Pilot Getaways: Killington, VermontPilot Getaways: Killington, Vermont

Recreation respite in the Green MountainsRecreation respite in the Green Mountains

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  • Bob Stiner and Harry Harden scope out the numerous slopes at Killington while flying Bob’s 1978 Cessna 180 above the largest ski resort in eastern North America. Photo by George A. Kounis.
  • Killington makes your winter adventure easy with 24 lifts and slope-side accommodations. Photo courtesy of Killington Resort.
  • Aerial view of Rutland—So. Vt. Reg. Airport (RUT) facing north. Photo by George A. Kounis.
  • Killington Ski Resort has more than 150 trails. Photo by George A. Kounis.
  • Final approach to Rutland’s 5,000-ft. Rwy 1, with views of the Green Mountains. Photo by George A. Kounis.
  • The Mountain Top Inn & Resort offers comfort, charm, and luxury in a rustic setting with grand views. Photo courtesy of Mountain Top Inn & Resort.
  • Photo by Heather Sable

Subscribe to Pilot Getaways at a special AOPA members-only rate.In Central Vermont, you’ll find Killington, a happenin’ Green Mountain hot spot and home of the largest ski area in the eastern United States. The area boasts world-class scenery for every season, year-round recreation, and a variety of top-notch restaurants and resorts. About 120 miles from Boston and just over 200 miles from New York City, Killington offers activities from skiing and snow boarding to horseback riding and theater. Surrounded by one of the oldest mountain ranges in the world, Killington is a destination for all ages. Whether you are looking for romance, recreation, or a retreat with the rug rats, you won’t be disappointed by this mountain getaway.

Flying There

Rutland-Southern Vermont Regional Airport (RUT) is in the heart of the scenic Green Mountains, 3 nm south of Vermont’s second largest city, Rutland. The airport is in a valley surrounded by 2,000–4,000 foot peaks; the tallest peak, at the ski area, rises to about 4,235 feet MSL. Pilots are recommended to maintain at least 2,000 feet AGL over the Breadloaf Wilderness Area, 25 nm north, and the Big Branch and Peru Peak wilderness areas, 9 nm south of the field.

From the southwest, you can follow U.S. Highway 7 that cuts through Vermont from the southwest corner, near Albany, N.Y., and continues past Morse State Airport (DDH) in Bennigton, Vt. A line of mountains, including the Killington Ski Area, runs north-south just east of the airport. If you are approaching from the east, you can traverse lower terrain by detouring to the north via Pittsfield (43° 46.3’ N 72° 48.8’ W) and then following VT-100 N and U.S. 4 W over a 2,160-foot pass (near the Killington Ski Area) to Rutland, or by diverting to the south via Cavendish (43° 22.9’ N 72° 36.5’ W) and following VT-131 W and VT-103 N; the road elevation varies between 1,200 and 1,600 feet.

Rutland has two asphalt runways, and traffic pattern altitude is 1,800 feet with right traffic for Runway 19. Use caution for frequent air carrier operations, aerobatics, helicopters, and flight training operations. Pilots are also asked to avoid flying over the noise-sensitive residential area southeast of the field. Local weather conditions are available on the AWOS at 118.375 MHz or by calling 802-747-3044.

Photo by George A. Kounis

Columbia Air Services is a full-service FBO providing flight instruction, aircraft rental, full and self-serve fuel, flight planning and weather resources, courtesy and crew cars, a pilot lounge, and catering and vending, tiedowns single $20, $10 with fuel purchase, twin $30, $15 with fuel purchase, open 7 a.m.–8 p.m., 1004 Airport Rd., 802-773-3348.


The town of Killington was officially granted a charter in July 1761, and in 1763, Reverend Samuel Peters christened the State of Vermont from the top of Killington Peak. He is credited for naming the state “Verde-Mont” for Green Mountain. At that time, there were only a few hundred people living in the Killington area.

In 1810, the town’s name was changed to Sherburne, after one of the original proprietors. Early settlers used the land for sheep-farming, grain-growing, and sawmills, but harsh weather and wildlife predators resulted in a decline in population and the area suffered.

The first tourist resort in the area, the Summit House, was built in 1880 and attracted hikers and outdoor enthusiasts wanting to enjoy the summit views. But it wasn’t until Dec. 13, 1958 that the Killington Ski Area opened. The dream of founder, Preston Leete Smith, a man with a passion for winter sports, the Killington resort transformed the area into a thriving economic resource and eventually became Vermont’s most famous and largest ski resort. In 1999, with the work of Preston Smith and other key people, the Vermont General Assembly approved Sherburne to revert back to its original name of Killington.

Killington Ski Area continues to grow with the addition of new activities, improved technology, and ski trails. Today, it attracts more than one million visitors annually.

What to Do

There are plenty of opportunities to get outside and enjoy mountain activities in the heart of Vermont. From adventure sports to classic cuisine and arts and entertainment, you’ll find something to fit your ideal high-altitude holiday (yes, this is high-altitude for the East Coast). Winter temperatures can easily go from the low-30s down to the single digits. So keep your earmuffs and mittens handy.

Killington is the largest ski and snowboard resort in eastern North America and encompasses six mountains (seven if you count the sister resort of Pico Mountain, just five minutes away with free shuttle service between the two resorts). The area’s highest peak is Killington Peak at 4,241 feet. Killington resort offers 22 lifts and 155 trails. The diverse terrain appeals to skiers of all levels. From approximately November into April, snow junkies can experience long, wide, and winding trails, tree skiing, moguls, narrow runs, freestyle terrain, and terrain parks. Equipment rentals for skis, boots, and poles, or snowboards, top out at $45 per day and one-day ski passes are $50–$84 (less for children, seniors, and multi-day packages, as well as online discounts). There is an average of 250 inches of natural snow each year in addition to an extensive snow-making system. Lifts open Fri–Sun and other peak times like three-day holiday weekends 8 a.m.–4 p.m., otherwise open Mon–Thu 9 a.m.–4 p.m. There is no night skiing because, as the largest resort in the area, night lighting makes stars difficult to see in the night sky, and local residents voted to ban night skiing here. But the fun doesn’t stop when the snow stops falling. Summertime activities at Killington include golf, mountain biking, disc golf, tennis, fishing, kayaking, and stand-up paddling, 4763 Killington Rd., 802-422-6200 or 800-621-6867.

Backcountry snowmobile tours are offered for all skill levels. Photo by Heather Sable.

You can combine backcountry scenery with the thrill of speed on a Killington Snowmobile Tour. Experience the adventure on a one-hour tour along groomed trails and through the woods. Thrill seekers view an instructional video, and then test their knowledge on an outdoor test-track before hitting the trail. One-hour tours are $99 single, $139 double (two people on one snowmobile), and depart on the hour, weekdays 11 a.m.–6 p.m., weekends 10 a.m.–6 p.m. Or try a two-hour backcountry tour. It’s a 25-mile excursion over hills and through the Calvin Coolidge State Forest, $154 single, $199 double, departs on the hour; weekdays leaving at 9 and 11 a.m. and 1, 3, and 5 p.m., weekends leaving every hour 9 a.m.–6 p.m. A Kid’s Tour, recommended for ages eleven and under, lasts one hour and departs daily on the hour 11 a.m.–3 p.m., $89; generally open Dec– Mar, 802-422-2121 or 800-FAT-TRAK.

If you really want to break a sweat, head for the Nordic Ski and Snowshoe Center at the Mountain Top Inn in Chittenden, just eleven miles from Killington. They offer both cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, with nearly 60 km of trails, 40 km of them perfectly groomed. With lots of ups and downs, you’ll enjoy the challenge of skiing up-hill and the reward of zipping down-hill. Housed in a renovated horse stable, the Nordic Center has a ski shop and ski school, as well as a snack shop where you can warm up with a cup of hot chocolate or scarf down a sandwich before your calorie-burning adventure. A winter day-pass includes use of trails, skating rink, and sledding hill, half-day $18, full-day $22, ice skate rentals $10, ski and snowshoe rentals $18–$22, discounts for kids and seniors, trails open daily 8 a.m.–4 p.m. Beginning in May, the Equestrian Center offers guided one-hour horseback rides through mountain pastures and wooded hills, $45, 195 Mountain Top Rd., Chittenden, 802-483-2311.

After a weekend of thigh-burning, heart-pumping activity, what could be better than a massage in the Killington Grand Spa? The “pamper me” menu offers an array of services for the skin, body, and nails, including massage therapy, body wraps, facials, waxing, and manicures and pedicures, $20–$195, 802-422-1050.

Killington Resort is the largest ski resort in eastern North America. Photo courtesy of Killington Resort.

The Paramount Theatre, once known as The Playhouse, opened in 1914 and was known as one of the premier theaters in New England. It attracted many top performing artists, including Tom Thumb, Sarah Bernhardt, and The Great Houdini. The building was renamed the Paramount during the 1930s when it became a motion-picture theater until it closed in 1975. After 20 years, it underwent a complete historic restoration and re-opened in March 2000. Much research and detail went into to the restoration process to return it to its original Victorian Opera House splendor. Rose fabric was recreated for the walls, stenciled ceilings were retouched, and the ornamental gold-leaf plaster was repaired. Upcoming shows include musical performances such as opera, Celtic singers, chamber orchestras, and solo performers. Comedy and drama acts are interspersed on the schedule as well, ticket prices vary widely with performances, $20–90, 30 Center St., Rutland, 802-775-0903.

For information on activities, lodging, dining, and reservations, contact the Killington Chamber of Commerce, 802-773-4181.

Where to Stay

Accommodations range from country inns and B&Bs to lodges and ski-in resorts. You can’t get much closer to the action than the Killington Grand Resort Hotel, a full-service hotel just steps from the slopes. A health facility, 75-foot outdoor pool with two hot tubs, dining, year-round activities, and a spa allow you to play hard all day and relax all night without ever leaving the property. The Grand has standard hotel rooms, studios, one-, two-, and three-bedroom suites, and two- and three-bedroom penthouses. The rooms, some with mountain views, are spacious with pleasant but simple décor accompanied by exceptional staff service. Guests can dine on-site at Ovations Restaurant serving breakfast until 10 a.m., 11 on weekends, as well as lunch, dinner, and pub menus. Breakfast and pub fare such as omelets and chicken wings range $8–$15 while seafood, steak, and vegetarian entrées run $16–$32. Rooms range $215–$1,800, 228 E Mountain Rd., 802-422-6767 or 800-621-6867.

The Birch Ridge Inn has comfortable rooms in a grand setting. Photo courtesy of Birch Ridge Inn.

Defined by tall, wood-beam ceilings, cozy fireplace lounge areas, traditional décor, and views of the Green Mountains, the Birch Ridge Inn in the heart of Killington exudes rustic charm and elegance. A covered carriageway leads to the inn, perched on a hillside, where Innkeepers Mary and Bill welcome you. Two grand, A-frame structures house the 10-room Inn and an intimate 24-seat restaurant. Guests can curl up with a book or unwind in front of the slate fireplace in the great room complete with a full bar tucked away in the corner. Each spacious guest room, decorated and named for its character, has a king or queen bed, private bath, and WiFi. Choose the French Provincial, Colonial Maple, or Shaker with Lace with highlights like canopy beds, rocking chairs, and private patios. Six of the ten rooms have fireplaces and most have whirlpool tubs or double-sized showers. Breakfast is included in the quaint fine-dining restaurant where eight tables are flooded with morning sunshine streaming through the large front window. More than 20 recipes make up the menu and include crepes, eggs, and pancakes in addition to fresh-baked breads and muffins. There is always a vegetarian and meat option. Reservations are a must for evening dining. Typically, dinner is served to the public Tue–Sat 6–9:30 p.m. Foodies will choose from four to six appetizers and four to six entrées like Porcini-dusted Filet Mignon, Mahi Mahi, Pan-seared Duckling, Rack of Lamb, and Grilled Shrimp to name a few, entrées $24–$32, rooms $99–$300, 802-422-4293 or 800-435-8566, 37 Butler Rd..

A rustic lodge with all the creature comforts in a safe mountain haven, the Inn at Long Trail makes you feel welcome and head-to-toe warm. Enter the guest lounge and reservation area where you will be greeted with a roaring fire in the stunning stone fireplace complemented with hardwood floors, tree-trunk beams, Adirondack furniture, a split-log staircase, and rustic lodge décor. Each of the 120 rooms and suites has a private bath. Five spacious fireplace suites have a living room with a gas fireplace, TV, sleeper sofa, refrigerator, and a separate bedroom with queen bed. Rates range $79–$320 and some holiday weekends require a three-night minimum. During fall and winter, guests and visitors can feast in the Long Trail’s dining room or enjoy a pint in McGrath’s Irish Pub (see Where to Eat). The hotel and restaurant are closed mid-Apr–mid-Jun, breakfast and dinner included with room stay (weekends-only in winter), 709 Route 4, Sherburne Pass, 802-775-7181 or 800-325-2540.

Just over ten miles from Killington, in the town of Chittenden, the Mountain Top Inn & Resort is a four-season resort on 350 acres of pristine land with grand mountain and lake views. Notables such as President Eisenhower and Jennifer Aniston have enjoyed the accommodations and the lake, mountain, and meadow views. Walk into the lounge area with a stone fireplace, wood-beam ceilings, and a grand, staircase chandelier before making yourself at home. Accommodations include 32 rooms in the main lodge, comprised of suites, luxury rooms, and classic rooms. You’ll also find 19 guesthouses, as well as four luxury cabins and four trailside cottages built in 2014. President Eisenhower slept in the Ike’s View room during his visit in 1955. Rooms boast décor such as Mahogany furnishings, dual-sided fireplaces, pine-plank flooring, flat-screen televisions, timber beds, nine-foot barn-beam ceilings, some with whirlpool tubs, sleigh beds, and oriental rugs. All rooms have private baths. Activities include equestrian trail rides, Nordic skiing, snowshoeing, snow tubing, sledding hill, pontoon boat lake cruises, fly fishing, clay bird shooting, and ice skating rink. Horse-drawn sleigh rides are popular in winter. An event barn holds a fitness center, yoga room, hot tub, and outdoor pool. Casual lunch and dinner are served in the Mountain Top Tavern or outdoors on The Terrace. Kayaks and canoes are complimentary for guests, breakfast included with stay, rooms $170–$545, cabins $250–$400, cottages and guest houses $275–$1,800, 195 Mountain Top Rd., Chittenden, 802-483-2311.

Where to Eat

With all the activity, you’ll be sure to work up a monster of an appetite, and Killington has plenty of options—rustic, fancy, or chalet chic—to fill up your belly. But, the great part is you don’t have to dress to the nines in this ski mecca; just come as you are.

Enjoy hearty food in a warm, rustic atmosphere at the Inn at Long Trail Dining Room. The menu includes Irish fare like Traditional Guinness Stew and Corned Beef & Cabbage, and New England eats like the Long Trail Hamburger and Vegetable & Risotto Strudel. Other than the historic photographs that grace the walls, the focal point is the giant boulder built into the décor of the room. The other half of the boulder protrudes into quaint and cozy McGrath’s Irish Pub with live Irish music on weekends and daily cheers and laughter. The menu offers light fare including appetizers, salads, and sandwiches. In addition to Guinness and Long Trail Ale on tap, the pub has the largest selection of Irish Whiskeys in the state. Pub and dining room entrées range $8–$29, hotel and dining room closed mid-Apr–mid-Jun, dining room open four weekends during foliage, dinner mid-Dec–Apr 6–9 p.m., pub open 11:30 a.m.–9 p.m. (Jun–Nov), ski season hours: Mon–Fri 3–9 p.m., Sat–Sun 11:30 a.m.–9 p.m., 709 Route 4, Sherburne Pass, 802-775-7181 or 800-325- 2540.

Enoy a fine dining experience at the Mountain Top Inn & Resort. Photo courtesy of Mountain Top Inn & Resort.

Just as its name implies, The Wobbly Barn Restaurant and Nightclub serves unpretentious food in a rustic setting. This casual-dining restaurant serves steak and seafood dinner fare complemented by wood barn walls, wood-chip and saw-dust covered floors, and decorations of wagon wheels and tiffany-style lights above each table or booth. It opened in 1963 as the first nightclub in Central Vermont, and is still a place for good grub and a good time; quiet and intimate doesn’t apply. You won’t walk away hungry. The famous salad bar has items including potato and pasta salad, soup, and homemade bread. The menu is huge and includes an especially diverse array of steaks. Other choices include “blackboard specials” like Shrimp and Scallop Kabob, Cod Loin, or three-plus-pound lobster with drawn butter. For dessert, try the mud pie or apple crisp made at a local bakery. After you’ve stuffed yourself silly, work it off on the dance floor at the upstairs nightclub featuring happy bands and evening DJs until 1 a.m., doors open at 8 p.m. No reservations accepted, entrées $21–$72, most steaks $30–$35, open Oct– Apr with the full menu served Dec 13–Apr 18, closed May–Sep, dinner 4:30–10 p.m. weekdays, until 11 p.m. weekends, 802-422–6171.

Just outside Killington, in the town of Rutland, the cheerful Table 24 restaurant serves up comfort food year-round; sandwiches, burgers, soups, salads, and entrées are all prepared fresh with local ingredients. This upscale yet casual “chill” establishment combines a touch of barnyard rustic with modern chic. White-washed barn wood, beams, and wide, wooden planks cover the floors and ceilings while boldly painted red walls, grape vines, wine barrels, rows of wine racks, and black-and-white photos define the interior space. Diners can enjoy a meal while listening to light jazz music in the main dining area or sunroom at a candle-lit table or booth. Drinks are served in the large bar area or at plush chairs and benches in the lounge. For a starter, order the Skillet Cornbread with roasted chilies, cheddar cheese, and Vermont maple butter. A comfort food classic is the Table 24 version of Macaroni & Cheese made with fresh grape tomatoes, bacon, and chives. The dinner menu has choices like the Maple Cured Pork Tenderloin with raspberry barbeque sauce and served with garlic mashed potatoes, Chicken Pot Pie, and Wood-Fired Salmon, reservations accepted, lunch $8–$20, dinner $15–$30, open Mon–Thu 11:30 a.m.–9 p.m., Fri–Sat 11:30 a.m.–10 p.m., 24 Wales St., Rutland, 802-775-2424.


Once you are settled into your Killington lodging, use The Bus to get you around Rutland County and the surrounding areas for $2–$3 per ride. You may take The Bus from the airport with one connection at the transit center to the Rutland/Killington Connector (RKC) route for a total of $4. If you prefer to rent a car, Hertz and Majestic service the airport. Hertz is on-site, Mon–Fri 8 a.m.–5 p.m., Sat 9 a.m.–1 p.m., closed Sun, 802-775-3353 or 800-654–3131. One popular taxi service among several in the area is Gramps Shuttle, 802-558–1543. One-way fare from the airport to Killington Ski Area runs about $25 per person.

If you are ready to experience snow-capped mountains, the smell of a wood-burning fire, pristine views, fresh mountain air, art, and history, then join the good folks in Killington for some New England charm. Whether you’ve got ski boots or hiking boots or want snow trails or mountain bike trails, Killington is the place for year-round activity. Your friends will be green with envy over your Green Mountain escape.

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Topics: US Travel, Travel, Mountain Flying

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