10 Top-Rated Ski Resorts in Vermont 2016
Skiing in Vermont is legendary. With as much as 25 feet of natural snow each winter and state-of-the-art snowmaking and grooming equipment, conditions are dependable; many resorts open in late November and don't close until mid-April. The resort complexes that have grown around these mountains match the skiing, with luxury lodging, fine dining, and spas as well as more basic accommodations for skiers on a budget. In fact, most of these are year-round resorts with such excellent facilities that they have become tourist attractions in their own right. All offer the basics of a family ski vacation for all skill levels, including rental equipment and lessons for skiers and boarders.
1 Okemo Mountain Resort
Known for its constant updating and for the extent and quality of its on- and off-slope facilities, family-owned Okemo Mountain Resort consistently earns top awards and ratings for snow quality and grooming, terrain parks, family programs, resort dining, and customer service. All this, combined with its size, variety of terrain, and location in south-central Vermont, makes it appeal equally to serious skiers, occasional skiers, and families seeking a winter vacation. Okemo's 121 trails across 655 acres are evenly divided for varying abilities, with an added dozen glades for experienced skiers who like tree-studded terrain. The East's longest superpipe and seven of the most innovative terrain parks in the East keep boarders coming back.
A full 98% of the skiable terrain is covered by state-of-the-art snowmaking to supplement the average 16 feet of natural snow, a feature that Okemo has been lauded for repeatedly in national awards. Between nature, snowmaking, and grooming, Okemo consistently maintains some of the best ski conditions in the east. It has consistently led in environmentally sound development, especially in its snowmaking and in powering its lifts. Okemo has installed the East's first (and only) bubble-covered six-seater lift with heated seats, the Sunburst Six. This not only speeds and improves the ride to the Summit Lodge but it is also more energy efficient, with the drive mechanism at the top pulling the chairs rather than pushing them as conventional lifts do. In addition, there are four high-speed quads, four traditional quads, three triple lifts, and seven surface lifts. Okemo also excels at the off-slope facilities, with two base areas connected by lifts and trails, a full-service luxury resort hotel, condos, prize-winning fine and casual dining, a spa with in-and outdoor swimming pools and fitness facilities, a covered skating rink, zipline tours, and a tubing hill.
Address: 77 Okemo Ridge Road, Ludlow, VT
2 Stratton Mountain
Southern Vermont's highest peak at 3,875 feet, Stratton Mountain is known for its fast lifts, the variety of its terrain, and the consistent high quality of its snow. Adding to 97 trails are more than 100 acres of glades and five terrain parks. Although Stratton offers a higher percentage of easy beginner's trails (41), there is plenty of choice for more experienced skiers and boarders, with 31 intermediate and 28 rated for experts. Lifts include a gondola, four six-packs, three quad lifts, a triple, a double, and one surface lift. SKI Magazine readers regularly rate Stratton in the top 10 in the East for snow condition, terrain parks, and lifts.
Boarders rate Stratton especially high for their variety of parks for all skill levels, from the Progression Park, designed for learning, to East Byrnes Side, a top-to-bottom boardercross course, designed with the help of Olympic medalists. Stratton's self-contained slopeside complex has the look of an Alpine ski village, and its off-slope facilities include a spa, fitness center, and dining. Stratton offers other winter outdoor activities including tubing, ice skating, sleigh rides, and 90-minute dogsled tours through the scenic valley. Its proximity to Manchester means access to a wide variety of lodging, dining, and diversions.
3 Stowe Mountain Resort
Vermont's tallest peak, Mt. Mansfield, and neighboring Spruce Peak are in the heart of the state's snow belt, and have made Stowe's name almost synonymous with New England skiing. One of the country's earliest ski resort towns, Stowe was already popular in 1937, when one of the world's first chairlifts was installed here. Stowe now carries skiers to trails via two gondolas (one of which connects the two mountains), three high-speed quads, three conventional quads, two triples, and three double chairlifts. More than half the 116 trails are for intermediates, with 29 for experts and 19 for beginners. Three terrain parks challenge boarders. Luxury lodging, a spa with a heated outdoor pool, and an art center make up the slope-side resorts, but the entire road between the village and mountain is lined by country inns, luxury resorts, and restaurants.
Part of Stowe's appeal is the village itself, as pretty as they come and looking like it was posing for a Christmas card in its blanket of snow. Stretching toward the mountains from town is the Stowe Recreation Path, popular with cross-country skiers and snowshoers. Learn about Stowe's and New England's ski history at the Vermont Ski Museum. Twilight dogsledding tours, sleigh rides, and snowmobile tours through the Mt. Mansfield State Forest are some of the other winter options in Stowe.
4 Sugarbush/Mad River Glen
Sugarbush made its name in the 1960s as the home of the "Jet Set" - a term that may have originated here - but its two mountains of trails and 2,000 acres of backcountry kept it in the A-list for serious skiers. More than half its 111 trails are for intermediate skiers, but experts can test their skills on 36 trails and 21 glades, and 24 trails are rated for beginners. The Mt. Ellen trails and glades are reached by Vermont's highest chairlift. At the base of Lincoln Peak is a full-service resort village, with a luxury hotel, condos, spa, a store, and the usual foot-of-the-mountain services. Although the jet-setters have flown on, Sugarbush still has a lively après-ski life with both fine and casual dining. The East's only CAT skiing experience offers a few skiers access to first tracks on fresh powder mornings or spring skiing on Mt. Ellen.
Snowboarders have three terrain parks and a half-pipe, but cannot ride at neighboring Mad River Glen, a skier-owned mountain dedicated to natural terrain, natural snow, and skiers only. Mad River Glen is a legend, with its cheeky motto, "Ski it if You Can" and one of the last places where you can ski on trails cut to follow the mountain's natural contours for the entire 2,037-foot vertical. For real nostalgia (or maybe a moment to fully appreciate modern lifts), ride Mad River Glen's single-chair lift.
5 Mount Snow
Not the largest of Vermont's ski areas, Mount Snow is one of the most popular, largely due to its excellent snowmaking and its location as the closest major ski resort to many of the Northeast's metropolitan areas. As a result, Mount Snow is sometimes the victim of its own success, criticized for crowding on weekends and vacation weeks. But 20 lifts, ranging from five surface lifts for beginners to three high-speed quads and Bluebird Express - the first six-passenger bubble lift in the East - keep lines moving quickly, and 80 trails networked over 588 acres give skiers plenty of snow space. These are mainly for intermediate skiers, who can choose from 54 trails; 12 are for rated for beginners and 14 for experts. Boarding is big, with 10 terrain parks and a halfpipe.
One attractive feature is that different skiing abilities have fairly separate areas of the mountain. In addition to the slow ski zone that includes the beginner area, the Long John/Little John trail from the peak allows novices the thrill of skiing from the top. The main face of the mountain is filled with enough intermediate trails and slopes to fill a day's skiing, and the Sunbrook area on the back of the main mountain, served by its own lift, is also intermediate territory. The North Face, with 10 expert trails and one double-black, is served by a pair of triple chairlifts. Mount Snow's southern setting made snowmaking an early priority, and its more than 250 high-output fan guns are the most of any North American ski resort. Newer low-energy snow guns make it one of the industry's most energy-efficient resorts. Both luxury and budget-friendly lodgings are at the base area, along with a number of restaurants.
With the most skiable terrain in Vermont and one of New England biggest après-ski scenes, Killington appeals to a younger crowd of boarders and skiers. Its 155 trails include more expert terrain than any other mountain, with 60 trails and 16 glades, but intermediate and beginning skiers have a lot to choose from, with 53 and 43 trails respectively. Its sheer size allows Killington to offer a wide variety of ski styles, as well, with old-fashioned narrow trails that wind through the woods, wide-open cruising trails, mogul faces, and steep drops. The choices for snowboarders and freeskiers are just as varied, with six terrain parks, including The Stash, an all-natural park with more than 50 features. The Superpipe is 500 feet long with 18-foot walls. All this is served by 22 lifts, two of which are express gondolas.
Throughout the ski season there is something happening at Killington every weekend, with festivals, bands, on- and off-slope competitions and events. The entire access road is lined with dining and entertainment venues. There are plenty of ways to enjoy the outdoors as well, with snowmobile tours, sleigh rides, tubing, and dogsledding nearby. Traditionalists may prefer the somewhat old-fashioned, laid-back charm of adjacent Pico Mountain, whose vertical drop of 1,967 feet is one of Vermont's highest.
7 Smugglers' Notch
Few ski resorts do as good a job of pleasing kids as "Smuggs," a self-contained destination resort close to Burlington. Its abundance of family-friendly facilities include a dedicated - and supervised - teen club, the indoor FunZone with climbing inflatables, an indoor pool, a slope-side nursery, and a whole series of innovative age-appropriate ski classes and programs for children as young as two-and-a-half-years old. These have earned it the title of #1 Kid-Friendly Resort in the East by readers of SKI Magazine. Bonfires and roasting marshmallows at the base area begin each day as the lifts close, and there are torchlight parades down the slopes, fireworks, and evening activities that give parents a chance to enjoy the resort's dining options. The ArborTrek Zip Line offers canopy tours and there are frequent guided snowshoe nature hikes. Slope-side condos are designed with families in mind.
But don't think Smugglers' Notch caters only to small-fry. Skiing and riding on three mountains offers 40 intermediate trails and 25 for experts, and its 360 skiable acres cover a vertical drop of 2610 feet. Although it's farther north than many, it is Vermont's closest major ski resort to a commercial airport.
8 Jay Peak
Only five miles south of the US-Canadian border, Jay Peak is the farthest north of Vermont's ski resorts, and gets the most natural snowfall of any in the East. This location and the snow-making capacity over 80% of its 385 skiable acres allow the resort to offer skiing from mid-November through mid-May. Jay's 78 trails and slopes include 24 glades, several of which - Moonwalk Woods, Bushwacker, Kokomo among them - are designed for novice skiers. In all, 15 trails are for beginners, 30 for intermediate, and 31 for experts. But for many experts, the appeal of Jay is its backcountry skiing.
Vermont's only aerial tramway carries up to 60 people from the base to the 3,968-foot summit, bringing the mountain's total lift capacity to more than 12,000 skiers per hour. Many of the skiers at Jay are from Montreal and the Eastern Townships of Quebec, giving the entire resort a French-Canadian flavor. You'll hear as much or more French spoken there as English. The full-service resort at the base of the mountain has plenty of lodging in all price ranges, as well as dining, a spa, ice skating, and sleigh rides.
9 Bolton Valley
The compact Alpine-style village and warm family-friendly atmosphere at Bolton Valley makes it seem smaller than its 71 trails that spread over 300 skiable acres. Set in the Green Mountains not far from Burlington and close to I-89, Bolton seems a world apart, surrounded by more than 5,000 acres of undeveloped forest. Trails are almost evenly split between beginner, expert, and intermediate, plus there are 13 glades and three terrain parks. Bolton's award-winning environmental initiatives include energy efficient HKD snow guns to augment the mountain's annual average of 312 feet of natural snow. Bolton is one of only two ski resorts in the United States to use wind power as an energy source.
Along with skiing and snowboarding, this self-contained resort offers 62 miles of Nordic and backcountry trails, snowshoeing, and lighted trails for night skiing. A variety of lodging options are right in the base area, either ski-in/ski-out or within a short walk of the lifts, and the village also includes two restaurants, a cafeteria, deli, and general store. The Sports Center has a heated pool.
10 Bromley Mountain Resort
Always ranking high in awards for family-friendly ski mountains, Bromley may not be the biggest, but it's one of the most user-friendly of ski resorts. Unlike most ski areas, Bromley's slopes and trails face south, which in winter translates to sunny slopes and trails throughout the day. Bromley opened in the earliest days of recreational skiing, in 1937, and claims its place in ski history as one of the first places to adapt the terrain to skiing, as well as one of the first to introduce grooming. They still excel at taking care of the snow. The trails are spread almost evenly between those rated for beginners, intermediates, and expert skiers. The mountain is known for its ski and boarding instruction for both children and adults. Bromley uses the innovative Terrain Based learning technique, which usually has learners skiing independently the first day.
In addition to plenty of hotels, inns, and B&Bs in and around Manchester, The Lodge at Bromley is right at the base for ski-in/ski-out lodging. Bromley's frequent deals on lift tickets has earned it SKI Magazine readers' consistent ranking in the top 10 in the East for value.
Address: Vermont Route 11, Peru, VT