By Karen D. Lorentz
Killington is a massive mountain — its variety of terrain is its most distinctive and renowned feature.
Part of that is the variety of trails, but for freestyle skiers and riders, it is the dedication to providing terrain parks that makes the mountain their favorite winter playground.
That dedication was rewarded with skiers and riders voting Woodward Killington “Best Terrain Park in the East” in Snowboarder magazine’s Park & Ride 2020 Awards.
The Stash, which harks back to a 2008-09 debut and opened for this season on Feb. 4, has 65+ features for freestylers, both in the woods and on trail. The medium and large elements like log rails, rainbow trees, and wall rides are located on Bear Mountain and it’s the only Burton Stash Terrain Park in the East and only one of six in the world.
The Stash is part of the network of Woodward Mountain Parks at Killington, “A network of featured terrain zones that offer an on-mountain experience for all ages and abilities through an artfully constructed progression-based design,” noted Killington spokesperson Courtney DiFiore.
Woodward at Ramshead
The Ramshead mountain area contains a variety of parks suited for newbies to experts.
Located at the Ramshead base, the Start Park is a playground with featured terrain where first-time skiers and riders can experience an introduction to park features.
“Built and designed to effortlessly guide users through each section, the Start Park features slight contours in terrain aimed at controlling speed while gradually raising the bar, making for the smoothest transition in learning,” DiFiore said.
Ramshead’s Progression Parks provide the next step with three levels that get progressively more challenging, but even a granny can enjoy a small roller on Easy Street while newbies of all ages can experience low to the ground features on Lil’Stash.
Intermediate and advanced freestylers have the Woodward Killington Peace Park, which starts through the woods and resumes on the Timberline trail. The popular Peace Park’s small, medium and large features provide more flow, transitions, and options for creative expression with rollers, jump lines, traditional features, and sculpted snow hits. (Also designed for the more advanced athlete, Bear Mountain’s Dream Maker Mountain Park features medium and large features with jumps ranging from 20 to 40 feet. Some years a modified halfpipe is even built in lower Dream Maker Park.
Red’s Backyard is a hike-to park at the base of Ramshead is inspired by and built to replicate Olympic gold medalist Red Gerard’s backyard rail garden. If you have a season pass or day ticket, you can access Red’s Backyard from the Ramshead lift, but you can also hike it with a hike-only ticket, DiFiore noted.
Building The Stash
Terrain Park Supervisor Taylor Zink’s explained what it takes to build The Stash each season: “The Stash build begins in the fall, when the bike trails have been put to bed for the season. We walk through the woods and down the main trail inspecting all features for splintering, rot, loose fasteners, loose/broken deck boards and other hazards.
“Old features are decommissioned and knocked down. Sometimes fresh logs take their place, other times we simply move on and find a different location to build something new. Mini excavators are used to dig the posts in, and help hoist the logs into place. We work with chainsaws, draw blades, planers, sanders, and drills. Most features are built in place extra tall so they do not get buried. We also have a few new portable milled logs that the cats can move around similar to a traditional steel rail.
“When we begin our terrain expansion over to Bear Mountain, our snowmaking team lights up the guns and begins making piles that surround our features. This year, The Stash ran with 25 hydrants for four days around the clock. Temperatures were very favorable, dipping into single digits during the day and below zero at night. The team averaged about 72 man-hours per day to maintain the guns and snow quality over the 96-hour stretch of run time.
“Two snowcat operators spent the better part of two days moving snow around, digging out features that were buried under the piles of snow, and shaping it all into jumps, rollers, and takeoffs to the ‘natural’ features in the ground.
“When the cats finished roughing it all together, terrain park staff rolled in with shovels and rakes to do the final shaping and clean up areas around the features where cats can’t reach. Eight park staff worked for nearly two days shaping and cleaning everything up.
“We test new jumps and features to make sure the flow and speed work well before calling the build complete. The operators come back in for the final grooming passes once hand shaping is complete to leave the fresh corduroy found in the morning. As the sun rises up, hand crew is back at it with rakes to clean up any bits of rubble left behind and give the features another inspection before dropping the rope and letting the mountain guests have at it for the day.
“During the day, some features get used by guests more than others. Everything requires ongoing maintenance. This is typically all done with a rake to smooth over any ruts or holes in the trail surface but sometimes features need some additional work like sanding to keep them sliding smoothly throughout the season.”
While the parks and freestyles are awe-inspiring, the time, effort, and expense in creating these specialty parks is equally impressive.