It’s dark by the time I get home after a typical day of skiing in Vermont and a drive punctuated by snow turned sleet turned rain. This time I’m not just returning from a day of skiing, but a day dedicated to documenting, with my camera, a place I consider to be an archetype of skiing’s ideal: Magic Mountain.
In a culture blighted by helmet cameras, manufactured groomers, and five-star slopeside distractions, it’s tough to find a place like Magic. Tucked away in southern Vermont, it’s a rural New England paradise of winding, undisturbed trails that, save for the love of a diehard crew and a few nostalgics, is just a lonesome dot on a map. Many have written it off. But Magic is more.
I arrived that morning to capture the essence of the place. I wanted a series of photographs to show what skiing is like beyond second homes and the latest TGR film. As I rolled into the parking lot, the surprising silence struck me. Absent were the yelling parking attendants and fleets of tour buses shuttling the disgruntled masses. Just me and a dozen cars parked at the foot of a rolling hill.
Riding up the rusty red double, I found myself unable to put my camera down. Instinct drove me to take pictures of everything and anything that caught my eye. As I watched a few skiers trickle below and listened to an occasional whoop break the silence of Magic’s steep, hidden tree lines, the blunt hard truth hit me: Magic does not have much. It does not have the best skiing in the world, nor does it have the best snow or the best lifts or the best facilities. It does not fill any superlative category or grace any top-10 list.
What Magic has, though, what it oozes in quantities that perpetual terrain expansions and desperate multimillion-dollar renovations can never buy, is easy to feel but hard to pin down. It’s a feeling you talk about but can’t quite convey. It’s a sensation you remember long after your boots dry out and the snow melts. It’s what you search for every time you click into your skis. It’s that raw, real, fleeting moment. It’s in the name. Magic has magic.
Magic Mountain: Two lifts and sorcery. » Average Snowfall: 196 inches » Skiable Acres: 135 » Vertical Feet: 1,700 » Advanced/Expert Terrain: 37% » Lift Ticket Price: $39 » Open: Friday–Monday and any day with more than 6” fresh » Après: Goniff’s Den » Secret: Skin up and ski for free » More Info: magicmtn.com