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Stowe or Sugarbush

post #1 of 22
Thread Starter 
Hi - I would welcome to hear from the "experts" on what they think would be a better option for a long weekend of skiing - Stowe or Sugarbush.

Some perspective/background - We are a family of three from NYC with one expert skier (my wife, who is not a very aggressive skier at this point) one intermediate skier (myself, who loves blues and eay blacks) and our seven year old son (who just started learning to ski and is in between the blue and black group in ski school at this point). What matters most to us are things like great ski school/instruction (in particular for our son) - ease/ efficiency of getting around (parking near slopes, nice locker rooms) - safe/quality trail conditions (grooming, adequate ski personnel) - town nearby where we can "hang out" as a family together apres ski (lodging and restaurants).

We have been mostly skiing at Okemo and we love it but we wanted to try something different on one of the upcoming weekends.

Thanks for your help.
post #2 of 22

Both areas are excellent and you won't be disappointed at either, if the conditions are good.

 

Quote:

Originally Posted by naja View Post

Hi - I would welcome to hear from the "experts" on what they think would be a better option for a long weekend of skiing - Stowe or Sugarbush.

Some perspective/background - We are a family of three from NYC with one expert skier (my wife, who is not a very aggressive skier at this point) one intermediate skier (myself, who loves blues and eay blacks) and our seven year old son (who just started learning to ski and is in between the blue and black group in ski school at this point). What matters most to us are things like great ski school/instruction (in particular for our son) - ease/ efficiency of getting around (parking near slopes, nice locker rooms) - safe/quality trail conditions (grooming, adequate ski personnel) - town nearby where we can "hang out" as a family together apres ski (lodging and restaurants).

We have been mostly skiing at Okemo and we love it but we wanted to try something different on one of the upcoming weekends.

Thanks for your help.
post #3 of 22
Stowe definitely has the bigger town... There isn't much at the base of Sugarbush.

Sugarbush probably has the parking edge. Your son would probably start on the Spruce side which involves a gondola ride just to get there (ie, you can't park there).

The skiing experience between them is a religious debate... Both have their devotees. You'll find that both are steeper, on average, than Okemo is.
post #4 of 22

Stowe.

post #5 of 22
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by KevinF View Post

Stowe definitely has the bigger town... There isn't much at the base of Sugarbush.

Sugarbush probably has the parking edge. Your son would probably start on the Spruce side which involves a gondola ride just to get there (ie, you can't park there).

The skiing experience between them is a religious debate... Both have their devotees. You'll find that both are steeper, on average, than Okemo is.


Thanks - I am leaning towards Stowe at this point, largely based on what I have read on Epic. 

 

What do you know / heard regarding the ski schools? We are very happy with the school at Okemo - they've done a great job with our son (and my wife also loved the one lesson she took).

 

Thanks

post #6 of 22

Stowe is definitely better...yet, I like Sugarbush more. Weird,

post #7 of 22

You really can't go wrong at either. Applying your criteria: ski schools - about equal: safe/quality trails - Stowe has more challenging terrain at the highest end but I am guessing your wife will probably not go off on her own so blues and easy blacks is about even; parking ease - Sugarbush has an edge there in  my experience but not a giant one, nice lockers/lodge - the new lodge at Stowe is very nice, Sugarbush has a nice lodge as well but much less luxe (but so is the Mansfield lodge at Stowe); town - Stowe has a big edge by default as Sugarbush really has no town (although Stowe's is a short drive from the mountain). My analysis (your measures) is Stowe is the preferred choice.

post #8 of 22
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by vsirin View Post
 

You really can't go wrong at either. Applying your criteria: ski schools - about equal: safe/quality trails - Stowe has more challenging terrain at the highest end but I am guessing your wife will probably not go off on her own so blues and easy blacks is about even; parking ease - Sugarbush has an edge there in  my experience but not a giant one, nice lockers/lodge - the new lodge at Stowe is very nice, Sugarbush has a nice lodge as well but much less luxe (but so is the Mansfield lodge at Stowe); town - Stowe has a big edge by default as Sugarbush really has no town (although Stowe's is a short drive from the mountain). My analysis (your measures) is Stowe is the preferred choice.


Thank you Vsirin - makes perfect sense. I think we will try Stowe. Now it's just a matter of when - given the dire conditions. This coming weekend does not look great on the back of the rain Wed into Thur and the following weekend we are already committed to going to Okemo. I guess it will have to be in March - if there is any snow left by then:confused 

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


Thanks - I am leaning towards Stowe at this point, largely based on what I have read on Epic. 

 

What do you know / heard regarding the ski schools? We are very happy with the school at Okemo - they've done a great job with our son (and my wife also loved the one lesson she took).

 

Thanks

 

There are a couple Stowe instructors (paging @freeski919 and @epic) who post here on the forums...  if you're looking for an instructor recommendation, they can probably help you out.

post #10 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by naja View Post
 


Thanks - I am leaning towards Stowe at this point, largely based on what I have read on Epic. 

 

What do you know / heard regarding the ski schools? We are very happy with the school at Okemo - they've done a great job with our son (and my wife also loved the one lesson she took).

 

Thanks

 

I worked 3 years at Okemo as an instructor, and am in my sixth year instructing at Stowe. Okemo's ski school is excellent. But, not taking anything away from Okemo, Stowe's is better. Quite simply, Stowe is about as good as it gets at staff retention. We have a ton of instructors at Stowe who have been here a very long time, and are very good at what they do. We also are one of the best at certification rates. At this point in any season, our certification rate is usually above 85%, which is fairly astronomical. My only experience with Sugarbush ski school is when I applied there when I moved back to Vermont. But one point of comparison is that Sugarbush was prepared to put me into their seasonal program right off the bat if I worked there. At Stowe, I had to earn my way onto the seasonal program team, took 3 years of doing. That goes back to the higher retention rate at Stowe. Instructors get a spot at Stowe, they tend to keep it. 

 

As far as individual instructor recommendations, I'll leave that to @epic. I am blissfully disconnected from the group lesson/privates scene, as my seasonal program runs out of Mansfield, while the rest of ski school is across the street at Spruce. I don't even see the rest of my coworkers anymore. 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by KevinF View Post
 You'll find that both are steeper, on average, than Okemo is.

 

Kevin wins understatement of the week. But this also has a serious bearing on what your son may be skiing in lessons, and preparing him for that. There's hardly any trail at Okemo that would rate as a black at Stowe based on its pitch. Big Bang, Rolling Thunder, maybe. But that's about it. All the other blacks at Okemo would be rated blues at Stowe. So he may have some terrain disappointment in lessons as he finds himself skiing on greens and blues when he wants to ski on blacks. I know explaining the relativity of trail ratings to a seven year old is just about impossible, but I'd do your best to prepare him for that. 

post #11 of 22
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by freeski919 View Post
 

 

I worked 3 years at Okemo as an instructor, and am in my sixth year instructing at Stowe. Okemo's ski school is excellent. But, not taking anything away from Okemo, Stowe's is better. Quite simply, Stowe is about as good as it gets at staff retention. We have a ton of instructors at Stowe who have been here a very long time, and are very good at what they do. We also are one of the best at certification rates. At this point in any season, our certification rate is usually above 85%, which is fairly astronomical. My only experience with Sugarbush ski school is when I applied there when I moved back to Vermont. But one point of comparison is that Sugarbush was prepared to put me into their seasonal program right off the bat if I worked there. At Stowe, I had to earn my way onto the seasonal program team, took 3 years of doing. That goes back to the higher retention rate at Stowe. Instructors get a spot at Stowe, they tend to keep it. 

 

As far as individual instructor recommendations, I'll leave that to @epic. I am blissfully disconnected from the group lesson/privates scene, as my seasonal program runs out of Mansfield, while the rest of ski school is across the street at Spruce. I don't even see the rest of my coworkers anymore. 

 

 

Kevin wins understatement of the week. But this also has a serious bearing on what your son may be skiing in lessons, and preparing him for that. There's hardly any trail at Okemo that would rate as a black at Stowe based on its pitch. Big Bang, Rolling Thunder, maybe. But that's about it. All the other blacks at Okemo would be rated blues at Stowe. So he may have some terrain disappointment in lessons as he finds himself skiing on greens and blues when he wants to ski on blacks. I know explaining the relativity of trail ratings to a seven year old is just about impossible, but I'd do your best to prepare him for that. 

 

After a dozen or so days we've become familiar with Okemo's ski school and agree that it is excellent. Proof is in the pudding - our son's progress and his love for skiing are a reflection of that.

 

Happy to hear that Stowe is just as good - if not better.

 

Our son is fine skiing whatever color trail. He, and us, just want him to be properly/safely challenged and pushed/encouraged along at an age appropriate level.

 

Btw, how do the logistics work at Stowe - checking in/getting your gear on and getting the kid to ski school? At Okemo the locker room and ski school area are 50 yards away so it simple/easy enough.

 

Thanks for you help. 

post #12 of 22

I just got back yesterday from 4 days at Stowe.  Other than the three hours Saturday morning before it rained on Friday night's 3-5" of new snow, the conditions were terrible.  I still had a great time there with my family.

 

My kids were in ski school for three days, and they both had a great time.  My 3 year old daughter was on skis for only the second time, and in retrospect, was perhaps not quite ready, but the ski school grouped her with kids at a similar development level, and they had fun alternating between learning to (kind of) ski, and playing in the snow.  

 

My 5 year old son is in his third season, and the instruction he received was excellent.  It really took his skiing to the next level, and he was confidently skiing black runs with solid form by the time he wrapped up.  My wife and I were skiing and saw his group at one point at the top of the head wall of a pretty icy black run.  She took a video of our son skiing it, and is now mad at me because according to her, the video was ruined when I loudly exclaimed "holy sh!t" watching him rip down it with about 4 pretty impressive fast, GS style turns :)

 

Based on our experience with the ski school, I'd thoroughly recommend Stowe for a family getaway.

post #13 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by naja View Post
 

 

After a dozen or so days we've become familiar with Okemo's ski school and agree that it is excellent. Proof is in the pudding - our son's progress and his love for skiing are a reflection of that.

 

Happy to hear that Stowe is just as good - if not better.

 

Our son is fine skiing whatever color trail. He, and us, just want him to be properly/safely challenged and pushed/encouraged along at an age appropriate level.

 

Btw, how do the logistics work at Stowe - checking in/getting your gear on and getting the kid to ski school? At Okemo the locker room and ski school area are 50 yards away so it simple/easy enough.

 

Thanks for you help. 

 

As mentioned, parking logistics are a little odd at Stowe. Everyone parks on Mansfield side. If you are heading to Spruce side (which you will for ski school), you will have to take the Over Easy gondola from Mansfield to Spruce. Before you get concerned about that, the Over Easy station is right by the parking area designated for Spruce, its a shorter walk than from most parking lots to lodges. The Over Easy then drops your right into Spruce Plaza. You can then walk right into the bottom level of Spruce Camp, where there are lockers, boot cubbies, and plenty of space to boot up. The ticket/ski school counters are right there as well. From there, you're going to be walking right out onto snow, either to the corral for group lessons, or the private lesson corral. Both are steps outside the doors of Spruce Camp. If you ever are lost or turned around, there are always Mountain Hosts in blue jackets to point you in the right direction. There are also always a plethora of instructors floating around the Plaza who can help you out. If we're wearing a name tag, we can point you where to go. (Except for me, I tend to grunt and shuffle around aimlessly most of the day... jk)

post #14 of 22

I would simply echo all the support for Stowe as a better option for you and your family.

 

Sugarbush has a big problem at the moment with the lack of snow--it is called the Slide Brook Express. Without that lift up and running  Sugarbush is effectively just Lincoln Peak--there are buses to get to Mt Ellen, but you really just stay where you start your day. For 3 days of skiing under the current conditions Sugarbush simply lacks enough variety at Lincoln Peak alone, especially when compared to Stowe.

post #15 of 22

At this point the slopeside hotel with indoor/outdoor pool at Sunday River would probably be the most fun.

 

The trails at Sugarbush are more fun but Stow is great too.

 

Stow has a few coffeshops, galleries,  and minimalls if you're into that stuff.  Both have good restaurants.

 

From my limited experience Stow has better instruction, Unless you're training an Olympic skier any good instruction will do so it shouldn't be a deal breaker.  It's not hard getting the kids to instruction at Stowe but it does take time so if you're trying to have the most fun with wife and kid save the instruction for another day if you go there.

post #16 of 22
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by CentralVT08 View Post
 

I would simply echo all the support for Stowe as a better option for you and your family.

 

Sugarbush has a big problem at the moment with the lack of snow--it is called the Slide Brook Express. Without that lift up and running  Sugarbush is effectively just Lincoln Peak--there are buses to get to Mt Ellen, but you really just stay where you start your day. For 3 days of skiing under the current conditions Sugarbush simply lacks enough variety at Lincoln Peak alone, especially when compared to Stowe.

Thank you.

 

But Sugarbush says they have 96 trails open - I would have thought that would make for some ample skiing terrain. That actually compares favorably to Stowe's 93 trails listed on their website this morning. 

post #17 of 22

Always take trail counts with a grain of salt--maybe the whole salt shaker :)

 

As I mentioned, the big problem at Sugarbush right now is that they list Lincoln Peak and Mt Ellen as one mountain resort. Functionally that just is not the case for your average skier.

 

Without the Slide Brook Express running there is not a way to connect between those areas without taking the bus or driving over yourself. With a child in ski school, and probably the inconvenience factor alone, you will only be skiing one side. So cut that trail number down by 1/3 and you have Lincoln Peak where the nicer base facilities are.

 

Coming from Okemo you probably want to notice that both Sugarbush and Stowe are only grooming less than half their open trails. While Okemo has multiple options groomed down from South Peak, Sunburst, Solitude, and Jackson Gore, the Lincoln Peak side at Sugarbush only has one high speed quad with good groomed runs. Gate House is a beginner and lower intermediate quad that feels like a kind of combo of the A-B Quads and Solitude at Okemo.

 

Stowe will have three high speed lifts open for you accessing blues and blacks. Lincoln Peak at Sugarbush will have one. Both areas have a high speed quad for beginners and lower intermediates.

 

Without the Slide Brook Express open Sugarbush is a disconnected union of two mountains under one name. They ski together about as well as Killington and Pico on the same day for most people. Slide Brook is the magic bullet, and right now it ain't happening.

 

Sugarbush can be a lot of fun and has some great natural terrain. But with this weather it just has some severe handicaps vs Stowe.

post #18 of 22

I like both of them but given the conditions right now it is hard to justify either.  If you can grab a cheap flight out of NYC to Denver or SLC, I say do that instead for a long weekend.  The biggest variable obviously is the cost of the flight as ski tickets at Stowe or Sugarbush seem comparable to areas out west. 

 

The conditions here in the east are almost to the point of being dangerous with respect to how much ice there is.  I was surprised to learn Sugarbush is basically at the same latitude as Bretton Woods since Sugarbush feels farther north than it is.  Having skied at Bretton Woods late last week, the conditions at 1pm were pretty terrible and admittedly to the aforementioned point of being dangerously icy.  I am guessing it is the same in VT.

 

I tried to justify a trip out west within the next few weeks but our fun travel budget is targeting a beach trip instead.  If we were itching for a ski trip to Stowe or Sugarbush though, I would be planning a West trip now instead.

post #19 of 22

Conditions in northern Vermont are changing on a daily basis.  The trail counts for both are in the 90's right now...  it's that high because both areas received some natural snow over the weekend and that enabled them to open some additional terrain.  Rain moves back in later this week so expect the trail count to drop back down again.

 

I was up at Stowe over the weekend; conditions were, by the standards of this season, pretty good..  In the Northeast, you always take your chances.  There is always the possibility that conditions will go from "great" to "terrible" very quickly.  They can go from "terrible" to "great" just as quickly.

post #20 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by skidew View Post

I like both of them but given the conditions right now it is hard to justify either.  If you can grab a cheap flight out of NYC to Denver or SLC, I say do that instead for a long weekend.  The biggest variable obviously is the cost of the flight as ski tickets at Stowe or Sugarbush seem comparable to areas out west. 

The conditions here in the east are almost to the point of being dangerous with respect to how much ice there is.  I was surprised to learn Sugarbush is basically at the same latitude as Bretton Woods since Sugarbush feels farther north than it is.  Having skied at Bretton Woods late last week, the conditions at 1pm were pretty terrible and admittedly to the aforementioned point of being dangerously icy.  I am guessing it is the same in VT.

I tried to justify a trip out west within the next few weeks but our fun travel budget is targeting a beach trip instead.  If we were itching for a ski trip to Stowe or Sugarbush though, I would be planning a West trip now instead.

Trying to deduce snow conditions at Sugarbush based on conditions at Bretton Woods is wildly speculative. They are in different ranges, subject to different weather systems and terrain considerations.

The Green Mountains, particularly from Killington northward, are strongly susceptible to upslope weather activity, which leads to highly localized storms. This is due to the Greens being a single major spine of mountains oriented north/south, across the prevailing wind direction. This is enhanced by Lake Champlain and the Valley, which lay at only 100' above sea level. This gives the Greens a significant prominence above the windward terrain. All this means things like this past Sunday gm happen often. It snowed nearly all day on Mount Mansfield, while not a flake fell in Stowe village, and it was partly sunny in Burlington. With that type of localized weather, you can't deduce conditions on the hill based on the snow 10 miles away. Nevermind in another state, in a different range.
post #21 of 22

I'll throw another state in there as a friend of mine skied at Sunday River on Sunday and said it rained the night before and it was miserably icy.  The ski areas in the Northeast to some (I would argue significant) degree share the same weather pattern so it is not a stretch to say Sugarbush and Stowe don't have the best ski conditions.  This sentiment is shared by someone I talked to today that has a cabin equidistant from both ski areas.  This person also had the luxury of skiing at Breckenridge within the last couple of weeks to compare the conditions.

 

The beauty of living in NYC is the fact you can grab a flight pretty much anywhere.  For an extra grand over a Stowe or Sugarbush getaway, one could find themselves deep in powder in either Utah or Colorado.  This is opposed to a region with areas that may or may not just give up on what has been a horrific season.  I'd rather spend an extra grand and ski in great conditions than at areas that have seen some of their worst conditions at this point of the year.  If one is doing a day trip that is a different story but if you are looking to have a great long weekend of skiing I don't think you will find it in the northeast.  Many people left their vacations early last week because of the lousy conditions.

 

I would note that Stowe has the ambiance and upscale feel to it.  My wife's favorite trail is the meandering toll road trail at Stowe.  When there are dumps of snow, I definitely put the Castlerock Chair area as number 1 in the Northeast and something akin to what you would find out west.

 

I wear the "ski the east" badge proudly but sadly this year is not the year.

post #22 of 22

I don't think anybody is arguing that this has been a banner year for Stowe, Sugarbush or anybody in the northern VT Green Mountain spine.  This has been a terrible year in the Northeast.  Yes, there are some weather events that affect all of New England.  i.e., the rain moving in Thursday appears to be an equal opportunity soaker.

 

What is also indisputable is that the Green Mountain spine sucks snowflakes out of seemingly nothing.  Stowe the mountain gets vastly different weather than Stowe the town.  I've been there countless times when the town is having blue skies and the mountain is in a full-on blizzard.  I don't pretend to understand the meteorological reasons as to why it happens; I just know it does.  Anybody who didn't ski on Sunday because of the Saturday night rain missed a pretty good day.

 

You can relate your experience at Bretton Woods and New Hampshire all you want...  neither one is on the Green Mountain spine.

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