November 2, 2004
After couple of years skiing in Killington, I started to explore other possibilities/resorts. Does anyone have an experience with Stowe, VT? I'm planning a New Year vacation for whole family. We are intermediate skiers, and Stowe seems to fit our esperience very well. It has a lot of blue trails. How those trails are comparing to Killington blue ones?
Stowe has much more consistent terrain than Killington. I found Killington to have lots of starts and gos to its run-- catwalks to get to the trails and long flat spots if you tried to head down the front of the mountain. At Stowe, you get on the run and you're on intermediate fall line for the next two miles.
For any ability level, I'd take Stowe over almost any other resort on the east coast. So, unfortunately, would a lot of other people. On the weekends, the place is packed. It can also be pretty expensive, and brutally cold. But the terrain is incredible and on a sunny day, the view is unlike anything else you'll find on the east coast.
A word of caution: if you really are an intermediate skier, STAY AWAY from Goat, Starr, and Nosedive! Another thing to look into: Smugglers Notch is just across the pass and some winters they have a connector run between the two open. If they are doing that this winter, you might want to see if there is some lift ticket option that will let you ski at Smugglers for the day. Smugglers is consistently ranked as one of the best family resorts on the east coast and has a great variety of terrain, too. If you can ski both places, you're in for a great time!
I've never skied at Killington so I can't compare. My wife and I love Stowe -- summer, fall, winter, anytime but mud season. Stowe does have some pluses and minuses, however. The Spruce peak area is not connected to the Mt. Mansfield area except by shuttle -- it runs frequently so it's not a big deal, but it may bother some folks. They are in the processof doing lots of rennovation, especially on the Spruce peak side, the Gondola is fast and comfortable, the frontrunner quad is fast, most other lifts are old and slow. The big Spruce double is affectionately called the big pig (this will be the last year for the big pig, BTW). There's very little ski-in-ski-out accomodation. The base lodges are 6-7 miles from the heart of Stowe, though there are lots of restaurants and hotels along 108 between town and the ski areas. There are lots of terrific restaurants! Lots of neat shops, etc. At least by reputation, Killington would have a much more active late night party scene, if you're into that. Many of the runs at Stowe are relatively long, Perry Merril and Gondolier are long cruisers off the Gondola -- probably some of the longest cruisers in the East. Lord, Standard, North Slope are all long blue cruisers on Mt. Mansfield. I'd say the blue terrain is generally as steep or perhaps steeper than quite a bit of the black terrain I've been on at Southern NH mountains. We're relatively new to skiing and haven't touched any of the black terrain at Stowe.
For any ability level, I'd take Stowe over almost any other resort on the east coast.
Roger basically sums up my attitude towards both the ski resort and the town.
I've skied both Killington and Stowe on multiple occasions and Stowe is a better resort hands down. There's certainly less terrain at Stowe than at Killington, but the terrain Stowe offers is much more varied and diverse than Killington's. Also, there's much more uninterrupted vertical at Stowe. What annoys the heck out of me about Killington are the constant trail crossings.
I've made four 5-day, midweek ski trips to Stowe in February and all have been super. The crowds are minimal midweek, but Saturdays and long weekends are a different story--avoid those periods.
For more on Stowe, I suggest that you go through the www.epicski.com archives. There's a lot there on Stowe. Also, the www.dcski.com archive contains a handful of strands on Stowe. Enjoy.
but the terrain Stowe offers is much more varied and diverse than Killington's
I have to disagree with this statement. Killington IMHO is much more diverse.
I love Stowe. It is a special place. To me, it is to the East as Alta is to the West. Unfortunately it is so much farther than southern Vermont resorts, that I don't make it there very regularly.
Stowe has a lot ot offer everyone including the top to bottom skiing as John said. The Golden Eagle resort is a really nice and fairly inexpensive place to stay with a great early breakfast and fairly close to the mountain. There is also a great bar/restaurant (the name escapes me ) on the right side coming back from the mountain which is a Stowe institution.
I think the word I was looking for is: "interesting." Killington does have a lot of easy intermediate and beginner terrain-some of it very diverse. In that sense, it may be a better resort for those who prefer that sort of terrain. The Great Northern and Great Eastern also allow beginners to get everywhere on the mountain with ease. However, those same trails create a nightmare for the rest of us.
Stowe's beginner terrain, by comparison, is mostly above the Toll House and Spruce Peak bases-two areas quite far removed from each other. You need to take a shuttle bus to get to Spruce Peak from the Mansfield base areas.
With that being said, I've met many a beginner who prefers Stowe to Killington. Why? It's because the resort attracts fewer newbies, making green terrain like the Toll Road trail much easier to negotiate than Great Northern or Eastern. For blue skiers, trails like Sterling on Spruce Peak, and Lord on Mansfield are superb. For those more advanced, the blue trails served by the gondola rock (they would be black at most other resorts), and for the more daring, Nose Dive. For the truly bold, the Front Four deliver the goods in a way unmatched by most double black trails on the East Coast. A decision to ski Goat is a "bold decision" in every sense of the word.
I personally like Stowe because it just skis so much bigger than Killington. A lot of Killington's blue and black terrain doesn't cover much more than 1200 feet of vertical. Almost all of Stowe's major trails, by comparison, cover over 2,000 feet of vert.-much of it uninterrupted by trail crossings. As an advanced skier, I enjoy Stowe's more interesting and challenging black and blue terrain. Charlie Lord and Perry Merrill really new what they were doing when they designed the mountain. To compare the trails those two designed with some of the stuff at Killington is like comparing Vermeer to Warhol. Warhol did some clever things but he's no Vermeer.
I also appreciate the fact that I still have not summoned the courage to try Goat. After skiing a lot of very steep, technical terrain in Europe (Kandahar Trail at St. Anton and the FIS Downhill course at Solden), I think I could now handle goat, but the thought of that trail still scares me-in fact, it haunts me. I like a mountain that has the ability to awe and intimidate advanced skiers. Mansfield definitely keeps one humble, and makes you understand that in the end, the mountain will always win.
When I first took my wife skiing in North America, I took her to Stowe to impress her, and impress her it did. She's from Europe and I was afraid she'd think our mountains were small. I'll never forget looking at her face as we rounded the bend on the Mountain Road and caught our first glimpse of Mount Mansfield in all its glory. She said, "Wow, that's a big mountain." By comparison, when I took her to Killington, her words were, "I just don't see what the big deal is with this place. I prefer Timberline's terrain to most of what is offered on this mountain."
John- you've GOT to ski Goat. It is one of the best runs I've ever skied. Take it from the entrance-- not very steep but about eight feet wide and chalk full of moguls, with a nice 45 degree drop off into the woods on skiers left just begging for you to make a mistake (also, rumor has it, home to some of that infamous hidden glade terrain that Stowe has). Then it widens up on time for the first pitch, and goes over-- heck, I can't remember-- three or four pitches after that, with options to go through the woods or along nasty double fall-lined trails strewn with rocks, moguls, stumps, ice patches, etc. Good gracious, it's pandemonium and paradise all wrapped up into one... as soon as you've done it once, you'll hit it over, and over, and over again. Never the same run twice.
There's apparently some debate about whether Goat or Starr is the better run. My two cents is with Goat the whole way.
Intermediate terrain: Gondolier on Mansfield is superb, great leg burner GS run. Limelight at Whitetail I think is a little similar to it, but much shorter. Triple the length of Limelight and add some more rolls and you get Gondolier.
And Toll Road is a great beginner run off the summit.
But going on about great runs at Stowe is kind of like talking about great wines in France or great architecture in Prague. Where do you begin? Where do you end? Since it's a message board, I guess I'll leave off here, daydreaming of the Front Four...
Ah, Stowe, the haughty self-proclaimed "Ski Capital of the East", but they do deliver. Been there many many times. Mansfield is a great mountain and it hides its secrets very well. (Nobody asked about the woods but I can't help myself.) The trails on the map are long and consistent and do not have a million crossing points that mix up skiers of wildly varying abilities, a big plus in comparison to Killington.
For blue skiers I would start on the triple from the Mansfield base. Look to your far left after you climb the steel stairs from the lodge. That area catches the morning sun first and is generally out of the wind, the lift stops well short of the top. That lift accesses blue/green runs of ~ 1500 vertical feet and it is rare to have lift lines of more than a few minutes. In mid day I'd go to the Gondola and ski the blue runs there. In afternoon, or if the lines are bad elsewhere, go to Spruce which gets the PM sun. Spruce is also a great place on a powder day when you have to fight tooth and nail to get uncut snow on the Mansfield runs. Spruce has a half dozen short steep jughandles that are left ungroomed and rejoin blue trails after the short drop. It is a great place for blue and black skiers to ski the same lift and stay reasonably together. They also typically leave almost half of the wide open slope near the bottom ungroomed and there will be very little competition for it. The above remarks apply to the pre upgrade Spruce. Now that the upgrade is well underway things may change greatly; I hope not. The "difficulty" of moving between the main and gondola bases and Spruce is what makes it this way. There are shuttles running at frequent intervals so it isn't really that difficult.
The bar that somebody mentioned on the access road is the Matterhorn. My favorite end of day run is the Bruce Trail which ends at the Matterhorn. It is one of the original racing trails cut by the CCC in 1933 and maintained by backcountry skiers using hand tools ever since. Like the other CCC trails, and indeed the present Stowe trail system, those who cut them knew where the snow blows in deep and how to use the contours of the mountain. A run down Bruce with a bunch of friends and a few cold ones at the Matterhorn make for a great end to a ski day. The town shuttle stops right outside every 15 minutes or so and runs til 7:00 so it is easy to get back to your car at day's end. An even better CCC trail is the Teardrop, but you have to drop a car at Underhill State Park or skin back up, or Ski 4-5 miles XC through a poorly marked forest to get back to the Stowe Touring Center. Both Bruce and Teardrop have beautiful glades off to the sides that reward a spirit of adventure. Then there are the runs off the Chin that end on Rt. 108 in the Notch. So much mountain!
Ok stowe is the winner.My wife has even mentioned going back to stowe & not Vail-beaver ck(only place we have been out west) while thinking of future ski trips.I'd like to know where whiteface & lake placid fit into the pic.I'm going either there or to bretton woods NH(cannon,loon,attitash,wildcat as possible side trips)this winter.We talked to a lot of brits that were up at stowe & when i asked them why they didn't ski closer to home they informed me that they would rather cross the atlantic than ski in the FRENCH alps!
Andy- Whiteface is a tough mountain. They've been trying to soften their image over the last few years but there's no getting around it: it's icy, it's cold, it's challenging as hell. Intermediates are not likely to be happy there at all. Skiing in the Adirondacks is a different nut than Vermont; not sure why, it just is. If, however, you'd like to try out a more versatile NY ski resort, give Gore a look. Not as big vertically as Whiteface, but a really cool mountain with lots of faces and it always seems to be unfolding ridge after ridge. Good intermediate skiing and they've really stepped up their advanced/expert and glade skiing over the last five years as well. Showcase and Twister as as good of intermediate skiing as it gets, short of Stowe, of course.
Loon is one of only two hills I've been to in NH. I remember it being very intermediate, lot of fall line terrain lined up side-by-side. Wasn't overly impressed by it but has some nice views. Just seemed like a lot of similar trails lined up side-by-side. On the other hand, they've got a decent base village so you can practically walk to the lifts, and the snow falls light and soft there.
I'm a big Stowe fan even though I've only been once. It is the only place where I ever had ski in/ski out accomadations. We stayed at the Inn at the Mountain and they had enough snow down that we could take Home Run to the parking lot of the Inn.
To ski out (or more like nordic ski out), we traversed through someone's yard to the tiny double chair all the way to the left if your facing up the mountain. So maybe not a true ski in/out but it was a first (and so far haven't had it again).
I'm not certain if Goat is really as challenging as it's reputation. It's a great trail, but I wouldn't call it fearsome or extreme. (Some of the Stowe backcountry lines I've seen in ski mags would qualify as extreme.) I think Liftline at Smugg's and Rumble at Sugarbush are much more difficult than Goat. But the ski mags still love to pimp Goat.
If you do ski Goat, make certain you are confident in your bump skiing. Goat is a glorified bump run, with rocks and tree stumps scattered about. It's not really all that steep (certainly compared to Europe or out West), but the bumps can get pretty cut up. Most advanced skiers won't be intimidated standing at the top of the steeper sections of Goat, but they'll be thinking "Man, is this gonna be a lot of work."
As Roger Z. mentioned, there is a very narrow section at the top and some double fall lines throughout. A great work of trail design.
Ah but John L, steepness ain't everything. I'd say the terrain at Mad River Glen isn't too steep but it is certainly some of the most challenging terrain I've ever been on. Goat is something like 32 degrees on pitch-- true you can go to 50-55 degrees in-bounds out west, but which is easier: sailing through an open bowl at 12,000 feet in a foot of powder, or negotiating the double and triple fall lines of Goat or Fall Line (at MRG) in the usual semi-chewed conditions that we get out east? There's a nastiness in our old New England runs that is very difficult to find anywhere else in the world; and once you can handle them, you can handle almost-- almost-- anything. The west has its own unique bag of goodies, such as couloirs and cornices, but if you can handle Goat, you're in with a good league of skiers.
Have we had the discussion before of favorite runs? I think we chatted about this last winter. We should revive that-- favorite novice, intermediate, expert runs, by region... but that's another thread.
Didn't say Goat was easy, just said it wasn't terrifying. Fear factor can prevent someone from trying a slope more challenging than they've skied before. For most advanced skiers, this is often caused by increased slope steepness or exposure. Even though the snow may be easy, a fall which could result in a skier sliding several hundred feet down the trail, possibly into rocks and trees, can really mess with your skiing. It's a mental issue, not a technical one. We all have our threshold where the pucker factor sets in. Sounds like Johfmh has skied down some relatively exposed faces in Europe, so if he is competent in the bumps, Goat may challenge him but it shouldn't scare him.
If you can rip up Goat or MRG or various Vermont woods, you can probably rip anything. Though every day out West is not a paradise of conditions and really tough conditions are not limited to the East. While real Vermont or Mid-Atlantic type ice doesn't exist out West, chunky refried gloppy snow on south- or west-facing slopes can be as challenging as blue ice. Whitetail on a 70 degree day doesn't even come close.
What i remember about"goat" is the narrow & very steep entrance.That is why i just took a pic & skied on! Maybe if i would have known that it widened a little(& less pitch?) I would have taken the plunge.Skiing at beaver ck last year I noticed a run off the top of Grouse Mtn that i couldn't have walked down let alone skied down!
Fair points John L. I pucker at cliffs. Haven't gotten the guts up to jump even a five or ten footer yet.
Goat is a great run, particularly on a powder morning when it blows in deeper than anywhere else on the mountain. Those runs used to scare me too. I grew up in Boston and did some skiing but it wasn't until I was living here and past 40 that I had the time and money to become a decent skier. There was a period of 5 years or so when I would drop into Extrovert at Blue Knob without a second thought but balked at doing Starr or Goat. It was the narrowness and at Starr the steepness that got to my head. Given the lack of such terrain in the mid Atlantic, it was too big a leap for me psychologically. Finally I began doing them cautiously and after a half dozen runs on each, spread over 3 or 4 visits to Stowe, got to where I'd drop in without a second thought, just like Extrovert.
So if you haven't tried those runs, you owe it to yourself to try them on a good day, with good company. If I am on the mountain look for me and I'll be your guide. I have a small swatch of green and black plaid flying from a pole strap that identifies me as a member of the SkiVT-List.
Even if it isn't me, any of the gang will be happy to help a polite inquiry.
Denis makes a good point about Extrovert. I think Extrovert is a good stepping stone to have mastered before you jump into runs like Goat & Starr. IMHO, Extrovert is as close to a Vermont-style trail that you can find in the Mid-Atlantic. You have some moderate steepness, variable conditions, cat tracks bisecting the trail, small sections of double fall line, and frequently some brush sticking through the snow. It can get pretty bumped up. If you can ski Extrovert relatively well under less than ideal conditions (i.e. normal conditions at Blue Knob), you probably have the skills to tackle just about any trail in the East (excepting some stuff like The Slides and Face Chutes which you really have to want to get to anyway.) Once you've honed your skills on Extrovert, the next obstacle is overcoming the mental part of skiing something a bit steeper and narrower than you're used to. It's more mental attitude than technique at that point.
If you can't handle Extrovert, you shouldn't be trying Goat or Starr or etc. Probably a good rule of thumb.
(Used to lurk a bit on the listserv several years ago.)
I will assume
that some of you have driven to Stowe.
Any recommendations for favorite stops, sights, eateries, breweries, used book shops, new ski gear shops, anything else that might divert you on the way there?
(Not at Stowe proper, that is).
Comprex, If you opt out of going I-95 (thru NYC) and instead get on I-287 (to get to I-87, NY Thruway) there are a couple of White Castle joints off of a couple of exits, Sliders YUM YUM! Now that is culture!
Terrapin, I've been up that way!
Other than White Castle: last NJ exit before the Washington bridge (Ridgefield NJ) go SOUTH (Rte 505 or 501 or 550, wot) On your left side you will see, in order, Piccolo's Italian grocery and Kochers' European meats. Best Sicilian sheep's cheese, rustic bread with pizza toppings, smoked prosciutto and Landjaeger sausage anywhere near IMO. I always bring a spare cooler; one time they didn't have any dried sausage but they told me to line-dry the fresh stuff in the cold.
So I did.
Nothing quite like looking out past 3 clothelines of links onto 8" of powder, I tell ya.
Trouble is, I-87N doesn't really feed into VT.
Comprex- That market sounds great, definitely worth the detour.
I-87 works really well going to S. Vt (Okemo & south), You can make up a lot of time you would lose going thru NYC and Conn. with tolls traffic etc. You have to get off at Albany at NY 7 and go thru Bennington to US 7 which goes to Rutland. It usually takes me around 7 1/2 - 8 hrs. It is a little slow-going on from ALbany to Bennington, but over all I make better time. I did the I-95 - I-91 to Stowe last year and it took me 12 HOURS which is just stupid. But it's probably still the best way to get to Stowe
Interesting choice of 7 at _that_ point; it probably saves you time and temptation (from stopping at Reliable Racing in Glens Falls, say). Stay on 7 out of Rutland or 4 to I89? I know 7 is outlet strip mall paradise and there's some nice pubs in Burlington . . .
My daughter & family (3 little grandsons) live in Burlington and I am a shareholder at Mad River, so I drive to N VT a couple times per year. It is still 10 hrs. to Burlington and another ~ 1 hr. to Stowe. Driving is not easy and I no longer do it unless I am going to ski 3 days or more. For shorter trips I fly Southwest from BWI to Manchester NH, rent a car, & drive.
My driving route is;
I-95 to NY State Thruway to Northway (I-87) to exit 20 (NY Rt. 149) to Rt. US 4 E to 22A north (right after VT border) to 7 N in Vergennes to I-189 in S. Burlington to I-89 S (actually east) to VT 100 N at Waterbury to Stowe. This is at least an hour and more likely 2 hrs. faster than I-91 thru CN. 22A is a very uncrowded road and stays low in the Champlain Valley so it is reliable in bad weather. Exit 20 off the Northway is THE best exit to access anything in VT from Killington northward; I've tried them all. If you are into mountaineering and backcountry skiing, stop sometime at Climb High in Shelburne, just south of S Burlington.
If the traffic is backed up on the NY state Thruway, or if you simply want a less stressful experience, cross the Tappan Zee Bridge and take Sawmill parkway to Taconic parkway N. Take that about 120 miles and cross over on a ~ 5 mile jog east to 22 which joins 22A in Fairhaven, VT. I can't remember the number of the jog east to pick up 22 but there are a couple of them which are evident on a map. On this route variation there will be essentially no traffic once you get 30 miles up the Taconic. Watch out for deer. There are some lights and slowdowns, particularly on 22 so it takes about 1 hr. longer than the optimum route with no slowdowns. It completly avoids the Albany mess. This route is higher and therefore not as good a choice in bad weather as the thruway; it follows the ridgeline of the Taconic Range. It is also narrow and refrozen meltwater can be a problem.
Thank you, Denis. I've driven your first route in reverse and it was a very pleasant drive.
I've driven your first route in reverse and it was a very pleasant drive.
Bad for your transmission though.
I've driven your first route in reverse and it was a very pleasant drive.
Hmmm... Didn't your neck get sore after a while from looking over your shoulder the whole time?
I let the GF drive as she is much better practiced at only using the mirror.
Thanks a lot to everybody for very valuable inputs. I have one more question -- can anyone recommend a good Internet resource where I can search for a rental property (like 3br house) in Stowe area? I tried couple of them, but it looks like all good choices are taken already
In searching for a place in Utah, I came across a sight. web page
. They seem to have vacation rentals from all over the place. Every place is owner managed so buyer beware. However, I have had great success in the past dealing with owner managed places from Whistler to Snowshoe. And typically they wind up being a little cheaper because you take out the middleman.
I have not checked it out for Stowe but it may be a place to look.
There is a Stowe central lodging 800 number which I used a lot at one time. You can probably google it. They are very helpful. Now I stay with my daughter in Burlington. There are also many people on the SkiVT-List who know about such things. Try posting an inquiry. You'll have to join the list at;http://list.uvm.edu/cgi-bin/wa?SUBED1=skivt-l&A=1