It's a bright, crisp day at Magic Mountain, andthe slow, classic red double chair that runs up the center of themountain chugs away. Below, the trails are swaddled in corduroy,and skiers are scattered about on this midwinter Fridaymorning, sharing the slopes with, well, practically nobody atall. But that's about to change.
Tucked into a corner of southwest Vermont, tiny MagicMountain is merely a glance out the side window for the vastmajority of skiers heading to nearby Stratton or Okemo. Yet it perseveres—and its futurelooks bright: Crowd-free and brimming with that old Yankee ski-free-or-die mentality,this 15-year-old resort just attracted new owners who've already poured a half-milliondollars into badly needed upgrades to the resort's snowmaking system. To those whoknow and love what Eastern skiing stands for (narrow, steep and winding wooded trails,among other things), Magic is a true gem.
I arrive early and can count the cars in the lot. As I pull my skis out (I've brought twopairs—if there's leftover powder anywhere, it's at Magic), a car pulls up next to me andtwo thirtysomething guys hop out. I glance over expecting the worst: They probablyown old orange Olin 210s and have Jà¤germeister in their Camelbaks. But then one pullsout a pair of late-model shaped skis. "Gonna be epic, he says. I smile and nod and headinto the base lodge.
The lodge is old but intimate. There areso few skiers here that by the time I boardthe red chair, I know a bunch by name.And while they support and love this agedmountain, their equipment is state-of-theart,their skills obvious. They are skiers.At the top, I have two choices: steep orkind of steep. I choose the kind of steepfirst and carve down the calm, windingWhite Out to Medium, which takes mealong the perimeter of the resort for niceviews and a good warm-up. I cruise overto the triple, the resort's primary lift, andhead up again.
Back at the summit, it's clear that somethinggood is going on below me. It's quietenough to hear shouts of joy from thetrees, where, I'll soon find out, my powderskis are indeed called for. I jump into theTwilight Zone glade and work hard for ashort but sweet time, emerging on Wand,a wider, groomed trail that lets me catchmy breath as I cruise back to the triple. Butas I ski past the red double, it lures meonto the lift again. I ride alone, savoringthe sun and the slow, lingering ride. At thetop, I see my buddy from the parking lot.
"Check out Master Magician, heshouts, waving me onto a steep, classicEastern run. It's as tough a trail as you'llfind anywhere, but I keep going until Ireach the base and my thighs are burning.Heading into the lodge for a beer, I'mhappy thinking about Magic's seeminglybright future. And, I realize, as long asskiers continue to cherish Magic and itsbrethren, the better off we'll all be.[pagebreak]The Town
Magic's base is pretty bare-bones: Theaccess road is dotted with a few motelsand condos but not much more, and thebase area is basically a daylodge and apatrol shack. However, Magic skiershave their pick of several nearby townsfor lodging and dining. The tiny hamletof Weston, about 10 minutes north onRoute 100, is home to the famed andquirky Vermont Country Store (a mustvisit),as well as a few inns and restaurants.And about 45 minutes down theroad is the tourist haven of Manchester,which boasts all manner of shops,restaurants, après-ski spots and, yes,its famously upscale outlet shopping.
Where to Stay
>The Inn on Magic Mountain In the'60s this place was called The Christie.The stories are legendary—and toorisqué to print here (ask the innkeeper).Luckily, it was completely renovated in2005. From $60 a night; 802-824-5600;themagicinn.com
>The Equinox Resort and Spa About20 miles away in tony Manchester, theEquinox offers an elegant counterpointto a Magic visit: attentive service, a topratedspa and sophisticated dining tobalance those laps on the old double witha pampereed night. From $180 per night;866-346-7625; equinox.rockresorts.com
>The Red Fox Inn Located in Bondville,15 minutes from the mountain, thisconverted red barn with a communalfireplace in the den makes this aVermont-y kind of place you're sureto remember. From $60 per night;802-297-2488; redfoxinn.com
Where to Eat
>The Colonnade The elegant diningroom inside the Equinox Resort servesan excellent Sunday brunch.866-346-7625; equinox.rockresorts.com
>The Perfect Wife Homey, yet oh sogood. From Peking duck to rack of lambto darts in the pub, there's a bit of everythingat this Manchester mainstay.802-362-2817; perfectwife.com
>Bistro Henry One of Manchester's toprestaurants serves fresh Mediterraneandishes such as grilled tuna with sobanoodles and merlot-braised lamb shankalongside a lengthy selection of wines.802-362-4982; bistrohenry.com
Where to Play
>Calenderos Stop by this Manchesterpub for great margaritas and a livelyaprès crowd. 802-362-0836
>The Foggy Goggle This Bondville baris the perfect place to show up with helmethair and still feel like you're lookingpretty darn good. 802-297-1300