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2023/01/29 - Pico / Killington - Interconnect trail, Catwalk, abandoned Juggernaut, new K1 lodge - guide

Resort or Ski Area
Killington
Date
Jan 29, 2023
Snow Conditions
  1. Packed Powder
Went to Pico on Sunday morning to knock a couple items off my bucket list:
77F3E892-270D-401C-92DF-F6C21800CBD2.jpeg

Went up to the summit and started the day with a warmup run down all of KA, even the Lower section was open. I always enjoy the view from the top, which had been groomed:
BFE38331-9D4C-4E84-AE68-CE77EAA34DB1.jpeg

Then back up to the top to begin my trek to Killington. Turn left as you get off the Summit Express chairlift, then stay right at all junctions until you reach the unmarked interconnect trail.

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When you reach the Summit Glades sign, before continuing to stay right, take a quick peek at the nice view down the 49er trail on your left:
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View down 49er:
CCAC886A-8467-4BF2-88BE-AFD9B5CFA29B.jpeg

The interconnect trail is a short distance down Summit Glades, on skiers right below this tree island in the middle of the run:
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Here on the Pico side, the entrance to the Interconnect trail is not marked, but it is very obvious, a wide groomed trail on skiers right heading back up the mountain. There are short uphill sections at the beginning and end of the Interconnect, but the main portion of the route is a smooth gradual groomed downhill from Pico to Killington, equivalent to an easy beginner green circle trail. There was no signage of any kind at the entrance, but despite not appearing on either Pico’s or Killington’s trail maps, the Interconnect trail is listed as an official uphill route from Killington to Pico and its open/closed status is listed under the “Uphill Travel” section of both mountains Conditions websites:

Although the Interconnect is a wide gradually sloping groomed trail, you will be leaving the resort boundaries, so be sure to take the usual precautions - travel in a group, fully charged phone, communicate your plan to someone, and check in regularly. Verizon coverage was OK along the route, but I recommend bringing a newer phone such as iPhone 14 that has emergency satellite coverage, just in case you get into trouble. You can read more about Killington’s uphill policies here:

One thing that is unclear to me is if the $49 Uphill Travel Pass (armband) is required to travel the interconnect in the direction I was going, downhill from Pico to Killington. I opted to save the money and plead ignorance if asked. At the start of the Interconnect, I happened to pass a ski patroller coming from Killington (only person I saw along the entire route) and gave him a friendly wave. He waved back and didn’t ask about my missing armband. YMMV.

Here’s the view looking up the short uphill section at the start of the Interconnect:
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Looking back towards Pico from the top of the uphill section:
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Looking at woods on skiers right I couldn’t spot any obvious shortcuts from Pico that would bypass the uphill section of the Interconnect:
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edit: in r/icecoast, user vburnin described how the uphill start of the interconnect can be avoided:

The upper part can also be done but there has to be enough snow and you better be an expert+ at tree skiing. On skiers right at the start of the forty niner is the pico link hiking trail, it is extremely narrow, steep rocky and usually icy. I've done it a few times without taking off my skies but it probably takes almost as much time as just going uphill. Wouldn't recommend going off the trail either on either side are cliffs and dense trees

Continued in Part 2 …
 
Last edited:

urungus

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Part 2

Beautiful views as you head down the Interconnect trail towards Killington:
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Eventually you will find yourself near Killingtons’s Ram’s Head area. Look for an unmarked connector trail on your right heading up. If you miss the connector you will wind up on the Killington access road, half a mile north of Ram’s Head Lodge. On the day of my trip, the turn onto the connector trail was very obvious, the grooming stopped on the main trail and headed up the connector, and so did all of the tracks from previous skiers. Here is the view looking up the start of the connector trail:

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Continuing towards Rams Head:
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When you can see the bottom terminal of the Poma lift ahead on your right, you have reached Killington and the end of the Interconnect:
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Looking back down, there is a warning sign if you want to travel the Interconnect in the opposite, mostly uphill direction, back to Pico. Note: at the end of the day at Killington, I instead took the free hourly “Rutland Killington Commuter” bus from K1 Lodge back to Pico, more on this below in Part 9.
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Poma lift is a cool bit of mechanics, liftie was surprised seeing me come out of the woods and asked if I was lost, LOL. He also said that the Poma is for the exclusive use of the Killington Mountain School and is never open to the public :(
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Once at the base of the Poma, you can take the green beginner Easy Street and/or blue intermediate Header trails down to the base of the Ram’s Head Express Quad which will get you to the rest of Killington.

edit: in r/icecoast, user vburnin described how the uphill end of the interconnect can be avoided:

the uphill can be avoided for the lower part at least. Instead of turning right with the groomed trail to where the uphill is, continue and the trail will continue curving to skiers right until it abruptly turns left, don't go left continue straight through a much narrower trail, it will cross a mountain bike jump course or whatever the right name for it is, don't turn on to it, continue on the narrow trail and you will cross a bridge into treezy and exit out in magic carpet area of rams head.
 
Last edited:

urungus

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Part 3

Top of Ramshead Express Quad:
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From top of Ram’s Head Express Quad, head to new K1 base Lodge via Caper and Great Northern trails:
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If you look carefully you can see the two Great Northern tunnels:
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Back at the K1 Lodge, take the gondola to the top and look for the black metal stairs on your right leading to the Catwalk trail, one of my favorites:
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At top of black metal staircase, on your left, there is a mysterious unmarked path with boot prints that has been roped off every time I’ve been there (don’t go this way unless you know what you are doing):
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At top of black metal staircase, follow the main path straight upwards:
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Looking back down at gondola terminal:
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After a very short hike you will reach the bottom of a second set of stairs. You do NOT need to climb these stairs, unless you want to continue to the summit, from which there is no official ski trail down. There is usually a “Catwalk” trail sign at the base of these wooden stairs, pointing you down the start of the official ski trail. But the sign was missing and the unaware might accidentally continue up to the summit.
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Looking down the top of the Catwalk trail, a bit cloudy this time, the panoramic view through the trees is spectacular on a clear day:
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Continued in part 4 …
 
Last edited:

deadheadskier

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Very cool. Hopefully the Interconnect never gets built. I wonder how much use it sees with the uphill crowd.
 

urungus

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Part 4

Continuing down upper Catwalk:
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Trail sign where Catwalk crosses the Peak Walkway (closed) used for early season access to North Ridge. A bit of grass poking through but skied well.
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One last look back up Catwalk:
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I went in search of the Wizard but I have never seen the Light:
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Then another trip up the K1 gondola for a ski down the abandoned upper part of Juggernaut … continued in part 5
 
Last edited:

urungus

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Part 5

The Juggernaut trail used to extend all the way from Killington Peak down to the Skyeship base on US Route 4 via Bear Mountain and the 10 mile length was advertised as the longest ski run in North America. I’ve highlighted Juggernaut in purple in the old map below. Over the years, the top portion above the Solitude trail, and the bottom portion below the Bear Mountain Lodge, have been closed.
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I have been fascinated by this trail for a long time and was interested in seeing if the abandoned sections are still skiable. I decided for my first adventure to try the upper section, reasoning that it would be in the best shape since it was the most recently closed. It last appeared on the 2017-18 trail map:
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Take Great Northern, the main route, straight off the K1 summit gondola. Here’s the view back towards the gondola terminal from the Ski Patrol building a little ways down the trail:
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The entrance to Juggernaut is behind a small maintenance shed, on skiers right of the first big hairpin turn immediately after you pass the Ski Patrol building. The “upper entrance” above the shed was roped off:
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However the “lower entrance” below the shed was not roped off. There is a fence but I did not see any signs forbidding entry:
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The abandoned upper section of Juggernaut is very flat and the trail has not overgrown much in the 5 years since it was closed, so chance of skiing off a cliff or getting lost is low. However, a few words of warning are still in order. The trail is outside resort boundaries and is not swept by ski patrol, so if something goes wrong (broken ankle, heart attack, etc), you are on your own. Also I suspect the ski patrol might react negatively if they noticed you entering or leaving the trail. Use the usual precautions: travel in a group, make sure your cell phone is fully charged, communicate your plan and check in regularly. I also recommend trying a few runs down the still active Solitude trail beforehand, to gauge your appetite for this type of trail. Finally, consider the snow conditions. On the day of my journey there was a soft breakable crust, which combined with the flatness of the trail made gliding impossible and made the trek slow and tiring.

Here is the view down the abandoned trail on the other side of the fence, there are a few small trees in the path at the start but after that the trail was clear of undergrowth:
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Looking back at the fence, mine are the only tracks:
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Heading forward again:
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Looking back at my tracks again:
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Continued in part 6 …
 
Last edited:

urungus

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Part 6

A few obstacles along the way:
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There were several fairly deep water bars to be negotiated:
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The “snow bridge” over one of the water bars collapsed while I was skiing over it, tumbling me awkwardly into the icy stream. Glad I didn’t break my ankle. Soaked the lower half of my body while unfolding myself and clicking out of my skis. Threw them in a snow bank to get them out of the way while I clambered out:
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After that I needed a rest. Lay down in the trail and looked up at the sky. Complete silence:
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Continuing down abandoned upper Juggernaut:
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One last look back at my tracks:
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At last, close to three hours (!!) after starting down abandoned upper Juggernaut, reached the intersection with a hairpin turn in the active Solitude trail. Bear right to continue the journey, this trail used to be labeled Juggernaut but is now officially part of Solitude. From this point on, the snow is packed down by a multitude of skiers and the going is much faster (no more crust to break through on every stride):
E13D9A61-6D17-4CC5-8724-1C1B9216EAF8.jpeg

Continued in Part 7 …
 
Last edited:

thetrailboss

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Part 4

Continuing down upper Catwalk:
View attachment 56340

Trail sign where Catwalk crosses the Peak Walkway (closed) used for early season access to North Ridge. A bit of grass poking through but skied well.
View attachment 56341

View attachment 56344

One last look back up Catwalk:
View attachment 56345

I went in search of the Wizard but I have never seen the Light:
View attachment 56346

Then another trip up the gondola for a ski down the abandoned upper part of Juggernaut … continued in part 5
Catwalk is an old favorite of mine.
 

urungus

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Part 7

Shortly after you rejoin the active trail network, you will reach an important junction. Taking Sassafrass to the left will lead to the base of the South Ridge chairlift (only open Fri, Sat, Sun). But I will be going right to follow the old Juggernaut trail (now renamed Solitude) down to the Bear Mountain Lodge:
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Stay right:
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Continuing down Solitude, the surface is nicely packed down and very little skating/poling is required.
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Towards the bottom of Solitude, there will be a number of junctions, stay left to take the Bear Cub trail down to the Bear Mountain Lodge. (Going right leads into the Sunrise Condo area which has limited lift service.)
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I arrived at Bear Mountain at 3:45, where they were blasting punk rock classic “California Uber Alles” by the Dead Kennedys over the outside speaker system. I barely had enough time to get on the Skye Peak Express chairlift before 4pm closing time. The bus back to Pico (where I parked at the start of the day) does not stop at Bear Mountain, so missing the last chair out of Bear Mountain would have been bad. Then from top of Skye Peak, took Skyelark and Superstar trails back to the K1 Lodge. Bumps on the legendary Superstar trail (site of June skiing and 5 of Mikaela Shiffrin’s all-time record of 84 women’s World Cup victories) were much smaller than in the spring, but I did encounter several treacherous scraped-off icy patches on Preston’s Pitch at the bottom.

Continued in Part 8…
 
Last edited:

urungus

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Part 8

By the time I arrived at K1 Lodge, I had missed the hourly bus back to Pico by a few minutes. To kill time, I looked around the new lodge and watched a little of the NFC championship:

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Continued in Part 9 …
 
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urungus

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Part 9 - Returning to Pico from Killington

Last part of this epic journey is getting back to Pico, where I parked at the start of the day.

If you take the interconnect from Pico to Killington, and you left your car at Pico, you have a few options to return to Pico at the end of the day.

1) Travel with group that has at least two cars. Travel time by car for the 7 mile trip from K1 Lodge to Pico is 12 minutes.
2) Re-ski the interconnect in the opposite direction, mostly uphill, back to Pico - tiring
3) Take free hourly bus from Killington to Pico at end of day
4) Park at Killington in the morning and immediately take free hourly bus to Pico, then your car will be waiting for you at Killington at end of day.
5) Hitchhike
6) Taxi / Uber - I have not investigated this option, not sure of availability, or if they have ski racks to transport your equipment ?

I went with option 3, but in retrospect I wish I had gone with option 4, that way you don’t have to deal with shuttle bus at end of day when you are tired. Also I suspect bus will be less crowded at that time.

Here’s a few tips around the bus from Killington to Pico:

1) Name of the bus route is the “Rutland Killington Commuter” but it is still referred to by its old name “Diamond Express” in some marketing materials
2) Official website of route: https://thebus.com/routes/rutland-killington-commuter/
3) The bus stops in front of K1 and Snowshed Lodges. It stops at K1 first so you have a better chance of scoring an empty seat there.
4) At K1, the bus stops in the loop directly in front of the new K1 Lodge. There are signs for other bus routes that stop there but I didn’t see an official sign for the Pico bus (don’t be alarmed).
5) Make sure you get on the correct bus, a number of Killington-run inter-lodge shuttles also stop in front of K1, they look like airport parking/hotel shuttle vans. The bus you want, to get you back to Pico, is a larger “city bus”, refer to photo below. Ask the driver if you are unsure.
6) Bus is FREE if you get on at K1 or Snowshed, and $2 if you get on at other stops along the access road. Recommend having a few singles on hand, just in case. (Note that Killington is cashless so it may be difficult to get change there.)
7) Ski and snowboarding equipment is allowed on the bus, but there is nowhere to store it. If you are standing on the bus as I was, it can be difficult to hold onto the hanging strap as well as all your equipment.
8) Name of bus stop at Pico is “Pico Resort Hotel” which is in the main parking lot.
9) At time of writing, bus only runs hourly, so pay attention to the schedule and get there early because it does sometimes arrive a few minutes ahead of schedule.
10) Current schedule has bus departing K1 hourly every day starting at 7:58 AM, then 8:58, 9:58, etc., then stopping at Snowshed 2 minutes later and then an additional 23 minutes to Pico, with several stops along the way.
11) The 4:58 PM bus I took from K1 was crowded with Killington employees going home, so consider a different departure time.
12) Use google maps app on your phone to get current schedule and live real-time status of the bus. Choose transit directions from “K1 Base Lodge” to “Pico Resort Hotel”.

“Rutland Killington Commuter” bus to Pico stops between signs marked 1 and 2 at bottom of stairs:
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Bus to Pico will look something like this stock photo:
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Google maps app shows schedule and current status of bus, note that cost is zero and this particular bus is 2 minutes early:
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By the time I got back to Pico it was dark:
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Continued in Part 10 …
 
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urungus

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Part 10 - Ski Tracks maps

Overview of the day:
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Close up of Interconnect, uphill section at beginning is labeled “chairlift“ 4, main part of Interconnect is run 4 (red dot), uphill section at end is labeled “chairlift” 5:
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Pico side of Interconnect (entrance is “chairlift” 4). Good vantage point for a photo down 49er at the red dot marked “3”:
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Killington side of Interconnect (exit is “chairlift” 5). Note how if you miss the turn, the trail continues down to Killington access road, half a mile north of Ram’s Head Lodge:
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Abandoned upper Juggernaut / Solitude / Bear Cub (run 8). The abandoned section of Juggernaut is the portion above the junction with the active Solitude trail, just above the red 8:
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urungus

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Three hours to ski the old Juggernaut? Wow!
Just the upper, abandoned part ! By my calculation that works out to an average of about 1 mph over that segment. A sane person would want to do this on a day when the snow is frozen solid in the hopes of being able to get a little momentum (or not do it at all).

Once I reached the active trail network, it took another 25 minutes down Solitude and Bear Cub to reach the Bear Mountain Lodge including frequent stops for photos. Total TTB distance from top of gondola to Bear Mountain Lodge was 4.7 miles according to Ski Tracks.
 
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heiusa

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Just the upper, abandoned part ! By my calculation that works out to an average of about 1 mph. A sane person would want to do this on a day when the snow is frozen solid in the hopes of being able to get a little momentum.

Once I reached the active trail network, it took another 25 minutes down Solitude and Bear Cub to reach the Bear Mountain Lodge including frequent stops for photos. Total TTB distance was 4.7 miles according to Ski Tracks.
I skied Juggernaut once top to the bottom where it connects to Great Eastern. From your picture the top portion has grown in quite a bit, it used to be much wider.

I was fortunate because the trail was in great condition and the snow was fast, but I still had to pole and skate a lot. Definitely a one and done.

The bottom portion was not connected to the top portion, you had to take off your skis and walk across the bear mountain parking lot, cross over sunrise mountain road, the trail ran parallel to bear mountain road, only a few feet from the road, then you had to cross east mountain road and connect back to great eastern. The bottom portion was a waste in my opinion. I did the bottom portion a second time when the lift lines at bear were crazy long and I didn't want to wait, so I skied down to the bottom of Skyship.
 
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