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.
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.
The terrain at Smuggs rivals any other resort in the East, and many of the locals who make Smugglers Notch their primary mountain do so because of the mountain’s low-key vibe.
A new base village and a growing emphasis on steep, powder-stuffed glades have made Sugarbush one of Vermont’s top resorts. The ski area offers 111 trails, served by 16 lifts, spread across three peaks, each with its own distinct flavor. For manicured steeps and fat bumps, hit Lincoln Peak. For no-bullshit, rowdy terrain, schralp Castlerock. For underutilized glades and meandering cruisers, there’s always Mount Ellen. Here’s how to make the most of all three.
Quick Tip: When crowds thicken, evacuate to the North Lynx chair for dives down the usually empty Birch Run and Hotshot.
Start Here: Loosen your quads on Jester, a curvy high-speed groomer on the resort’s southern flank. Finish with a rip down Lower Organgrinder, the mountain’s steepest groomed run.
Must Hit: Littered with rocky rollovers, Liftline, under the Castlerock chair, offers 1,600 vertical feet of fall-line steeps. Any line offers the goods, but if you’re fond of 20-foot hucks, point ’em skier’s right.
The Stash: A five-minute traverse out the Long Trail from the top of Paradise delivers you to tight chutes that drop precipitously through maple and birch trees before flowing into the wide apron of Lower Paradise.
Powder Day: On deep days, get to Castlerock chair as fast as your wax will carry you. You’ll be rewarded with the twists and turns of Rumble and the tight woods skier’s right of Liftline.
Three Days Later: Mount Ellen comes in a distant second to Lincoln in terms of skier visits. That’s why you’ll find face shots in Exterminator’s woods long after a storm.
Park and Pipe: Park rats converge around the sizable hits, rails, and quarterpipe on Mount Ellen’s Riemergasse. Over on Lincoln, newbies can try mini hits and rails served by the Super Bravo chair.
Backcountry Access: Slidebrook, the drainage between Castlerock and Mount Ellen, is accessible from either peak, but the Ellen side offers steeper lines. Either approach terminates along German Flats Road, where a shuttle bus makes regular stops. Hire a guide from Outback Tours if you want private stashes or just suck at navigation (from $65 a day; 888-651-4827).
Weather: The early and middle parts of the season bring frequent lake-effect snow riding on cold air from the northwest. In midwinter, watch for classic, moisture-laden nor’easters mobbing up the Atlantic coast.
Après: Castlerock Pub keeps local beers like Castlerock Ale and Long Trail Ale on tap. It also boasts a heated patio and, should you get an irrepressible urge to blog, wireless internet.
Fuel: Grab a pizza at American Flatbread off Route 100 in Waitsfield on Friday or Saturday (the only nights it’s open). If you find a fifty, hit the Common Man for crusted softshell crabs or pan-seared foie gras and duck sausage.
Up All Night: This is Vermont: The only thing that might keep you up all night is an irrational fear of cows. But Local Folk Smokehouse—at the junction of routes 17 and 100—will quell any bovine anxiety with live music and 18 beers on tap.
Digs: Only a mile down the road from the ski resort, the Sugarbush Inn has ski-and-stay packages starting at $119. Or dig deep and snag a suite at the fancier Claybrook Hotel. It sleeps four, comes with a fireplace, and runs $309 per night (sugarbush.com). —BEN HEWITT
Elevation: 4,083 feet Vertical Drop: 2,600 feet Snowfall: 269 inches Acres: 508 Info: sugarbush.com