12 Top-Rated Ski Resorts on the East Coast, 2018
Skiing on the East Coast is a bit different from skiing in the west. Elevations are lower, and knee-deep powder is almost unheard of. There may be more of a mix of natural and man-made snow, but snow-making is so advanced at most mountains that you might have trouble telling the difference. Although few mountains offer the long, steep runs of higher western peaks, eastern mountains don't lack for white-knuckle challenges, with plenty of precipitous, gnarly trails. Resorts emphasize family skiing, and nearly all have a good range of terrain for everyone, from children on their first skis to Olympic skiers. After all, these are the mountains where multi-medalist Bode Miller and snowboard cross racers Lindsey Jacobellis and Alex Deibold learned their skills.
Although the skiing is paramount, the overall quality of the winter vacation experience is also important, and you'll find differences here, too. Most eastern resorts spill into traditional New England towns, and although most have on-mountain lodging and dining, there is plenty of chance to enjoy Yankee hospitality in these postcard mountain villages. Ski resorts in New Hampshire and Vermont are so close together that you can plan a trip to ski multiple mountains in both states. Thanks to north-south interstate highways, several resorts here are within a few hours of New York or Boston. Airports at Manchester, New Hampshire and Burlington, Vermont bring you even closer to the slopes.
1 Okemo Mountain Resort, Vermont
Earning consistent top ratings for the quality of its grooming and snowmaking, as well as its terrain parks, family programs, dining, and customer service, Okemo Mountain Resort also offers an easily reachable location in south-central Vermont. What it may lack in death-defying plunges, it more than makes up for in its abundant and perfectly groomed cruisers for all skill levels. The skill levels of the resort's 121 trails are the most evenly divided in the east, and in addition there are 21 glades to further challenge experienced skiers. Borders will love the East's longest superpipe, along with nine terrain parks that are among the most innovative in the East. State-of-the-art snowmaking covers 98 percent of the terrain, adding to the high natural snowfall to earn Okemo repeated national awards for snow quality.
With some of the best ski conditions in the east, you'd expect long lines, but Okemo has recently changed to RFID ticketing. Skiers go directly onto lifts without waits for ticket check. Lifts also take advantage of the latest technology, and Okemo was the East's first (and only) resort to install a six-pack bubble-covered lift with heated seats. Off-slope facilities are just as good, with luxury on-mountain lodging at the Jackson Gore Inn and food options, from quick snacks at a ski-up waffle cabin to candle-lit fine dining. A covered skating rink, full-service spa, indoor and outdoor pools, cross-country skiing, fat-bike rentals and trails, snowshoeing, indoor golf, a tubing hill, the Timber Ripper Mountain Coaster, and snow-cat excursions combine with skiing to give Okemo a visitor experience that few resorts can match.
2 Stowe Mountain Resort, Vermont
Vermont's quintessential ski town is Stowe, an early center for the new sport of skiing in the 1930s. One of the first chairlifts in the world began taking skiers up the mountain in 1937. You can trace skiing's evolution in the center of the postcard village, at the Vermont Ski Museum. Vermont's tallest peak, Mt. Mansfield, and neighboring Spruce Peak are a few miles away, and between the mountains and village center, Mountain Road offers a wide choice of inns and accommodation with recreation facilities, such as Stoweflake Mountain Resort & Spa. More resort facilities are at the base of the ski area.
A gondola takes skiers to the top of Mt. Mansfield, and another connects the two mountains, between them accessing 116 trails. More than half of these are rated for intermediates. Experts can get their thrills on 29 trails, some of the state's most challenging, and boarders will find three terrain parks. In 2017, Stowe followed Okemo in adding RFID ticketing for faster lift access to the two gondolas, three high-speed quads, three conventional quads, two triples, and three double chairlifts. Outdoor sports off the slopes include cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, sleigh rides, dogsledding, and snowmobile tours.
3 Cranmore Mountain and North Conway, New Hampshire
Ski with history at this mountain that was one of the first recreational ski resorts, dating from the 1930s when Ski Trains brought enthusiasts from Boston and New York. The mountain overlooks North Conway, which is acclaimed as New England's top ski resort town, as well as one of the most affordable. Its compact Main Street is lined with shops featuring the latest equipment and ski wear, and plenty of après-ski, dining, and lodging options for all budgets. South of the Main Street area are discount malls filled with one of New England's largest collections of brand-name outlets.
Skiing is what North Conway is all about, from the time the first flakes fall in November. Nine lifts disperse skiers across more than 200 acres of skiable terrain, networked by 57 trails. Views from any of them are breathtaking, with a panorama of Mt. Washington and the Presidential Range across a wide snow-covered valley. Most of the trails face west, for glorious afternoon sun that moderates the coldest winter days. Trails and snowboard parks are evenly spread for all levels of skier, with plenty to challenge experienced skiers. A real plus for arriving skiers is the short and easy access from the unloading area to the lifts. An especially family-friendly resort, Cranmore has an excellent ski instruction program and a number of non-ski outdoor attractions and things to do, including a large tubing hill and a Mountain Coaster.
4 Bretton Woods Mountain Resort, New Hampshire
A few miles north of North Conway, Bretton Woods is a large upscale ski resort complex that caters to high-end skiers with a full range of sports, lodging, dining, spa, and resort services. The historic Mount Washington Hotel, now the Omni Mount Washington Resort, faces the ski trails across a valley floor that's traversed by the resort's cross-country trails. Ten lifts serve 62 ski trails, 35 glades, and three terrain parks, covering a total of 464 skiable acres.
Its northern location and exposure and 97 percent snowmaking coverage combine to give Bretton Woods some of the state's most dependable snow conditions, which consistently rate among the best in the east. They offer night skiing on weekends, and a number of other winter activities at the hotel and ski area, including a zipline, snowshoeing, sledding, and fat-bike trails and rentals, along with a full cross-country ski center.
Address: Route 302, Bretton Woods, New Hampshire
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Bretton Woods
5 Sugarloaf, Maine
Sugarloaf makes up for its remote northern Maine location (it's a four-hour drive from either Montreal or Boston) with a 200-foot annual snowfall, a season that stretches into May, and the only lift-served skiing above tree line in the east. So if wide open snowfields or late April skiing beckon you, head for Maine's western mountains. With 1,240 acres of developed terrain and 2,820 feet of continuous vertical, it has the most skiable surface of any mountain in the east, composed of 161 trails and glades and three progressive terrain parks. About half the terrain is covered by snowmaking. The longest run cruises 3.5 miles from the summit. Along with a hotel, an inn, and dining, the resort facilities at the base include an Outdoor Center with cross-country skiing, ice skating, and snowshoeing.
6 Stratton Mountain, Vermont
Fast lifts and good snow conditions make Stratton popular with skiers, while boarders treasure it for the variety of its terrain parks. The Progression Park is specially designed for learning riders, and the top-to-bottom boardercross course, East Byrnes Side, was designed by Olympians. There are five terrain parks in all, plus 97 trails and more than 100 acres of glades. Beginning skiers are well served here, with 41 green trails, but intermediates and experts have plenty of options, with 31 blue and 28 black diamond trails.
Stratton has built its own village at the base, in the style of luxury European ski resorts, so there's plenty of choice in dining, après-ski, and shopping. Stratton Mountain Resort and condos offer slopeside lodging. Winter sports include tubing, ice skating, sleigh rides, and dogsled tours. Manchester, with its variety of restaurants and upscale-brand outlets is nearby.
7 Gore Mountain, New York
New York's largest ski area spans four different mountains in the Adirondacks: Gore, Little Gore, Burnt Ridge, and Bear Mountain. Combined, they offer 446 accessible acres of skiing and riding, with 2,537 feet of vertical drop. This is a mountain loved by experienced skiers, with 27 glades and 40 percent of its 119 trails designated black diamond. Half the trails are intermediate and 10 percent are suitable for beginning skiers. Gore's 14 lifts include an eight-passenger gondola and two high-speed quads.
In addition to alpine skiing, Gore Mountain has nine cross-country and snowshoe trails located at North Creek Ski Bowl, at the base of Little Gore Mountain. These and the downhill, halfpipe, and freestyle terrain at the Ski Bowl are lighted for night skiing.
8 Loon Mountain, New Hampshire
Less than 10 minutes off I-93 and only two hours from Boston, Loon Mountain is the closest full-service ski resort to an Interstate highway. Loon's two separate sections are located on three different peaks inside the White Mountain National Forest, with a vertical drop of 2,100 feet.
The 61 trails are well divided for different skill levels, as are the terrain parks, where there is terrain reserved for very young beginning borders, along with plenty of challenges for experts. Much of Loon's terrain faces north, so snow conditions here tend to hold well during warmer days and last longer into spring skiing.
The Mountain Club On Loon, right in the base lodge and a few steps from the gondola loading area, offers a full-service hotel with restaurants, parking, a swimming pool, and spa. Even for those not staying at the hotel, Loon is arranged to make slope access easy for arriving skiers laden with equipment. For non-skiers, the Loon Mountain Adventure Center at the base area offers snow tubing, snowshoeing, guided snowshoe tours, cross country skiing, ice skating, and zipline rides
9 Mount Snow, Vermont
The southernmost of Vermont's ski resorts, Mount Snow owes its loyal following to several things: superb snow-making, an excellent lift system, an especially wide variety of trails for intermediate skiers, plenty of terrain for boarders, and proximity to the northeast's major cities. Snow's 589 acres of skiable terrain is accessed by 20 lifts, including three high-speed quads and Bluebird Express, the East's first six-passenger bubble lift. Of the 80 trails, 54 are for intermediate skiers, with 12 for beginners and 14 for experts, including one double black diamond. Beginners can ski from the summit on a three-mile cruiser. Carinthia Park has a halfpipe, and a total of 130 features challenge boarders.
Mount Snow is known for its ability to make snow when nature doesn't. Its 899 snow guns are the most of any ski mountain in North America, so even if they don't get the usual average snowfall of 156 inches, they can maintain top conditions. Lodgings in all price ranges are right at the base area.
10 Killington, Vermont
Killington's long reputation as a party mountain has made it especially popular with young skiers and boarders, while its 60 black diamond trails and 16 glades give it more expert terrain than any other Vermont mountains. But there is plenty for intermediates (53 trails) and beginners (43 trails), and for those whose day does not revolve around après-ski. The variety of terrain is appealing, too, as along with its steep mogul faces and precipitous drops, there are long, wide cruisers and some old-school winding, narrow trails. As you'd expect from a resort favored by a younger set, boarders and freestyle skiers can choose from among six parks and a 500-foot Superpipe with 18-foot walls. Two of Killington's 22 lifts are express gondolas.
It's party time at the base all winter long, with a continuing series of bands, festivals, competitions, and events, and the road leading to the base is lined with après-ski venues. For a quieter and more traditional, if somewhat old-fashioned, ski experience, try nearby Pico Mountain, with a vertical drop of just under 2,000 feet, which is among Vermont's highest.
11 Smugglers' Notch, Vermont
Consistently rated as the #1 Kid-Friendly Resort in the East by readers of SKI Magazine, Smugglers' Notch knows how to please kids of all ages, and their families. Self-contained and set deep in a northern Vermont valley on a road that closes in the winter just beyond the resort, there is an air of pampered seclusion here that reassures parents and makes the whole resort seem like one big playground. Teens have their own dedicated (and supervised) club, tots have a slopeside nursery, and everyone can roast marshmallows around the daily apres-ski bonfire and play in the indoor FunZone, with climbing inflatables and an indoor pool. Children as young as two-and-a-half years can take ski lessons, and a specially sculpted learning area makes it easier for new skiers to gain skills quickly. Canopy tours on the ArborTrek Zip Line and frequent guided snowshoe nature hikes keep non-skiers busy.
"Smuggs" isn't just for kids. With a vertical drop of 2,610 feet, the 360 skiable acres across three mountains include 40 intermediate trails and 25 for experts, in addition to all the beginner areas. Access to trails is direct from most of the slopeside condos you can stay in at Smugglers' Notch Resort. The remote northern location of Smugglers' Notch doesn't mean it's hard to reach - because of its proximity to Burlington, it is the closest full-service ski resort in Vermont to a commercial airport.
12 Windham Mountain, New York
Although not one of the biggest ski areas in the northeast, Windham Mountain is among the most popular because of its easy distance from New York City. The three-hour dive to this mountain in the northern Catskills means that, like Mount Snow in Vermont, it can get crowded on weekends. But skiers and boarders soon spread out across its 52 trails and five terrain parks. Freestylers love the Big Air Bag, and everyone appreciates the 97 percent snowmaking coverage, which keeps trails open even when the weather doesn't cooperate. Along with skiing, Windham has ice skating, snowshoeing, cross country skiing, snow tubing, and a spa.
More Related Articles on PlanetWare.com
- Ski New Hampshire: Learn about more ski mountains in the White Mountains and southern part of the state in our article Top-Rated Ski Resorts in New Hampshire.
- Ski Vermont: Right next to New Hampshire, Vermont's Green Mountains also provide plenty of skiing. Learn about Vermont's resorts in our article Top-Rated Ski Resorts in Vermont.
- Ski the West: The lofty peaks of the American west are renowned for their ski resorts. Read about them in our articles Top-Rated Ski Resorts in Utah, Top-Rated Ski Resorts in Colorado, and Best Ski Resorts in Lake Tahoe.
- Ski Europe: The French, Swiss, and Austrian Alps and Italy's Dolomites are described in our articles Top-Rated Ski Resorts in Italy, Top-Rated Ski Resorts in France, Top-Rated Ski Resorts in Austria, and Top-Rated Ski Resorts in Switzerland.