POC ESC Action at Killington
19 Jul 2014
Killington has had a rough time with weather over the past few years. It was one of thirteen Vermont towns that were completely isolated by flooding caused by Hurricane Irene in August 2011. Killington village was completely cut-off for 19 days with no traffic in or out! There was widespread destruction to buildings – the lift base buildings were wiped out, necessitating a brand new build that included the Umbrella Bar, where we chilled out for beers after riding. And of course the bike park trails suffered a beat-down by Irene as well, with massive water run off, broken trees and general carnage that took some time to sort out.
We’d planned our visit for the weekend of the POC Eastern States Cup event spanning the weekend with Enduro on Saturday and the downhill event on Sunday. In hindsight, this might not have been the best idea, as it meant we struggled to get some ride-time on the trails on that side of the mountain – the right hand side as you look up at the mountain. We did get a brief opportunity to get on the Piper Trail, which was a great fun-tech trail. And, from chatting to the guys in the know, most of the trails on the right side are of the DH tech-gnar variety, making for multiple options of challenging single-track descents. The enduro race ran on many of these trails, and this event really went-off this weekend, with a huge turn out for the 5-stage event!
The coolest pick up truck in the parking lot - comes with it's own beer kegs!
As for the POC DH course, this was a resurrection of a classic DH race staged here 10 years ago. So most of the course was not actually on an existing bike park trail, but cut down the fall line, running huge sections of steep and wide motorways on open ski runs, or on fire access road. There were a couple of technical sections in the trees, including a very serious drop towards the bottom, but otherwise it was fast and loose! Not a typical downhill racetrack by today’s standards, but an awesome way to bring back the spirit of classic DH racing at Killington.
Fast and loose - one of the many DH track motorway sections.
The main technical section of the DH track with the big rock drop on the right.
We met up with some other MTB travellers - Sam and Ross from MountainBikeMania.net who were on a road trip of their own, covering race events from all over the country! So here’s their video summary of the whole POC event which shows a lot of the enduro trails on the side of the mountain where we didn’t manage to get to. And check out Alison Zimmer's race report on MTBVT as well.
We had a chat to John and Ian in the K1 base bike shop about what they have to offer. A day pass will set you back $35, and it’s $75 for a rental bike with helmet. Unfortunately it’s an extra $15 for a full-face helmet, and the same again for pads. The rental fleet consists of Scott Voltages and Kona Entourage, with Kona Stinky 24 inch bikes for the kids. We were having this chat at 9:30 on a Monday morning – after 4th of July weekend, and there were already 2 big families with 4 kids getting rental bikes. On average over the summer, 10 to 15 bikes are rented out each day during weekdays. And over the weekend pretty much the whole fleet is out, and we’re talking nearly 130 bikes! They are definitely attracting the riders at Killington, and the lesson programs cater to beginners to help these numbers grow further. It’s $99 for a 2-hour lesson so on top of the bike hire and lift pass it actually works out at only $24 for the lesson. There are 5 certified bike instructors available, with lessons as standard at 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., but they can be arranged for other times if necessary.
There’s no obvious place to get food at the bottom of the lift for lunch, but the Umbrella Bar does actually do a selection of light meals and you can also grab a hotdog there if you only want a 5-minute rest so you can get back on the trails fast. However, this is only open on the weekends. If you want something more substantial, or are riding during the week, then combine lunch with some great views and check out the new Peak Lodge at the top of the K1 lift.
Further down the hill, there are bars and restaurants that line the Killington access road for a couple of miles. Many are closed up for the summer season, but a few stay open to cater to the summer crowd. Post ride, check out the Lookout Pub or Jax Food and Games. And a bit further down the hill is The Foundry at Summit Pond, which does some great food in a cool waterside setting.
There’s a lot of outdoor enthusiast traffic that comes through Killington. It’s a popular access point for the Appalachian Trail - one of the longest continuously marked footpaths in the world, roughly 2,180 miles in length and passing through 14 states from Springer Mountain, Georgia, to the Trail’s northern end point at Katahdin, Maine. It has been estimated that 2-3 million people visit the Trail every year. If they continue to come through Killington, and the major development of the bike park goes ahead, then this can only be a good thing for growing the sport and bring bike parks further towards mainstream facilities that cater for all.
The lightening quick speed trap in to the finish line.