If Killington is the big mountain with a cosmopolitan reputation that draws skiers and tourists, then Pico Mountain is the resort with a casual, local vibe. Linked since Killington acquired Pico in 1997, the two resorts make an unlikely, yet perfect, duo.
Significantly smaller than Killington, with 468 skiable acres, 57 trails over 19 miles and 7 lifts, Pico Mountain is an historic Vermont locale, home to Andrea Mead Lawrence, a local alpine racing legend and the first American to win two Olympic gold medals.
It’s also the home of the combined resorts’ race teams and adaptive skiing programs.
And while these programs are suitably noteworthy and locally popular, you don’t have to live in the area to enjoy skiing or riding Pico Mountain.
Centered around a small, cohesive and quite lovely base village, Pico is the kind of place where you drive up, park, unload and get on the lift within all of five minutes.
At the center of the village, you’ll find the Pico Lodge with lockers, dining and surprisingly spiffy restrooms.
And while racers congregate in their lodge at the base of the Little Pico Triple Chair and Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports can be found in the adjacent Andrea Mead Lawrence Lodge (which they share with the Pico Ski Education Foundation), most visitors will begin their day on the Golden Express Quad.
One of five lifts serving the base area, the Golden Express is your ticket to the mountain top, rising two-thirds of the way up Pico with runs connecting partway down to the Summit Express Quad.
As at Killington, the views from the summit are stunning. Only this time, it’s Killington, itself, in the foreground. Some of the runs atop the summit, like Forty Niner, are narrow and tree-lined. They’re an absolute joy to ski.
Others are straight-down, Vermont steep. Why build a winding run, when you just want speed? Still, the steeps don’t last long and connect back onto gentle blues, before returning skiers to the mid-mountain lift.
And while there are some green runs at Pico, for instance Bushwacker and Swinger, a long combination that cuts from the top of the Little Pico Triple Chair back over to the base of the Golden Express Quad, the mountain is solidly intermediate.
The exception is the Outpost Double Chair, a historic chair from the 1960s, with Erector set like lift towers, that serves steeper, bumped up runs and the Doozie glades.
When You Go…
Getting to Killington and Pico is not easy unless you have a car. Luckily, since most of their guests are from the East, driving is usually an option.
If you do find yourself flying to Killington, you actually have lots of choices, including Boston, Hartford, Burlington and Albany. And the drive is fun, down two-lane roads, through the rolling countryside and finally, up the resort access road to the base area.
Finally, for some local insight, I got tips from two moms who ski both Killington and Pico frequently.
One mom, Sarah Pinneo, author of the Ski House Cookbook, offers this nugget: If you’re not staying at Killington, park at Bear Mountain or Skyeship (both East of the main base area) and avoid the crowds.
Sarah is also an advocate for Pico.
She likes the smaller scale, and the ease of getting around, skiing all the way, with no traversing.
Another mom, Jen Roe, has tons of tips for eating out. She recommends the bar at Garlic (get a table if you’re with kids) for yummy and family friendly tapas, the Pancake House for all you can eat pancakes (!) and the Wobbly Barn, a Killington tradition, with it’s famous salad bar and steaks, as well as old-school atmosphere.
When it comes to lodging, I stayed at the Killington Grand Resort Hotel, just across a skiable bridge from Snowshed. With traditional rooms, as well as condo-style units, the location is prime and the outdoor pool and hot tubs are both fantastically warm and perfectly positioned to watch night fall over the mountain.
For more on Killington, please check out The Beast and the Best: Learn to Ski, Build Your Skills and Enjoy Killington, Vermont’s Biggest Resort, November 3, 2014.
Family Skiing at Mad River Glen, Vermont, December 17, 2012.
Why I Love Skiing at Okemo, Vermont, October 27, 2011.
Why My Family Loves Skiing at Smuggler’s Notch, Vermont, January 26, 2011.
Why Our Family Loves Skiing at Sugarbush, Vermont, December 16, 2010.
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