The Evolution of Killington’s Mountain Biking Revolution

My husband slammed body parts into his handlebar stem that should never be slammed into anything.

When I moved back to Vermont in 1997—with a 26-inch-wheeled Bontrager mountain bike firmly mounted to my Subaru’s roof rack—I learned that black flies can fly up to 4.6 miles per hour. 

How did I learn this scientific fact? 

By riding uphill more slowly than 4.6 mph.

But black flies weren’t the only problem bugging the state’s fat-tire scene in the 1990s and early 2000s. Back then, mountain biking in Vermont consisted primarily of finding old forest roads that laced across (and up) the Green Mountains. If we were lucky, we only rode through one patch of stinging nettles (or as friends call them, FIPs, for F**king Itchy Plants). The majority of these old roads were on private property, so we either asked permission from the landowners or pedaled along quietly, hoping the proprietors weren’t overzealous NRA members. Mostly the latter. 

Back then, Killington also had a few singletrack trails that we could ride for the price of an $8 trail pass. Believe it or not, the going up was easier than the coming down. I still remember somersaulting over my bars into a muddy swamp on a trail somewhere between Snowdon and Ramshead. It was unfriendly terrain for 26-inch mountain bike wheels mounted with inch-and-a-half wide tires and no rear suspension. 

Trying to prevent a similar fall on that same ride, my husband slammed body parts into his handlebar stem that should never be slammed into anything.

Fortunately, mountain biking today—the gear and the trails—have evolved leaps and bounds from mountain biking of yore. Wheels are bigger, tires are wider, front and rear suspension keeps us from losing our marbles (literally and figuratively), and whoever invented the dropper post deserves a Nobel. 

Ride these modern marvels of wheeled engineering on today’s trails and the syllables I utter have evolved from “eek,” “yikes”, and “f**” to “weeeeee!” and “omg!” But in a good way. Even better, on descents, we can get our backsides far behind our lowered seats, moving delicate body parts far from unforgiving handlebars and stems.

Trail designs have evolved too. Nowadays, you can’t even ride uphill at Killington. It’s all about downhill at the Big K, from fun and flowy (I’m talking to you, Sideshow Bob, which is like riding from one “weeeeee!” to the next) to catching air on the jump trails (gulp—I have yet to ride Blue or Black Magic). 

Of course the rocky, rooted singletrack is still there. As are the black flies. But with full-suspension and the blessed dropper post, these trails no longer feel like the singletrack of yore.

And within 30 miles of Killington lies another 200-plus miles of mountain biking trails, from the almost-dead-flat D&R Rail Trail in Castleton to the old-school trails of Pine Hill Park in Rutland to more swooping descents (that you have to work for) in Rochester and Woodstock.

It’s an embarrassment of riches for locals and visitors alike—even for the retro souls still banging around on 25-year-old mountain bikes. But if you want to stay ahead of those darn black flies, best to upgrade your ride.

Peggy Shinn is an eighth-generation Vermonter, writer for TeamUSA.org and recent inductee into the Vermont Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame. Her column “Vermontness” will be published regularly throughout the year. If you like it, please let her know. Just don’t look too lustfully at her World Cup VIP parking pass.
 

The Beast
Quintessential Killington
Roots Riding

One of snowboarding’s cultural icons and master of style, Danny Davis is all about bringing snowboarding to the people. His signature Woodward Peace Parks, including one at Killington, have opened up a whole new world for riders of all ages and abilities.

Read on
Mountain Forecasting

Mountain forecasting is its own beast. In this interview with Chief Meteorologist Mallory Brooke, we learn that she knows that beast better than anyone.

Read on
Builders of the Beast

The builders of the East's longest ski season always rise to the challenge. In this collection of profiles, we go behind the scenes with three of Killington’s most valuable players.

Read on
Deep Days

The pursuit of powder and transcendent turns alters the trajectory of people’s lives. Why? Immerse yourself in this interactive feature and find out.

Read on
Home Mountain Advantage

After last year’s COVID-driven cancellation of the World Cup, the Killington community is ready for its triumphant return. Plus: racers with Vermont roots including Mikaela Shiffrin, Nina O’Brien, and Paula Moltzan speak to the excitement of returning home.

Read on
Slippery Slopes

Imagine an eerily quiet, cold, crystalline world high in the mountains of Vermont, where everything—everything—is encased in two inches of glassy, impenetrable ice. We take you there in this multimedia feature story, and explore an otherworldly landscape witnessed only by a frozen few. Filmed and photographed on location at Killington Resort.

Read on
First Tracks

NCAA athletes Nina O’Brien and Paula Moltzan are the only skiers - besides Mikaela Shiffrin - to score points at the Killington Women's World Cup. Here, they talk about balancing their education with ski racing, and why there’s nothing quite like skiing in front of the home crowd.

Read on
Park Etiquette

Not all rules are made to be broken. In this animated feature story we dive into the do’s and don’ts of skiing and riding in our Woodward Mountain Park.

Read on
Mogul Queens

Aspiring olympic skier Hannah Soar and olympic gold medal winner Donna Weinbrecht are cut from the same cloth - or moguls, as it were. This rich media feature explores the passion that drives them both to greatness, while also reflecting on the mountain where it all began.

Read on
Culture
Characters & Craft Vermont
Snow Slang

Who knew there were so many words for snow? Here, writer Tyler Cohen takes a deep dive into the snow slang lexicon.

Read on
Quintessential Character

Pico may lack bourgeois base lodges and six-pack lifts, but it’s as rich in culture and community as any mountain destination in New England. Here, we explore the character that defines the Pico experience through a multimedia lens.

Read on
Vermontness
Peggy Shinn, Unfiltered
The Evolution of Killington’s Mountain Biking Revolution

Mountain biking has never been more fun.

Read on
Fling Into Spring

Vermontress Peggy Shinn takes us to her happiest place: springtime at Killington.

Read on
What To Do On Valentine’s Day, Or More To The Point: How To Get More ________.

Love is in the air … and in the gondola. Liven up your Valentine’s Day with Peggy Shinn’s primer on mountain love.

Read on
New Year’s Res-ski-lutions

Some New Year’s resolutions are doomed before the new year even begins. But not this one….

Read on
How to Be a Bada$$ Santa

Columnist Peggy Shinn’s guide to giving the gift of stoke this holiday season.

Read on
Waxing on the World Cup

4241’ columnist Peggy Shinn knows what it takes to win the Killington World Cup - as a spectator and an athlete.

Read on
Takeaways From Last Season

Longtime 4241’ writer and contributor Peggy Shinn is a ninth-generation Vermonter and a member of the Vermont Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame. This is the debut of her column, “Vermontness.”

Read on