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)
Never content to rest on laurels, Vermont ski areas are constantly improving the guest experience. A big part of that comes via annual improvements and each year, the mountain resorts spend their off-seasons bettering everything from facilities, terrain and ticket/pass options to off-slope activities and amenities.
This year, guests from around the world will find $51 million in improvements, including snowmaking and grooming to virtually guarantee excellent conditions. The gains are throughout Vermont’s ski areas, but the growing number of major resorts that have come under Vail Resorts’ umbrella or Anterra Mountain, not only funnels money capital investment in infrastructure and gives the resorts a global profile, but gives resorts like Mount Snow, Okemo and Stowe (now part of Vail and Epic Pass) the ability to improve the guest experience through technology improvements as well as best practices in operating lifts, snowmaking, parking, ticketing, safety, efficiency and sustainability initiatives.
Here are the many ways in which skiing and riding in
Vermont will be better than ever this upcoming season:
Mount Snow Resort
Snowmaking improvements continue to be a priority at Mount Snow, which (along with Hunter Mountain in New York and 15 other New England and Mid-Atlantic resorts became part of Vail Resorts with its acquisition of Peak Resorts (and therefore included on the Epic Pass). This winter will see improvements to the Sunbrook Face as well as Carinthia Parks. On the Sunbrook side, the resort has added 7.2 acres of snowmaking as Little Dipper will now be connected to the Northeast’s most powerful snowmaking system. This change will allow Mount Snow to open this trail earlier in the season and keep it consistently covered throughout the winter. Sunbrook is a beloved part of the mountain and guests will be able to better take advantage of this area. In Carinthia, the resort is adding snowmaking to Fool’s Gold, which increasing snowmaking coverage by an additional 9.8 acres and allowing the ops crew to transform it into a park with small features. Beginner and intermediate park enthusiasts will have a place for building skills before they move onto larger features.
These projects wouldn’t be possible
without the previous upgrades of the past three summers including the addition
of West Lake, Mount Snow’s 120-million-gallon snowmaking reservoir, as well as
new pump houses and pipes, totaling more than $30 million invested in
snowmaking. As the resort moves from 80% to 83% snowmaking coverage for this
winter, Mount Snow has its sights set on 100% coverage which could be
accomplished in the near future.
There is also snow tubing and snowmobiling. You can book a leisurely sunset tour to the summit of Mount Snow, or a trek across Somerset Reservoir through Snowmobile Vermont (book in advance, mountsnow.com/snowmobile). Unwind at Mount Snow’s Naturespa, located in the Grand Summit Resort Hotel, offering pure, natural and organic spa treatments, guided mountain treks, holistic health, and fitness specialties. (mountsnow.com)
Stowe Mountain Resort
Stowe, which is now owned by Vail Resorts and is included on
the Epic Pass, now offers Epic Mix, which enables
skiers and riders to track their days and vertical feet skied,earn digital
pins, share photos, race against the pros and check real-time liftline wait
time using their RFID chip-embedded season pass or lift ticket.
Stowe has an inter-mountain transfer gondola connecting
its two mountain peaks, Mt. Mansfield and Spruce Peak. There are new high-speed
lifts on Spruce, new base facilities, gourmet restaurants. The Stowe Mountain
Lodge, a 312 room hotel and spa, is recognized as one of the greenest and most
luxurious mountainside lodgings anywhere. There’s also a new state-of-the-art
Performing Arts Center at Spruce Peak.
New this winter atop the Mansfield
Gondola in Stowe is a resort inspired Maple Waffle Café. Located inside the
Gondola summit shelter, the new waffle experience is the perfect place to
warm-up with a delicious Vermont flavored snack. The new Whistle Pig Pavilion
adjacent to the outdoor skating rink at Spruce Peak delights skiers in the late
afternoon with gourmet tasters and whiskey toasts by the famous Vermont spirits
bottler. Stop in for a surprise and stay to sample their farm-to-table small bites
menu and the local beer and whiskey bar. “At Stowe, we are curating and
customizing on-mountain private experiences,” says Jeff Wise.
Stowe also offers an on-mountain
Kids AdventureZones, well signed areas that give kids and families the
opportunity to easily access gentle side-country areas and freestyle terrain
purpose-built for learning progression. (www.stowe.com)
Okemo Mountain Resort
Okemo Mountain Resort, which became part of Vail Resorts (and the Epic Pass) last year, has renovated its Summit Lodge and mid-mountain Sugar House with a $2 million infusion of capital. On the slopes, Okemo has secured its reputation for consistent and reliable snow quality and surface conditions through more upgrades to its snowmaking system. Installation of 5,000 feet of pipe completed a five-year project to replace main feeds to Okemo’s snowmaking system across the entire mountain. And this winter, skiers and riders will be able to experience the entire mountain in a new way with EpicMix, a free app that provides access to a variety of features from their mobile phones. They can check snow conditions and lift-wait times, view web cams and trail maps, track vert, earn digital pins, and even track Ski & Snowboard School progress and accomplishments.
Season pass introductions this
winter include a new Northeast College Pass that offers unlimited, unrestricted
access to Okemo and Mount Sunapee, in New Hampshire, as well as unlimited
access with holiday restrictions to Stowe. Also, Vail Resorts has launched Epic
Day Pass, allowing guests to ski world-class resorts for less than
One of our favorite New England ski mountains with its
long, scenic cruisers, Okemo also offers an assortment of activities for
families to enjoy together. For a thrill, try Okemo’s Timber Ripper
Mountain Coaster or go snow tubing down a specially groomed chute in the
Jackson Gore courtyard; skate at Okemo’s ice skating pavilion; rent a fat bike
for riding on snow; go snowshoeing; cross country skiing; work on your golf
game at Okemo’s indoor golf facility. Chill out with an after-hours snowcat
excursion to the top of the mountain, take a swim or soak in a hot tub at
Okemo’s Spring House Pool & Fitness Center.. Enjoy a massage or a facial at
The Adventure Zone located in Okemo’s Jackson Gore area
offers year-round activities soar through the treetops on Sawyer’s Sweep
Zipline Tour or go off-roading on a Segway PT Tour; launch yourself into the
Amp Energy Big Air Bag; climb the climbing wall; putt Cal’s Miniature Golf
Course or challenge yourself on the 18-hole Disc Golf course.
A wide variety of trailside and mountainside lodging options provide great ski-in/ski-out convenience, but our favorite is Jackson Gore. (okemo.com)
The “Beast of the East,” Killington is the biggest ski
resort in New England and has the longest season. A Powdr resort, Killington
and its sister resort Pico are both partnering in the IkonPass, allows 5-7 days on the pass. Killington offers the Beast 365 All-Seasons Pass gives
guests access to everything at Killington, all year long. It starts in summer
with unlimited lift and trail access for 30 miles of mountain biking, plus golf
course greens fees and access to the Adventure Center including zipline, ropes
course and a year-round downhill coaster; pass
holders also get access to discounts every month, that could consist of spa or
golf. Accommodations are mostly along the access road (though we adored our
stay at nearby Mountaintop Inn), and now owns the legendary Wobbly Barn
Killington offers Woodward, an experiential action
sports company on a mission to inspire next generation sports experiences
through intuitive programming and innovative environments. It’s where the most
passionate people come together to stoke new levels of growth, confidence and a
lifelong love of their favorite sports. Woodward at Killington is the East
Coast destination for action sports progression, providing mountain experiences
built to inspire and empower youth to reach their potential and experienced
athletes to take it to the next level. The Woodward experience at Killington
includes Woodward Mountain Park in the winter and then, when the snow melts,
the Woodward WreckTangle ninja obstacle challenge.
Killington offers seven distinct mountain areas including Killington Peak, the second highest point in the state at 4,241 feet and a vertical drop of 3,050 ft, and 212 trails and 1,977 of skiable acres including Pico. (killington.com)
Pico Mountain, which is Killington’s sister mountain, is undergoing major upgrades to its snowmaking system, which means guests will experience a better, more consistent and more reliable snow surface. Picohas a very different feel from its sister resort, Killington, just next door. A self-contained resort with slopeside lodging, Pico has 57 trails serviced by seven lifts, including two high-speed detachable quads, Its more intimate scale, gentle learning terrain, smooth cruisers and classically narrow New England steeps, that all that funnel to a single base make it ideal for families. Even the most selective skiers and riders will be impressed by Pico’s vertical drop of 1,967’ – taller than 80% of Vermont ski areas. (picomountain.com)
Stratton Mountain Resort
Last January’s Snow Bowl Express launch was a game changer, creating quick access to a blend of terrain from the legendary World Cup and tree-lined Drifter to a three-mile beginner run from the summit of southern Vermont’s highest peak. The new skier and rider is a focus this season with 12,500 feet of new snowmaking pipe, featuring the latest hydrant technology, for the learning zone. Plus, a one-acre parallel teaching area has been crafted to eliminate the fear factor as beginners build a foundation with basic skills, including stance and balance, before heading up the 550-foot covered carpet. Kids snowboarding has never been easier with the addition of a new Burton Riglet Park for 2019-20.
There’s lift-served snow tubing, moonlight snowshoe
tours, and 12 km of cross-country trails for skiing and fat biking. Unwind
with a massage from the Village Day Spa or enjoy a dog sled ride through
Vermont’s wooded terrain. Stratton’s Training and Fitness Center offers
Olympic-sized, salt-water swimming pool, cardio and weight room and the Cliff
Drysdale Tennis Center. Stroll through the Village to enjoy cafes and shops or
venture 20 minutes down Route 100 to Manchester for shopping at 40 designer
Now part of the Alterra Mountain Company, Stratton is included on its Ikon Pass, now offering access to nearly 82,000 acres at 38 premier mountain destinations across the globe. (Stratton.com)
Sometimes it’s the little things that add up to a whole lot of change. Sugarbush has invested in a number of smaller projects this summer to improve the guest experience heading into the ski season. The Lincoln Peak Courtyard has been rebuilt with cobblestones, firepits, gardens, and bar tops. Two new EV charging stations are getting installed at Mt. Ellen for the electric car user looking to shred Vermont’s third-highest peak. Its focus on environmentalism is also demonstrated by donating 1% of restaurant receipts for Protect Our Winter, advocating for climate action, and is partnering with a Vermont business that builds solar arrays to generate 2.5 MW, enough to power Mount Ellen. Additionally, there is now snowmaking on a more opened-up Sleeper Road, and plenty of new infrastructure upgrades around the lodges and lifts.
Sugarbush also actively supports the community. “We’re big on the community. We have a nice base area
with restaurants, but we encourage guests to go to Mad River Valley. We
have shuttle bus through day til 5 or 6, and Saturday late to 2 am. We
encourage people to shop, eat, patronize the artisans,
An independent resort, Sugarbush is part of the Ikon Pass and
The Mountain Collective. “We can pivot faster
as an independent. We do specialty passes: for 20s, for 30s, Boomers (65+)
discounted Quad Pack- 4 lift tickets for $249 which are transferable.
Wynn Smith purchased
Sugarbush in 2001 (unfortunately, on September 10) and between 2004-2008, he
rebuilt the entire Lincoln Peak Village (Mt Ellen is old school). There is a
hotel, new lodge, two ski schools (one for adults, one for kids).
“We have the largest
detachable quad, the Slide Brook Express, in world – 2 miles – connecting Mt
Ellen & Lincoln Peak. You can ski the back country between and use a
shuttle bus or take the Slide Brook
Express back,” says John Blley.
Cabin Cat Adventures also offer a great way to experience
the mountain, whether it’s Allyn’s Lodge Fireside Dining at the top of Gadd
Peak, Cabin Cat First Tracks on a powder day or Sunset Groomer Rides to the top
of Lincoln Peak. Other activities available in Mad River Valley include
ice-skating, an Icelandic horse farm, a locally owned movie theater and cross
country skiing. (sugarbush.com)
Smugglers’ Notch Resort
Notch Resort’s claim to fame is the total experience the resort offers. There
is probably no other ski resort that is so focused on family togetherness,
pioneering a vast array of activities families enjoy together as Smugglers
Notch. Families can vary their vacation days by joining craft sessions,
broomball challenges, scavenger hunts, snow cat tours, story times, and pool
games (included in their Smugglers’ vacation package). Smuggs has also
introduced S.T.E.A.M. activities that bring fun ways to explore science,
technology, engineering, arts, and math. “We’ve cracked
the code with new family
dynamics,” said Michael Chait. “Kids get to see their parents play… Family
programs touch on every family dynamic, from the new parent to the great
FunZone 2.0 offers
26,000 square feet of indoor fun: an adventure center (laser tag,
climbing tower, giant slide), a café serving beer and wine, so parents can
relax while kids play. Outdoor activities include snowmobile tours through the
historic Smugglers’ Notch pass, and CatTrax heated-cabin snow cat rides to the
summits of Smugglers’ most popular peaks.
There’s so much to do, this is the ski resort you want to
stay longer at – not just ski and stay – 43 pages of activities in 7-day
period. Everybody has something even if they don’t ski. There are even
activity packages that don’t include skiing.
The condo-style accommodations provide plenty of space
for families to spread out, have meals and snacks in the condo (every condo has
a crock pot; there is a country store on the mountain with the essentials and a
grocery store 15 minutes away that you can shop at on the drive up).
Apart from its reputation as the most family-friendly ski resort anywhere, there is serious skiing to be had on three mountains: Morse (all green, so there is a natural separation of ability) while Madonna and Sterling are big, steep and deep; Sterling has a great variety of cruisers (great for intermediates) to bump up skill on short black. Madonna is the toughest, with some of the steepest trails (even a double-black) in the East, but there are also a couple of blues from top (Chilcoot and Drifter). (smuggs.com)
Vermont Adaptive Ski & Sports
Vermont Adaptive Ski & Sports serves
people with physical, cognitive and emotional/behavioral disabilities from
all over the world of all abilities
in three Vermont ski destinations during the winter:
Killington Resort and Pico Mountain in Killington; Sugarbush Resort in Warren;
and Bolton Valley Ski Area in Bolton (though with enough notice, programs can
be organized at other resorts as well). Summer programs are
provided state-wide. Many of the programs include environmental education, wellness,
and special programs designed specifically for veterans.
If a family member uses wheelchair, we can provide instruction. Scholarships are available for those for whom cost is a factor. The organization offers veterans programs all over the state – ski and snowboarding in winter, mountain biking in summer.
Vermont Adaptive is a nationally recognized organization
that empowers people of all abilities through inclusive sports and recreational
programming regardless of ability to pay. In addition to sports, year-round programming options
integrate environmental, holistic wellness, and competitive training
philosophies for people of all ages with cognitive, developmental, physical and
“We are recognized nationally for our client-centered
programs and for providing access and instruction to sports and recreational
activities with the belief that these things provide a physical, mental and
social experience that is immeasurable in promoting self-confidence and
independence in an individual,” said Lexi Moore, team manager.
Vermont Adaptive offers the largest variety of program
opportunities and specialized equipment.
Vermont Adaptive promotes independence and furthers equality through access and
instruction to sports and recreational opportunities including alpine skiing,
snowboarding, and other winter sports; kayaking, canoeing, stand-up paddle
boarding, sailing, cycling, hiking, rock climbing, tennis, horseback
riding, environmental programs
and CORE Connections wellness retreats.
With nearly 400 active volunteers, plus generous partners and sponsors, and an amazing base of clients and friends, Vermont Adaptive Ski & Sports has been at the forefront of sports and recreation for those with disabilities for more than 30 years. (vermontadaptive.org)
Whoa, what a Christmas present: December has been very kind to Killington which already had a decent base when we arrived just before Christmas, then had nearly two feet more of powder by the end of Christmas Day, much to the delight of skiers and snowboarders who clearly raced away from opening gifts to enjoy the acres and acres of fresh powder snow. With Killington’s elevation and a 3,000 ft. vertical drop, the powder made you feel you were skiing the Rockies.
Killington, known as the “Beast of the East,” is the largest ski area in New England – sprawling across six-mountain peaks, the highest at 4,241’ elevation, affording 1,509 skiable acres, 155 trails totaling 73 miles. Of the 21 lifts, three are gondolas, and of the nine quads, five are high-speed express. (Pico Mountain, Killington’s sister resort (Killington’s ticket is valid there), is its 7th peak; it is not connected by lift but there is shuttle service between the resorts.)
The resort offers multiple terrain features for snowboarders and freeskiers in six terrain parks including The Stash, an all-natural inspired terrain park with more than 65 features, and NeffLand, an outer-space themed terrain park with rocket and planet style jibs, as well as two pipes.
Killington is absolutely phenomenal for black-diamond skiers and skiers who are comfortable regardless of terrain – you can just go and explore and not really care what you wind up on.
Bear Mountain is great for double-black diamond skiers, and is where you will find Outer Limits and Centerpiece (glades).
A fun narrow trail in the trees for daring intermediate (don’t have to be advanced tree skier, but should be comfortable intermediate, slightly more adventurous): Roundabout (rated a black diamond, really fun, narrow, tree experience, don’t have to be a glade skier), shoots out to a long green, Bear Cub, long easy, on the perimeter.
Intermediate skiers will need to plot out their route. One combination that I particularly enjoyed was riding K-1 to the summit and taking Blue Heaven to Bear Trax to Launch Pad (which has a particularly scenic stretch flanked on both sides by trees to Bitter Sweet where you will find a few, short steeps.
I also enjoyed taking the Skyship Gondola up to Great Eastern, a green, (I chickened out of taking the blue trail, Skylark, normally a long fun blue run, because it had a caution, “Advanced skiers only” and I wasn’t in the mood to be challenged), to connect to Cruise Control, a very pleasant blue. From there, you can ride up the Northbrook Quad back up to the Snowshed slope. Skyship tends not to be as crowded and is particularly a good place in the afternoon when it is less likely for the trails to be skied off.
There are great blues at Rams Head but this is also the area that is used for ski school and clinics, so tends to be crowded.
Green trail skiers are more restricted – the Great Eastern is a long trail but you have to watch carefully when it crosses over black and blue trails. Snowshed offers great opportunities on gentle terrain to fine-tune your form, so I didn’t mind riding the chair five minutes for the five-minute run because I enjoyed my skiing there so much. At Rams Head there is another long green trail, Easy Street.
Killington’s Discovery programs utilize Terrain Based Learning, the latest innovation in snow sports education, coupled with the promise of free equipment for skiers and snowboarders at the end of a four-lesson series.
Novel Ways to Enjoy Killington
Snowshed, indeed, is the place for novel mountain activities.
This year, you can rent a ski bike (also known as snow-bike); lessons are available as well. Killington ski bikes operates Friday through Sunday 9 am to 4 pm and daily during holidays, and rentals are offered at the Snowshed base area. Ski biking is permitted on the Snowshed and Ramshead mountain areas which provide optimal beginner to intermediate conditions. Pricing starts at $88 for a half-day rental and includes an access ticket.
It’s also where you will find The Beast Mountain Coaster, a 4,800-foot-long alpine coaster that twists and turns through the woods with 360-degree corkscrews. It hadn’t yet started operation for the season (Dec. 26, 2017-April 1, 2018), but operates 1-4 pm weekend and peak days (operations are weather dependent; check Resort Services Report for updates in real-time. Book with a Ski & Stay Package prior to arrival and save; call 800-621-6867 for reservations.
New attractions include the four-story Skye Ropes Course, Skyeride (seated zip line ride), 5,000 square foot Terra Maze, Roaring Brook Mining for the youngest adventurers, plus motorized mountain tours by Segway and All Terrain Vehicle.
Killington and Pico are catering to increasing popularity of “uphill travel” with guests choosing to reach the peaks of Bear Mountain, Snowdon, Ramshead and Pico via human vs. machine power with designated routes for each mountain area and 24/7 access (when designed routes are open).
Killington also has Vermont’s highest elevation structure: the Peak Lodge from where, on a clear day, you can actually catch views of five states plus Canada. The Peak Lodge is the most sustainable building at Killington, with forward thinking approaches to electricity (Cow Power), lighting, recycling, grey water, and refrigeration (Freeaire).
All food at the Peak Lodge is made to order, and ingredients are sourced from local farms to ensure the freshness of all dishes. Fresh local craft beer is also available from the full-service bar with views of gondola cabins cresting the head wall and arriving at the terminal.
At the Bear Mountain lodge, the chef very kindly prepared a gluten-free sandwich.
Also fun: the Waffle Haus at the bottom of Snowshed.
The Long Trail Pub at Snowshed is a great place to finish the day or wind down. The windows open up to see the skiers as they come down.
Experiential dining at Killington ranges from fresh-made fare at the Peak Lodge to snowcat-drawn sleigh rides to the Ledgewood Yurt, a ski-in-ski-out hidden gem during the day that transforms to a cozy, candlelit slice of paradise after hours.
The Motor Room Bar, located in a retired lift tower at the top of Bear Mountain overlooking two of Killington’s most feared double-black diamond runs, is reserved by single parties for an unforgettable apres – complete with private cabin-cat transportation, libations and small bites.
While Killington doesn’t have an actual village, the Killington Access road is as famous for dining institutions like the 50 year old Wobbly Barn steakhouse as it is for high energy nightlife, and the Liquid Art Café .
Casey’s Caboose is Back!
The little toy train runs again! And you can still sit up in the caboose cab, or in a snowplow. All the fun and whimsy has returned, but with seriously improved food for an altogether outstanding dining experience on Killington Road: Casey’s Caboose is back.
It is back with the color, the lights, the spirit, the toy train that runs around the room (it launches when someone hits Goofy with a quarter), and with an outstanding menu all guided by new owners who loved the Killington tradition too much to let it die. The restaurant reopened this past July after being closed for three years.
Built around an 1876 railroad caboose and a 1910 railroad snowplow, fans (like us) will be delighted to see the fun, whimsical interior, with its toy train that still runs around the room and colorful neon lights, its tiny sitting area in the caboose cab (you have to climb up a ladder and step across a space), are even better than we remembered. But the food! That is entirely new. Everything is homemade. The menu has a few nods to one of the new owners, a British gentleman who couldn’t bear to see the restaurant close, with fish and chips that are outstanding (the cod is really flavorful and fresh). The burger selections are out of this world. Who could imagine a New York Deli version, with fresh, homemade pastrami combined with the beef? Or a burger with lobster! Even so, Marco had them make his own version: a burger with egg and jalapenos. My Meat & Mushroom burger (prepared with Portobello mushroom and gruyere cheese) was perfectly prepared and one of the best ever (and served on a warm, not cold bun!). They were extremely accommodating to our requests: gluten free for Daniella; spicy for Marco. Everything is freshly made and beautifully presented. And the prices are still modest. The dessert that had everyone’s eyes popping was like a combination of every edible fantasy: chocolate, pumpkin pie and cheesecake. They also offer 21 draft beers and cider (including Long Trail), a gin kitchen with a surreal selection of gins, tonics and botanicals.
Fun fact: Casey’s Caboose was named after Jonathan Luther “John” “Casey” Jones the great American railroad engineer who died in April 30 1900 saving the passengers on his train. His mother, Mrs Jones is said to have lived near Killington in her youth.
The skis we rented from Peak Performance, just about a half-mile below Snowshed (2808 Killington Road) were fantastic. The Everyone is specifically measured and fitted for boots (Salomon brand). The skis (Fisher) were brand new and after each use are run through the shop’s tuning machine, one of three on the mountain (you have to see it; like a car wash for skis and snowboards) and performed amazingly. Even the poles, Scott brand, were top quality. Reserve online in advance and you get a 15% discount on the already really reasonable rates if you reserve on line – basically just filling out the rental form, you don’t even give a credit card. The website is extremely easy to use. When you arrive, they are ready for you. It is no wonder the shop has been rated the best in New England.
It is surprising to learn that they are also the biggest race ski center in the country, selling more racing skis than anyone, even more than Colorado. Returning was equally easy and stress-free. Peak Performance has been in business for 27 years, and the shop, owned by Fred & Denise Coriell, clearly reflects pure love of the sport. (Peak Performance, 2808 Killington Road, 802-422-9447, email@example.com, www.peakskishop.com.)
There are loads of lodging choices, including several that are managed by Killington such as the Killington Grand Hotel, right at the base.
We absolutely loved our stay at the Mountaintop Inn & Resort, a 30 minutes scenic drive away in Chittenden (the hotel offers a daily shuttle to Killington), as well as its own major cross-country ski center. (Mountain Top Inn & Resort, Chittenden, VT, 802.483.2311, www.mountaintopinn.com).
Killington Resort is a four-season destination set on 3,000 acres in the heart of Central Vermont’s Green Mountains. After the snow melts, Killington features an 18-hole championship golf course, the family-friendly Snowshed Adventure Center, 30 miles of mountain biking trails with expansion underway with Gravity Logic, plus 15 miles of hiking trails. The range of après (snowmobiling, snowshoe tours, sleigh rides, tubing), dining, and lodging options have made Killington a world-class destination for skiers and riders for over 55 years. Killington is part of the POWDR portfolio and participates in the M.A.X. program. Check the website for packages and specials.
You can check ski conditions at killington.com/conditions. For information, 800-621- 6867, www.killington.com.
The big news for Northeast skiers is that the behemoths of the ski industry have all taken up residence in Vermont – Vail Resorts with its acquisition of Stowe Mountain, and Aspen Skiing/KSL buying Stratton Mountain. That is on top of Powdr (Killington and Pico as well as Mt. Batchelor) and Peak Resorts (Mount Snow as well as Attitash, NH and Hunter Mountain, NY). These resorts were already world-class, but now they have major branding, and with their system-wide ski passes, adds incentive for Western and Midwestern skiers to venture to Vermont.
“It’s an incredible tribute to Vermont and our iconic ski industry, having Vail and Aspen, two of the most well respected, world-class ski resort operator companies, coming to Vermont,” said Parker M. Riehle, former president of the Vermont Ski Areas Association. “Those acquisitions enable these resorts to rise to the next level. The enormous marketing can only help elevate entire Ski Vermont brand.”
What’s more, it gives more of a reason for Northeastern skiers to buy Vail Resorts’ Epic Pass (Aspen/KSL is likely to come out with its own by next season), then extend with Rocky Mountain or a Western ski trip, and for Midwestern and Western skiers to come East. Skiers can also follow the snow.
Vail Resorts’ acquisition of Stowe Mountain puts it in the stable with Whistler Blackcomb in Canada (the largest ski resort in North America) as well as at Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone and Arapahoe Basin in Colorado; Park City in Utah (the largest ski resort in the US); Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood in Lake Tahoe; Afton Alps near Minneapolis, Mt. Brighton near Detroit, Wilmot Mountain near Chicago, and the 2018 Perisher season in Australia. Also, Epic Pass holders enjoy limited access to 30 European ski resorts including Verbier and Les 4 Vallées in Switzerland, Les 3 Vallées in France; Arlberg in Austria; and Skirama Dolomiti Adamello Brenta in Italy.
Stratton Mountain Resort, which was part of Intrawest, is now in the group that includes Aspen and Snowmass resorts, Intrawest flagships Steamboat and Winter Park in Colorado (though Winter Park is still owned by the City of Denver); Deer Valley, Utah; Mammoth Mountain, California’s busiest ski area, Lake Tahoe’s Squaw and Alpine, and Tremblant in Quebec., plus heli operator Canadian Mountain Holidays.
Here are highlights of what skiers and snowboarders can experience at Vermont’s mountain resorts:
The big news is that the venerable Bolton Valley ski resort, which celebrated its 50th anniversary last year, has been reacquired by a group of local investors headed by the resort’s founder, Ralph DesLauriers and his son, Evan, so is very much “locally owned” and family run.
Bolton Valley is upgrading its snowmaking system for the 2017-18 winter season. The pumps at the Timberline pumphouse will be balanced, allowing for more water to be pushed uphill, more quickly. The resort is also expanding its gun and hose inventory. Combined, these two upgrades will allow the resort to blow snow in multiple locations at the same time. The additional guns and hoses will also reduce downtime when the crews need to change locations. The overall benefit will be more snow earlier in the season and more trails getting covered faster than last year.
Bolton Valley is famous for offering over 1200 acres of backcountry. All of the terrain is mapped and easy to access by skinning up from the Nordic Center or taking the Wilderness lift and heading far skier’s right. The staff at the Nordic Center is always available to provide maps and suggest routes. The Catamount Trail Association hosts a few days of backcountry clinics to help those new to the sport become comfortable on their skis. When you are ready to test your mettle, check out one of the many events from the weekly uphill Skimo race series to the 24 Hours of Bolton Valley backcountry ski race. You can even arrange to overnight in cabins in the backcountry.
Bolton offers 71 trails along three peaks, the most extensive night skiing in Vermont (trails open until 10 pm for total of 79 hours week)
Bolton is a self-contained destination resort with ski in/out lodging; an indoor recreation center with pool and opening additional dining options including Bailey’s, for hot-served breakfast and lunch on weekends and holidays.
Bolton participates in the Freedom Pass program – 13 other independent mountains including Magic Mountain.
Magic Mountain’s new ownership continues its capital investment in one of Vermont’s “throwback” ski areas, proud of its “Old School” retro feel and fixed grip lifts.
After winning Liftopia’s award for best ski area in North America, Ski Magic LLC is building on its successful inaugural winter by putting more capital to work expanding the snowmaking system, adding two new lifts (the new green lift accesses beginner, intermediate terrain and a new magic carpet in a new learning area) and enhancing the classic lodge where the Black Line Tavern is recognized as one of the East’s most spirited après ski scenes. Key to Ski Magic’s efforts is broadening its ski offering to welcome more beginner, novice and intermediate skiers/riders. Magic will now have a new beginner area with a StarLift carpet conveyor lift for its Learning Center. The addition of the new Green Chair Lift servicing base-to-mid mountain intermediate and beginner terrain allows easier access to classic skiing for all ability levels. In combination with expanded snowmaking and grooming capabilities, the new Green Chair area will allow Magic to open earlier than ever by Thanksgiving.
Magic has been a leader in “uphill” traffic (people who shun the lift for the additional exercise) and that vibe continues to be actively supported as Magic has seen a two-fold increase in traffic going up by either skinning or snowshoeing. Magic never charges people getting up the mountain and in fact, provides a free lift ride token at the top for all uphill skiers or split-boarders. Long known for southern Vermont’s most extensive and challenging lift served tree-skiing, Magic also has guided backcountry tours this coming season with shuttle van pick-ups all of which must be reserved through the Learning Center. Snowshoeing trails will also be marked this fall so snowshoers can discover trails winding through the woods to the top of the mountain and to Sunshine Corner for great views of southern Vermont.
While located in southern Vermont (near Stratton and Bromley), Magic offers the terrain and ski experience of northern Vermont.
“It’s what it’s like to not be a KSL or Vail. We take the mountain back to a different era, a different experience that hearkens back to golden age of Vermont skiing,” says Geoff Hatheway, CEO.
Magic is part of the Freedom Pass program with 13 other independent mountains (including Bolton Valley, and Plattekill, NY)
Smugglers’ Notch Resort
Smugglers’ Notch Resort in northern Vermont continues to build on their award-winning programs and amenities which aim to provide an exceptional experience for fun-lovers of all ages. The completion of the FunZone 2.0 hits that mark and then some. With activities like a multi-course Smugglers’ Warrior Challenge, massive laser tag arena, Smugglers’ themed Mountain Rally Races slot car track, arcade, and transparent climbing tower, everyone in the family is included in the fun. Of course, the elements which made the original FunZone such a hit are still included, in the second floor of the complex, known as the Ozone. Additionally, toddlers can ignite their imaginations in the Littles’ Loft toddler play area. With features such as bouncy castle, pirate ship inflatable obstacle course, and Vermont inspired country store, toddlers can let their energy out while playing like the grown-ups they admire.
Families have always enjoyed skiing and riding together on their winter vacations at Smugglers’. Last winter there were more activities in the mix, as the resort responded to requests by families for even more activities to enjoy together. Families chose to vary their vacation days by joining craft sessions, broomball challenges, scavenger hunts, snowcat tours, story times and pool games, which were included in their Smugglers’ vacation package. Most popular activities? Oohing and ahhing over the weekly torchlight parade and fireworks, belting out tunes in family karaoke and building a sled to launch from a jump in I-Did-A-Sled – all had approval ratings of more than 95 percent.
Stratton Mountain Resort
Stratton, which is now part of the Aspen/Snowmass, Intrawest, Mammoth, Squaw, Deer Valley group, has expanded its fleet of 11 groomers includes two new Bison X Prinoth cats which guides the team in crafting seamless corduroy and terrain park features and transports guests to mid-mountain for a starlight gourmet dinner held every Saturday this winter. Combined with more than 1,200 efficient (HKD and fan) guns, Stratton’s seasoned operations team creates epic snow with less energy, including a 40% reduction in diesel use with the switch to electric compressors.
Stratton, which was just acquired as part of the mega-merger of Aspen Sking and KSL of Intrawest, has joined the M.A.X Pass family, giving their season pass holders the option to add five days of skiing and riding, with zero blackout days, at each of 42 other resorts across North America for just $329.
Stowe Mountain Resort
Stowe Mountain Resort, newly acquired by Vail Resorts is now Epic (as in Epic Pass) for the 2017-18 winter season. Starting at only $859, the Epic Pass offers unlimited, unrestricted access to Stowe Mountain Resort and the Epic Local Pass, $639, will offer 10 days of skiing at Stowe. The iconic, East Coast resort is the newest among 45 of the world’s most renowned mountain destinations to be offered with the Epic Pass – which includes the best of the West throughout 10 world-class destination resorts.
The new, $30 million Stowe Adventure Center is a state-of-the art facility that sets a new standard in the industry for kids and family amenities. Located at Spruce Peak, Stowe’s Adventure Center is home to all the children’s programs. From daycare facilities to ski and ride programs for kids 3 and up, the new Adventure Center has significantly advanced and expanded luxurious family amenities and services at the resort. The building also includes new shops, an Indoor Climbing Center (called Stowe Rocks) and family-friendly dining in The Canteen restaurant
Fulfilling the need for family fun off the slopes has been the number one trend at Stowe Mountain Resort over the past several years. That’s why Stowe has recently opened several new amenities in the beautiful Spruce Peak Village Center. Here, at the base of Stowe Mountain, families can enjoy free ice skating (11 am to 9 pm daily) on the new rink centrally located at Spruce (rentals available). On one end of the rink is the new Pavilion building that hosts both children’s activities such as arts and crafts, along with a wine bar for the adults. Also, adjacent to the outdoor ice rink is the Stowe Rocks indoor climbing center. Suitable for all ages, Stowe Rocks has 6 different program walls and a free-standing 40-foot ‘Elephant Head’ tower.
Spruce Peak is also home to the relatively new Stowe Mountain Lodge, one of the most awarded new ski-in ski-out luxury hotels & spas in the world.
Uphill travel at Sugarbush continues to see huge increases in popularity over the last few seasons. The resort offers free uphill travel passes valid for skinning up designated routes at the resort before and after lift-served operating hours. Sugarbush enters its fourth year with such a policy. The resort hosts Tour De Moon several times throughout the season – a guided skin to Walt’s at the Glen House at Mt. Ellen and offers an uphill travel option for Allyn’s Lodge Fireside Dining.
In addition, the resort is replacing two of its older double lifts, the Village Double and Sunshine Double, with new fixed-grip quads. There are new RFID gates to speed access, new snowmaking.
With the widespread conglomeration of ski resorts, Sugarbush is emphatically proud of being independently owned and operated (the owner can be found skiing some 100 days).
Sugarbush is replacing the old ticket scanning system with RFID gates at all base lifts. Other projects to improve the guest experience include purchasing new SnowLogic guns, replacing the motor for the North Ridge Quad, installing a new snowmaking pipe on Which Way, new air compressor for snowmaking and purchasing two new Pisten Bully groomers (one specifically designed for the terrain park).
New for the 2017-18 season, Sugarbush has joined the Mountain Collective, an international pass with access to 16 premier ski destinations all over the world.
The resort is creating new trails for hiking and mountain biking for spring 2018, and Nordic and snowshoeing and ski biking at its center. Tuesday nights offer snowshoeing and picnic on the mountain.
Killington, “The Beast of the East,” the site of the Audi FIS Ski World Cup over Thanksgiving Weekend, brings new, lower season pass pricing on their Unlimited Season Passes offering unrestricted access to the longest season in the East at an even better value than last season. Killington continues to replace snowmaking infrastructure to ensure their ability to deliver a consistent ski and ride experience.
Killington is committed to providing the highest quality snow surface possible. As part of this commitment, POWDR continues to upgrade the resort’s snowmaking system, from pipes and pumps, to snowguns and snowcats. As part of a $1M investment in conjunction with Efficiency Vermont, Killington and Pico will add new low-energy tower-mounted snowguns that use a fraction of the power compared to older models. Additionally, three new state-of-the-art energy efficient snowcats will produce top-notch manicured trails and terrain parks at Killington and Pico.
A Learn to ski and snowboard Discovery” program consists of 4 days lift tickets and rental, then you get to keep a free pair of skis.
Killington and Pico are catering to increasing popularity of “uphill travel” with guests choosing to reach the peaks of Bear Mountain, Snowdon, Ramshead and Pico via human vs. machine power with designated routes for each mountain area and 24/7 access (when designed routes are open).
(We were delighted to learn that Casey’s Caboose, a delightful restaurant near Killington, had been closed for four years, but was acquired by a Brit who loves Killington and has reopened the restaurant.)
Killington and Pico are two of four Vermont resorts to offer the M.A.X Pass add-on for season passholders. The add on at $329, gives purchasers five days of additional skiing and riding at any of the 42 participating resorts nationwide, including Stratton, Okemo, Sunday River, Sugarloaf, Windham (just joined), Whiteface and Gore.
Mount Snow Resort
Always a pioneer when it comes to snowmaking, Mount Snow has completed $30 million in snowmaking upgrades for the upcoming season, including doubling their ability to make snow and increasing storage capacity six-fold. These upgrades give Mount Snow one of the most powerful snowmaking systems in the East, meaning more trails opening faster to start the season, and better coverage all winter long.
Mount Snow also recently opened a 30,000 sq. foot base lodge at the terrain park, and is widening a popular trail off the summit.
Packages are available from $101/night.
Part of Peaks Resorts, Mount Snow is included in the Peak Pass family which allows recipients access to seven mountains from New Hampshire down to Pennsylvania, including sister resorts Attitash, NH and Hunter Mountain, NY.
Okemo Mountain Resort
Okemo’s dedication to creating a superior snow surface continues with the addition of two new grooming machines to its fleet of Prinoth Beasts. The Prinoth Bison demonstrates excellent maneuverability and climbing ability – even in adverse conditions – and the Bison X is the ultimate park vehicle. Snowmaking upgrades include a new feeder pipe from Okemo’s Base Pump to mid-mountain Pump Station, and additional pipe upward. Okemo is also adding HKD SV 10 snowguns, bringing its arsenal of HKD snow guns to 1,300 mountain-wide. Okemo continues its rental equipment replacement program with the purchase of more new skis and snowboards, and, to keep all that equipment in top condition, Okemo is upgrading tuning equipment in the shops at both base areas.
Okemo is a frontrunner with simplified season pass offerings and reduced prices across the board. Skiers and riders can choose from the Ultra Pass, Classic Pass, Midweek Pass and College Pass. And all passes qualify for a M.A.X Pass add-on – five days of skiing and riding, with zero blackout days, at each of 42 other resorts across North America.
Mad River Glen
Mad River Glen’s goal is to maintain and preserve the experience rather than overhaul or upgrade it. 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 over 20 years of co-op ownership, Mad River Glen has invested well over $5 million in capital improvements.
Mad River Glen’s Naturalist Programs are becoming more popular every year. Ever wondered why there are so many snowshoe hare tracks on the slopes? Or seen the bear bites and scratches on trees and questioned the meaning behind them? Perhaps you have encountered Moose tracks and pondered how they can survive the winters. Valley visitors can learn more about these animals, mountains and forests of Vermont by taking part in one of Mad River Glen’s award-winning Naturalist Programs.
Bromley Mountain Resort
Kid’s fun is the focus at Bromley. On snow, Bromley has reworked their terrain park to embrace the learning progression for smaller statures, with a progressive flow that keeps kids jumping and spinning safely as they move from beginner to professional jib hunter. Off snow they’ve kept the après options easy, with a dedicated kid’s space in the lodge, complete with Vew-do balance boards, movies, video games and, on some nights, special guest entertainment.
Bromley’s cozy base lodge is getting a new roof, the Sun Deck has been resurfaced (all the better to support après firepit hangs), and the rental equipment fleet has a superbly restocked quiver. Don’t own your own? Bromley is expanding the high-performance options in the rental shop this season with more new Rossignol Experience 80 skis, plus all new junior boots in the latest comfy model for happy kid feet.
Jay Peak Resort
Jay Peak is adding reels and rappelling to its list of activities for the coming winter. The resort is opening a 142-seat movie theater and Clip ‘n Climb climbing facility in the 15,000-square foot Clips and Reels recreation center opening at the Stateside area of the resort.
Weather-proofing the New England ski and ride vacation is a trend Jay Peak started when they opened their Ice Haus in 2010. The arena offers public skating times, figure-skating lessons and stick-and-puck pick-up games. Jay Peak expanded the weather-proof menu in 2011 with the 60,000-square foot Pump House, an indoor waterpark that guarantees exhausted children.
Suicide Six (the ski mountain that is owned by the grand Woodstock Inn) continues to make trail improvements, with widening, stumping and thinning of glades in many areas across the map. Contour and grade changes will allow for faster and better snowmaking coverage, as well as newly constructed load and unload decks at the recently installed summit quad. Snowmaking improvements continue with the addition of new snow producers, as well as pipeline and infrastructure repairs. Look for better coverage and higher quality when you visit this season and expect more to come in the future.
Trapp Family Lodge
North America’s first cross-country skiing center is turning 50! Join Trapp Family Lodge this season in Stowe and join in the celebration from January 20-26 for a week of events including a celebration at the Bierhall, a ski with the von Trapps and a specialty brew by von Trapp Brewing. They’ll be celebrating all winter so come ski for the day or get a season’s pass and celebrate all winter.
Mountain Top Inn & Resort
In addition to the abundance of winter activities including 60km of cross country ski (much of it groomed and pet-friendly) and snowshoe trails, Mountain Top Inn & Resort is leading Vermont’s rising trend as a premier 4-season wedding destination. Snow covered winter weddings are a rising trend right now and the property beckons couples with one of Vermont’s most spectacular views, gorgeous event barn, year-round activities and luxurious accommodations. Offering a magical winter wonderland, many of these weddings involve avid skiers wishing to infuse their favorite past-time into their special day.
The resort is also a short distance away from the alpine slopes of Killington and Pico.
More information from Vermont Ski Areas Association, https://skivermont.com/ where you can use the Resort Finder, find out about lodging, packages, deals, conditions.
The Woodstock Inn & Resort Offers Ski & Stay Packages for Winter 2018
WOODSTOCK, VT– With predictions of a “snowier-than-normal” winter this year by the Farmer’s Almanac, the Woodstock Inn & Resort is already gearing up with two ski packages available for guests at its private Suicide Six Ski Area, offering more than 100 acres of skiing and snowboarding on 24 trails and slopes with terrain suitable for all abilities. And, the resort’s Tubbs Snowshoes & Nordic Adventure Center provides adventurers with an additional 30 kilometers of trails to explore via Nordic skis, fat tire bikes or snowshoes. Nestled in Vermont’s Green Mountains, Suicide Six is one of the oldest ski areas in the country.
Couples are invited to ramp-up winter romance on the slopes with the Teach Your Honey How to Skipackage, available from January 1 through March 10, 2018 and includes: luxury accommodations for one night; two hour private lesson for beginners (includes lift ticket); one regular lift ticket for the second person; two après ski cocktails to toast a day on the slopes together; uUse of the Athletic Club’s fitness equipment, indoor pool, sauna, steam room, and hot tub (package rate starts at $493 per couple).
The Suicide Six Skipackage isavailable from January 1 through March 10, 2018 and includes:
luxury accommodations for one night; all-day ski passes for two adults at Suicide Six Ski area; hearty breakfast for two at the Red Rooster; use of the Athletic Club’s fitness equipment, indoor pool, sauna, steam room, and hot tub (package rate starts at $381 per couple; additional people may be added for an added cost, plus tax, gratuitity and $30 per room, per night resort fee; blackout dates apply).
For après ski, Pearly’s Pourhouse at Suicide Six has local Vermont beer on tap, hearty winter-fare and a wood-burning fireplace. Guests can also warm up by the Inn’s iconic lobby fireplace or retreat to The Spa, a 10,000 square foot facility complete with a relaxation space, Shaker wood stoves, a hot tub, and a Scandinavian sauna. The guest-favorite game room, draped in cozy Vermont flannel, is fully equipped for game night with a giant Scrabble board, foosball table, vintage pinball machines, board games, and more. A choice of culinary options includes the Red Rooster, a fine dining restaurant that emphasizes fresh, local ingredients sourced from the best purveyors in New England, and the comfortable Richardson’s Tavern, known for its heartwarming fondue made from nearby Billings Farm cheese.
Recognized as one of the “prettiest small towns in America,” Woodstock is steps away from the Woodstock Inn & Resort, where guests will find history brimming with true New England charm. For shopping and strolling, downtown Woodstock’s quaint antique shops, art galleries, boutiques, restaurants, specialty food markets and more are just outside the resort’s front door. And, also a short walk away are The Billings Farm and Museum and The Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller Mansion, Laurance and Mary Rockefeller’s home, which are part of the March-Billings-Rockefeller National Historic Park.
Located in idyllic Woodstock, Vermont, The Woodstock Inn & Resort defines country sophistication in one of New England’s most charming and popular year-round vacation destinations. The 142-room, AAA Four Diamond Resort and a member of the Preferred Hotels & Resorts LVX Collection, offers award-winning dining in two restaurants, ranked among the finest in New England. The Woodstock Inn & Resort is owned and operated by The Woodstock Foundation, Inc. Proceeds from Resort operations support The Woodstock Foundation and Billings Farm & Museum education and conservation programs.
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
I always bump up my skiing at Okemo Mountain Resort, in southern Vermont. This time was the first time I really felt “the flow” – the fluid motion of putting the various elements of skiing together – the bicycle pedal motion of weighting and unweighting, the pushing knees together, shoulders square, standing up.
It has a lot to do with the quality of snowmaking and grooming – an art as much as a science, with a dollop of luck because of weather conditions. But it also has to do with the design of the trails, scenic to be sure with gorgeous views, but also wide enough to be forgiving, long enough to get some really good practice in before you have to get back on the lift, and relatively few crosses so you’re not overwhelmed by advanced skiers and snowboarders barreling past. Also, the excellent signage and superb trail maintenance eliminate as much as possible the anxieties that accompany you as you are trying to progress in your technique. And everything is done to make skiers and snowboarders as comfortable as possible – excellent lift system, detachables (best invention in skiing, followed by shaped skis), and now, two of the major chair lifts to the top (Quantum Four, new this year, and Sunburst Six) have bubbles – an innovation that turns your chair into a capsule against the cold and precipitation (including snowmaking).
This was particularly appreciated (a godsend, really), on the day it was 3 degrees (before the wind chill factored in, making it feel like sub-zero). When we left, the temperature rose to a balmy 15 degrees (really, it felt wonderful), under Blue Bird cloudless skies. The feeling of good cheer and utter euphoria made it feel downright balmy.
Remarkably, the Okemo snowmakers opened 20 trails in just 8 days time and by the time we left, 42 trails of its 121 (18 miles worth) were open, offering amazingly great conditions.
We love the trails here – especially Sapphire, a wide, scenic, well-groomed blue trail that starts from the top of Sunburst Six (a six-pack bubble chair!), linking to Upper and Lower Arrow so the trail is long enough to really practice your skiing by the time you get back to the Sunburst Six.
We also love Blue Moon, an intermediate trail which connects to Lower Limelight and into the Jackson Gore area to the Quantum Four detachable quad bubble chair.
The design of the trails affords excellent movement around the three summits. Getting back to our comfy condo at the Adams House at Jackson Gore, we took the breathtakingly beautiful (but still a green and aptly named) Sweet Solitude into Roundhouse Run to Blue Moon.
Everything at Okemo, on the mountain and off, is really guest-oriented. This is not something to be taken for granted. The experience of really being cared for starts in the rental shop – the fellows (like elves) actually measured our feet before they gave us our boots (Diabello brand is absolutely my favorite, and I have never skied so well as when the boot fits properly), and were so helpful. and if you found your boot or skis or boards not the best fit, they happily exchanged them.
This warm and welcoming atmosphere continues with the lift operators who are invariably cheery and helpful. Bubbly, even (appropriate for the bubble chairs).
The on-mountain amenities – the lodges and eateries – are also absolutely marvelous. We love the Waffle Cabin that you come upon as you ski down Lower Arrow (there’s another near the base of the Coleman Brook Express Quad chair) – Dave couldn’t resist even in frigid weather. The Sugar House Lodge has an amazing Thai noodle station as well as Smokey Jo’s Grille (BBQ) and more traditional fare at a cafe. Up at the top of the Sunburst Six bubble chair, we sought comfort from the frigid temperature at the Summit Lodge.
The Epic restaurant at the Solitude base is an attraction itself: on Saturday nights, they arrange to bring diners up by snowcat for a five-course gourmet dinner (there is very limited seating, at 7 and 7:30 pm, and you need to make advanced reservations, 800-228-1600
For guests at Jackson Gore Inn – a luxury ski in/out resort within the resort – the pampering goes even further – you can check your skis right at the base, or in lockers (verboten to bring them into the guest rooms).
There is every amenity imaginable at Jackson Gore, including indoor pools, fitness center and classes, hot tubs, racquetball court, children’s splash features, and spa services in the Spring House; ice skating rink pavilion at the Ice House, fine-dining restaurant at Coleman Tavern and Siena, casual dining, indoor/outdoor pool and indoor and outdoor hot tubs and fitness center.
There we were on our first night (when it was single digits temp), in the indoor/outdoor pool (that means you enter the pool from inside, but swim outside in a really gigantic pool kept to 80 degrees; and enjoyed the steaming hot tubs. The next day, we took advantage of the hot tubs right outside our condo at Adams House at Jackson Gore, where we had a superb two-bedroom condo with completely outfitted kitchen, dining area and living room (fireplace too), massive bathrooms (3 altogether), laundry machines, three flatscreen TVs, WiFi. Simply heavenly.
And the newest attraction at Okemo, the four-season Timber Ripper Mountain Coaster – a scenic and exhilarating ride through forest and along the contours of the mountain at Jackson Gore. You ride over 4,800 feet of rollers, banking loops and a twister section at speeds up to 25 mph. It looks like a combination of theme-park roller coaster and bobsled run. Really formidable!
There is also snow tubing in a four-lane park located just off the Stargazer carpet in the courtyard of Jackson Gore, and snowcat excursions (Tuesday,Saturday and Holidays at 5 and 7 pm, $40 or $50 to ride “shotgun”). and kids’ 20-minute snowmobile tours ($39).
Each year, the experience at Okemo, known for being one of the friendliest, most welcoming ski destinations anywhere, gets better and better. This year, they have introduced RFID card, replacing a lift ticket, so you just keep the card in your pocket and stand in front of the reader which opens the gate. It really moves the lift line faster. You can pre-purchase the card and keep adding to it.
This year, Okemo has also expanded SouthFace Village, its newest on-mountain community. The Sunshine Quad, a new fixed-grip Leitner-Poma chairlift, connects the Village Center at SouthFace Village to the South Face Express Quad and provides access to the new Suncatcher trail.
Snowmaking also gets better and better (and has been crucial this season). This year, Okemo expanded snowmaking on White Lightning and Rolling Thunder at Jackson Gore, increasing coverage to 98 percent of its trails. Okemo also added a new Prinoth 500 horsepower grooming machine to its fleet (you can really feel the difference!). And, in partnership with Snow Park Technologies, enhanced the Tomahawk trail “for more flow and originality” with jumps and hits.
Okemo also has a variety of terrain parks. The Homeward Bound terrain park was renamed Robbins’ Nest, with jumps, hips and features to recognize the contributions of Okemo’s first Snowboarding Program Director Gordon Robbins.
Okemo’s Penguin Playground Day Care accommodates kids from six months to four years old, and also offers Kids Night Out and Kids Night out with evening child care. Okemo, which was one of the early pioneers of cleverly themed children’s learning and activity programs (Snow Stars!), accommodates children as young as 3.
Okemo is as big as you would want a mountain to be – 667 skiable acres (46 miles worth) across five mountain areas, a vertical drop of 2,200 feet (the highest in Southern Vermont), plenty terrain parks scattered around the mountains, accommodating all levels of ability, a learning area served by magic carpet and superb ski and ride schools – and yet feels so homey. Okemo skiers are passionate about the place.
It also offers the Okemo Valley Nordic Center on its golf course, with 22 km of Nordic track and skating lanes, plus 13 km of dedicated snowshoe trails, plus tree skiing and terrain that winds through meadows and hillsides, rental equipment and lessons (802-228-1396 for info).
The town of Ludlow, while remaining sweetly unpretentious, now has several wonderful restaurants: Harry’s Cafe, an Okemo tradition for 27 years (but recently relocated just across Rte 103 from the Jackson Gore access road), boasts “everything from scratch – handcut and homemade” and a “fusion” menu of various ethnic culinary traditions, and one of the few restaurants serving until 10 pm (reservations recommended, 802-228-2996, 68 Rte 100 North, www.harryscafe.com); The Downtown Grocery, for “casual fine dining” housed in a repurposed Victorian house and serving eclectic (even eccentric) creations (the Bangs Island Mussels and Baby Arugula salad were outstanding) by Chef Rogan Lechthaler “as creative in the kitchen as he is adept on skis”, who prides himself on homemade pastas (even ketchup), fresh sourced and sustainable seafood and cures (41 South Depot, 802-228-7566, www.thedowntowngrocery.com); and MoJo Cafe, a combination Tex-Mex-New Orleans hip cafe with a distinct “Austin weird” vibe (106 Main Street, 802-228-6656, www.mojocafevt.com).
Okemo Mountain Resort, 77 Okemo Ridge Road, Ludlow, VT 05149, 800-78-OKEMO, 24-Hour SnowPhone, 802-228-5222, www.okemo.com (see deals, like 4th Night Free).