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best Christmas skiing with teenagers in Vermont [driving from NYC]

post #1 of 22
Thread Starter 

We are family of 4, intermediate skiers, teenagers (girls) used to be advanced-intermediate but didn't ski for 3 years. Live on Long Island. Plan to go skiing for 5-6 days with a best chance of snow on Christmas, need good ski school (with advanced levels), preferably with some other winter activities close by (skating, cross country), not too crowded, not too expensive :).We are willing to drive not more then 6 hours. Any advise?

post #2 of 22

Best chance for snow means best snowmaking.  Not crowded and best snowmaking does not happen over the Christmas break.  Also, lessons will be crowded and the holidays is when all the part time instructors are required to be on hand to help out with crowds.

 

Not staying to stay home, just saying there will be crowds and ski schools will be busy as well.  Best chance for snow may be Jay Peak but if there isn't a lot of natural they have crappy snowmaking and grooming.

 

All the usual places fit the bill for plenty of intermediate terrain along with impressive snowmaking:  Stowe, Killington, Okemo, Stratton.

 

Jay Peak has an indoor water park and an indoor skating rink.  There is xc skiing everywhere - dependant on snow.  I would think there is a rink closish to other areas.  Stowe is about 45 minutes from Burlington, Killington is close to Rutland. Stratton is close to shopping.  Okemo is about a half hour from Killington.

post #3 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by crank View Post
 

Best chance for snow means best snowmaking.

 

I was going to rebut this by saying a handful of snowy western areas (Targhee and Wolf Creek) do come to mind are pretty safe bets for good Christmas snow despite very limited/no snowmaking, and can also be skied without feeling ridiculously crowded over that week (but most mountains will see near peak crowds over Christmas).

 

Then I saw driving from the East Coast. I did not see specifically where, however.

 

Yeah, I don't see a winning option there.

post #4 of 22

As was just said, you can't have everything.

 

However, crowds can be avoided, and some mountains are better setup for that than others.

 

At Okemo South Face, Solitude, Jackson Gore and any of the fixed grip upper mountain lifts will have much shorter lines than down by the base lodges.

Killington requires avoiding the gondolas, but has a huge lift system with lots of upper mountain options.

Sugarbush could be an option for crowd avoidance if Mt Ellen is open with top to bottom skiing.

 

An additional strategy over the Christmas break would be to try and take lessons that get you on the lifts before they even officially open. Get your lower mountain runs in, before moving on to shorter lifts or less populated areas.

 

Sunday River's lift system and snowmaking could also present another option.

post #5 of 22
Thread Starter 

I realize that we cannot get everything.Actually, we'll go before Christmas: 12/20 - 12/26. We might even avoid the biggest crowd. We skied Mt. Snow, Tremblant, Killington, Pico, Gore, Jimini Peak, but never Okemo, Stratton, Stowe or Smuggle's Notch and never over Christmas time.I see that most of the resorts plan to open the season in the mid of November. Does it mean that they expect to open everything by 12/20?

post #6 of 22


Pre-Xmas is a VERY big difference.

 

crank's original suggestions still would be your best bets.

 

You will not see 100% openings by 12/20. More like 50% but with all the major groomed areas being included. Of course things are always weather dependent.

 

A 3+ day lift ticket to Okemo or Killington gets you one day at the other resort, plus access to their smaller sister mountain of Pico or Mt Sunapee (Sunapee being the better of the two IMHO).

 

If you have never skied at Stowe you are missing out. More mile long high speed lifts than anywhere else in NE (3), only place in the East I know of with two 2000+ foot vertical lifts, and a massive snowmaking system that was just refurbished. Major downside is the cost.

 

Okemo will be the mellowest of the four suggestions--but they are putting in a new lift with heated seats and bubble shield to block the wind. 

post #7 of 22

Amount of terrain open at that time will depend a lot on the weather.  Even without natural snow, the areas with lots of snowmaking will have a good mix of terrain open if it stays cold.  If it warms up and rains, the amount of terrain and conditions will take a big hit. 

 

For the period before Xmas, you will have light crowds, except maybe for the 26th.  I would not book early and wait and see how the weather cooperates.  You won't have trouble with a last minute booking at that time period.

post #8 of 22

Stowe is pretty awesome.  Stratton is fun but $$ (So is Stowe).  Burke Mountain (Q Burke now) is a hidden gem and a fun skiers' Mt,  Not as mainstream as some of the others.  Not as big either. Reasonable $.  Nice views.   Pretty easy to get to.  

post #9 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by mpolon View Post
 

I realize that we cannot get everything.Actually, we'll go before Christmas: 12/20 - 12/26. We might even avoid the biggest crowd. We skied Mt. Snow, Tremblant, Killington, Pico, Gore, Jimini Peak, but never Okemo, Stratton, Stowe or Smuggle's Notch and never over Christmas time.I see that most of the resorts plan to open the season in the mid of November. Does it mean that they expect to open everything by 12/20?

 

There are a lot of considerations as to what goes into "opening" a trail.  i.e.,:

  • Do you cover it edge-to-edge, or do you cover it "wide enough" to get by?
  • Do you immediately mow down the snow whales created by the guns or do you let the piles sit for a couple days?  Letting it "sit" leads to a much nicer skiing surface.
  • Do you bury the trail deep enough to allow it survive the inevitable warm-ups, or do you bury the trail just enough to get by and "cross your fingers" a bit?

 

Every resort has different philosophies as to their "opening new terrain" policy.  Barring some serious help from Mother Nature, nobody will be 100% open by XMAS; all the major players will have the majority of their intermediate cruisers and beginner terrain open.  Advanced / expert terrain is usually pretty lacking; simply put, there's not enough people capable of enjoying it to invest in opening it.

 

Stowe does have the most powerful snow-making system in New England, or at least they've invested a tremendous amount of money into their snowmaking equipment over the past three or four years.  Stowe does have a lot of x-country skiing in the area, both at the resort and privately-owned properties (Trapp Family Lodge).  Stowe does not fall into the "inexpensive" category though.

post #10 of 22
Thread Starter 

Why didn't you mention Smuggler's Notch? It's on the same mountain as Stowe. Is it so much worse?

post #11 of 22
Thread Starter 

I see that only if we are very lucky with the weather we'll get enough snow but never 100% by 12/20 even with a snowmaking. I just thought that there is a big difference between those resorts: some of them are more on north than others, some mountains are higher or trails face north, or may be there is a special microclimate on one of them, or less wind, etc.If the winter is not snowy then which of those 4 will have better conditions? The one with a better snowmaking? Is it going to be the ONLY difference?

post #12 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by mpolon View Post
 

I see that only if we are very lucky with the weather we'll get enough snow but never 100% by 12/20 even with a snowmaking. I just thought that there is a big difference between those resorts: some of them are more on north than others, some mountains are higher or trails face north, or may be there is a special microclimate on one of them, or less wind, etc.If the winter is not snowy then which of those 4 will have better conditions? The one with a better snowmaking? Is it going to be the ONLY difference?

 

I didn't mention anything about Smuggler's Notch because I have never been there.  I go to Stowe a lot, some I'm quite familiar with what they are capable of doing and what they have historically have done.

 

You are correct in saying that Stowe and Smuggs are right next to each other; you can see Smuggs from Stowe (if you know what you're looking for...).  If you are coming from the west (i.e., Burlington), then the drive to Stowe or Smuggs is about the same.  If you're coming from the east (where I would come from),  getting to Smuggs is another 45 minutes past Stowe due to the direct road being closed.  Basically, once you're at one, getting to the other is a longer drive that you'd think.

 

Stowe has further north (by a lot) compared to Okemo and Stratton going for it.

Stowe has base elevation going for it as well.  Stowe is at 2200 feet, Stratton is around 1800, Okemo is around 1100 (at the base).

Stowe has weird micro-climates going for it; the weather on the mountain is wildly different from the weather in town, eight miles away.

Stowe does get a lot more natural snowfall then the more southern areas do.  How much they get in December is anybody's guess.  Last year all the storms were passing either to the north or south of Stowe; Stowe had squat while Canada and the more southern areas were getting buried.  Other years, Stowe has gotten buried by natural snowfall in December.

All three can crank out prodigious amounts of snow when the weather gods smile.

All three are close(ish) to big cities (by Vermont standards):  Stratton is close (sort of) to Brattleboro, Okemo is close to Rutland, Stowe is close to Burlington.

 

If you're not coming during XMAS week itself, there's really no point to booking very far in advance.  Snowmaking systems go a long way to determining how much will be open; the only thing that's going to make a truly appreciable difference in snow quality is how much natural snowfall there was.  Predicting that is a fools game.  You have the luxury of just waiting to see how things shape up in December and go where you feel like it.

post #13 of 22

The mountains farther north Stowe, Sugarbush, Jay, Smuggs are likely to have more natural snow.  Jay Peak can get a ton of snow and I have seen it fully open before 12/20, however that happens once in a blue moon.  Kevin will tell you that Stowe, with it's brand new snowmaking system and it's natural snow will have the best conditions of all - he will not be wrong either.  KIllington, Okemo, Stratton are all snowmaking powerhouses with Okemo and Stratton competing for best grooming while Killington being bigger and higher and slightly farther north catches more storms.

 

I love Sugarbush but left it out of my original suggestions because their snowmaking and grooming don't really measure up.  .

 

 

Edit:  Kevin replied while I was typing.  I left Smuggs out due to the snowmaking thing. 

post #14 of 22

Jay has a lot to offer considering the teenage girl thing. They have a skating rink and a (shudder) water park. Floridians (like me) don't go to Northern Vermont for water activities but if the weather isn't cooperating I can see spending an afternoon there. Before all the fancy stuff got built at Jay Peak it was skiing, period. The guys at the ski school, Mickey and Dana, have been there forever and know their business (full disclosure - Dana is my brother-in-law).

 

I've spent quite a few Christmas weeks at Jay and never lacked for good skiing. Maybe not 6 days in a row but still, we always had fun. Hope this helps and have fun wherever you go. Don't forget to tip your instructor!

post #15 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by mpolon View Post
 

We are family of 4, intermediate skiers, teenagers (girls) used to be advanced-intermediate but didn't ski for 3 years. Live on Long Island. Plan to go skiing for 5-6 days with a best chance of snow on Christmas, need good ski school (with advanced levels), preferably with some other winter activities close by (skating, cross country), not too crowded, not too expensive :).We are willing to drive not more then 6 hours. Any advise?


Welcome to EpicSki!  Where did you ski before?  As others said, better to wait a bit before deciding on where to go since skiing mostly the week before Christmas.  Most of the bigger places are hoping to open by the weekend after Thanksgiving.

 

Any preference about distance of lodging from the slopes?  Hotel or condo?  Being able to cook is one way to keep expenses lower.  Nice to have the extra room too.  Are you thinking group lessons or private?

post #16 of 22
Thread Starter 

We skied Gore, Jimini, Mt. Snow, Killington, Pico, Tremblant, Hunter and camelback. Never went to northern Vt.Don't even have friends who have been there. We usually prefer not to drive after skiing, have an apartment with kitchen (it proves to be a lot cheaper for 4 people) and have some not ski activities around (all resorts are closed by 4 pm or you are too tired to do it in the evening anyway), girls like pools. Skating would be good also. I doubt that X-country will be possible before Christmas, but we like it too.

We like to take 1 or 2 group lessons and girls go to the 1/2 day school (or even full day) if it's an option for their age (15 yo).

post #17 of 22
Okemo.

Great early season snow making

Lot's of on hill lodging

a real town with some shopping

Rutland is a short drive to the west

If its a lite snow season, will have the best coverge

Even if you got a place in town, the free shuttle bus will drop you off at the main base area

great boot fitter at the base of the excess road The Boot Pro

the skating rink may be open at Jackson Gore

X-country skiing is across the street at the golf course
post #18 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by mpolon View Post
 

We skied Gore, Jimini, Mt. Snow, Killington, Pico, Tremblant, Hunter and camelback. Never went to northern Vt.Don't even have friends who have been there. We usually prefer not to drive after skiing, have an apartment with kitchen (it proves to be a lot cheaper for 4 people) and have some not ski activities around (all resorts are closed by 4 pm or you are too tired to do it in the evening anyway), girls like pools. Skating would be good also. I doubt that X-country will be possible before Christmas, but we like it too.

We like to take 1 or 2 group lessons and girls go to the 1/2 day school (or even full day) if it's an option for their age (15 yo).

 

The only mountain that would fit your lesson desires would be Jay Peak. Jay's youth program goes up to 15, and kids program is where you're going to find full or half day lessons. Stowe and Okemo only go to 14, Stratton to 12. Kton has youth lessons up to 17, but its for beginners.

 

For your lodging options, you can check out the Jackson Gore Inn at Okemo. They have an indoor/outdoor pool, as well as a skating rink right there. Stratton has their whole base village with a number of things to do. At Stowe, you could rent a condo at the Inn at the Mountain in the week before Christmas. There's tons to do in Stowe. Finding a place at Jay might be hard, and there's nothing to do at Jay off the resort property (although plenty to do on property, with an indoor waterpark and really nice skating rink).

post #19 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by mpolon View Post
 

We are family of 4, intermediate skiers, teenagers (girls) used to be advanced-intermediate but didn't ski for 3 years. Live on Long Island. Plan to go skiing for 5-6 days with a best chance of snow on Christmas, need good ski school (with advanced levels), preferably with some other winter activities close by (skating, cross country), not too crowded, not too expensive :).We are willing to drive not more then 6 hours. Any advise?

Quote:
Originally Posted by mpolon View Post
 

I realize that we cannot get everything.Actually, we'll go before Christmas: 12/20 - 12/26. We might even avoid the biggest crowd. We skied Mt. Snow, Tremblant, Killington, Pico, Gore, Jimini Peak, but never Okemo, Stratton, Stowe or Smuggle's Notch and never over Christmas time.I see that most of the resorts plan to open the season in the mid of November. Does it mean that they expect to open everything by 12/20?

Quote:
Originally Posted by mpolon View Post
 

We skied Gore, Jimini, Mt. Snow, Killington, Pico, Tremblant, Hunter and camelback. Never went to northern Vt.Don't even have friends who have been there. We usually prefer not to drive after skiing, have an apartment with kitchen (it proves to be a lot cheaper for 4 people) and have some not ski activities around (all resorts are closed by 4 pm or you are too tired to do it in the evening anyway), girls like pools. Skating would be good also. I doubt that X-country will be possible before Christmas, but we like it too.

We like to take 1 or 2 group lessons and girls go to the 1/2 day school (or even full day) if it's an option for their age (15 yo).

 

Along with the longer driving time to Smuggler's Notch, there is not that much to do on that side of the mountain.  Certainly not in comparison to Stowe.  The terrain at Smuggs is good for beginners and intermediates, as long as riding slow lifts is not an issue.  Also plenty of terrain for better skiers, especially if have enough to ski trees with a buddy.  My impression from my one day at Smuggs, which included going over to the base where the resort lodging and ski school is located, is that a family with tweens and younger would have a great time for a week.  Not so sure about a family with teens unless enough teens to create their own fun.

 

Stowe is much more of a real place than Tremblant in terms of having an actual town.  That means more loding options if don't need ski in/out.  They just updated the lift structure on the smaller mountain that has plenty of green/blue trails.  Strong ski school.

 

If you end up at Stowe, a day trip to Smuggs might be worth considering.  Very different vibe.  Personally, I liked it.

post #20 of 22

My family is a huge fan of Smuggs. We have been going there for many many year. Smuggs is known for its family offerings but it's not limited to that. Hardly, as least not in a traditional sense!

We have never done Stowe (I did for one run many many years ago when the two resorts were connected through the backside). Because every time we go to Smuggs, we stay there for the week (usually cheap) it's hard to justify packing and unpacking the whole family just to go to a place next door afterwards. Not to mention the super high price lifts at Stowe. (but I would love to ski it one day still)

Smuggs has something for everyone, with trails for every ability. If you want tame, there is plenty of moderate trails. OTOH, if you want gnar, there are lots of steeps and trees.There are plenty of hidden gems as well if you're into extending yourself a bit. But, for a family like yours as you have described the 50 or so trails will be plenty of fun. (like 90 when fully open)

If you're anything but an advanced or expert, you may choose to stay right at the base. The accommodations are very good for condos and most are ski-in ski-out (but not likely in Dec though) and most have hot tubs and full kitchens. Their tickets are cheaper than pretty much all other mountains of that size in the East. Crowd control is also far better than normally (partially due to the slower lifts) and it is still slightly better than other places during the holidays.

The slow lifts are a drag if you've only ridden the fancy high-speed and gondolas elsewhere (especially in the bitter cold). But, it never bothered us and we as a family combined has skied quite a few places (mostly in NY and N VT though). But, having slower lifts means less skiers and more elbow room on trail because everything at the peak fans out from one spot on both upper mountains.

As for what to do as a family of teenagers... Well, let's just say, if you and your kids ski hard enough and this is an occasional getaway vacation from downstate, what is there that needs to be done at night except relaxing back in the condo, get a good night sleep and do it all over again the next day. But, if you guys only do like a couple of runs a day, then, hmm, Smuggs can be pretty lame for us (unless you have real little munchkins).

post #21 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by chanwmr View Post
 

My family is a huge fan of Smuggs. We have been going there for many many year. Smuggs is known for its family offerings but it's not limited to that. Hardly, as least not in a traditional sense!

We have never done Stowe (I did for one run many many years ago when the two resorts were connected through the backside). Because every time we go to Smuggs, we stay there for the week (usually cheap) it's hard to justify packing and unpacking the whole family just to go to a place next door afterwards. Not to mention the super high price lifts at Stowe. (but I would love to ski it one day still)

Smuggs has something for everyone, with trails for every ability. If you want tame, there is plenty of moderate trails. OTOH, if you want gnar, there are lots of steeps and trees.There are plenty of hidden gems as well if you're into extending yourself a bit. But, for a family like yours as you have described the 50 or so trails will be plenty of fun. (like 90 when fully open)

If you're anything but an advanced or expert, you may choose to stay right at the base. The accommodations are very good for condos and most are ski-in ski-out (but not likely in Dec though) and most have hot tubs and full kitchens. Their tickets are cheaper than pretty much all other mountains of that size in the East. Crowd control is also far better than normally (partially due to the slower lifts) and it is still slightly better than other places during the holidays.

The slow lifts are a drag if you've only ridden the fancy high-speed and gondolas elsewhere (especially in the bitter cold). But, it never bothered us and we as a family combined has skied quite a few places (mostly in NY and N VT though). But, having slower lifts means less skiers and more elbow room on trail because everything at the peak fans out from one spot on both upper mountains.

As for what to do as a family of teenagers... Well, let's just say, if you and your kids ski hard enough and this is an occasional getaway vacation from downstate, what is there that needs to be done at night except relaxing back in the condo, get a good night sleep and do it all over again the next day. But, if you guys only do like a couple of runs a day, then, hmm, Smuggs can be pretty lame for us (unless you have real little munchkins).

Good info!


The reason my friends and I (all adults) did a day trip to Smuggs when we were staying at Stowe was partially to satisfy our curiosity since it was our first trip to Stowe, but also because it was Sunday and we'd heard there would be less issues with lift lines.  We were there in early March when it was still plenty cold and people were still in ski mode.  Definitely no issues with waiting on lift lines.  Since there are a few long doubles, when I was exploring the mountain alone I rode up with several locals and had a good time chatting with them.

 

Did you see that the New England Gathering in March includes Stowe?  <hint, hint>

post #22 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by chanwmr View Post

My family is a huge fan of Smuggs. We have been going there for many many year. Smuggs is known for its family offerings but it's not limited to that. Hardly, as least not in a traditional sense!


We have never done Stowe (I did for one run many many years ago when the two resorts were connected through the backside). Because every time we go to Smuggs, we stay there for the week (usually cheap) it's hard to justify packing and unpacking the whole family just to go to a place next door afterwards. Not to mention the super high price lifts at Stowe. (but I would love to ski it one day still)


Smuggs has something for everyone, with trails for every ability. If you want tame, there is plenty of moderate trails. OTOH, if you want gnar, there are lots of steeps and trees.There are plenty of hidden gems as well if you're into extending yourself a bit. But, for a family like yours as you have described the 50 or so trails will be plenty of fun. (like 90 when fully open)


If you're anything but an advanced or expert, you may choose to stay right at the base. The accommodations are very good for condos and most are ski-in ski-out (but not likely in Dec though) and most have hot tubs and full kitchens. Their tickets are cheaper than pretty much all other mountains of that size in the East. Crowd control is also far better than normally (partially due to the slower lifts) and it is still slightly better than other places during the holidays.


The slow lifts are a drag if you've only ridden the fancy high-speed and gondolas elsewhere (especially in the bitter cold). But, it never bothered us and we as a family combined has skied quite a few places (mostly in NY and N VT though). But, having slower lifts means less skiers and more elbow room on trail because everything at the peak fans out from one spot on both upper mountains.


As for what to do as a family of teenagers... Well, let's just say, if you and your kids ski hard enough and this is an occasional getaway vacation from downstate, what is there that needs to be done at night except relaxing back in the condo, get a good night sleep and do it all over again the next day. But, if you guys only do like a couple of runs a day, then, hmm, Smuggs can be pretty lame for us (unless you have real little munchkins).

What is your experience lines / snow at Smuggs over Christmas / new year holiday ? Are there options for dining out in evening or basically ski and eat in condo?
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