What’s the best in Vermont? We asked, you answered. This year, we got more replies than any year since our survey started in 2011.
THE BEST SKIING & RIDING
BEST SKI AREA
If there’s one thing you can say about Sugarbush skiers and riders it’s this: they are passionate about their mountain. For several years, Sugarbush has focused its brand messaging around its sense of community and that community pays it back in spades. Yes, Sugarbush has some of the hardest terrain in the East with trails like Rumble ranking high in our survey for toughness and Slide Brook Basin providing some of the best sidecountry terrain in the state. The Lincoln Peak base area and Castlerock Pub are a hub of activity (and Castlerocks’ bartenders are perennial winners in our ‘Best Bartender’ contest.) It has some of the best on-mountain food in the state, too, with cozy dinners at Allyn’s Lodge on the mountain, farm-fresh fare at the Vermont Fresh Network-certified Timbers Restaurant and local brews and wine at the newly renovate mid-mountain bar, the Glen House. But what really sets Sugarbush apart? The people who call this mountain home. They include legendary restauranteur Henri Borel, of Chez Henri, who celebrated his 90th birthday in this past January. Or extreme skiing legend John Egan, who will be inducted into the U.S. Skiing Hall of Fame this April. Owner Win Smith remains one of the few (along with Bill Stritzler of Smuggler’s Notch) owner/operators who are truly hands on. There’s hardly a day that goes by that doesn’t see Smith on the lifts by 9:00 am or posting on his blog. His attention to detail shows.Winner: Sugarbush Resort. Runners Up: Stowe; Jay Peak; Killington; Bolton; Mad River Glen.
If you want to ski what our readers call the toughest trail in Vermont (and, by the way, numerous ski publications agree), head to Mad River Glen. At the top, take the Long Trail, traverse a singletrack off Stark Mountain and you’re in for the type of treat that make East Coast photographers salivate. Paradise is a narrow, twisting line through the trees that starts with a 38-degree slope and 8-foot waterfalls coated in blue ice. From there, Paradise’s side lines et you find your own freshies (if you get there early enough) in the woods. But you better be able to turn ‘em quick or you’ll find yourself treed. Winner: Paradise, Mad River Glen. Runners Up: Goat, Stowe; Rumble, Sugarbush; Outer Limits, Killington; Face Chutes, Jay Peak
BEST SKI AREA EVENTS
No doubt about it, everyone’s favorite ski area event (no matter what resort you are at) involves getting wet. Pond skimming won this category hands down. Need we say more? Winner: Pond skimming (everywhere). Runners Up: Stowe Derby, Stowe; Castlerock Challenge, Sugarbush; Ski the East Freeride Tour, multiple venues; Unconventional Terrain Challenge, Mad River Glen; Bear Mountain Mogul Challenge, Killington
A few years back, no one would tell you about their favorite backcountry or sidecountry trails. Now, thanks to the explosion of glading and relaxed resort policies, backcountry and sidecountry exploring has taken off. While it may not come to mind as the toughest of ski areas, Bolton Valley leads in backcountry with terrain that extends way beyond its ski area map. It also features two huts for overnight stays: the newly renovated Bryant Lodge and Bolton Lodge, which is next in line for a rehab. The ski area has been a leader in promoting skinning and ski mountaineering races and has an inspired policy: on designated days buses will retrieve those who choose to do the Bolton-to-Trapp Family Lodge section of the Catamount Trail. Mount Mansfield and Sugarbush’s Slide Brook Basin are other obvious contenders in this category with the newly-cut Brandon Gap glades maintained by the Rochester Area Sports Trails Alliance coming in hot and Ascutney and Big Jay close behind. Winner: Bolton Valley. Runners Up: Brandon Gap/RASTA; Mount Mansfield; Sugarbush’s Slide Brook Basin; Ascutney; Big Jay.
Next up: Our favorite trails, lakes, campsites, gyms and more.