I've visted some of the places before but mostly in the 80s before a lot of big improvements were made. My brother won't want to ski anything greater than a blue, which is actually fine by me b/c I will be just getting my ski legs back. What I am most concerned about is snow conditions and terrain availability. My wife suggests waiting until the very last minute before making a decision, and I'm kind of leaning in her direction--this part of the season is dead and you can always get reservations last minute.
For some reason, I'm leaning towards Okemo--I guess the thought of easy groomers and decent manmade hardpack appeals to me for a December trip.
[This message has been edited by johnfmh (edited 10-03-2003).]
Yeah, but if you happend to luck out with new snow and normally-closed trails are open, all warm-up and progression plans seem to be forgotten. A couple of years ago, the morning of my first day of the season was spent entirely on Castlerock in Sugarbush. (Fortunately Upper Liftline and Rumble were closed; I would have been foolish enough to try them and the results would not have been good for my longevity.)
Early season I'd probably try Stratton or Mt Snow. They tend to blow snow broadly early in the season b/c, like Killington, they depend on the weekend trade and that can start before Christmas. Besides, being farther south, if they want to be fully open at Christmas, they have to step on it early. Ditto for Okemo.
[This message has been edited by Norsk (edited 10-03-2003).]
Before Xmas in Vermont is a crap shoot, but most likely you'll be skiing 100 percent on trails with man-made snow. (I doubt New Hampshire is any different and is probably worse.) Some years resorts are scrambling to open appreciable terrain by Xmas (they don't like to make a lot of snow until the crowds arrive.) In rare years, you'll be able to ski trails which have no snow making at all.
Safe to say that Killington will probably have the most open trails.
I've never skied New Hampshire, but from their reps Cannon and Wildcat probably have the worst snowmaking of the areas you've mentioned. Jim K or PM may have some more insight.
If you're ok with standard motels, you can use the larger towns as a fail-safe backup for lodging if you book too late and happen to be shut out of close-in lodging. That would be Brattleboro (Mt. Snow, Stratton), Ludlow (Okemo), Rutland (Killington/Pico), and South Burlington (Stowe, Sugarbush, Smugg's). You should be able to find nice lodging much closer than what I've listed, even last-second.