There is a special allure at Central Vermont’s Magic Mountain. On the one hand, the vibe is retro and frill-less, with two cozy double chairs (that founder Hans Thorner imported from Europe) and some free-spirited bluegrass/groovegrass playing through the speakers at the Black Line Tavern. On the other, it’s a quiet, nearly private skiing experience. Considering how rustic and unpretentious Magic Mountain is, this actually feels like the ultimate in luxury.
This past Thursday, we
had the pleasure of a Magic day trip. We hit the road from Schenectady at
6:45am, stopped as we approached the mountain area to pick up some delicious
breakfast sandwiches at Hapgood’s General Store in Peru, and were on the lift
with stress-free rental skis by 9:30. You park your car and walk to the lift in
a minute flat.
As we explored our first
run, one of a handful of long slopes carved 50 years ago to match the contours
of Vermont’s Green Mountains, we quickly realized that we have this enchanting,
snowy gem of a mountain to ourselves. It had just snowed, and because
Magic Mountain is only open Thursdays to Sundays, we were reveling in fresh
powder, laying down our own tracks.
Thorner was among the
first to bring skiing to New England. In the late 1950s, when he discovered
Glebe Mountain, he saw ridge lines and steep topography that reminded him of
his native Swiss Alps. Our new friend in the rental shop, Peter, who grew up in
Londonderry, made this sincere analogy: The major mountain resorts are “the
Porsche Cayenne or the Range Rover. Magic is the ‘61 Jaguar XKE that’s been
kept hidden away in a barn.”
This Thursday (for most
of the season, Thursdays have a special price of $29), we were amazed at the
quality of the powder we found. The slopes – there are 50 of them on 205
skiable acres, with a vertical drop of 1,500 truly vertical feet – carry across
the “Magic” theme with names like Sorcerer, Talisman (a favorite of Magic
regulars), Twilight Zone (a great glades trail with lots of snow), Broomstick,
and Slide of Hans (a punny tribute to Hans Thorner). Magic offers
boundary-to-boundary tree skiing and few distractions.
The runs are great,
especially for intermediate (13 trails) and advanced skiers (17 trails). There
are 11 glade trails, including some that are even welcoming for those who are
new to skiing through the trees. There are 13 easy trails, mostly in the center
of the mountain, and one terrain park. It’s also easy to cross between black to
blue to green on one long run if you go with a mixed-level group.
At the base, Black Line
Tavern is as laid-back as the rest of the mountain, with a friendly atmosphere
that feels like your neighborhood bar/restaurant. A song by Vermont acoustic
group Jatoba was playing as we strolled in for lunch. (A poster on the wall
listed them as one of the upcoming bands performing at the tavern.) The beef
chili was excellent, and the Korean BBQ Pulled Pork sandwich with fries was
Magic Mountain, which
remains fiercely proud in being independent and a throwback to Vermont’s ski
heritage, continues to make major investments in lifts and snowmaking, this
year spending $2 million in improvements to ensure an uncrowded, soulful ski
“Our future is as an independent,” owner Geoff Hatheway said at a recent Ski Vermont event told us. Hatheway purchased Magic four years ago, drawn by the community feel.
“The major investments
we are making in smoothing out some of the prior rough edges here are always
balanced by maintaining our unique ‘throwback’ character,” Hatheway said. “We
love natural snow here—it just skis better than man-made. So while we continue
to make major investments in snowmaking, lift service and grooming equipment,
we will let mother-nature do what she does best on our more advanced terrain.
Powder days are legend here and it’s why we have special openings when a storm
hits mid-week. It’s why we continue to expand the best tree-skiing in southern
Vermont. It’s why we’ve always supported uphill alpine touring. There’s truly
something for everyone here who is into the original feel and adventure of the
sport of skiing.”
In order to handle more
guests yet keep its lift line wait to under 10 minutes even during the busy
holiday periods, Magic is replacing its Black Double summit lift with a
fixed-grip Quad from base to summit to complement its Red Lift. The new Black
Line Quad was hoped to be completed for this season, but more likely will be
next season. With the addition of the new summit lift, Magic is adding another
double-diamond expert summit trail named Pitch Black. There is also a new East
Side glade created by the “Friends-of-Magic” work-crew this year.
In addition, Magic is
repairing a snowmaking pipe and re-energizing its Thompsonburg Brook pond to
better re-fill and supply water. They plan to expand snowmaking coverage to
over 50% of trails on both the East Side and famed expert West Side.
There is also a tubing
park that is open weekends.
Magic is a northern
Vermont mountain in southern Vermont, more challenging than its neighbors. But
a new mid-mountain chair improves access for intermediate and novice skiers
(there is no beginner trail from the summit, but a low-intermediate can take
the 1.6 mile trail from the top).
The plan is to “create a
future that harkens back to a golden age of skiing,” Hatheway, who brings a
background from marketing and advertising Internet and tech startups, said.
Asked how Magic can
compete against bigger resorts with bigger marketing budgets and seasonal
passes that span the globe, Hatheway pointed out, “We can appeal to the
‘uncommitted’ market. We have a passionate group of committed people, but there
is opportunity to peel off those who don’t want to commit to an $800 season
Magic Mountain offers a variety of options on passes: Sundays only, Midweek, 18-29s, a Throwback Card ($149 gets you $29 tickets all season long). “These are crazy affordable but the skier makes some commitment. We try to be as creative as possible – we even have a holiday pass when others are blacked out elsewhere.” Skiers can also purchase discounted lift tickets on Liftopia.com.
“We hope you take the
road less traveled with us. It will never be perfect. But it will always be
authentic and interesting,” Hatheway said.
With the “Bigs” mountain resort companies taking over a significant number of New England’s major destination resorts, locking in loyalty to their brand, independents are capitalizing on their unique character and culture, their ability to offer value pricing, to be flexible and adaptive, and their appeal to the “noncommitteds” – those who still see the season pass as a barrier. They can offer their own pass, packaging and pricing deals. They also capitalize on their special character and ambiance.
Adam White, the Director
of Ski Vermont, sees only positives from the friendly competition between mega-resort
companies and independents. “Vermont’s resorts have invested more than $51
million, improving snowmaking across the board, every resort, every size. It
speaks volumes. It gives Vermont the ability to deliver a consistent product
regardless of Mother Nature, from Suicide Six to Mount Snow to Killington.
Every one is improving.”
As for Bigs versus Indies,
“There is reason to go to every area – all are different and have something to
offer. A parent with small kids may want a smaller, less chaotic, area where they
can have more control.”
Magic Mountain: Back to the Future
“Our future is as an independent.
For our future, we are looking to our past,” says Geoff Hathaway, Magic
Mountain’s president who acquired the resort four years ago.
How to compete against Vail Resorts’ Epic and Anterra Mountain Company’s Ikon
passes if you are an independent ski resort in Vermont? “We
can appeal to the ‘uncommitted’ market – we have passionate group of committed
people, but there is opportunity is to peel off those who don’t want to commit
to $800 season pass,” Hathaway says.
Magic Mountain offers a variety of options on passes: Sundays only, Midweek, 18-29s, a Throwback Card ($99 gets you $29 tickets all season long). ”These are crazy affordable but the skier makes some commitment. “We try to be as creative as possible – we even have holiday pass when others are blacked out elsewhere.” Skiers can also purchase discounted lift tickets on Liftopia.com.
“We make more opportunity to say “yes’ to a little bit of Magic.”
Magic Mountain, which remains fiercely proud in being independent
and a throwback to Vermont’s ski heritage, continues to make major investments
in lifts and snowmaking, this year spending $2 million in improvements to
ensure a laid-back, uncrowded, soulful ski experience. In order to handle more
customers yet keep its lift line wait to under 10 minutes even during the busy
holiday periods, Magic is replacing its Black Double summit lift with a fixed-grip
Quad from base-to-summit to complement its Red Lift. The new Black Line Quad is
expected to be completed by Christmas for the 2019/20 season. In addition,
Magic is repairing snowmaking pipe and re-energizing its Thompsonburg Brook
pond to better re-fill and supply water to its snowmaking pond in order to
expand snowmaking coverage to over 50% of its trails on both the East Side and
famed expert West Side. With the addition of the new summit lift, Magic adds
another double-diamond expert summit trail named Pitch Black. There is also a
new East Side glade created by our “Friends-of-Magic” work-crew this year.
Magic is a northern Vermont
mountain in southern Vermont, more challenging than its neighbors. The mountain
installed a mid-mountain chair improving access for intermediate and novice
skiers (there is no beginner trail from the summit, but a low-intermediate can
take the 1.6 mile trail from the top). Magic offers a 1500-ft vertical, 51
trails of which green are 25%, blue are 30%.
“There’s more Magic than ever to enjoy for the new ski and ride season.” (magicmtn.com)
Mad River Glen
Mad River Glen, the only cooperatively owned mountain open to the public, is dedicated to maintaining and preserving the “pure Vermont” ski experience and takes pride in consistently upgrading its infrastructure while maintaining an unchanged exterior.
“We take pride in
constantly upgrading while quietly remaining the same. We are still Mad River
Glen, just like 1948,” said Ry Young, head freeski team coach. Mad River Glen’s
trails were cut in the 1940s and 1950s, narrower, winding down the mountain
following the natural contours.
Mad River Glen has invested more than $5M in capital improvements.
Mad River Glen raised $5.5 million through donors to its nonprofit foundation
which will be spent next
summer on a Basebox and Patrol building
Mad River Glen offers the most challenging and diverse
terrain in New England with an uphill capacity that guarantees low skier
density on the trails even on the busiest days. It is one of only three areas
in North America that still prohibit snowboarding. The trails were cut to
follow the mountain’s natural contours. Skiers can descend the entire 2,037′ of
vertical on true expert terrain with no run-outs, 1000 acres of inbound skiing and 1000 acres of back country
skiing; of the 52 trails, 25% are beginner but the majority of terrain is advanced.
There are no high-speed lifts – only fixed grip chairs (3 doubles and the last functioning single in continental US) – which limits uphill capacity.
There is a special camaraderie among the skiing
community, with its co-op ownership, non-commercial, family-friendly
atmosphere, dedicated staff, and – of course-the Single Chair, America’s
favorite ski lift.
You can also experience the mountain on snowshoes: join one of MRG’s staff Naturalists for a guided snowshoe trek tailored to your interest in the ecology and wildlife of Stark Mountain (Naturalist Programs). There is no on-mountain lodging, but plenty of inns and bnb’s in town. (madriverglen.com)
Bolton Valley Resort
Bolton Valley Resort, which was re-acquired by the Des Lauriers family that founded the resort in 1966, is capitalizing on its strengths as it asserts its independence: night skiing until 10 pm and an innovative learn-to-back-country-ski program (the DesLauriers are famous as pioneers in extreme skiing.)
The most visible improvement is the complete replacement and
upgrading of the night skiing lighting system (Bolton offers night skiing
nightly until 10 pm).
being one of the few places in New England offering night skiing,
Bolton opened an in-house backcountry-specific guiding and instructional program,
complete with top-of-the-line rental and demo fleets of alpine touring and
splitboarding equipment. This program makes Bolton Valley a premiere
destination for skiers and riders looking to move beyond lift service, as well
as cross country skiers looking to access more aggressive terrain. Explore
1,200 acres of high-mountain wilderness terrain while learning the ins and outs
of alpine touring, backcountry safety, and self-reliance.
But Bolton Valley has something that hardly any other mountain resort has: not just back country skiing on 1,200 acres of high-mountain wilderness, but an in-house backcountry-specific guiding and instructional program, complete with top-of-the-line rental and demo fleets of alpine touring and splitboarding equipment, offered every Saturday.
“The gear is different – you have to be able to unhook the heels and put on climbing skins; we rent all the equipment, demo gear and sell gear,” says Adam Des Lauriers. The program was launched two years ago. “It’s totally unique – more traditional ski areas don’t know how to deal with back country and uphill, even though it is the fastest growing segment.”
Building on its reputation for having some of the best and most accessible backcountry terrain in the Eastern US, this program makes Bolton Valley a premiere destination for skiers and riders looking to move beyond lift service, as well as cross country skiers looking to access more aggressive terrain. You can explore high-mountain wilderness terrain while learning the ins and outs of alpine touring, backcountry safety, and self-reliance.
How good do you have to be? “At least strong intermediate –we
take it slow. People are surprised when they can do it. It is scary to attempt
if you do it alone, but a mind-opening experience when you realize you can do
Valley also has back country huts which can be rented through the Green
Mountain Club, the organization that runs the Long Trail,but accessed through
Bolton. “It’s a unique camping experience, just one mile from the base. You
wake up to fresh tracks, and get to do winter camping. It’s accessible, but
feels like being deep in woods.”
Valley sits high in the Green Mountains of Vermont. The high mountain alpine
village is surrounded by 5,000 acres of wilderness. Bolton Valley offers 71
trails and glades for Alpine skiing and riding and 100 km of Nordic and
backcountry trails. Each year Bolton Valley receives an average of 312 inches
lodging, including hotel rooms, suites and condominiums are either ski in/ski
out or within a short walking distance of the lifts. Two restaurants, a
cafeteria, deli and general store are located within the village. After a day
on the slopes, walk over to the Sports Center, where there is an indoor pool,
hot tub and sauna, skateboard bowl and mini ramps, arcade games as well as an
open floor for basketball and other games. The Indoor Amusement Center offers
bouncy houses for kids who just want to keep moving.
Bolton Valley also offers a large Nordic center, an indoor skate park and indoor pool. The year-round resort, which is the neighborhood ski area for the city of Burlington and generations of Vermont skiers, offers tennis and ropes course, and expanding its mountain bike trail network, for summer. (www.boltonvalley.com)
This year, Bromley resort has made a number of maintenance-related updates on and off the mountain. For those who rent equipment, there is an updated rental fleet to include some of the best equipment on the market for a more comfortable fit and smoother glide. On the mountain, crew continued their trail widening efforts. All-new park features satisfy a variety of rider abilities, green to black. Plus, Bromley is partnering up with Arena Snowparks to build and design parks (for the second year in a row) with the intention to produce one of the best family-friendly progression parks.
For après-ski entertainment, enjoy Bromley’s Wild Boar
Tavern (located at the base of the mountain) as well as expanded events
calendar with more free, family-friendly entertainment for everyone. Top off
your ski days with a scenic sleigh ride at beautiful Taylor Farm, take a stroll
through the sculpture garden at the Vermont Art Center, treat yourself to a
fabulous shopping experience at the Manchester Shopping Outlet center, all
within a 10-mile radius. (skivermont.com/bromley-mountain-resort)
Suicide Six Ski Area
Suicide Six Ski Area, which is owned by the historic, grand resort, the Woodstock Inn & Resort, remains independent but partners with 35 other quintessential resorts to create the Indy Pass. For 84 consecutive seasons, Suicide Six has offered its blend of exquisite service and personal touch, including the longest continually operating Ski and Ride School in the country. Here you’ll find stellar coaches, progressive terrain, and a warmth and care. The ski area is adding more terrain features and an entirely new park concept, as well as taking its snowmaking production to the next level with a focus on automation, efficiency and sustainability. Suicide Six is investing $250,000 into its snowmaking pump station with more efficient pumps, automation and instrumentation that provide lightning fast responses to changes in weather and conditions. Combine that with previous investments of over $400,000 the ski area has made in new snow guns, and the automation of the Face trail (its world-class racing venue), Suicide Six looks forward to a longer, more productive season with the highest quality snow.
The misnomered Suicide
Six (it actually is one of the most family-friendly ski mountains, with 24
trails – 30% beginner, 40% intermediate and 30% advanced), is focusing on family-friendly ski and stay
packages, where ski passes are included. The resort also makes it easy to
organize a private lesson for the family where the kids learn to ski and
parents learn how to continue to teach them.
The downhill ski area is owned by the grand,
historic Woodstock Inn which also
offers the Woodstock Nordic Adventure Center providing 30 kilometers of trails
to explore via cross country skis, fat bikes or snowshoes; a 10,000 sq. ft Spa;
and Woodstock Athletic Club, with indoor and outdoor tennis courts, racquetball
courts, a 30-by-60-foot heated indoor lap pool, a whirlpool, workout equipment
and steam and sauna rooms. Woodstock Inn
provides a free shuttle to the mountain (skivermont.com/suicide-six-ski-area)
Trapp Family Lodge
Situated on 2,500 acres in Stowe, Vermont, where it
specializes in cross-country skiing on 100 km of groomed trails, Trapp Family Lodge (yes, that Trapp Family of
“Sound of Music fame”) is a mountain resort that combines Austrian-inspired
architecture and European-style accommodations with the best of Vermont. The
Lodge offers stunning mountain views, old-world comforts, and impeccable service,
along with activities for every season, but it boasts being one of the first
American resorts built around cross-country skiing – the cross-country center
is more than 50 years old. Snowshoeing is also popular (equipment rentals
available). Take a horse-drawn sleigh ride through the meadows with stunning
views into the valley. Enjoy any number of tours to learn about the
history of the von Trapp family and lodge; how maple sugar is made; tour the
von Trapp Brewing’s state-of-the-art brewery on site; dine in the Bierhall to
sample the lagers and enjoy the authentic Austrian experience and cuisine.
There’s also ice/rock climbing, spa, pool, hot tub and three restaurants.
Cross-country ski three miles up to a cabin and enjoy hot soup. When you get
the urge for downhill skiing, shuttles are provided to nearby Stowe. (www.trappfamily.com)
Mountain Top Inn & Resort
Mountain Top Inn & Resort, set on 350 acres ringed by the Green Mountain National Forest, is breathtakingly enchanting, offers 60 km of groomed cross-country ski trails (snowmaking on a 2 km loop insuring optimal conditions); horse-drawn sleigh rides; a small old-fashioned (natural) skating pond; snowshoeing (twilight tours available); snowmobiling; spa; hot tub; fire pits; and the coziest fireplaces. It’s also a 30 minute drive to Killington Mountain for downhill skiing (shuttle transportation available, 8:30 am, returning 4:30 pm; reserve in advance). The most charming of inns offers 32 rooms plus 23 individual guest houses; dining at The Mountain Top Tavern (with 12 Vermont Craft Brews on tap) and fireside dining in the dining room.Downhill skiing at Killington and Pico is a short drive away. www.MountainTopInn.com.
Middlebury Snow Bowl
This season you will see a new Prinoth Groomer, upgrades to the Ticket counter including new transaction windows ad a new Point of Sale System, and a new season pass format. There is also the new Shared Parent Pass for families with kids that aren’t skiing yet (both parents ski on the same pass). What you won’t see, but will certainly experience, is the snowmaking pipe upgrades, summer trail work and lift work. (www.middleburysnowbowl.com)
Jay Peak Resort
Jay Peak is a quirky 800-bedroom, 3,100-bathroom, 217,800,000,000-square foot resort just two miles from the Canadian border offering multiple athletic pursuits across all seasons. Potential upsides include an indoor waterpark, ice arena, climbing center, movie theater, synthetic-turf athletic fields, multiple hotels, 5,000 acres of ski-and-ride terrain, and a staff of 1,500 Tier One professionals. Jay Peak has annual snowfall averaging 349 inches a season, still there is snowmaking on 80% of terrain. Jay Peak offers 385 skiable acres (100 acres of gladed terrain), a vertical drop of 2,153, 50 miles of trails 9 lifts accessing 81 trails (20% Novice, 40% Intermediate, 40% Advanced), for a total of 50 miles, the longest, Ullr’s Dream at 3 miles, and four parks (Rabbit Beginner Park, Family Cross, Jug Handle & Interstate ). (jaypeakresort.com)
Even as Vermont’s major ski resorts add imaginative new experiences on and off the mountain to new heights, high speed six-pax and bubble chairs, other resorts are promoting their “pure Vermont” roots and authentic ski experience, touting old fashioned fixed grip chair lifts, proudly proclaiming themselves “throwbacks” in time.
Vermont, which will take center stage with the first World Cup events to be held here in 25 years, is distinguished not only for the sheer number of mountain resorts, but the differences in their character, personality and features.
This year, the resorts throughout the state have really focused on enhancing snowmaking and rounding out off-mountain experiences, in light of the mischief Mother Nature can play. But good news! Accuweather is predicting a normal year for snow in the Northeast.
So what is new for the 2016-17 winter season? Quite a lot. Vermont’s resorts have had a busy summer full of lodging and restaurant renovations, lift and off-slope amenity improvements, and historic event announcements.
Killington Resort is bringing Alpine World Cup skiing back to the eastern US for the first time in 25 years when the Audi FIS Ski World Cup takes place over Thanksgiving weekend, November 26-27. Giant Slalom and Slalom races will pit the best female technical alpine skiers from 26 countries against one another on Superstar trail, the infamous New England steep that is regularly the Eastern US’s last remaining open ski trail through late May or June. The general public is invited to view the women’s giant slalom and slalom races in a free general admission area at the base of the trail with a jumbo screen for watching the full race course, plus a weekend loaded with festivities including free live music, multiple movie premieres and additional surprises to be announced.
Killington and Pico, with six mountains between them, is the largest ski area in the Northeast and open the longest, from mid-October (you can ski in costume on Halloween) sometimes as late as June. It also offers 15 km of groomed Nordic skiing; two golf courses. Also enjoy ziplines and a mountain coaster year round. (killington.com)
Magic is under new ownership in 2016-17 as SKI MAGIC LLC purchased the ski area with an initial 5-year plan to invest capital into lifts and snowmaking. With a robust operating budget and new snow guns, Magic will have more snow in 2016-17, made earlier than ever before to improve the consistency and reliability of skiing on both the easier East Side and more challenging West side trails. For the first time in years, both bottom-to-top summit lifts (1,600’ vertical) will be in full operation. There will also be new daycare facility for young parents and some refurbishing to the lodge and Black Line Tavern. It also offers ski school, rentals, tubing park (night), and a base lodge with restaurant and bar. There’s no lodging at the mountain, but plenty of quaint places nearby.
Located in Londonderry – south of Okemo, east of Bromley, north of Stratton- Magic Mountain is much like Mad River Glen, with terrain is its most distinguishing feature.
“Magic Mountain is for people whose #1 priority is skiing. It offers 43 trails, all running from top to bottom (the green trail is 1.2 miles from the top; the longest, Wizard, is 1.6 miles).
“Like Mad River Glen, Magic Mountain is a throwback – nothing fancy. We are ‘tree-mendous’ – lots of glades.” With the capital improvements, he says, Magic Mountain will “provide better ski experience – more lifts, snow making, more consistent product – but we’re not changing its character,” Geoff Hatheway, one of the new owners. In an industry which always changes – follow the leader – we’re counter-culture, a throwback, with a pace and style more like 1960s and 1970s. We’re old school – fixed grip chairs top and bottom – not high speed (no six-packs or detachable quads). It spreads people out. We have snowmaking on 50%.
“We want to sustain, preserve and enhance the ski experience. What differentiates us is the people, the friendly vibe, friendly. And value? We make skiing affordable – lift prices are lower even at ticket window.
Magic Mountain has joined the Freedom Pass program.
Magic Mountain is 2 hrs from Boston, 3 ½ hours from NYC, 90 minutes from Albany. (magicmtn.com).
Off-slope Activities Appeal to Everyone at Vermont Resorts
Stowe Mountain Resort
Brand new this winter at Stowe Mountain Resort is the opening of an $80 million Adventure Center. This state-of-the art facility sets a new standard in the industry for kids and family amenities, says Jeff Wise, Marketing & Communications Director. Located at Spruce Peak and adjacent to Stowe’s new outdoor Ice Skating Rink, Stowe’s Adventure Center is home to all Stowe’s children’s programs (3-12), with ski in/out convenience. From beautiful daycare facilities (largest in Vermont, accommodating 60) to ski and ride programs for kids 3 and up (accommodating 500 children a day), the new Adventure Center has significantly advanced and expanded family amenities and services at the resort.
“It sets a new standard – visionary – we can have 500-600 kids checking in within 30 minutes. It offers a seamless experience for the family,” Wise says.
After skiing (4 pm), the Adventure Center turns into a family recreation center, offering an Indoor Climbing Center (called Stowe Rocks), a movie theater, activity center, kids-specific restaurant ,The Canteen (after 4 pm is family friendly), and right outside the door, a new ice skating rink (free skating, but rentals available), lit til 9 pm. Also, an outdoor pool, heated year round (swim in/out of building, (there is also an indoor pool in lodge next door).
The new Adventure Center is the final piece of a 15-year, $500 million building program. “The big news is that it is finally finished.”
Part of that plan was the 312-room Stowe Mountain Lodge, built at a cost of $100 million, which opened 2008, offering ski in/out convenience and now recognized as one of Top 10 in the world.
Stowe is open longer than most, Nov 19-April 21 because of $30 million snowmaking system. “New technology can make more snow at higher temps than before (we start making snow on November 1), and in fewer than 20 days, we can get 20% of top to bottom done.”
Stowe has trails on Mt. Mansfield, part of Appalachian Trail and the highest point in Vermont, second highest in New England (after Mount Washington, where people ski Tuckerman’s Ravine).
Stowe (stowe.com) also offers 75 km of cross-country skiing that connects to the Trapp Family Lodge. (Trapp just opened a beer hall).
Always innovative, Stowe Mountain Lodge, which is managed by Destination Hotels, is celebrating the opening of the new adventure center with a “digital detox for the family” package, incentivizing people to give up their phone for a period of time in exchange for learning a new experience. There are 22 to choose from including “learn to” ski, snowboard, rock climb, fat-tire bike, try the spa (there is a kids spa, too). “We want ‘screenteens’ to turn back into regular teens,” says Leslie Kilgore, Director of Public Relations & Social Media. (www.stowemountainlodge.com)
Smugglers’ Notch Resort
After investing $5 million in snowmaking enhancements over the last four winters, Smugglers’ Notch Resort is turning its attention to the resort village’s most popular amenity for families, the FunZone. The new 26,000 sq. ft. FunZone replaces a bubble with a multi-story, indoor steel structure opening in March (Smuggs is very much a 4-season resort).
One section of the new FunZone will feature inflatables, games and areas for imaginative play with primary appeal to families with kids ages 2 to 10. A second area will offer features with appeal to older children and adults such as a ninja warrior-type obstacle course, laser tag, a climbing wall, column walk, slot car racing, and arcade and redemption center. The new FunZone, a $4 million investment, is expected to open mid-winter 2016-17.
Smugglers Notch, now in its 60th season, has always been the trailblazer in family programs (Ski Magazine for 16th time voted Smuggs the #1 family friendly resort in eastern US), including innovative Mommy & Me, Daddy & Me ski/snowboard lessons where the parent tags along and learns the techniques to continue the child’s training.
Now, Smuggs has introduced Riglet Park, a special snowboard area for the smallest kids. “It’s hard to learn snowboarding so we build features out of snow and drag them around –they don’t just take up the hill,” says Mike Chait, who prior to becoming Public Relations Manager headed the Ski & Ride school. The program was developed by Chait with Burton, and means that youngsters as young as 2 ½ can start learning snowboarding (indoors), and 3 years old (outside). The day-care facility also has its own 20-foot magic carpet which gives a fun introduction to non-skiing kids.
Smuggs also pioneered packages that included programming, and this year, is catering to the shift in how guests vacation – shorter periods, more time (Link: smuggs.com/winterbrochure).
A relatively new Winter Experience is designed for family members or individuals who don’t ski, but want to be on the mountain, so they get to pick from a menu of programs, such as snowshoeing, massage.
Smugglers Notch is a true, full-service resort, albeit overwhelmingly with families in mind, so it is like camp for everybody (the information guide is huge booklet, so it is worth your while to plan ahead).
Among the special activities you should pre-arrange: a Nighttime Cat Trax Tour, where you ride a snowcat up steep vertical pitch to the mountain top at night –it feels like riding a space rover – to a heated cabin from which on a clear night, you can see Montreal.
Also a Parents Night Out activity takes you up to the top of the Notch for a Snowshoe Dinner. (This is offered in conjunction with Kids Nite Out, when the kids get pizza, make your own sundae, movies and dance party). Parents ride the chair up to a catered candle-lit dinner catered by Hearth n Candle (Smuggs’ signature restaurant) in a heated building (BYOB). Then, you take a guided snowshoe hike to Sterling Pond, the highest elevation trout pond. (Offered once/week ($75) (4323 Vermont Rte 108 South, Smugglers’ Notch VT 05464, www.smuggs.com).
Okemo Mountain Resort
After several years of major snowmaking improvements totaling more than $1 million, Okemo is expanding its snowmaking system again. 18,000 feet of new pipe will introduce snowmaking capabilities on Catnap and Suncatcher in the South Face area. A Prinoth Bison X park cat, equipped with a Caterpillar 400 horsepower, tier 4 engine that meets all federal emission standards, is the newest addition to Okemo’s fleet of grooming machines as Okemo enters its third year of partnership with Snowpark Technologies. Rental equipment upgrades include 515 Volkl skis, 153 Burton snowboards and more than 1,000 pairs of boots.
Also, Okemo has joined the M.A.X Pass family of resorts this year. Okemo season passholders can take their pass on the road – up to 30 mountains (including Okemo’s sister mountain, Crested Butte in Colorado) with an Add-On upgrade.
Among the many attractions at Okemo (including indoor and outdoor pools at Jackson Gore, the ski in/out lodge), is a year-round mountain coaster.
Okemo is now offering scenic train rides –a shuttle takes you to the Green Mountain Railroad station in Chester, 20 miles south, for its slow ride back to Okemo. It offers a dining car so you can do dinner on the train. It takes one hour each way. Okemo offers the ride twice, four days a week ($25, booked through Okemo). (okemo.com)
Stratton Mountain Resort
Stratton Mountain Resort announces an addition to the vibrant slope-side Village dining fleet– Karma: an Asian fusion experience. A menu inspired by the Asian travels of Karma’s chef will debut with traditional ramen bowls and dumplings fresh-made with local ingredients, imaginative entrees and craft cocktails with a twist like vodka filtered through Herkimer diamonds for a side of positive energy.
Stratton’s snowmaking fleet gets a new computerized control system, allowing snowmakers to record real time energy use for increased snowmaking efficiency.
The Mountain Sports School welcomes Tim Massucco as its new Program Manager for the Stratton Winter Sports Club Freestyle. Massucco’s 16 years of coaching experience will enhance the training curriculums critical to the success of weekend and full-time competitive freestyle skiers.
The Stratton Jitney which began last year will again take skiers from Manhattan on Friday, returning Sunday afternoon (beginning December).
And in another incentive for millennials, its Stratitude Pass is now available for 18-32 year olds (instead of 1829) – $349 and no blackout days. (Stratton.com)
Mount Snow Resort
Winter 2016-2017 welcomes Mount Snow’s greatest season pass offering yet, the Peak Pass, which features a total of six pass options valid at seven different mountain locations across four states in the Northeast. And Mount Snow extended the period for millennials, 18-29, to purchase its pass for $399 through Dec. 15 (no blackouts).
With the success of the Grommet Jam Series, Mount Snow is increasing the uphill capacity in its beginner terrain park by 50 percent, by replacing our Ski Baba Lift with a 400’ SunKid conveyor called Grommet (Lift One).
Lastly, taking advantage of the dry spring this year Mount Snow increased trail and glades work. So far over 1600+ hours have been spent pruning, mowing and clearing new lines through tree skiing areas in preparation for powdery runs this winter.
Mount Snow’s terrain park has been voted #1 in the East and #6 in North America. “It’s not often an East Coast resort is in the top 10,” says Jamie Storrs, Communications Manager. “We are where the X Games started. Our lead pro, Devan Logan, is the most decorated Olympian, winning gold in the last Olympics, and the captain of team. He is the face of our professional team – we have 11 people on team – who are out there training most days.” Guests can watch.
Mount Snow is the most southerly of the major Vermont ski resorts. (West Dover, VT 05356, mountsnow.com).
Sugarbush has invested $750,000 into capital improvements for the 2016-17 winter season which including lift improvements and improvements to the snowmaking pond, continuing to progress upon the on-slope experience. Skiers and riders don’t have to worry about crowded trails thanks to the Valley House Quad Sugarbush installed last season. With the new quad, Sugarbush’s uphill capacity is one of the largest in the northeast, while still managing to spread traffic across 16 lifts and two mountains. The resort has also completed Gadd Brook Residences, sixteen ski-in/ski-out condominiums at the base of Lincoln Peak available as two-, three-, and four-bedroom units.
Sugarbush, located in central Vermont, offers 139 trails on two mountains connected by the world’s longest detachable quad lift, and 2,000 acres of back-country skiing (there is a shuttle to take you back). (www.sugarbush.com)
One of the special features of Bolton Valley, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this season, is that it offers night skiing, and this year, night skiing hours are being expanded. Night skiing will be offered Tuesday through Saturday until 10 pm – that means you can ski Tuesday through Friday from 10 am to 10 pm, and Saturdays from 9 am to 10 pm (the daily ticket is good for night skiing). “There are amazing sunsets from the mountain, overlooking Lake Champlain in the west,” says Josh Arneson, VP of sales and marketing.
Bolton Valley is also renowned for their extensive 1,200-acre backcountry area, where they have two backcountry cabins– one from 1928 and the other from 1935 – which are available for winter stays (the cabins hadn’t been available for two years while they were being renovated by the Green Mountain Club). Rugged and rustic, you get up there with your own supplies (sleeping back, food) – firewoord is provided – and can stay over.
There are also 15 km of groomed x-country trails, but above that is backcountry skiing.
Skiers will enjoy the benefits of more snowmaking, so Bolton Valley can make snow earlier and get to more trails faster.
Bolton Valley’s hallmark is its rustic, unpretentious quality – a step up from Magic Mountain and Mad River Glen because it has ski in/out lodging and indoor pool (the cafe and bar have been renovated). But it also has some unique programs: artist Natasha Bogar, who did the art that is in the hotel rooms, offers Paint Nights, where you come to paint and have a beer.
Over the past year most suites and 25 hotel rooms at Bolton Valley have received major upgrades. The units have seen improvements such as new carpet, drapes, furniture, painting, renovated bathrooms, new mattresses and new artwork. The improvements greatly enhance guest comfort in the rooms that had become a bit dated. Indeed, the hotel was one of the first ski in/ski out lodgings in the east when it was built.
Bolton Valley, the popular playground for Burlington, is celebrating its 50th anniversary year. “We’re planning to paint the 50th chair on the three original lifts gold – and if you get the golden chair, you might win something,” Arneson says.
Mad River Glen’s goal is to maintain and preserve the experience rather than overhaul or upgrade it.
“We’re the food truck of ski areas – authenticity – only cooperatively owned, nonprofit.
2000 skier-owners are dedicated to keeping Mad River Glen the way it is – a time warp.”
“The ability of Mad River Glen to consistently reinvest in the mountain’s infrastructure is a testament to the success of the Cooperative. Both the skier-owners and the management understand that skiers come to Mad River for the unique combination of legendary terrain, sense of community, low skier density and intimate atmosphere. In 20 years of co-op ownership, Mad River Glen has invested over $5 million in capital improvements.
Woodstock Inn & Resort’s Suicide Six Ski Area replaces chair #1 with a new quad chairlift that will double capacity, offering a more comfortable and rapid ascent to the summit. Leitner-Poma of America, Inc., installed the lift at an estimated cost of $1.5 million. Funding for the new chairlift is being provided through a grant from the Laurance S. Rockefeller Fund. Recognized as one of the oldest ski areas in the country, Suicide Six has a rich history. Today, Suicide Six is one of Vermont’s leading family-friendly ski resorts featuring more than 100 acres of skiing on 24 trails and slopes with terrain suitable for all abilities. (www.woodstockinn.com/ski-area)
Bromley Mountain Resort
Green Team Go! With a focus on both establishing new habits and reinforcing current good ones, Bromley rethinks trash, recycling and composting food waste to implement a “Go Green” initiative this winter season. The intent is to eliminate organic waste and all recyclables from the Bromley dumpsters containing refuse destined for the landfill. Recycling for bottles and cans has always been available around the resort, but not universally across the base area, and composting has never been an option. This season bring change and while Bromley works towards keeping the planet beautiful, they’re pleased to announce that base area buildings have also received a makeover. (bromley.com)
Jay Peak Resort
The folks at Jay Peak are still of the mind that the 5,000 acres between their borders represent one massive terrain park, but they understand the need for focus. So this season the resort is increasing the snowmaking capacity to its LZ and Jug Handle parks by 60%, running a new waterline up the Interstate trail and installing 20 new guns along the Interstate. The expansion will not only allow Jay Peak parks to open sooner, but will also allow the resort to open learning terrain at its Tramside area earlier in the season. (jaypeakresort.com)
The Hermitage Club
The Hermitage Club, in Wilmington, has taken over Haystack Mountain as a private club, investing $125 million in the redevelopment, with $285 million more to go.
At its busiest, there would only be about 1100 people on the mountain at any one time. It offers fine restaurants and inns.
“The Hermitage Club is looking forward to providing one of the fastest and most efficient ski experiences in the northeast. Not only do our members enjoy the absence of lift lines, our high-speed summit lift is the only one of its kind in the U.S. – a six-person heated bubble lift by Doppelmayr, zipping our skiers to the top of the mountain in less than six minutes. And take a break and enjoy the beverages and views at our Mid-Mountain Cabin, which has become a veritable slope side oasis for our members.” (hermitageclub.com)
The Quechee Club ushers in a new experience for its members, visitors and area guests this winter season with the completion of a newly constructed Aquatic Complex and fitness club expansion. The complex includes a new indoor pool area with an aerobics room, in addition to implementing a new retention pond. The indoor complex, approximately 10,000 square feet, is twice the size of its initial pool and includes four lap lanes and an open concept design with natural post and beam architecture to complement the refined yet understated aesthetics of the Clubhouse.(www.quecheeclub.com)
Mountaintop Inn & Resort
Mountaintop Inn & Resort is a four-season resort that in winter, affords top-notch cross-country skiing on 60 km of trails.
It offers a 32-room lodge plus 4 cabins and 23 guest houses, literally set on the top of a mountain, with a 748-acre lake and spa (known for weddings and particularly winter weddings).
The inn is 15 miles from Killington, and it offers packages that include lift tickets, as well as shuttle service to the mountain. (195 Mountain top Road, Chittenden, VT 05737, www.mountaintopinn.com).
Burke Mountain Resort
The Lodge at Burke Mountain will finally open its doors on September 1st with introductory rates starting from $109/night during its first month of daily service. The 116 room Hotel is situated mid-mountain and provides a true ski-in ski-out experience. Suites range from a standard studio to three bedroom with onsite amenities including a pub, restaurant, heated pool & hot tub, fitness center, arcade, retail and repair shop for guests to enjoy. Striking views of the Willoughby Gap and Burke Mountain can be seen from nearly every window in the Hotel. (skiburke.com, 866-966-4820).
For more information, visit Ski Vermont (Vermont Ski Areas Association), skivermont.com