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Help: Comparison between Vermont ski areas.

post #1 of 21
Thread Starter 



I have been researching ski areas to go to in february.

Since I'll be in Boston, I started looking for Vermont ski areas.

In terms of location I narroed between Stratton (further south), Killington and Stowe (further north).

How would you compare this three? Would Stowe make up for the longer distance?

Does any one of them stand out?

What about non ski activities like nice village close to the mountain?


Please feel free to suggest other places I have not mentioned!

I'm also considering New Hampshire as an option.


post #2 of 21

Not trying to be a jerk (which means I'm about to post something that can be construed as such), but have you tried the "search" function.


There has to be literally dozens of threads on this exact topic and including these areas.



post #3 of 21

The terrain and snow will be best at Stowe without question, then Killington and then Stratton.   As for village, the Town of Stowe is great.  I think Stowe is the  closest thing to a Western Resort in eastern U.S.  Top notch operation, great VT town, and great mountain by eastern standards.  Killington has no villlage to speak of but does have night life on the access road.  Stratton is pretty flat and very groomed.  There is a small base village and it is not far from Manchester VT.  Tends to be more crowded than resorts to the north and tends not to get as much snow as the others.  The mountain does a good job with what they have but it can't compare to Stowe.  This year there is no snow anywhere yet.


Now, I am partial to Sugarbush and ski there most weekends.  Great mountain and terrain.  Not much in way of village or night life but there are good places to eat and few bars.  

post #4 of 21
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the imput!

I check the search function also.


post #5 of 21

I would second the recommendation of Stowe.  Definitely worth the extra driving distance.  That said, and in light of considering New Hampshire, if driving time becomes a factor there are plenty of other great mountain in NH that are closer to Boston.


The only other one that resembles a resort like atmosphere is Bretton Woods. North Conway in NH is a fun ski destination with many ski areas nearby. And there is always Sunday River in ME.


By Feb the snow gods might be telling you where to go....good luck!

post #6 of 21

How did you narrow it down to Stowe / Killington and Stratton in the first place?  There are dozens of ski areas in New England, and each has its pluses and minuses.  Knowing what type of terrain you prefer to ski, what sort of after-ski activities you prefer, etc. makes a difference in the recommendation.


As said above, Stowe, Killington and Stratton are about as different as they come.

post #7 of 21
Thread Starter 

Thanks Kevin.

All I did was put around 25 ski areas that came up when searching on the map.

When looking at the Vermont results thoose three seemed to represent 3 distinct main areas around witch I would do some more research. I have no knowledge of the region north of Boston so this was what crossed my mind since travelling sites are hard to filter more subjective information.

Stowe is ranking high on recommendations.

I'm looking for a practical place to ski that's also charming (if possible while not beeing overpriced) and has ski lessons.

I'm not a pro skier so technical differences between snow conditions might not bother me much. A beggginer will be joining me so some easy terrain would be appreciated.




post #8 of 21

Of the three ski area you mentioned Stowe is the best choice and is worth driving a few more minutes to reach.  Sugarbush offers great skiing and has small but nice towns along Rt 100.  Stratton and Killington offer skiing, but not the benchmark classic New England village like Stowe.  In NH the North Conway/Bartlett or Lincoln/Woodstock areas are worth considering.  I always liked Franconia, NH with access to skiing Cannon and Bretton Woods, but it is not a very large town though the views are good.

post #9 of 21

While I cant speak about most of the resorts mentioned, seeing you are looking at Stratton I would also suggest looking at Mt. Snow. IMO I think Mt. Snow is a much better mountain.

post #10 of 21

Northern Vermont tends to get substantially more snow then southern Vermont does, with Stowe and Jay Peak probably being the leaders in the "natural snowfall" category.  (Northern Vermont is usually considered to be areas north of Killington and southern Vermont is everything else).


However, instead of snowfall differences, I think the differences are best expressed in terms of terrain.  The more northern areas (Stowe, Smuggler's Notch, Sugarbush, Jay Peak, Mad River Glen) are substantially steeper than the majority of the southern areas (Okemo, Mt. Snow, Stratton, Bromley, etc.).  i.e., there are blues at Stowe that would easily qualify as blacks at Okemo.


Stowe gets a lot of high marks in various reviews because there is something there for everybody.  i.e., there are cruisers, there are long bump runs, there's tree skiing galore.  i.e., you can make it easy and you can make it very, very hard.


Everyplace in Vermont has "something for everybody", the question is "how much of the something you're looking for is present"?  For instance, I like skiing bumps, and Stowe (northern) and Mt. Snow (very southern) Vermont both have lots of bump runs, so I tend to visit both of them pretty much equally (depending on time constraints, recent weather, etc.)  Okemo, on the other hand, has two or three bump runs, and I get bored to tears there pretty quickly.


It sounds like you're more into the "cruising" mindset?  It seems like every groomed cruiser I've been on turns into a scraped-down semi-icy mess at some point during the day regardless of how much snowfall there has been lately, so I'm not sure if the north vs. south snowfall differences would affect you that much.  The question I'd be asking yourself is "how hard are you willing to push it in terms of terrain and steepness?", etc.


If you want to be mellow, have fun, enjoy some fresh air, see some scenery, and just relax -- southern Vermont is probably a better option, all things considered.

If you want to push things a bit, explore the mountain, and "skiing is all there is" -- northern Vermont is probably worth the trip.

post #11 of 21

One more thing that hasn't been mentioned yet:  Vermont is not exactly a big state.  If you're up for a couple days, there's no reason to constrain yourself to visiting just one ski area.


Mt. Snow (as far south as you can get) to Killington is about 1.5 hours on Vermont Rt. 100, and then it's maybe another hour or so from Killington up to Stowe.  If you're willing to do some driving -- heck, hit a bunch of areas over a couple days and see which one "clicks" with you.

post #12 of 21
Originally Posted by KevinF View Post

One more thing that hasn't been mentioned yet:  Vermont is not exactly a big state.  If you're up for a couple days, there's no reason to constrain yourself to visiting just one ski area.


Mt. Snow (as far south as you can get) to Killington is about 1.5 hours on Vermont Rt. 100, and then it's maybe another hour or so from Killington up to Stowe.  If you're willing to do some driving -- heck, hit a bunch of areas over a couple days and see which one "clicks" with you.

I agree but the drive from Killington to Stowe will take closer to 1.5 or even 2 hours.  Stowe to Smuggs or Sugarbush is easy.  Killington & Okemo.  Stratton & Mount Snow.  Lots of options.  Enjoy


post #13 of 21

There are 3 distinct ski areas right in the Mad River Valley. Lincoln Peak & Mt. Ellen are both part of Sugarbush but are separate large areas in their own right plus Mad River Glen is right there. If that's not enough Stowe is only 40 minutes to the north & Killington about 50 minutes south if your thinking about driving around. Waitsfield is a cute little town & while the MRV is not known for it's night life it does exist. Much more of a rural VT. feeling in the MRV as opposed to other areas if you'd prefer that sought of thing & the ski areas are often less crowded. The MRV is just a suggestion on my part but out of the 3 you've already selected Stowe would be my choice for the reasons already mentioned by others.

post #14 of 21

As others have said, these areas are very different. Also your experience may vary at different times, especially if its a holiday. I wouldn't do any of your three on holiday - go for Sugarbush or MRG if its a holiday. Be aware Bush, MRG, Killington, and Stowe are driveable - no need to plan on one for your entire stay.


Personally, I am NOT a fan of Stowe, I hate the mountain layout with lifts and such as it ends up with longer lines and more downtime than anywhere else as the entire skiier population ends up at a handful of lifts that become chokepoints. Poorly designed but it was one of the first mountains thats still a major mountain in EC.It does have its positives though - it prob has a couple of the best individual on piste trails in the EC, although the runs are mediocre (the run gets boring after you finish their marquee trails once you get to the lower stages). I have never properly explored Stowe's sidecountry/backcountry, but it looks pretty expansive tbh. You will need to hire a guide for that if that's your cup of tea, its really, truly, not on the map - but its obviously there and there is alot of it. If you are into sc/bc, HIRE the guide, let me know how good it was. Stowe prob has the best nightlife and is the closest thing to a WC resort we have on the EC.


My two favorites are Killington and Sugarbush.


The Bush is awesome - but there is nothing else to do other than ski. They fixed many of the design deficiencies of Stowe when they planned out the Bush - the lifts are setup for areas for specific skill levels and reduced downtime by having more mid-mountain lifts. Also, the mountain was cut in such a way as to shield from wind whereas Stowe the wind scrapes off every last shred of snow by 11am. Don't try Castle@SBush unless the snow is good and you actually know what you are doing. Good Intemed - Expert.


Killington is probably the largest EC resort in terms of on piste and marked glades. Nice trails, nice runs, long for VT. Minimal downtime (unless holiday - then *shudder*). As others mentioned, there is not much to do there nightlife wise, some bars, restaurants, and such on the access road, nothing to write home about. Good Intermed/Advanced mountain.


Stratton sucks, only nice aspect is the pedestrian Village. I only go there with friends from NYC or when family visits. Stratton = Flatton. Good Beginner mountain.


MRG - need good natural snow, Ski It If You Can. No joke, good for Advanced/Experts in snowy weeks; the expression Break a Leg is abit more literal out in MRG though...


YMMV, best of luck, pray Ullr Smiles Upon You...

post #15 of 21

Atmosphere is very different between your choices too...

My 2 cents worth:



"Holy crap, how could they possibly squeeze more people-per-acre on this hill, and why are they all so rude with NJ and MA accents?  Also...I thought skiing in football jerseys and jeans went out years ago"...Defensive skiing is essential...lest you be clobbered by a guy with too many beers or Red Bulls in him thinking he can control his speed and direction while impressing himself.  Good variety of terrain types and snow conditions across the mountain areas during different parts of the day.  Excellent if you go during non-weekends and non-holiday weeks.  Good bars and eateries on the access road.  Urban skiing experience. Good variety of runs and pretty easy to get everywhere. The Beast of the East. Good place to practice carving on different pitches. VIBE: Urban.



"Wow this place is flat and groomed."  Lots of people from downcountry with expensive SUVs and expensive clothing perfecting their intermediate technique.  Somewhat cutesy pedestrian village (more of a small strip of 15 or twenty shops along a sidewalk really).  You can see it all in a 2 minute walk.  Fairly low-key crowd, but it can get crowded. Not much of a nightlife, but relaxing in a way.  People appear somewhat relaxed here, but underwhelmed.  Good crusing runs, but no pitches to speak of.  Relax with a cappucino and admire the wax jobs on the automobiles.  No hard core skiers. Kid friendly. VIBE: Upper-middle class Suburbia




"Wow, the liftlines really are as long as people said." Excellent, classic Eastern terrain, something to make everyone breathe hard if they want to find it.  Good place to realize your technique needs some work.  Village has a good collection of restaurants, bars and shops.  The Stowe regulars are pretty hard core skiers, humble and keep their egos to themselves.  No yahoos.  Understated facilities, A skier's mountain.  Not as robust snowmaking as many other resorts, so if snowfall is minimal, expect some boilerplate and rocks here and there.  Stunning after a dump of powder.  Pretty decent beginner and intermediate runs. VIBE: Understated Hip Tradition.



If I was asked where someone should go on vacation in Vermont, I would say try two different places and mix it up...they drivetimes are minimal (except going to Burke, Smugs or Jay maybe).  I would say try a couple days skiing Stowe, then go to Sugarbush for a couple days (not too far away - about 30 miles) You mentioned you wanted "charming"...so that rules out Killington.  The other suggestions of Sugarbush (great terrain, great vibe, but no real village scene).  Smugglers is another great terrain resort, great family vibe, but perhaps a bit of a drive for you.  Anyway...everyone here has good advice for you...




post #16 of 21

Since you're in Boston, have you factored in that many of the Vermont areas are VERY heavily skied by folks from NY/NJ, since they drive up the NY State Thruway to Albany and cut easily into Vermont? OTOH, the NY/NJ crowd in MUCH smaller in NH and ME, due to a greater logistic challenge. Not that there's anything wrong with folks from NY/NJ, but thought you might want to know this.

post #17 of 21

Very true for southern Vermont but not so much in northern Vermont.  Also, the Massholes (no offense to present company) can be equally annoying.


post #18 of 21


post #19 of 21

1. Everything in VT is much pleasanter midweek. Except for school vacation times, no liftlines, cheaper tix.

If you can manage it, take some vacation time rather than going on weekends, when just about every area gets pretty zoolike, esp. Killington.  Ski school for your friend will be uncrowded. 


2. If you're an intermediate, skiing with a beginner, try Stratton and Okemo. The absence of steep terrain won't matter and the grooming will make you feel like a hero.  They're closer to Boston. And if you buy a three-day ticket at either, you can ski one day at the other. They're about 45 min. apart. Okemo has a small town at its base with restaurants, and they both have decent nearby lodging.  

post #20 of 21
Thread Starter 

Wow, thanks so much for the information, great tips!

It will definitely make my process of choosing a destination much better and less risky.

I wish all the community a merry christmas!

post #21 of 21

My wife and I are planning a trip up to the North Country over New Years, and plan on staying through Wednesday, so we will get a couple of non holiday mid week days of skiing in.  Our tentative plan has been to go to Lake Placid, NY to ski in the New Year and then head over to Killington and maybe Pico one day if it looks like they've made enough snow for 2 - 4 January.  My thinking is that I'd like to experience the "Olympic Mountain" and see Lake Placid even if it isn't at it's best this winter, and that Whiteface should be less crowded around New Years.  I'm a little worried that it might be pretty icy since it is supposed to rain there tomorrow and then get very cold Wednesday possibly turning the whole thing into a rather steep skating rink, and wonder if their groomers will be able to get it back in shape in 3x days. Given the poor natural snowfall it seems like Killington with their massive snow making operation might have the most skiing available in the North East (barring a major dump, which doesn't appear to be in the forecast anywhere in the NE in the next week), shouldn't have the huge crowds Monday or Tuesday next week, and is about an hour south of the other good options in Vermont making our drive home to the D.C. area a little more tolerable.  Any advice, should we be thinking about spending the whole time in Stowe or looking at NH?  The plans are by no means set in stone, and if the skiing right now was going to be better in another New England/New York spot between 31 Dec and 4 January we might head there.  


Oh and a little about us, my wife has been skiing since age 3, though not too much in the last ten years, and skis just about anything, though she prefers bumps rather than super steep.  I've only been skiing the past two winters and only in the Mid Atlantic/South but am athletic seem to have picked it up quickly.  I enjoy skiing everything in the mid atlantic except for the steepest sections of bumps, though I don't mind pushing myself a bit and definitely want to continue to improve rapidly.  For both my wife and I any skiing we find in the North Country, despite limited natural snow, will be better (terrain wise) than anything done in the Mid Atlantic so we are excited even if this hasn't been the perfect winter.

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EpicSki › The Barking Bear Forums › Mountain/Resort Related Forums › Resorts, Conditions & Travel › Help: Comparison between Vermont ski areas.