top 5 new england resorts
September 26, 2007
I know Ski mag will come out with their list in two months but I tend to apreciate everyone here's opinion a bit more.
This is the issue, every year I try to pick a New England Resort to go to trying to make sure I hit all the ones I should definitely ski in this lifetime. I end getting bogged down in infomercial type info and running around in circles until I realize I have not made a decision and end up returning to Tremblant. That is not a bad consolation prize but I would still like to ski NE.
So what are your top 5 that you think any and everyone must ski and why?
Thank you all in advance for what I know will be more informative and unbiased opinions
I never did much skiing in newengalnd either but I wanted to try:
Killington...because it is Killington
Jay Peak..because it is different and gets more snow than any other NE ski area (go just over the border and ski Mt. Sutten in southern Quebec).
Whiteface...because it is colder than cold and the mountain utilized in at least two Olympics, and near Mt. Placid
Sunday River...another unique place
Mt. Snow...a rich history and an incredible number of runs for less than 2K verticle
Thats my list, at least for today.
In no particular order: Killington, Sugarbush, Sugarloaf, Mont Tremblant, Stowe.
But so many others can also provide great fun, particularly if they fit a specific aspect of skiing that you want to experience such as easy or hard terrain, family environment, lavish accommodations/surroundings, remote&pristine, low cost, numerous non-ski activities, numerous ski areas in close proximity, etc, etc.
Based on your comment that you like Mont Tremblant I could speculate that you may prefer a large upscale ski area with a nice village at or near base. In that case you might like Stowe, Sugarloaf, Okemo, Stratton, and Killington.
I'm going to try to put together an article this Fall on lessons learned from my past experiences as a family ski road-tripper to NE.
I've skied just about all of them and I'd have to say that TRomano's list is as good as any. The top 2 are a cut above in my opinion. Smugglers could easily displace one of the lower 3. I also second the Colonel's recommendation for a side trip to Sutton, especially if it is windy. Jay' lifts get a lot of wind holds. Sutton traps & collects powder when the wind blows. Border crossing may be more difficult now than when I last went ~ 4 yrs. ago.
IMHO the best on the map skiing in the east is at Mad River. It needs good natural snow, but it seems that 90% of my days there have had good snow. It is also exceptionally beautiful. Limited lift capacity means no crowds on the slopes and the snow stays good for a long time. It does have serious lift lines on busy weekends.
For Off piste, Stowe (really Mansfield - the mountain) is just in a different league than anyplace else in New England. The Chin, The Kitchen Wall chutes, Teardrop, Bruce, the planets - - - the list goes on and on and I don't know the half of it despite going there for years. Mansfield hides its secrets very well. I also went to Killington for years and it has an important place in my development as a skier, but its high end stuff just doesn't have the same gnarl factor as the places further north. With that exception its a great place with something for (almost) everybody.
The only two we have not been to are Sugarloaf and Sunday River, and they are on the list for this year. That will pretty much make the east coast a wrap for us on major areas and some minor. In a VERY particular order I would rank them:
1. Jay - If you can't find what you are looking for here, it doesn't exist.
2. Stowe - Almost as much terrain as Jay, plus kick a$$ nighlife.
3. Whiteface - Yes, it is part of NE. Icy? So what?
4. Okemo - A must if you have kids.
5. Smugglers Notch - Kind of isolated, but worth the drive.
Honorable Mention - Sugarbush
1 Jay, Why? Big vertical (2000ft.+) off of the tramside quad and the tram. Access to all types of terrain and long runs. Great natural snow and my #1 reason lots of easy to find tree skiing, its all on the trail map.
2. Stowe Big vertical (2000ft.+) off of the quad and all the terrain you want, mild to wild. Big vertical off of the gondola too. Great tree skiing but you must find it or a local willing to share.
These two mountains ski bigger than many western resorts I've been to and with easier access to expert terrain.
Ok my list ends here. I sent much time at Killington but once I went north, I've never been back and that was 20 years ago. K-mart is huge but doesn't offer big vertical with the type of terrain selection as Jay or Stowe. K-mart offers a lot but it's spread out, good tree skiing but crowds. Maybe it's changed. Outer Limits is a great expert bump run if that's your liking but I like trees. Go there if you must or if you want night life and the skiing won't disappoint but I'll go north.
Places to get back to :
Sugarbush for Castle Rock area, it was closed the only time I was there. Slide Brook area wasn't there and there was no interconnect between the Bush and North.
Magic, smallish but good vertical and best expert terrain in the south, Only there once 20+ years ago.
High on my list of must ski before I get too old to enjoy all of it:
Mad River Glen, the motto says it all, ski it if you can. Legendary terrain and tree skiing reputed to be the best in the east and out ranks many western resorts for expert terrain and it's all natural and a real throw back to a bygone era. Why I haven't been there I don't know, snow condition were marginal, didn't have the skill when I was in the area, too dumb to know any better.
Whiteface, the only eastern mountain to host Olympics, good expert terrain, greatest vertical in the east.
Cannon, big vertical and good expert terrain. I've been there twice so I can't say more. I need to hook up with a local.
With the premise of NE Resorts that one should definitely ski in this lifetime, I would pick:
Killington - because, as mentioned above, it's Killington and deserves a visit based on sheer size and impact to eastern skiing alone. Along the lines of going to Vail at least once just so you have some reference point for all the times it's cited.
Stowe - For the front four and the reputation around it as the classic Vermont ski area
Wildcat - For the best scenery in the east (try to hit it on a clear day) and a great karma.
Whiteface - For the aforementioned Olympic experience and the great Adirondak experience of Lake Placid and the High Peaks region.
#5 is tough because so many areas have great things to offer, but I think it really comes down to personal preferences. A case can certainly be made for Jay, MRG, Sugarbush, Cannon, Sugarloaf, Bretton Woods, Okemo, Smugglers Notch and no doubt others. So, take two weeks and hit them all - then you'll know what YOU like best and have no regrets at all.
Stowe is number 1 in my book. I suspect Jay is 2, but I've never skied it. The rest is up for debate, but Killington is overrated and should not be in the top 5 as far as I am concerned. I've skied there multiple times, each time hoping to discover something I missed and not finding it. My wife will never set foot on that mountain again--that's how much she dislikes it.
I agree that Killington is a must visit, but it does lack super vertical to make it number 1. Don't get me wrong, it beats Winterplace or Snowshoe but I'd rather head west if I'm traveling and staying.
What I dislike so much about Killington are the Great Northern and Great Eastern trails, which cut across much of the steeper terrain and force more advanced skiers to slow down at these intersections. You often have to funnel through a fence gap to clear the intersection. These intersection serve to diminish the Killington's vertical even more so. Expert trails with no intesecting trails are even shorter. Stowe's steeper terrain, by contrast, has fewer interruptions. Vertical is more sustained and constant.
Say, has anyone been to Burke? I went to grad school with someone who's family had a condo up there, but because we didn't exactly get along (what a shock, no?) I never got up there. But of the few people who've been that way, I hear good things about the mountain. It's in a rarely-visited portion of the state, but has a pretty impressive vertical.
Anyone been there? Got any thoughts on it?
Also- Pico in southern VT is probably a good place to drop in if you're looking for something to do while heading northward for Warren, Stowe, Jay, etc.
I've stayed at the base of Burke on a bike tour and it looked terrific. From what I heard from the locals, it's never crowded and gets pretty good snow. Alas, I've never skied there as we've always headed up to Jay when that far north in VT.
btw, I did not mean to imply at all that Killington is the best ski area in New England area by any means. I just think it should be on the list of "must hit one time" resorts given it's relative prominence in the industry. I'll also say that the last time we were there was on December 26th and it had just dumped 30 inches of snow on Christmas day. There were no crowds, conditions were epic, and even the parking was no problem at all. I agree with JohnFMH about the cat tracks crossing some of the trails, though, as that does interupt some of the longer steep runs.
Here's my list.
#1 - #3 (in no particular order) - Jay, MRG, & Stowe. If you know where to go, these places are giant playgrounds. I also like the feeling of being free to ski anywhere I wanted without getting hassled.
#4 - Okemo (The kids voted for this one)- Probably the most family/kid friendly ski area in Vt. It also has a great snowmaking system.
#5 - I'm leaving the fifth spot open for someplace in NH or ME. I've skied almost every ski area in Vt., but haven't skied any place in ME or NH. I need to work on this. I now have family living in ME, so hopefully I'll bag a couple of areas in NH or ME in the very near future.
Honorable Mention - Sugarbush. Sugar also has some great OB skiing.
On the bottom of the list is K-mart & Stratton.
I skied Sunday River in early December with fairly limited terrain open and thought it was better than Killington, even with less terrain available due to the early season visit:http://www.dcski.com/articles/view_article.php?article_id=391&mode=search
I'd love to hit the river when everything is open. It looks like it would be great in March.
PS I've skied Killington since I was a teenager and it just keeps getting worse. However, I agree with SCWVA that it should be visited once by everyone. Some people swear by it. But I'd take Timberline after 8 inches of Lake effect any day of my life over Killington.
PPS You can ski anywhere at T-line as well and no one will hassle you.
On my last trip to Killington, my wife kept saying, "You know, Timberline is much better and so much closer."