Smugglers’ Notch Resort is rated as one of the top ski destinations in Vermont for a number of reasons: It offers a variety of family programs, provides great deals on lift tickets, and hosts “The Black Hole,” the only triple black diamond trail in New England.
The mountain has pretty much everything for just about any type of skier or snowboarder. Although most known as the best family-oriented resort in northern Vermont, if not in the entire state, “Smuggs” has three big mountains and 1000 acres of terrain to introduce beginners to skiing, keep intermediates busy, and challenge advanced skiers.
Morse Mountain is an ideal launching pad for newbies. Unlike some resorts that mix beginner trails with intermediate and even advanced terrains, Smugglers’ Notch Resort maintains a whole beginners-only mountain so that novice skiers and snowboarders don’t have to fear running into advanced folks practicing frontside 360 jumps over their heads. The only drawback is the long lift lines on the weekends.
Once you or your kids are ready to graduate and take on steeper slopes, you can take Midway from Morse towards Madonna and Sterling Mountains where, after spending a day of skiing, I can state with confidence – and various parts of my body can support the assertion – that the ski trails can make you sweat. Not in mood to test-drive your luck? Then stick around “E,” a ski lift that serves intermediate terrain off Madonna Mountain. An intermediate skier and snowboarder will have plenty of fun trying out diverse and not overly challenging terrain. Short lines at the E ski lift are another advantage; you will spend more time zigzagging down trails rather than standing in lift lines.
But you can only ski on the blue trails for so long; eventually, the laws of natural progression call for more adventurous terrain. To be better prepared and to take full advantage of black diamond trails, you will need a few things. First, save up a lot of patience, as the lift line can get ridiculously long on the weekends.
Lastly, the best part: You don’t have to break the bank to afford a winter vacation at Smugglers’ Notch. The resort offers reasonable lift ticket prices, considering the huge range of terrain and the multiple options for all skill levels. For example, a one-day adult lift ticket costs $66 during a holiday season or $52 for a half day. That is still a significant amount of money, but you would pay up to $90 and more at some other popular resorts.
When the last lift chair disappears in the dusk and the gravity finally pulls you from the Black Hole, shake off the drops of adrenalin, catch up with the family and you will all agree: This is a top notch ski resort.
So you really want to go to Sugarbush ski resort but it is two hours and 20 twenty minutes away from your ski cabin. What’s even worse, there are three other ski resorts within a twenty-five-minute drive and none of your friends shares your enthusiasm about driving along scenic Route 100 in Vermont.
1. Wake up early and take over a laptop or iPad.
2. When your friends wake up–and it is best to do when they still shows signs of a slow recovery from the last night’s “Too-bad-there-are-only-24-bottles-of-beer-in-each-case” party–pretend to be exhausted from reading local snow reports.
3. Show a facepalm or any other sign of disappointment of your choice, and in very dramatic tones explain that there is no powder anywhere within a twenty-five-minute drive.
4. While your friends struggle to accept that they are going to ski or ride today, start packing gear to escape a “point-of-return.”
5. Convince yourself that your brand-new navigation is badly outdated and paved zigzags called roads are nothing short of Das Autobahn; most importantly, keep the navigation screen away from the passengers until you pass a time mark when it doesn’t make any sense to make a U-turn.
6. Enjoy the ski resort because it is totally worth a drive.
This guide has worked twice, and both times the author managed to escape the wrath of his buddies because Sugarbush ski resort delivered on its promise: “Be better here.” Though the resort is probably better situated for intermediate to advanced skiers and riders, with 111 trails and 16 lifts, Sugarbush has lots of pure Vermont skiing and snowboarding fun for all levels. Beginners should head toward the Gate House Express quad lift: it serves a couple of easy green and blue trails and seems the ideal launch pad for mastering ski turns. A black diamond trail is also marked—it’s quite easy, judging by the way a friend with intermediate skills handled it—as well as a glade to test your skills. In addition, a couple of the beginner trails are located on Mount Ellen.
If you’re comfortable on your skis or snowboard, you have many more options to explore. For starters, take the Heaven’s Gate triple lift to the top of Lincoln Peak. The views are breathtaking, and Jester is one of the best cruisers, not only at Sugarbush, but in the entire East. If you are up for serious physical exercise, I wholeheartedly recommend taking the Paradise or Ripcord double black diamond trails. The gigantic moguls, when coupled with icy crust, will push your stamina to the limit. Another good choice is Egan’s Woods, a very dense glade where you will have plenty of time but narrow spaces in which to work on ski turns. A note of caution: if you ski in wooded areas, do so with a couple of friends. It is very easy to make a wrong turn, hit a tree branch, and sink in deep snow.
If risk taking and adrenaline are must-have ingredients in your “best day” formula, head toward Castlerock Peak. If you approach it from Lincoln Peak, a very short but steep and moguled trail leads to the Castlerock double lift chair serving the area. If you can’t make it down that trail you really have no business being on that double chair—stick to intermediate trails. Once you get to the top, breathe in, breathe out, and hit the narrow, twisting trails. A couple of runs—with never-ending moguls—on that peak will be a good physical test for your legs.
If your style calls for Vermont backcountry skiing, a guided tour of Sugarbush Slide Brook Basin is a unique feature worth exploring. Not only you will test runs of more than two thousand vertical feet—all in the woods—you will also have the chance to learn about winter survival skills. And, finally, they have the only cabin cat in New England.
So “be better” there, because it is worth the drive. Just stick with the guide and pray for fresh snow.
Here is what you really need to know about Mount Snow: it has a battery of 253 anti-faultweather snow guns that can inflict long-lasting ski-able conditions.
With the most important fact already revealed, let’s not stretch this writing piece. Let me lay out a few more notable tidbits of things-you-might-need-to-know before travelling to southern Vermont.
I’m tellin’ y’all—you will be ballin’ at Carinthia terrain parks. Go ahead and start poppin’ your collar at Fools Gold, Grommet, The Gulch, Inferno, Iron Run, The Junkyard, Mineshaft, Narrow Gauge, Nitro, The Pit, Prospector, Rusty Nail, Mini Pipe, and Superpipe parks. They got ‘em all there: barrel bonks, rollercoaster boxes, log jibs, tree stalls, rock drops, wooden wall rides, propane tanks, and, of course, the 425” long superpipe. Y’all see that this place is seriously dope.
If your ski style doesn’t involve tailgrabs or frontside 360s, you can still stretch on the Main Face, home for many signature trails, including Snowdance, Standard, Long John, and Deer Run. Desperate to push the limits and your luck? The whole North Face is available for that. The majority of the trails are kept ungroomed for those who need extra adrenaline, steep pitches, and moguls. Aside from the famed Ripcord, an often icy and steep double black diamond trail, five glades are available for skiers and snowboarders who prefer to rip through wooded areas.
After a long day bouncing off the rails and ripping through moguls, head to the 7-Eleven store not far from the resort to rent a DVD or buy a single malt scotch. On the way to town, make sure to stay within the speed limits unless you want a speeding ticket big enough to buy a bottle of Jonnie Walker Blue Label.
Last but not least, consider all available lodging options to optimize your ski trip experience. Thelodging separates Mount Snow from many other similar resorts: you can find a rental to fit just about every budget. Looking for valley parking, Wi-Fi, and a rooftop swimming pool minutes from the ski lifts? Welcome to the Grand Summit Hotel.
Got a few friends and want more space for less cash? Check out townhome villages such as Snow Trees. For $150 a night, you will have your own fireplace to relax in front of after a long day on the slopes, a deck for BBQ’ing, and access to all of the amenities offered throughout the resort. Have a big group and the willingness to go high end, up one notch? Book a three-bedroom three-bath Suntec townhomes. Each unit has its own hot tub and sauna, and some come with cable and a high-speed Internet connection.
Do yourself a favor: check out this mountain, stretch your ski season, and get more ski runs in regardless of the weather.
Magic Mountain ski resort, tucked between larger and more popular ski resorts in southern Vermont, is not a household name, but its trademark black diamond terrain should be first on your skied-there bragging list.
When you make it to the resort base – assuming that cinnamon roll Frappuccino and gentle terrain don’t seduce you to turn to the Stratton resort or Bromley Mountain en route to Magic – you will find that extensive snowmaking, powerful grooming fleets, luxury condos, and spas are missing from the resort scene. But you will also notice a few things that separate this mountain from more well-known ski resorts.
First, Magic Mountain is “no-Louis Vuitton” territory: it is unlikely you will see or surprise anyone with couture outfits or expensive gear requiring mortgage-sized payments. Magic Mountain has a traditional, down-to-earth feel to it, and everything conveys a simple approach to life and business. The only way to draw a positive spotlight from regulars is by making sharp turns going down black diamond trails.
Second, you won’t see lift chair lines or wait for a double chair. Sure, you will notice that the Red Line chair moves at an excruciatingly slow speed, but think about the time you typically waste waiting for a comfy and fast gondola at a big resort on a weekend: you might as well spend those precious minutes on a lift looking at mountain silhouettes.
Third, and most important, it is hard to beat Magic Mountain’s advanced terrain in southern Vermont. Magic Mountain offers a virtually no-limits skiing policy and has a very large number of trees for those looking to ski and ride outside of their comfort zone. Looking for steep trails? Try Magician and its 45-degree pitch. Thinking about a YouTube highlight reel? Try the boulders on the Red Line. Want to escape attention? Welcome to the Hallows glade.
There is one catch, though: for optimal results, you will need fresh powder and the skills to ski intermediate and advanced terrain. Just like any other ski resort in Vermont, Magic Mountain is not immune to Mother Nature’s tricks and unstable winter temperatures. It relies heavily on natural snow to provide “skiable” surfaces. While anything mentioned above would have a negative impact on the operations of just about any resort, Magic Mountain most certainly will be hit harder: on some particularly icy days, you won’t even get a “corduroy,” well-known to all northeastern skiers and boarders, consisting of icy particles. The resort can be “unskiable” on some days, so you might be better off enjoying the local micro-brew in a bar or skiing/sliding at a bigger resort that might have better grooming capabilities.
And yet, when the weather cooperates, you will be hard-pressed not to appreciate Magic Mountain’s unique character and New England authenticity that is often buried under modern luxury real estate developments and fancy restaurant menus at other resorts. The better you handle your skis or snowboard, the better chance you will appreciate its challenging terrain. And when you get the first taste of it, Magic Mountain will be the first name on your extensive skied-there bragging list.
“We call it breeze!” yelled a ski patroller, commenting on the bone-chilling bitter wind at the top of Jay Peak Resort, the only ski resort in the Northeast where you actually want more wind gusts.
Say bonjour to the Jay Cloud and 300” of average snowfall making this corner in northern Vermont, not far from Montreal, so special. Is it cold and windy there? Yes. But as long as the wind brings the Jay Cloud and a foot of powder, there shouldn’t be any complaints. Normally, you don’t drive for seven hours—that is, if you live in NYC—to simply hang out at the top of Jay Peak Resort. You endure a 377-mile road trip to catch fresh snow, then ski or snowboard the famed backcountry surrounding Jay Peak.
Advanced or intermediate skiers and snowboarders will find plenty of options as to where or what to ski. There are numerous glades and black diamonds, as well as intermediate ski trails. You can take Northway, an intermediate difficulty trail, from the top of Jay and ski down to the base. Or you can step it up and turn to Deliverance. Ranked among the most difficult, it guarantees to deliver plenty of adrenaline. At Jay Peak Resort, you can also book a lesson to explore little-known backcountry terrain, or learn how to ski deep powder by enrolling in powder clinics.
With that said, having total control of your skis or snowboard will allow you to try numerous challenging trails and glades; however, beginners will also have a great time exploring the gentle green trails. There are many easy ways to explore Jay Peak Resort via wide and gentle Interstate and Harmony Lane trails. Served by the “E” lift, these and some other green trails are a good match for newbies. Those looking to make the next step should also stick around because there are Moon Walk Woods and Bushmaster glades, arguably the best beginner glades in Vermont. All you need is a helmet camera and video editing software to make yourself look like a pro, zipping through deep stashes of snow.
On the first visit to Jay Peak Resort a few years ago, most resort amenities were basic and down-to-earth. That changed when Bill Stenger took over and implemented a couple of innovative programs to revamp Jay’s image, including the new hotel, pump house water park, a skating rink, a day spa, and restaurants. And while there is no question that they make Jay Peak Resort a more well-rounded Vermont ski vacation experience, it is the hope for an unexpected snow storm that really attracts people to the resort. And it is not a marketing myth: on some mornings, you step outside of Tram Haus Lodge to some light flurries and a forecast calling for snow dusting, and by the evening, you need a caterpillar truck to dig your car out of the parking lot.
Skiers and riders drive to Jay to catch a snow shower measuring in feet, not inches. They don’t mind on-piste frozen granular as long as they can find untouched off-piste powder. They want epic skiing and riding conditions and they often find them here, in a faraway corner of Vermont. True, it is a long road to northern Vermont and the Jay Cloud is an elusive invite, but it pays to be here when the bone-chilling bitter winds bring it over the top of Jay Peak.
Who said you can’t ski in NYC? All it takes is some snow and creativity. Great job guys.