Long before skiing became a popular winter pastime, the Green
Mountains formed a dominant and challenging presence on the Vermont
landscape, dividing the state and presenting a major obstacle to
commerce and communication. But as men carved roads through
mountain passes, they made travel and trade possible.
They also logged the steep slopes, cleared paths to their
neighboring peaks, and set "hotels" on spectacular summits. Meeting
the mountains' challenge, early Vermonters transformed the barriers
into economic and recreational resources. That included the
Killington House set near the peak, (but that is another
Today, we go back even earlier when "Mount Killington" figures
into the naming of the state.
Vermont is said to have been given its name from atop Mount
Pisgah, which was Mount Killington's earliest recorded name. (If
you know your Bible, Mount Pisgah was the place from which Moses
saw the "promised land" and An Anglican clergyman, the Reverend
Samuel Peters, claimed to have traveled through Vermont in 1763 for
the purpose of baptizing her inhabitants (population 300) when he
decided to climb Mount Pisgah and in a moment of inspiration
christened the state "Verd Mont."
There is some controversy over this story and whether Peters
actually named the state. Some early historians credited Dr. Thomas
Young of Philadelphia who suggested the name Vermont to the Windsor
Convention of 1777. But they did not explain where he got the name
"Vermont" from, nor did the nineteenth century historian Zadock
Thompson who claimed that "Verdmont" was in use prior to 1763.
However, historian Charles T. Morrissey points out that a 1774
map was uncovered in the Killington Town Clerk's Office with
reference to Mount Pisgah, which, along with other evidence, would
tend to support Peters' contention.
According to Morrissey's account, the Reverend Peters wrote that
in the late fall of 1763 he and his party ascended "a high mountain
then named Mount Pisgah, because it provided to the company a clear
sight of Lake Champlain to the west and the Connecticut River to
the east, and overlooked all the trees and hills in the vast
wilderness at the north and south."
After pouring a bottle of spirits on a rock, he dedicated the
wilderness with "a new name worthy of the Athenians and ancient
Spartans - which new name is Verd Mont, in token that her mountains
and hills shall ever be green and shall never die."
As Peters told this story in 1807, he insisted that he had named
the state Verd Mont for the greenness of her mountains and not
Vermont, which translates from the French as Mountain of Maggots.
Vermis is Latin or old French for worm and is the root of the word
Vermin. "Maggot Mountin!" Peters would shout. "They've changed my
suggestion to Maggot Mountain." It became Peters' lifelong
compulsion to revise the name to Verdmont, but few listened.
Morrissey adds that "piqued at his critics" Peters curtly
observed, "If the former spelling is to give way to the latter, it
will prove that the state had rather be considered a mountain of
worms than an ever green mountain!"
As further corroboration, Morrissey noted that on a clear day in
autumn when all the leaves are down, Lake Champlain and a part of
the Connecticut River can be seen from atop Killington Peak. That
Peters may have indeed christened the state for its topography
seems logical for the common sense and poetic justice that it
brings to the naming of this land. And of course, all who love the
mountains of Killington take a degree of pleasure in this legendary
link to the past!
But Mount Killington, as Killington Peak was known in the 1800s,
holds an even bolder claim to fame. While not as high as the Andes,
the Rockies, the Himalayas, or the Alps, the Green Mountains are
far older than all of these famous ranges.
Killington Peak boasts an exposed bedrock core that is older
than all the mountains of the world except for the
As a northern extension of the Appalachian Range, the Green
Mountains are 500-million years old. Only the Adirondacks at
3-billion years are older (the earth is estimated to be 4.5 billion
years). The Rockies at 75-million years are relative youngsters. At
900-million years, the exposed bedrock core of Killington Peak is
Killington Peak boasts a summit elevation of 4,241-feet above
sea level making it second only to Mount Mansfield in Vermont for
height. (Mansfield is 4,395 feet above sea level, but has no
bedrock core exposed.)
Killington Peak also offers the highest lift-served skiing and
summer hiking in the state.
That makes it ideal for anyone - hiker or casual visitor who
uses the K-1 Gondola - to ascend the 900-million-year-old rocky
summit and sit upon a throne of some of the oldest rock on earth.
And from this lofty perch, on a clear day, one can view five states
and Canada and perhaps feel the inspiration that led the Reverend
Peters to grant a name "worthy of the Athenians."
The K-1 Gondola provides easy access with daily operations from
June 29 - September 3, then weekends September 8-30, then daily
again October 1-8. Hours of operation are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. weather
permitting. It should be noted that construction at the peak
(foundation work for the new Killington Peak Lodge) could disrupt
gondola operations at times.
From the top terminal of the K-1 there is a short trail (doable
for all ages wearing sneakers or hiking shoes) that leads to the
rocky summit. Don't miss this "hidden gem," seeing the view from
the top, you'll know why the Reverend Peters was inspired to name
the state Verdmont. Don't forget your camera!