Where are the best places to ski and ride? Our readers decided in the 2018 Black Diamond Awards.
BEST ALPINE SKI AREA
There are more than 20 alpine ski areas in the state and choosing the best isn’t easy. Smuggler’s Notch and Magic Mountain turned up at the top of two national surveys this year. But for Vermont Sports readers, once again, Sugarbush topped the list.
With every type of terrain, from the straight-line cruiser of Spring Fling, to the steeps and bumps of Stein’s, to the Castlerock area’s natural terrain to Slide Brook Basin’s long woods runs, Sugarbush has more than a little something for every skier and rider. And then there’s an option to book snowcat skiing on powder days.
Add to that: skin-to dinners high on the mountain at the Allyn Lodge, the Rumble’s Kitchen and the legendary French café Chez Henri and there’s a variety of signature eateries that take on-mountain dining to the next level. Plus, come spring, tables get set up outside the Castlerock Pub where you can enjoy wood fired flatbread and beers in the sun.
Most of all, it’s a sense of community that sets Sugarbush apart. Local owner Win Smith is on the mountain at 9 a.m. every morning and is one of the most enthusiastic participants in the annual pond skim. His attention to details on and off the mountain, and care for the folks he shares it with, show. Cheers, Sugarbush. 1. Sugarbush, 2. Jay Peak, 2. Stowe (tie) 3. Mad River Glen.
Sidecountry, once the hidden province of rope duckers and surreptitious gladers, has become some of the most vaunted terrain at ski areas. Vermont has plenty of it, be it the trails Mt. Mansfield’s early pioneers built, such as the Bruce, or the massive Slide Brook Basin area at Sugarbush. But in the past year, no resort has capitalized on its “out-of-bounds” terrain as much as Bolton Valley.
With two backcountry huts (Bryant Cabin and Bolton Lodge) and miles of glades and backcountry on both sides of the mountain, Bolton Valley Ski Resort has become a powder trove for locals. Now, with the DesLauriers family once again owning the resort, backcountry plays a bigger role than ever. This year Bolton offered backcountry clinics, hosted rentals and held skimo races. It even ran a bus to Stowe so that those who wanted to do the Catamount Trail traverse to the Trapp Family Lodge trails, or only as far as Nebraska Valley, could shuttle back.
While runners-up Jay Peak and Smuggler’s Notch may access plenty of steep and deep terrain, Bolton won out for our readers. 1. Bolton Valley 2. Jay Peak 3. Smuggler’s Notch.
The Randolph/Rochester Sports Trails Alliance has been a literal trailblazer in backcountry skiing ever since it worked to help create the first sanctioned glades in the country on U.S. Forest Service land. The two key areas RASTA has developed, Brandon Gap on Route 53 and Braintree Mountain, near Randolph, have become icons for backcountry skiing, earning Vermont the nickname V-tah. In February, 2017, in one day 171 people carved down a total of 20,000 vertical feet through the RASTA glades. And there was still room for fresh tracks. 1. RASTA 2. Bolton Valley 3. Mt. Mansfield.
BEST NORDIC SKI AREA
With more than 30 cross-country ski areas in Vermont there’s so much variety to choose from that this year, we asked people to vote for their favorites in three regions.
In the north, Craftsbury Outdoor Center—the training ground for Olympic athletes Susan Dunklee, Emily Dreissigacker, Liz Stephen, Ida Sargent and many others–took top honors. With more than 100 kilometers of groomed ski trails, cabins to rent, farm-fresh meals and an indoor training facility that befits, well, Olympians, Craftsbury has become a world-wide destination for athletes and home to the elite Green Racing Project team. In 2018, Craftsbury also served as one of the seven stops on the FIS-sanctioned, U.S. Super Tour and on March 4-7, hosted the Ski Orienteering World Championship. Close behind though, was the first cross country ski area in America, Trapp Family Lodge Trails, followed by the Catamount Outdoor Center.
In central Vermont, Rikert Nordic Center’s snowmaking and gorgeous trails through the Bread Loaf Wilderness, along with events such as the Bread Loaf Citizen’s Race (March 10, and you win a loaf of bread), earned it top honors. The Woodstock Inn’s cross-country trails came in a close second and the trails of Blueberry Hill Inn took third place.
To the south, Wild Wings—the backyard trails that Olympian Sophie Caldwell calls home, was the most loved. Be it the low-key vibe, the loops through the woods or the fact that it doubles as a yoga center, Wild Wings has a devoted following that earned it top honors over Stratton and Prospect Mountain, near Bennington.
North: 1. Craftsbury Outdoor Center 2. Trapp Family Lodge 3. Catamount Outdoor Center
Central: 1. Rikert Nordic Center 2. Woodstock Inn 3. Blueberry Hill. |
South: 1. Wild Wings, 2 Stratton, 3. Prospect Mountain.
Photo opener: Getting deep at Sugarbush. Photo by John Atkinson