by Mitch Kaplan


Bodies on boards fly everywhere. Some go high, some go low, some fast, some slow. But, one-by-one, they rise up toward the sun, and slap down onto the snow. After each rider rips it over the edge, the growing crowd cheers. Sometimes they even muster enough voice to rival the pounding stereo system that stands on the ski hill, just behind the judging stand.

It's March Madness, Killington style. The annual Killington Pipe Jam. Dozens of snowboarders struttin' their stuff in the sun on the half-pipe at Killington Peak. It's rowdy, ribald and rad. But, it takes place within walking distance of the Killington Base Lodge and, well, it's cool. A youthful celebration of spring's classic themes: joy, rebirth, life itself. And, if that's not enough action for you, check out the Coors Light Boardercross Finals. These riders run gates -- five at a time. The two survivors, I mean finishers -- are crowned champs. It hurts my bones just to look at these guys.

Killington's like that after March first. The day's grow longer. The snow sits more softly. The action heats up. But, little known to many, the snowfall still accumulates. Just about four feet of new snow falls after March 1 annually. So, you can often catch a nifty powder day, and you can almost always catch more runs now that the less dedicated have dusted off the golf clubs.

Lots of snow still in April.
Photo Credit: Mitch Kaplan


I've arrived with a van-full of adolescents; mine and their friends. But, right now, I don't know where any one of them is riding or skiing. They've scattered to the winds. But, I'm perched right under the six-foot kicker that's been built on Bear Mountain's Outer Limits trail. Long renowned as one of the gnarliest bump runs in the east, the kicker lets bump-riding snowboarders add one last flair-full flash to their run -- after they've cut swaths between the gigantic mounds from about halfway down to almost at the bottom. I'm hiding under here with a camera and a long lens. When they hit the "kicker" -- a large manmade launching pad -- the idea is to get as much air as possible while twisting the body into pretzelized shapes, and then stick the landing. My challenge is to photograph it.

Mind you I haven't come all this way just to shoot pictures. I've also managed to ski enough to require an apres-ski massage, and to get a bit of sunburn, as well.


In New Jersey, snow is the last thing on anyone's mind. Except ours. Our next door neighbor teases us as we mount the skis onto the car. Ignorance is bliss. Are those tennis rackets, golf clubs and softball mitts we see in the park as we drive out of town? Are those looks of disbelief we get from the other cars as we travel north? You bet. So, what are we doing, this teenager and I, with our windbreakers and bump skis? We're heading for the best kept secret in eastern skiing. Killington in May.

We turn up the Killington Road. No traffic. When the mountain comes into sight, snow-covered Superstar stands out like the stripe down a skunk's back. One trail, one lift, no waiting.

Killington in mid-May begins the metamorphosis of ski junky into beach bum. Dudes without shirts. Babes in tight pants and tees. Beers on the deck. Or, bring out your lawn chairs. Or do it on the tailgate of your pick-up. Wallow in the sun and watch the hot-shots strut their stuff. Turn up the volume on that rock-'n-roll sound system; let 'em hear the music in Tallahassee.

We hop the chairlift. Beneath us, hot bodies jump mogul as if they were clouds. Whoops and war calls echo across the nearby ridges. We watch and wonder if we're over-dressed in our long sleeves and nylon windpants. It's already warm; the thermometer creeps toward 60 degrees. By the time we reach the top, the kid and I are pumped. We make last second adjustments and point ourselves down the hill with terrible urgency. The snow skis like rough-hewn silk. In the upper reaches, it holds firm; not a bit of slushiness. Even towards the bottom, it more resembles Styrofoam pellets than muck. Everything hangs loose. Riding soft moguls in the warm isn't a test of technique, but a study of turns on a run this steep. Now I take them high or low or on the fly, stopping only when the lungs and legs demand it. The kid, his youth working for him, skitters his board among the shiny-wet snow mounds as if he'd been born with his feet already strapped into those bindings. Up and down we go, over and over again.

Okay, it's true, I'm getting too old for this kind of stuff, but the adolescent is agog, and feeling his oats. Just don't let him report to his mother that I was ogling co-eds. Anyway, he's doing it himself. After four or five runs, we forget about females and focus on parched throats. Barkeep! A beer please -- and a Coke for my Main Man here. How are the Bulls doing? The Red Sox? Another round! Now, back to the bumps.

Knees knocking with elated exhaustion, clothes saturated with sweat and melted snow, eyes sparkling with exhilaration, our hands stinging from gloveless falls and forgotten sun screen, we reluctantly rack the skis atop the car and head back to our rooms. The music and laughter continue behind us, but we need our rest. Tomorrow we do it all again.

Someday the world will catch on. Skiing when it's warm and the snow's soft is more fun than when it's sub-zero and icy. Till then, we'll do Killington in May without them.