You can’t get any more New England than taking a trip down Vermont Route 100.
For nearly 220 miles, from Quebec to Connecticut, Route 100, a.k.a. Vermont’s “Main Street”, is a two-lane jaunt through quaint towns and villages, passing such classic New England icons as covered bridges, dense hardwood forests, hard-scrabble farms, white steeple churches, thundering waterfalls and Ben & Jerry’s.
The thoroughfare, which runs down the eastern side of the Green Mountains, is also known as “The Skiers’ Highway” because most of Vermont’s winter resorts are either on the highway or lie in close proximity to it.
Here’s a brief primer on what skiers and snowboarders can find on a journey, north to south, along Vermont 100:
Hard by the Canadian border, Jay is renowned as much for its copious amounts of snow (379 inches per annum) and steep glade skiing as for its remoteness. Yet a journey to Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom is well worth the trek. Here you’ll find for your riding pleasure a 60-person tram, six chairs (one of which is a high-speed quad), 385 skiable acres, 2,153 vertical feet and three terrain parks all for the $82 per day adult ticket price. At the resort’s base, which recently underwent a multi-million-dollar overhaul, you’ll find three hotels/lodges, numerous condominium options, an indoor water park, an indoor ice arena and several restaurants and bars.
Perhaps the quintessential New England winter resort, Stowe has been attracting visitors ever since the 1930s, when trails, including the famous front four black-diamond runs — Goat, National, Starr and Liftline — were hacked out the woods on a subsidiary ridge of Mt. Mansfield, Vermont’s highest point (4,395 feet). While the Mansfield runs are mostly for the adrenaline rush, the adjacent Spruce Peak complex is a cruiser’s paradise. In all, Stowe has a six-passenger gondola and eight chairs (including four quads) to service 485 acres, more than 2,300 feet of vertical and 116 trails, 83 percent of which has snowmaking. Though there’s a relatively new slope-side hotel (Stowe Mountain Lodge), look for typical New England-style accommodations in nearby Stowe village.
“Ski it if you can” has long been the mantra of this quirky “throwback” resort. But despite — or maybe because of — limited snowmaking (only 16 of MRG’s 115 acres are covered in man-made snow), it is a lodestone for skiers (and two-plankers only; snowboarders are not allowed) who don’t mind negotiating a plethora of natural obstacles to savor Mad River’s renowned steep bump runs and tree skiing. The resort, which has limited base facilities, has four lifts (one of which is MRG’s signature single chair) servicing 2,037 feet of vertical and 45 trails, nearly half of which are rated black diamond.
A close neighbor of Mad River Glen, Sugarbush, which consists of two base areas — Lincoln Peak and Mt. Ellen — and six peaks, is a bit more upscale, with much more snowmaking (70 percent of the resort’s 484 acres and 111 trails are covered in man-made snow) and a wider range/choice of lodging options. Still, it has a great grungy vibe, with typical New England-style black diamond runs slicing through the woods and some pretty decent powder in the trees, accessible from most of the resort’s 13 chairlifts (five of which are high-speed quads). Adding to Sugarbush’s allure is 2,000 acres of pristine back-country skiing and snowboarding in an area called Slide Brook Basin.
The so-called Beast of the East is the largest U.S. ski area west of the Rockies (1,500 skiable acres spread over seven peaks) with the greatest vertical (3,050 feet). It is also one of the most crowded, being within easy driving distance of the Boston-New York City metroplex (Killington does not release its skier-visits data). But with 155 trails serviced by two gondolas and 13 chairs (five high-speed quads), skiers and snowboarders usually have sufficient elbow room to sample the resort’s vast array of terrain, which includes narrow bump runs, wide cruising boulevards and tasty tree riding. There are numerous hotels, motels, condo complexes, bars, restaurants and other off-slope diversions lining chock-a-block along the resort’s 3-mile access road.
Famed for its snow-making capabilities (98 percent of the resort’s 667 acres have snow guns) and grooming (ranked sixth in a recent national poll), Okemo is perhaps even more highly regarded as a wonderful place to bring the clan for a ski/snowboard holiday. With the emphasis on family fun, the resort has a multitude of kids’-oriented activities, both on and off the slopes. Okemo is also a cruiser’s delight, with more than two-thirds of its 121 trails and glades rated intermediate or easier. There are 13 chairlifts (five high-speed quads and one high-speed six-pack) moving riders up various aspects of Okemo’s 2,200 feet of vertical. The nearby village of Ludlow has all the lodging, dining and off-hill amusements most people require. You can also find slopeside lodging in Okemo here.
Home of the Great Snow Guarantee — ski or snowboard for an hour, any hour, any day, and if you’re not satisfied, the resort with give you credit for another day — Stratton Mountain Resort’s 11 lifts (including a gondola and four high-speed six-packs) carry riders toward the highest point in southern Vermont (3,875 feet), where below their boards they’ll find 97 trails spread over 670 acres (93 percent of which are covered by man-made snow). It’s not a tough mountain — more than 70 percent of the runs are rated intermediate or easier — but it has garnered a number of top 10 ratings for snow quality, grooming, lifts, terrain parks, lodging, apres, dining and nightlife.
Located in southern Vermont, this is the closest resort to the Boston-New York metroplex, but it doesn’t have a crowded feel to it. There’s enough room in Snow’s 589 acres, 80 percent of which are covered by snow-making guns, to disperse the skiers and snowboarders and they are efficiently moved around the 1,700 vertical-foot mountain by a system of 15 chairlifts, four of which are the high-speed kind. Perhaps the most intriguing part of Mt. Snow it the Carinthia complex, which is home to 12 terrains parks with more than 125 features and an 18-foot-wall superpipe. The resort has a couple of upscale hotel/lodges at the base, and there are a variety of inns and B&Bs in the Mount Snow Valley.