What do cheese, maple syrup and moguls have in common? They are all made in Vermont. A great New England state to visit for many reasons….including the abundance of ski resorts with some of the most fantastic East Coast skiing (is that an oxymoron?) Well, at least the cheese is good. Kidding. I’m kidding. On a good day you can find some great downhill skiing (among other outdoor adventures), on a bad day you will still find downhill skiing, but much like the rest of the East Coast, it might be windy, painfully frigid and most definitely icy. I had you at windy, didn’t I? There’s also snowshoeing, hiking, skating and shopping….not to mention an ice cream factory! So pack your thick socks, hat, gloves and ice pick, we are going skiing in Vermont this winter!
If you are traveling from NYC, The ride up to middle-Vermont is between 4.5 – 6 hours depending on which area you are heading. There is an airport in Burlington (45 min to Stowe) and Albany Airport is about an hour and a half from the Mount Snow area. but if you do fly, you will need a car to get around.
Skiing the great Vermont Green Mountains
I am going to go on a small rant here. I have been skiing the mountains of Vermont since my early 20s and actually learned how to ski at Okemo Mountain. They were traditional old school mountains then and thank god some have remained that way. I’m referring to old dirt parking lots, dudes who look like they have been frozen in time flipping burgers in the lodge, (some of the burgers also looking like they are frozen in time) and 70s and 80s music coming out of speakers at the base of the mountain. It’s simple, it’s rustic, it’s affordable and I like it that way. However, an enormous infestation…they call themselves the “Vail Corporation” have been buying up ski resorts faster than that ski bum at the lodge can flip a burger. They are completely changing the skiing experience, and not in a good way. They are raising the prices of a day ticket to exorbitant rates. They are CHARGING for parking, bringing in fancy eateries, laying off the locals by replacing them with automated systems or rude employees and selling season passes that offer discounted but limited lift tickets which result in overcrowding. Vail Ski resorts have a Disney World feel. My rant is over for the most part, but I may relapse a time or two. My goal was to not ski Vail owned resorts at all this winter. However, I reviewed several favorite Vermont resorts below…some independent, others not.
Bolton Valley Ski Resort- I am in love with this mountain. It is still independently owned by the same family that started it. The terrain is fantastic…a good variety of trails, super friendly staff, 6 lifts, 71 trails, and the highest base elevation in the east. They are open every day until 10 pm making them one of the few mountains around offering night skiing! A lift ticket here will cost 59.00 during a non holiday weekend. It doesn’t get cheaper than that!! I would rate Bolton Valley a 10/10.
Smugglers Notch Ski Resort- Another independent mountain about 40 minutes north of Stowe. Known affectionately by locals as “Smuggs”. This resort is definitely like a trip back in time. We need Michael J Fox to bring us there in his fancy time machine/car…It’s a great mountain with a decent variety of terrain . There’s even a Ben and Jerry’s on site. Who doesn’t want ice cream when you have frostbite and hypothermia?? My one complaint is that the mountain has no high speed quad to bring you to the summit. They only have 2 -person chairlifts. The upside? I don’t have to share a ride up the mountain with idiots. A non holiday weekend lift ticket is 85.00.
Mad River Glen– If this mountain were a man, I’d date it. It’s rugged, wild, unassuming and fun. This is the only ski resort I’ve ever been to with a one person chairlift…giving a whole new meaning to the saying, “it’s lonely at the top.” One of two single chairlifts in the entire country!!! The interesting thing about this mountain is that it is a “cooperative mountain” owned by local shareholders. For 2,000. you can buy your own share of the mountain….how cool is that????? It is old school at it’s finest. My favorite part? One of only a handful of mountains in the US where snowboarders are not allowed. I love it! The mountain is definitely challenging. The scream level as I fly uncontrollably down steep and unforgiving terrain is at a solid 6/10. A lift ticket on a weekend runs you around 80.00.
Mount Snow– I loved Mount Snow for so many years…it’s closer to NYC than the other Vermont mountains, it has an amazing terrain park (Carinthia) and it’s just so damn fun …even though their high speed 6 seat chairlift makes me car sick !!! My issues lately with Mount Snow are the other skiers …an immature party crowd from the city. I got contact high on the chairlift when the stoner next to me decided to light his little peace pipe and puff away in my face. My bigger issue is the fact that they were recently bought by the menacing Vail Corporation that I have previously mentioned. A weekend day pass is 123.00.
Stowe Mountain- I can’t deny that Stowe is a great mountain. It’s huge…with 116 trails, 12 lifts and a gondola that will bring you to the summit! But Stowe has always been a higher end mountain and now that Vail Corporation bought it, it’s way worse. they are now charging 30.00 to park Friday through Sunday and holidays. Their weekend lift ticket price is a whopping 170.00… yes. I said it. 170.00. That is steep (pun intended). Stowe has become the Kim Kardashian of ski mountains. Thinking it’s worth way more than it is and hoping that some glitter and sparkle will fool us.
There are also many other great ski mountains in Vermont to try out ..Killington, Okemo, Stratton and Jay Peak to name a few.
Other Things to Do in the Green Mountains
Take a tour of Ben and Jerry’s– It used to be free, but now it is 7.00 pp for a half hour tour and a free sample of ice cream. Book tickets on-line because they are limited! Fun-fact… Ben and Jerry met in the same high school that my son attended in Merrick, NY. The factory is within 20 minutes of Stowe and Bolton Valley.
Join a tour at the Von Trapp Family Lodge- The lodge was started back in 1950 by the Von Trapp family. (The family made famous by the movie, The Sound of Music). They offer tours daily and the price depends on the tour. They have history tours, wine tasting, a maple syrup snow shoe hike and even some kind of cow tour. Not sure what the “Cow Tour” is all about?! We ate at their brewhaus down the road from the lodge and the Bavarian pretzels were amazing. They also have tons of trails to hike or snowshoe on. An adult winter trail pass is 30.00/day. Snowshoe rentals are an additional fee. Fun fact; the lodge is owned by the last living Von Trapp child and managed by his son! I was reminded of the movie’s song; These are a Few of My Favorite Things when I found out that the lodge brews their own beer…
Shop for antiques, cheese and maple syrup– The town of Stowe has some fun shopping including Bear Pond Books, the Mercantile and the General Store. There is a store I wanted to visit, but didn’t have the time to called Remarkable Things. I really wanted to buy a “remarkable thing.”
Try ice climbing– If I had one extra day, this would have been my adventure. Sunrise Mountain Guides offers half day (195. for one person, discounts for additional people) or full day ice climbing classes starting at 275.00 for one, 425.00 for two people.
Where To Stay
The Grey Ghost Inn– If you are skiing Mount Snow, this is the place to stay. It is not fancy, it’s rustic. There are no Tvs in the rooms but there is a large shared space with a magnificent fireplace, an outdoor hot tub and a fantastic innkeeper named Karina. Bonus…the Moover (free shuttle) stops in front of the Inn and brings you straight to Mount Snow. Breakfast included. Unbeatable rates.
The Brass Lantern– This is a good place to stay if you are skiing Stowe or Bolton Valley. Not too far from Smugglers Notch either. The breakfasts were beyond amazing, the outdoor hot tub was a great way to end the day and the rooms were cozy. The views of Mount Mansfield from the dining room and outside porch are fantastic. Say hello to Kim if you go!
Best Western– This is a great location for skiing Bolton and not far from Stowe or Mad River Glen. Down the block from Ben and Jerry’s and near the highway.
Where to Eat
The Backyard– Local place in Stowe a little off the main road. Good food and atmosphere.
Pie-casso- Also in Stowe. Such a great menu but very crowded during peak times. Bar seating is a good alternative during busy times.
Miso Hungry Hut– I would eat here just because I love the name!! We actually met the owner on the chairlift. He skis all morning and opens up from 2-10 pm. It’s right at the base of the mountain at Bolton Valley Ski Resort. You can’t miss it. Try the rice balls with pork….Yummy.
The Last Chair- If staying at Mount Snow, this is a great place. Go early…it gets super crowded by 5 pm during holidays.
There is something now called the “Indi-pass” which, for a little over 300.00, gets you 2 days at each of the independent mountains on their list… This is a much better option (in my opinion) than supporting the Vail Corporation by buying their inflated Epic Pass. Something to think about when planning your next ski season. The ski bum flipping burgers wants to keep his dead end job.. and I, for one, would like to continue to enjoy a little Bob Seger while waiting in line to get on my next slow moving 2- person chairlift. Much like my old-school ski resorts, I like that “Old Time Rock n Roll”.
Recommended movie; Hot Tub Time Machine