The Mountain Times

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An icy splash: The Pond Skim is back this spring

One of the most popular events ever held at Killington was the Annual Easter Parade and Pond Skimming Contest. Festivities began in 1959 with skiers hunting for plastic eggs containing jelly beans and ski passes. The fun continued with costume parade and prizes for the most original outfits. Employees also participated, often wearing outrageous hats or beautiful bonnets, which were judged in a staff hat contest.

Then following the building of a small pond in 1961 and the addition of a public relations department, the Pond Skimming Contest on the original novice slope in front of the Killington Base Lodge was added to Easter/spring festivities in the early 1960s. The usual mode of schussing across was on skis, but often someone tried a new method. Inevitably, many participants got a shock as they sank into the icy water. Phil Camp, Killington's first public relations manager, who enjoyed creating such wild, wet, and wacky activities, believes that Killington was the first area to host such an event (a popular crowd pleaser nationwide now.)

Camp recalled the year that the pond froze over. One eager worker offered to solve the problem. Much to his dismay, the windows in the base lodge rattled as a loud jolt not only broke up the ice but blew up the pond's dam!

Paul Bousquet, who was General Manager at the time, recalls: "The pond regularly froze over but usually thawed in time for the events surrounding Easter. This particular year, we had an extended cold season and the pond remained frozen. I consulted with Killington native Royal Biathrow who looked after outside operations. He assured me that he could get the ice out of the pond. That he did! With dynamite.

"Those of us in the Killington Base Lodge were shaken out of our chairs as the force of the explosion in front of the lodge blasted the ice 50 feet into the air, some landing on top of the base lodge while other large chunks shattered the front windows of the lodge," Bousquet said.

"I was one of the so-called executives who had to carry sandbags to help plug up the large hole," Camp remembered.

"Fortunately, they fixed the dam in time, and the photo-op pond-skimming contest was a resounding success," Bousquet added.
Judy Storch, who worked at Killington for several seasons before she founded Killington Valley Real Estate in 1972, recalls being the model for the photo shoot. "I was the one who went through the pond eight times in 39-degree weather for photographer Hanson Carroll," she noted, adding, her ski boots never recovered.

Eventually, the pond-skimming event became so popular that crowd control became difficult. As times changed, some behaviors not conducive to the family-oriented day became prevalent and it was discontinued in 1973.

But the egg hunts and pond skimming returned in 1997, although not necessarily held on the same day. The pond skim continues to be a major spring event with contestants, who now include snowboarders, donning costumes and attempting to skim across a large plastic pool.

This year's skim takes place Saturday April 20 at 11 a.m. at the base of Superstar. Registration opens at 9 a.m. at the Roaring Brook Umbrella Bars with participation limited to the first 100 registrants ($10 fee). Awards follow at 1:30 p.m. with prizes awarded to the top male and female for best costume, biggest splash, best overall skim, best 14-and-under overall skim, and Judges' Award. Saylyn, a 7-piece reggae band, entertains from 2 to 5 p.m.

Harkening back to Camp's event-every-weekend efforts, a new spring "Meat Up" where folks will roasts various "beasts," features a barbecue and rocking out with the Joey Leone Band at the Roaring Brook Umbrella Bars on April 27.

Thanks to several feet of snow falling in April 1961, the first May Day Race, a giant slalom, was held on the steep Cat Walk trail with 46 participants from seven states. In the "Experienced Class," four Rutlanders finished in the top ten: Rebel Ryan, first; Rick Chaffee, third; Suzy Chaffee, sixth; and Tom Rondeau ninth. Ann Southworth of Sherburne took third in the "Stem Christie" category.

It turned out to be the East's longest season (to date), running December 14 to May 8, and an event that garnered the publicity that helped the area post a 71 percent gain in attendance. So it is little wonder that it became an annual event, rivaled only by the June Fun Slalom added in 1982. Held on various upper-mountain black diamond trails, these races were open to advanced skiers; prizes included day ski passes for all who completed the course. Slopeside barbecues often accompanied these annual "rites of spring" before they were discontinued in 2008.

Now, like the famous Mogul Challenge, the May Day Slalom is back and scheduled for May 1 on Superstar. The timed, free race is open to anyone with a valid Killington season pass or lift ticket and all competitors receive a complimentary lift voucher (valid through December 15, 2013). Registration is 8 a.m.-12-noon and is open to the first 300 entrants, racing is 10-1, and awards follow at 1:30 p.m. at the Umbrella Bars and Deck.

A more recent competition, the Killington Triathlon will test those who can ski/ride Superstar, bike the Killington work roads, and run down to the Snowshed Base Lodge and back up to the Roaring Brook Umbrella Bars on May 4.

Finally,  history may be repeating with a 'long season' comeback. According to an April 10 posting on The Drift: "Black flies or bust, the Superstar Express Quad will continue to operate on weekends only beginning May 11, 2013, and marching on to June, conditions permitting."

June Slalom anyone?

Photos by Donald Dill