Rt. 100, in Vermont has often been called the Ski Highway of the East. Some of the best skiing in the eastern United States is located on this road. Along the highway and in every town on Rt. 100, there are lodging accommodations to suit every taste and pocketbook. Great restaurants abound with a sprinkling of bars for happy-hour and evening fun. You can even purchase one multi-day lift ticket and ski Sugarbush, Killington, Pico Peak, and Mt. Snow all on the same ticket.
Stowe is located in a picturesque little town with a true Vermont ambiance and has a wide array of top-quality accommodations for every taste and budget. You can stay slopeside, find accommodations at one of the many lodges on the access road or opt for a charming bed and breakfast in town.
At Stowe, you can ski Vermont’s tallest peak, Mt. Mansfield and ride the gondola which offers access to a wide range of intermediate and expert terrain. On the slopes and trails, there are always many choices. Stowe is in the habit of letting one side of the slope bump up and they groom the other side so you can “bail out” if things get too outrageous.
Quad chairlifts service most of the trails and lift line waits are at a minimum. Whether you prefer groomed novice or intermediate trails, or steep trails with bumps, Stowe has it all. They have an excellent ski school under the direction of top nationally ranked ski and snowboard instructors. If you stay for only a day or a week, you’ll have a great time at Stowe.
MAD RIVER GLEN
Going down Rt. 100, the next ski area you will come to is Mad River Glen. Visiting Mad River is like stepping through a ski time-warp, nothing seems to have changed since the 60’s and snowboards are still not allowed. Their motto is “Ski Us If You Can” and they mean it! Mad River is a cooperative owned by skiers who love the “retro” feel of their ski area. These skiers believe that natural snow is the only surface worth skiing on and high-speed quads cause too much traffic on the slopes. They love their “Hard Core” image and Mad River Glen is one of the most challenging ski area in the East. There are enough moguls, rocks, ice and bare spots to keep you on your toes and the expert trails are narrow, steep and truly “EXPERT”.
Even if you are not an expert skier, you can have a great time at Mad River. They offer a wide range of trails. You can ride up the Sunnyside Double Chair and ski novice runs like Fox, intermediate trails including Quacky.
There is no snowmaking on all but the lowermost section of the mountain, so you will be skiing on 100% natural snow. You can ski trails with names like Vixen, Bunny, and Porcupine … names that go with EASY slopes, but these intermediate trails would qualify as expert trails at other ski resorts, so be careful.
The tamest terrain can be found at the Practice Slope and Birdland Chairs these beginner trails are gentle enough for anyone and offer the beginning skier an enjoyable Mad River experience.
Sugarbush is also in the Mad River Valley and is only a short ride from Mad River Glen. When you arrive at the main Gate House Lodge, you have many choices. You can ride the chair to the top of North Lynx and ski down Sunrise, and expert trail or Birch Run, and intermediate trail to the Castle Rock Connection. From there, you access a host of other intermediate and expert trails including challenging terrain like Castle Rock Run, Lift Line and Rumble (both “Double Black Diamond” trails) on Nancy Hanks Peak.
Experts can ride up Lincoln Peak and challenge their skiing ability on many “Double Black Diamond” trails that include: Paradise, Ripcord, and Stein’s Run, plus miles and miles of intermediate and novice runs. At Sugarbush they also groom one side of the trail and let it bump up for skiers that like moguls, on the other. It takes all day to systematically explore Sugarbush and then there is still Mt. Ellen to explore.
Sugarbush purchased the Glen Ellen ski area a few years ago and connected them with chairlift. To get to Mt. Ellen, you can ride the Slide Brook Express, billed as the longest, fastest detachable quad chairlift in the world. The lift runs up and down the mountains. When the chairlift crested the first ridge and started going down, the experience is similar to starting down a roller coaster. Skiing Mt. Ellen, getting there can be half the fun!
Mt. Ellen has gentler slopes and is an excellent place to explore if you are not an expert skier. There is still Exterminator and Black Diamond which are expert slopes that can really challenge the best skiers, and many other trails that skiers of every ability can enjoy.
Killington is the largest ski area in the East. There are seven mountains, over 200 trails and over 1,000 skiable acres. Killington is also a world leader in snowmaking. I say, “the only one that makes more snow than Killington is God … and that’s only some days!” Killington prides itself on having the longest ski season in America and you can find great bargains at Killington early in the season and after Easter. This year they started skiing in October and plan on skiing until June. Another ski bum friend of mine has a Tee shirt that states, “I skied Killington of the 4th of July”.
At Killington, you can always find uncrowded trails, no mater how many people are there, it’s so big. You can ride the Sky Ship or K1 Express, Killington’s HEATED gondolas and ride to Killington Peak in warmth. From there, you can ski Killington Peak, Snowdon, Rams Head, Snowshed, Bear Mountain, or Sunrise Mountain. The trail choices are limitless at Killington. You can ski novice trails like 10-mile Juggernaut or Outer Limits, which REALLY DOES have moguls the size of Volkswagens, or ski over 200 other trails that are somewhere in between.
The sights from the chairlift can be inspiring. Big moguls build up on slopes like Outer Limits and Superstar, where skiers and riders do the kind of skiing and riding you only see in Warren Miller films. Small groups of incredible bump skiers descend through the moguls all day long. They ski straight down the fall line at breath-taking speed, absorbing the bumps with knees moving up and down like pistons. To add to the excitement, they do “Helicopters”, “Spread Eagles” or other aerial maneuvers, just for fun. These “hot doggers” go straight down the mountain, bouncing from mogul to mogul, devouring terrain that humbles all but the best skiers. It’s quite a show. Outstanding athletes like Donna Weinbrecht, winner of the first Olympic mogul competition at Albertville in 1992 and who placed 4th at the Olympics last year cut her teeth at Killington.
Killington is consistently ranked the best ski area in the East to PARTY, with free happy-hour food and nightly entertainment. After a hard day on the slopes, the Killington access road offers some of the best happy-hour food and fun. Bars and restaurants vie with each other to attract customers, offering free happy-hour fair (wings, pizza, ribs, and more) and you can eat your fill for the price of a beer at Killington. If you’re a ski bum like me, you can live off free happy hour food at Killington.
The night life at Killington is rated #1, with dancing to rock music at the Wobbly Barn, Grist Mill and Night Spot, and progressive music the Pickle Barrel. Country and western music and dancing can be found at Kicks, and a more mellow evening can be had at a host of other small bars located in restaurants and ski lodges in the area.
Pico Peak is a family-oriented mountain that should not be overlooked. It has plenty of diverse terrain and slopes that will trash you if you ease up for just a moment. Avalanche Ridge and Avalanche Chute are short but tough. Other expert slopes include Buckhorn, Summit glade, East and West Glade, Upper Pike and Giant Killer, plus intermediate and novice areas for skiers and snowboarders of every ability. In the middle of the Lower Pike trail is a new state-of-the-art Race Arena that has a dual race course for head-to-head racing with instant time results displayed on the big board following each race. Soon the Pico trails will be connected to all of Killington which now spans two towns and you will be able to save some driving time by parking at Pico Peak and not only be able to sample all Pico has to offer but have access to all Killington has to offer too.
A half hour further south in Rt. 100 in the town of Ludlow is Okemo. Okemo also has the reputation of being a great family ski area. Okemo may be a “family” mountain, but it a lot to offer skiers of every ability.
Okemo has an interesting layout, the South Ridge Quads run perpendicular to all the other lifts. You ride to the top of South Ridge and then you will be able to ski over to the other lifts that service this fun mountain. At Okemo, every lift is ether a quad or triple. Triple chairlifts and high-speed quads really move people onto the mountain, so you will never have to waited more than a few minutes to get on the next lift Once you are on the mountain, you have the choice of riding up the Black Ridge Triple, North Star Express Quad or Sachem Quad. From the top of Sachem you can pick up the Glades Peak Quad and Ski over to the South Face Quad. If you go to the right of the Express, you have access to the Green Ridge Triple and from that chair, the Solitude Express Quad. These series of lifts really allows Okemo to spread the crowd over the entire mountain. The further you go from the South Ridge Quads, the smaller the lift lines grow. The most difficult terrain at Okemo is to the far left as you look up the hill. If you think that Okemo is an “easy” mountain and doesn’t have any challenging runs, you have never skied Double Diamond or Outrage. These narrow bump runs are awesome.
Okemo is a warm, friendly mountain with much more to offer than just gentile slopes and fun for the kids and beginners. Okemo is a “sleeper”, if you have never skied there, you don’t know what you’re missing.
The southernmost ski area on Rt. 100 is Mt. Snow. This mountain has a wide variety of slopes, with something to offer skiers of every ability. You can ski the moguls on Bear Trap to the sound of rock music. At the Northface area there is Ripcord, a “Double Black Diamond” trail that is a really challenging. Other steep mogul runs include: Olympic, Fallen Timbers, Chute, Challenger Free Fall, PDF Plummet, and Jaws of Death.
There is also plenty of novice and intermediate terrain at Mt. Snow, for those that are interested in fun runs on less challenging slopes. If you are skiing with a group that has different levels of ability, Mt. Snow is a really great place for your ski vacation. Experts can zoom down the intermediate trails and take one of the many little detours down small bump runs and connect back up with the main trails. You can “hot dog” and challenge yourself while still skiing with friends of lesser ability.