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Stowe, Sugarloaf or Killington over New Year's with 11 y.o.[from RI]

post #1 of 23
Thread Starter 

Back again for advice.  We need to stay East Coast this New Year's, and can only do a Monday-Saturday trip from Providence, RI.  Trying to decide between these three areas.  I am an expert, DH is advanced intermediate, but recovering(again) from another knee surgery for meniscus repair, and DS is a solid intermediate skier, who loves glades over speed.  I skied Killington for twenty years, but haven't been back in the last 10 years.  Trying to balance inevitable crowds, cold, ski conditions and good ski school.  I would also love better than basic ski accommodations, but I may be dreaming on that one.  Of course, having skied Canyons and Big Sky last year, we know it can't compare.  Which ski resort would you recommend?  BTW, spring break will either be Jackson Hole or Sweden, with friends.

post #2 of 23
I guess they all entail a risk of seasonably cold temps at that time, maybe Killington being slightly milder. But that comes with an early Jan trip to northern New England. Killington might be the busiest of the three at that time and I'd guess Sugarloaf would be the least busy in relative terms. For a lot of excellent skiing and good schools I think they are all on par. Do you care if you stay slopeside or a few miles from the slopes? If the latter and you want access to a nice town, then Stowe is great. If you want slopeside, then Sugarloaf has a lot of that with some range of price points.
post #3 of 23
Thread Starter 

Thank you for your reply.  Well, that eliminates Killington from the mix, unless friends are meeting us there who have further to drive.  Do you think Sugarloaf will be significantly colder than Stowe because it is further north?  Stowe has always had a reputation for wind as well as cold.  I am hoping for milder weather over new year's...usually the rest of January is brutal, with perhaps a brief thaw towards the end of the month.  And no word on ski school at either of those mountains?

post #4 of 23
Interestingly, from Providence the results of mapquest indicate not that much difference in three destinations: Kill 3.5hrs, Stowe 4, Sugarloaf 4.5 hrs. We need someone from VT and/or ME to weigh in on Xmas crowds. I don't think average temps would be appreciably different?? Sugarloaf and nearby Saddleback have some great glade skiing and my hunch is those two would be less crazy busy than Killington and Stowe??
post #5 of 23

In terms of expert terrain, glades, etc. -- that is a very sketchy proposition in late December.  Big December snowstorms have occurred and gotten the "good stuff" open in December, but that is rare.  I don't usually see skiers start ducking into the woods at Stowe until sometime in mid/late January.

 

So realistically, you're looking at man-made snow.  Stowe will have a few bump lines going; National, Centerline and Gulch will (probably) be open by then.  Stowe has invested a LOT of $$$ into their snowmaking equipment over the past couple seasons.  They can crank it out.

 

As for accommodations; Stowe most definitely ranges from "basic" to "wow".  If you can afford it is another matter...

 

I haven't been to Stowe over XMAS break.  There are a number of Stowe ski instructors (@epic, @freeski919) here who could give you the inside information on how crazy it gets there.

 

I don't have experience with Sugarloaf during that timeframe.  Keep in mind that Stowe is also close-ish to a variety of other areas (Jay, Sugarbush, etc.).  Sugarloaf is close to, uhhhhh, not much (except Saddleback).

post #6 of 23
Good point Kevin about reduced chances of early glade skiing and importance of snowmaking at that time.
post #7 of 23
Thread Starter 

Quite right about glade skiing at that time of year..we haven't tried to ski in the east at this time in a few years, and I forget...As for the distance, our friends would be driving up from NYC, hence the concern about Sugarloaf.  I am getting discouraged, especially given the lodging prices...perhaps better off putting it off until President's weekend--same crowds but more snow.

post #8 of 23
How about considering some second tier places like Bolton Valley/Middlebury, Bromley/Magic, Wildcat/Cranmore, Bellearye/Plattekill, etc? Lower costs and lower crowds during Xmas, but would want to double check on conditions before committing to lodging a couple weeks in advance.
post #9 of 23
Thread Starter 

If I am going to consider another resort, it might be Smuggler's Notch, for the family orientation.  But I imagine it is the same snow issues...

post #10 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by acingit View Post
 

If I am going to consider another resort, it might be Smuggler's Notch, for the family orientation.  But I imagine it is the same snow issues...

 

Smuggler's Notch is geographically right next to Stowe, so they don't get anymore (or less...) snow than Stowe does.

 

Note that even though you can see Smuggs from Stowe, getting between the two is a royal pain in the winter because the road between them is closed during the winter.  It's an hour drive to get between them.

post #11 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jamesj View Post

How about considering some second tier places like Bolton Valley/Middlebury, Bromley/Magic, Wildcat/Cranmore, Bellearye/Plattekill, etc? Lower costs and lower crowds during Xmas, but would want to double check on conditions before committing to lodging a couple weeks in advance.

I'll overlook the 2nd tier description, I know what is meant by that ha ha. As for conditions at the Middlebury Snowbowl on Xmas week we will usually only have our 3 shortest trails open on 1 small double, very rarely i.e. 3-4 times in my 22 years here have we had the top/main part of the mountain open then.

My advice for best overall ski resort for OP is Sugarloaf

post #12 of 23
Thread Starter 

Sugarloaf was very inflexible with our arrival/departure dates.  They don't allow departures on Saturday, and there is limited availability for a Monday arrival, which is dictated by DH's work schedule.  Plus, the particular rep with whom I spoke has a real take it or leave it attitude, can't say I was impressed by their hospitality, or it would have been my first choice.

 

So between Stowe and Smuggs.  The latter has condos at the base so that we wouldn't have to drive to the mountain, and a ton of apres ski kids activities.  Any feedback on that?  I remember hearing that the lifts were very old and slow, has that changed?

post #13 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by acingit View Post
 

Sugarloaf was very inflexible with our arrival/departure dates.  They don't allow departures on Saturday, and there is limited availability for a Monday arrival, which is dictated by DH's work schedule.  Plus, the particular rep with whom I spoke has a real take it or leave it attitude, can't say I was impressed by their hospitality, or it would have been my first choice.

 

I found the same when I tried to work with Sugarloaf with the Gathering there last year.  We would have been arriving on a Saturday night; no one would even listen to me.  Given how few people were there, I'm guessing a lot of condo's were empty.  Their loss.  Your impressions aren't alone.

 

 

Quote:
So between Stowe and Smuggs.  The latter has condos at the base so that we wouldn't have to drive to the mountain, and a ton of apres ski kids activities.  Any feedback on that?  I remember hearing that the lifts were very old and slow, has that changed?

 

Smuggs still has old and slow lifts.  That said...  there's something to be said about the "leg and snow preservation" ability of old and slow chairlifts.  i.e., you can rack up a *lot* of vertical in a big hurry on Stowe's high-speed lifts.

post #14 of 23
Thread Starter 

one more to throw in the ring:  Sugarbush.  Advantage there is that friends of ours will be there at the same time and they are very familiar with the mountain, with a child in school with ours.  But I skied it once probably twenty years ago in a snowstorm, so I don't have a clear impression of it at all...

post #15 of 23
Yeah I'm organizing a group trip to Sugarloaf in March and everything is geared around a Sun-Thur (Fri checkout) for holiday weeks an Fri/Sat (Sun checkout). I'm surprised at the inflexibility, I've stayed various weeks in Feb/Mar but I got the impression that early in Jan it was fairly open except for their College Week. Who knew.
post #16 of 23

Sugarbush might be a good option. The area being split between Lincoln Peak and Mt Ellen tends to result in lower crowds on the Mt Ellen side. They have been doing a large amount of snowmaking upgrades this year (as have most area in VT) and could have more terrain open than usual.

 

The Sugarbush Quad pack could save you a good bit of money as well: http://www.sugarbush.com/vermont-skiing-snowboarding/quad-pack.

 

If by chance there is a dump while you are visiting, Mad River Glen is just around the corner for anyone needing extra challenge. A single day visit to Stowe or a low key day at Bolton Valley would be close by as well.

 

In terms of open terrain Killington (with the obvious crowd issues aside) will have more miles than most to ski resorts. A trip your length would also allow you to use one day to ski down at Okemo for some extra variety. Pico around the corner on US4 might also have fewer crowds, but their snowmaking takes a major back seat to Killington.

 

Everything I have seen and heard regarding Killington recently is that it is not the zoo it once was a decade or so ago. But as a local I avoid holiday peaks when I can.

post #17 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by acingit View Post
 

I remember hearing that the lifts were very old and slow, has that changed?

 

Not at all. In fact they are one year older now than they were last year! It's like antique roadshow over there!

post #18 of 23

Not sure exactly where your dates fall, but as a general rule those are the busiest times at Stowe. That said, it is a weird holiday the skiers that come for don't really ski all that much, so while it may be early impossible to find a place to eat your lunch the liftlines are not that big. There are plenty of times where you can ski right on to the Quad, but the beginner lifts tend to be slammed with people all day. Ski School will sell out, but if you have a reservation that doesn't matter. Just don't leave it to the last minute. Dates can be more flexible, my parents are coming up to visit and just booked Stowe Mt Lodge from Dec 29 - Jan 2nd. Speaking of January, definitely ski on New Years Day as the slopes will be deserted. It seems that a lot of people want to be home for New Years, and most of those that do stay are in no condition to ski the next day.

post #19 of 23

Stowe had everyone of their trails with snowmaking open for the Christmas/New Years holidays last year. That's quite a bit of open terrain right there. They've invested close to $10 million in snowmaking improvements over the past three years including $2 million this summer. One piece of advice if you plan on skiing Stowe is that you purchase your tickets online at least one day in advance. I think it's about a $15 savings per ticket over the walk up window rate.

 

Smugglers Notch is cheaper but doesn't have nearly the snowmaking capacity of Stowe. Smuggs is a good choice for the kids but I don't know how much terrain they'll have open over the holiday's unless they get a substantial amount of early season natural snow.

 

Sugarbush has made a lot of improvements to their snowmaking over the past several years but still doesn't have nearly the fire power of some of their nearby competitors. Early season they'll focus most of there snowmaking attention over at the Lincoln Peak area. I don't think Mt. Ellen is even scheduled to open until just before the Christmas holiday & is likely to be limited. Of course once again it all depends on how much early season natural snow they get. The quad pack posted above will save you a substantial amount of money.

 

Sugarloaf is just to far to drive for your friends from NYC. You'll waste a whole day getting there & then again getting back. If you're OK with that then it's a good choice. I've done it several times myself from NYC but that's because I chose to do that & knew exactly what I was getting myself into.

 

Killington is likely to be crowded but will probably have a substantial amount of terrain open. If it's to crazy over there their sister resort Pico is right next door. It will probably have more limited skiing though. You can buy P50 tickets for Pico ($50 ticket) up until Dec. 14 I believe if you think that you'll use them. They're good to use anytime including holidays. You already missed the discounted K tickets as they stopped selling them last week.


Edited by steamboat1 - 10/21/14 at 10:00am
post #20 of 23
Thread Starter 

Here is an update on our decision:  The prices were ridiculous over New Year's for the Northeast.  We decided to ski the weekend before Christmas, knowing there would be limited skiing. We chose Sugarbush because our friends would be there then, and it gave DS a friend with whom he could ski.  And since they ski there regularly, they could show us all around the mountain and our spouses have similiar skiing abilities.  It was as much about friends as about skiing this time...Thanks for all the input, it was greatly appreciated.

post #21 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by acingit View Post
 

  It was as much about friends as about skiing this time...

That's what skiing should be about. Great choice.

post #22 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by acingit View Post
 

Here is an update on our decision:  The prices were ridiculous over New Year's for the Northeast.  We decided to ski the weekend before Christmas, knowing there would be limited skiing. We chose Sugarbush because our friends would be there then, and it gave DS a friend with whom he could ski.  And since they ski there regularly, they could show us all around the mountain and our spouses have similiar skiing abilities.  It was as much about friends as about skiing this time...Thanks for all the input, it was greatly appreciated.

Buy the Quad pack if your going to Sugarbush. It's not only for your use but can be used for friends & family. You could use all four tickets in one day if you chose to for family & friends but you have to be there to redeem them yourself. I think one person can only buy 2 quad packs, you can buy more using the other members of your family. You'll save quite a bit of money over the walk up window rate. Sale ends the end of this month.

post #23 of 23

Almost all the available lodging at Sugarloaf is booked through the mountain, so they have a captive audience there. This is nothing I haven't run into in the past. I spent one Christmas and New Years at Stowe, there is no better place to be around the holidays with all the Christmas lights and such, just a special place.  And the slopes didn't seem any more crowded than usual. Plus you have a lot of options for lodging, so the prices can be more competitive. Sugarbush has gotten to be real pricey, too, but like Stowe, they have more independent lodging options to choose from. And when they've got snow, one of the best ski mountains in NE.

That being said, all of these places are ridiculously priced around the holidays. I don't know where they come up with the people to pay those prices. Especially considering that the weather is so unpredictable around here. Who wants to take a chance on paying those prices and then have the possibility of getting rained on, or worse yet, having everything freeze solid after a rain event? If you have to book so far in advance, as you do around the holidays, and considering how expensive it is, better off just to head out west. It will cost about the same, and far less chance of getting skunked.

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EpicSki › The Barking Bear Forums › Mountain/Resort Related Forums › Family Skiing Discussions › Stowe, Sugarloaf or Killington over New Year's with 11 y.o.[from RI]