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Vermont Ski Trip [early January]

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 
My girlfriend and I are planning a trip to Vermont for likely a week from Jan 2 - 9/10. I'm a pretty advanced skier capable of black runs out west, but have historically skied mostly groomed runs. I'd like to do some more backcountry skiing, but will probably be sticking more to the groomed runs this trip. My girlfriend is still a beginner but has caught on rather quickly and I anticipate will continue to do so. Because of this I would think the vast majority of our time will be spent on greens and blues. When she wants a break I will head to do some blacks and if I'm lucky maybe get her on an easy one (doubt it). She has skied in northern lower Michigan at Boyne resorts several times. Boyne Mountain and Highlands are nice resorts for the Midwest (which means a vertical of 500 frown.gif ). She has done challenging blues there. Last November I had to go to Denver for work at the beginning of the month, and since I cant take any time off from Jan 15 - Apr 15, my ideal ski season is shot. With that said, I decided to turn the trip into a ski trip and bring the girlfriend since it was Breck's opening weekend and Keystone had opened the week before. At that point she had only skied Boyne twice and only greens and easy blues. Obviously, since it was so early in the season, there was like 2 greens 2 blues and one black open at each, and the runs were slammed with all the people anxious for the season to start. We had a little too much fun the first night in Breck which led to a short first day...spent on the bunny hill/very easy green run. The next day we went to Keystone and did the long green run open. She had never skied anything that took longer to get down than to get up. And as I said, it was slammed! The first run went well, slow but well. She skied it well, but was really uncomfortable with all the traffic, especially the snowboarders that like to get oh so close to you as they ride by. The 2nd trip down the run was going well until the near meltdown when she felt like she was going to get hit. The rest of the trip was spent on the greens back at Breck which weren't as long or busy. She has skied several more times at Boyne since, and some challenging blues there. I would equate them to slightly tougher than the toughest part of any of the greens out west and obviously shorter. I know she is capable of the blues that were open in CO at this point, and she is more comfortable, but still not fond of an overly busy run.

Knowing a bit of our skiing history, what suggestions do you have in terms of resorts? I would like to ski 4 days and she 3, though I'm going to try get her to go 4. Ski in/out is ideal, without breaking the bank. We have used VRBO before to book condos etc and that has worked well. I haven't looked yet for this trip. I'm thinking maybe staying at Stowe, skiing there twice and trying Jay's Peak and Smugglers Notch. We definitely want to check out Burlington and stay there a night. Do you think Killington is a must? I've been reading how they have the best nightlife. Should we just stick north? What other fun things could we do on our non ski days? Any good suggestions for hiking, zipline, horseback riding, etc? Anything else I would never think about? We like good food, we like good drinks, we like good times. And help will be greatly appreciated!
post #2 of 8

Pluses for Stowe would include some very, very long groomed cruisers.  The Spruce Peak side of Stowe has their gentler terrain, fewer people, The Mansfield side of Stowe can get crowded, especially if you're sticking to the groomers on the weekend.  If you're there midweek, you have the place to yourself.  Stowe also has what is probably the best snowmaking system in New England.


Minuses for Stowe:  While there is no shortage of good places to eat and sleep in Stowe, it does have a well-deserved reputation for being expensive.  I'm not sure the nightlife at Stowe is all that much to get excited about either, although there are a few places that will be hopping, most notably the Matterhorn bar.


Stowe and Smuggler's Notch are geographically very close to each other, but driving between the two takes about an hour because the direct road between them is closed in the winter.  Something to keep in mind.  I have never been to Smuggs.  There are various outfitters in Stowe that will take you on guided trips into Smugglers Notch (not the ski area, the gap between the two areas).  That can involve just hiking the road (which is truly spectacular) to ice climbing the cliffs that make up the notch.


Jay Peak is known for two things:  woods and wind.  The wind blasts the snow off the regular trails and into the woods.  If you're skiing glades all day, it can be fantastic; if you're skiing the groomers all day, you can be left wondering what's so fantastic about this place.


Mad River Glen is also nearby.  Contrary to popular belief, they do have groomers that very few people ski.  They are very, very reliant on natural snow.  If a big storm has hit recently, it's probably worth a trip.  Right next door to MRG is Sugarbush which is a mega-resort with "something for everybody".


Once you get out of Northern Vermont, the natural snowfall totals start to drop-off, although Killington still gets a significant amount.  Killington is very much a "love it or leave it" mountain.  The layout of Killington leads to a lot of traversing to get from Point A to Point B, a lot of inter-connected trails, etc.  Killington definitely has the biggest night-life scene.


South of Killington, the big three are Okemo, Mt. Snow and Stratton.  All of them are known for having mile after mile of perfectly groomed slopes that aren't all that steep, although they all do have a few bump runs, etc.  They all have powerful snow-making systems, they are all somewhat more crowded then their northern counterparts (closer to NYC and Boston).


I have a feeling your girlfriend would be happier in southern Vermont, simply because the terrain is gentler.  I've skied Summit County Colorado a bit and I've skied Northern Vermont a lot -- Northern Vermont's blues are (usually) steeper and narrower.  You'd probably be happier in northern Vermont when you go off to do your thing.  Keep in mind that the "good" / "advanced" terrain in Vermont is mostly natural-snow only.   Early / mid January things are usually starting to come around, but there's never a guarantee of skiing natural-snow terrain in Vermont.

post #3 of 8

I would pretty much agree with everything KevinF said.


If you are thinking about resorts in the southern half of VT, Killington and Okemo 3+ day lift tickets allow you to ski one day at the other location.


If you have a Warren Miller movie showing in your area, you may also be able to snag discounted tickets to Sugarbush. Stowe/Sugarbush would put you closer to Burlington along I-89.


Cost, ski in/ski out, going for one location that fits you both, and VT's need for snowmaking in early January probably means one factor or another during your trip may have to give a little.

post #4 of 8

Regular season Weekends in VT are pretty tough for beginner/ low intermediate adults. The experience runs from feeling 'crowded' to downright unsafe.  Non-holiday weekdays are delightful for all skiers.


My advice is shrink your trip from 7 days of skiing to 5 days (Monday-Friday), Just dropping the weekend portion will more than halve the cost but triple the quality of the experience.


If you are committed to a full 7 day experience, then I STRONGLY recommend spending the weekend portion skiing Berkshire East in Charlemont, MA.  Low crowds, great skiing, cheaper…and then heading up to VT.

post #5 of 8

Can't really agree with Liam here.  VT can be crowded on weekends but your timing is great as the big holiday season has just ended.  Berkshire East is fun when there is a lot of snow but is small compared to the resorts you are looking at.  Kevin covered the skiing pretty well.  For nightlife, and it sounds like you are a younger couple, Killington has the most by far.  Church Street in Burlington is a fun area with restaurants and bars and shopping.    Burlington is most easily accessed from Sugarbush or Stowe.  Jay Peak has a fun indoor water park and a skating rink, but there is no nightlife whatsoever.


I know there are places that rent snowmobiles, but that is dependent on a good amount of natural snow and that is a crapshoot at all times in VT and even more so in early season.  


Stowe and Killington both have better snowmaking capabilities than Sugarbush.  


If you don't mind a really long drive consider Quebec for great skiing and a really fun experience staying in or near the old city.

post #6 of 8

As I read your post the 1st 2 places to pop in my head for you and especially your girlfriend are Okemo and Stratton, both have tons of great groomed cruisers, on slope lodging. Stratton has a small little village area to it. I'm not certain what night life there is at either place but for the skiing you described both places fit the bill. If the snow is good there are some nice glades to play around in at Stratton for yourself if you need to be pushed. There is also the a short drive down into Manchester, Vt for luxury shopping . dining etc. Although it is a different mix than what you would find on Church st. in Burlington.

post #7 of 8

At that time of year, its hard to predict how much terrain will be open.  Could be a lot or it could be limited based on how the weather has been.  Both Okemo and Killington have lots of snowmaking capacity and really use it early season to get maximum terrain open for Xmas.  Okemo is known for its groomed terrain, but lacks the expert terrain that Killington has.  If you go midweek in January, you won't have to contend with crowded slopes not matter where you go.

post #8 of 8
Thread Starter 
Thanks for all the great info. Using all your advice, I pretty much had the general outline of our trip planned out with most of the action being south. Then we decided the trip would be to CO. Staying in Beaver Creek and trying Vail and maybe Breck one day. For skiing purposes I always wanted it be be CO and once she realized we could suprisingly do BC for around the same price we last minute changed it. Thanks again for the advice.
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EpicSki › The Barking Bear Forums › Mountain/Resort Related Forums › Resorts, Conditions & Travel › Vermont Ski Trip [early January]