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).
"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.
It can be annoying listening to Stowe skiers go on about how their hill is simply the best mountain in the East. Well, sure, if all you’re talking about is sustained steeps, efficient lifts, stunning scenery, rich history, the state’s highest peak, sick sidecountry, a rocking après scene, fun local culture, and cute girls who rip. Now even the slopeside accommodations are yarn-worthy since the Spruce Peak development introduced five-star rooms and dining. And a new ForeRunner quad means fewer weather holds and shorter lines. So, yeah, Stowe snobs are basically right. You could be annoyed, or you could just join them.
Must Hit: Wind-exposed Liftline, under the FourRunner quad, varies in pitch (up to 34 degrees) and surface conditions (some groomed, some left to nature’s whim). At nearly a mile, it’ll make you glad you don’t have to make any more turns.
The Stash: With an average pitch of 36 degrees, 3,241-foot-long Goat is arguably the most challenging trail at Stowe, if not in all of New England. Access it via the FourRunner quad on a deep, billowy day.
Pocket fuel: Slide one of McCarthy’s breakfast burritos into your goggle pocket. It’s a food log that doubles as a chest warmer.
The lake Effect: Lake-effect storms can drop upwards of six inches of crystalline powder on Mount Mansfield’s flanks.
Powder Day: Line up early at the FourRunner quad, which often starts churning before its official 8:00 a.m. opening. Up top, head skier’s right on Lord, and then jump onto Lookout, a steep, ledge-ridden trail that begs for aggression. After that, let ’em run down Hayride, a wide, gently curving high-speed floater.
Three Days Later: Now’s the perfect time to rip a few laps on the infamous Nosedive, a 7,500-foot-long attention getter for experts. Just be thankful you weren’t around when it was cut in 1934. Back then, the only “ski lift” was a pair of hiking boots.
Park and pipe: Stowe is Jake Burton’s home resort, so you’d expect it to have a killer park. And you’d be right. The Tyro Terrain Park, skier’s right off of Lord, has some of the East’s biggest tabletops, hip hits, and gaps.
Backcountry access: By taking a “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach to off-trail skiing, Stowe has tacitly encouraged exploration into the neighboring woods. Sniff around the steep, cliffy lines off The Chin, a 30-minute hike from the top of the Gondola. (Ask ski patrol for conditions.) The area off Chin Clip includes meticulously thinned trees and steep drainages that drop more than 1,000 feet down a deep cleft in the mountain’s flanks.
Weather: Stowe relies on Atlantic-born nor’easters to deliver big days. But don’t discount the more frequent, loaded lake-effect storms—and don’t forget that March is Vermont’s snowiest (and most skiable) month.
Après: Check out the Matterhorn, a dive bar that serves surprisingly decent sushi—and the best damn pizzas in Stowe. All that, and you can ski there, via the backcountry Bruce Trail.
Fuel: Make tracks to McCarthy’s (in town) for homemade “freedom toast” with real maple syrup. Later, head to Gracie’s for perfection in burgers, chicken wings, and grilled fish.
Up all night: Smack booty at the Rusty Nail, Stowe’s best venue for live bands and cheap booze.
Digs: The Mountaineer isn’t the best deal around , but it encourages pets, room sharing, and 20-person hot tubbing (stowemountaineerinn.com).