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Little Gem: Valley High

Little Gem: Valley High

Travel East
By David Healy
posted: 12/18/2003

Bolton Valley, Vt.
Bolton Valley," a friend once remarked, "feels more like skiing in the Alps than any other ski area in New England." I'd always thought of the resort-a family favorite often forgotten among the giants of northern Vermont-as more Lilliputian than Alpine. But as I got to know it better, I began to see his point.

With the highest base elevation in Vermont and a tasteful mini-village of Bavarian-style architecture, Bolton feels a little like Lech, but at a fraction of the marks. Sure, skiing the meandering Sherman's Pass off the summit-or even Lost Boyz, a gladed double-black served by the resort's only modern quad-will never be confused with conquering the Hahnenkamm.

But you won't hear any complaints from in-the-know families who gravitate to Bolton for its high-alpine beauty and low-brow pricing. As one Long Island skier told me, grinning between powder runs last year: "It's the kind of place that families back home would love-if they only knew it existed."

Part of the secret of Bolton is that it revels in all things small. With barely a lift line, all five chairlifts serve manageable novice trails, but there are enough blue squares to grow on, and even a few scary pitches off the summit. Meanwhile, the Mighty-Mite handle-tow, just out the back door of the ski-in/ski-out village, is perfect for tots.Surrounded by 5,000 pristine acres, Bolton also brims with tons of backcountry potential. Just ask any of the bark-eating locals working the seams between the resort's three peaks.

There are other attractions: an extensive cross-country trail network, always well-covered thanks to its high elevation; spectacular views, north to Mt. Mansfield, south to Camel's Hump, west to Lake Champlain; nightskiing (rare in Vermont); and proximity to Burlington (30 minutes). Lakeside Burlington is not only a lively town to visit après-ski, but a convenient gateway, with low-cost flights from major markets (New York's JFK and five Florida cities) via JetBlue Airlines.

Under new management for two solid seasons, the resort has hefted its marketing and customer-service efforts while making significant headway on facilities. True, not every facet is buff yet. But frugal New Englanders-and the occasional wayward Austrian-will feel right at home.

Bolton Valley, Vt.
Vital Stats Summit elevation: 3,150 feet; vertical rise: 1,635 feet; lifts: six (five chairs, one handle-tow); 51 trails; average annual snowfall: 250 inches; night-skiing.
Lift Tickets Adults $39, half-day $27, juniors (ages 6-17) $26/$21.
Information 802-434-3444; 877-926-5866; www.boltonvalleyvt.com

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