Local Getaways: Ski Vermont
Vermont’s green mountains are a snow-lovers paradise in our own backyard
illustration by Jennifer Thermes
photograph courtesy of Okemo Mountain Resort
Devotees of the Rockies and Alps ought to add the Green Mountains—a mere four- to five-hour drive from CT—to their list of favorite ski destinations. From Killington’s 140 trails and 22 lifts to the black diamond challenges of Sugarbush and Mad River; from the family-friendly, no-frills atmosphere of Smugglers’ Notch to the glitz and glamour of Stowe; and from the predictably sunny slopes of Bromley to the night skiing and riding at Bolton Valley, Vermont’s 19 alpine areas present a full range of convenient, economical and inventive options.
Although more modest than other dramatic peaks, the Green Mountains allow skiers and snowboarders to tackle challenges beyond beginner slopes that include Killington’s 3,000-foot vertical drop, Jay Peak’s gnarly terrain and nonprofit Cochran’s spunky, family-friendly trails that have fostered many Olympians.
Reliable snow, which arrived in October, is boosted by machines on a regular basis. Mount Snow’s battery of 250 energy-efficient fan guns is one of the most powerful snowmaking systems in the country, and Stratton calls itself “home of the world’s greatest groomers.”
While midweek lift tickets are priced as low as $12–$39, regular fares in the $50–$80 range compare favorably to the $78 average out West, and frequent promotions cut those fees even more. January is learn-to-ski-and snowboard month with skivermont.com selling monthlong First Timer packages that include beginner lift tickets or trail passes, lessons and rental equipment for $29. Throughout the season, fifth-grade students with Ski Vermont Fifth Grade Passports can ski free up to three days per alpine resort and once per each of the 30 Nordic areas across the state.
Besides the standard ski area sidelights (tubing, ice skating, snowshoeing) and customary amenities (cozy lodges, homemade waffles, stone fireplaces), Vermont resorts offer unique activities. The 12-passenger Sugarbush Lincoln Limo snow cat runs guests up the hill for remote, intimate and gourmet fireside dining at Allyn’s Lodge. Okemo’s Timber Ripper all-season roller coaster catapults adventurous guests downhill through the forests and contours near Jackson Gore, and Jay Peak boasts the state’s first indoor water park, the Pump House, complete with a retractable roof for sunny summer days.
Dozens of monthly special events include January’s Stowe Fire and Ice Festival, Stratton Tubbs Romp to Stomp Out Breast Cancer, Mountain Top Inn & Resort’s sixth annual paintball biathlon.
On days you don’t feel like suiting up, the Montshire Museum of Science, Bennington Potters, Vermont Raptor Center, Billings Farm and Museum are among nearby sights of interest. Visitors tempted by local fare can sample dozens of varieties of cheeses at the Cabot Annex in Waterbury and home-brewed beers at Long Trail Brewing, Rock Art Brewery, Harpoon Brewery, Switchback and Magic Hat. Even the Trapp Family Lodge is brewing Old World flavors into a namesake lager. For ice-cream fans, there are daily tours of Ben & Jerry’s Waterbury factory.
With routes 7, 8 and I91 streaming north, it’s a very reasonable drive from Connecticut’s farthest corner to northernmost Jay Peak. Amtrak’s Ethan Allen Express route travels from Penn Station through Albany, delivering skiers daily to Rutland, Vermont. Although they’re not strictly “green” in winter, the Green Mountains offer wonderful, accessible opportunities when covered white with snow.