Reviewed by Ben Hewitt
Nov 06, 2008
Stratton is known for its polish and shine, its upscale lodging and village, and its high levels of service. Yet it arguably did more to nurture snowboarding back in the sport's wild child days than any other resort in the country.
Some of the country’s best gladed terrain, a loose backcountry policy, and cheap bowls of poutine (fries smothered in cheese curds and gravy).
A fixture in the Deerfield Valley for nearly half a century, Mount Snow has grown a lot since ski pioneer Walter Schoenknecht bought a chunk of land on Mt Pisgah from farmer Reuben Snow in 1950.
Smeared across seven peaks and offering more than 3,000 vertical feet, Killington is the Big Papi of Northeast ski resorts. Even better: As the second-highest peak in Vermont, the resort extracts upslope powder when warm storms spackle lower mountains in slush. The K-1 Express gondola delivers you near the top of 4,241-foot Killington Peak for laps in glades so deep you’ll forget you’re on the East Coast. And when the sun sinks behind Vermont’s Green Mountains, Killington Road lights up with the raunchiest après scene east of Breckenridge.
Powder Day: Bash elbows in line for the K-1 Express gondola. Then head for the tight double-fall-line glades of Anarchy and Julio. For round two, mach down the open, 40-degree face of Cascade.
Three Days Later: With Killington Peak tapped out, ply the fringes of Snowdon Mountain for the remaining pillows in the Low Rider glade. Or head to Bear Mountain to hit the soft bumps on Outer Limits, which is lined by steep treed shots called Growler and Centerpiece.
Park and Pipe: Go huge in the 430-foot-long Superpipe with 18-foot walls on Bear Mountain. A rope tow saves your quads. For more variety, drop into Dream Maker, above the pipe, for jibs, tabletops, and step-downs.
Backcountry Access: As the various search-and-rescue missions in the dense forests surrounding Killington attest, backcountry access is limited to nonexistent. Stick to the inbounds runs.
Weather: A high summit elevation licenses Killington to make its own weather. In January and February, watch for frequent lake-effect storms swinging through from the Great Lakes and dropping six to 12 inches of light and dry snow. In March, look for classic nor’easters rolling up the Eastern Seaboard.
Après: After 45 years of rafter shakin’, the Wobbly Barn remains the premier unwinding spot on the frenetic Killington Road. Graze on prime rib in the ground-floor steakhouse before climbing the stairs to hear live hard rock and tip pints of Long Trail Ale, brewed just down the road.
Fuel: Plot your angle of attack from the counter of Johnny Boys, where the blueberry pancakes come piled high and smothered in Vermont maple syrup. Hair-of-the-dog sort of morning? Order a tall Bloody Mary.
Up all Night: Rowdiness reigns at the Pickle Barrel, a Vermont-style nightclub where national acts like Strangefolk and The Samples take the stage on weekends. The place stays open till 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
Digs: Just basic enough to be cheap but in no way offensive, the Happy Bear Motel (from $84; happybearmotel.com) offers wireless internet, in-room refrigerators, and a convenient, nearly slopeside location on Killington Road.