Reviewed by Sarah J.M. Tuff
Dec 04, 2008
Some of the country’s best gladed terrain, a loose backcountry policy, and cheap bowls of poutine (fries smothered in cheese curds and gravy).
"Ski It If You Can" is the challenge on Mad River Glen's ubiquitous bumper stickers. The truth is you can ski it no matter what your ability level.
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 folks in southern Vermont have a “tragic” nickname for Magic Mountain because they think the 135-acre ski area—which has suffered closures and sketchy management in the past—deserves better. But last summer, loyalists came together to buy the mountain and run it as a cooperative, similar to Mad River Glen. Their intent: to keep the legitimate steeps and trees open and spruce up the ski area’s infrastructure and snowmaking. Now the only thing tragic about this mountain, located in Londonderry, would be passing by it on a powder day.
Quick Tip: Magic Mountain now embraces uphill traffic. If you want to hike and ski for free, stick to the side of the trail on your ascent during peak hours.
Backcountry Access: From Red chair, head skier’s right into the birch forest near White Out and ski untracked lines at the old Timber Ridge Ski Area. Leave a car off Route 121 or skin laps.
7 a.m. Stuff yourself with a Philly cheese-
steak omelet, chocolate-chip pancakes, and Bunn-O-Matic coffee at Stoddard’s on North Main Street in Londonderry.
8 a.m. First chair is at eight on weekends, and nine on weekdays. Start on Up Your Sleeve, an intermediate, east-facing slope that gets early-morning sunshine. Duck into the trees to the left, nicknamed Up Your Shirt.
10 a.m. If it’s a powder day, head for Red chair, then take Upper Wizard to Broomstick. Drop into the unmarked glades on skier’s left. You’ll pop out on Bail Out. Continue through dense trees in The Hallows.
11 a.m. From Black chair, drop into Magician, a 320-foot elevator shaft lined with birch and pine trees. Stay skier’s left for the softest snow. Then stomp the bumps under the chair on Black Line.
1 p.m. For lunch, try the chicken quesadilla or the homemade New England clam chowder in the Talisman Grill on the lower level of the base lodge.
2 p.m. The Hocus Pocus terrain park has a couple rails, but if you want air, head to Magic’s natural features—the cliffs, drops, and jumps on runs like Red Line.
3 p.m. Goniff Glade is protected from the afternoon sun, so the snow stays fluffy till last chair. Near the top, look for the slim entrance to Magic’s newest and unnamed tree skiing between Goniff and Red Line. Then huck the drops on Twilight Zone.
4 p.m. Your only option for après is Goniff’s Den, the rectangular base-area bar that has Long Trail and Magic Hat on tap and packets of Rold Gold pretzels. Bands play most Saturdays. Call dibs on the chairlift swing outside.
7 p.m. For dinner, order the red, white, and bleu pasta (made with bleu cheese Alfredo sauce and flank steak) at the low-key New American Grill in Londonderry. For fancier fare, go for sashimi salad, mussels, or foie gras at the Three Clock Inn.
Late Night Londonderry keeps farmer’s hours. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have a good time. Take the 15-minute drive to the Perfect Wife tavern in Manchester for foosball and live local music. The bar closes at 1 a.m.
Overnight The slopeside Inn on Magic Mountain is one of the few properties that have been updated since the 1970s (from $59, including lift ticket; themagicinn.com). Now, it has new beds, kitchenettes, internet, and HBO. Or splurge on a fireplace, Jacuzzi, and mountain view at the Landgrove Inn, a 10-minute drive from Magic (from $150, including breakfast; landgroveinn.com). —Sarah Tuff