours drive of Killington are some of the largest metropolitan areas in North America, including New York, Boston, Montreal and Toronto. All of these cities have higher numbers of skiers than most of their counterparts in the west. Along with the 25 year absence of a world cup race in the east and the crowds this November are sure to be at capacity, rivalling those at European races. It should be an awesome race weekend, with a packed list of events, including rock band O.A.R., who are headlining the event and will be smashing out tunes to what is sure to be a capacity crowd. So if you’re in the neighbourhood at the end of November, grab your gear and head to Killington, Vermont to watch the best female skiers in the world duke it out, Northeastern style.
Be safe, ski hard.