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One week in Vermont, several questions

post #1 of 75
Thread Starter 
I'm new to the forum and a one year veteran of the best Pocono, PA boilerplate. I got hooked on skiing last season and I'm looking to graduate from the short PA groomers and onto some steeper, deeper stuff this year. I got a taste of some bigger mountain skiing last year with two days at Whiteface and one at Killington before the season ended. I've saved up some vacation time for this coming winter and I want to take a week long trip to ski Vermont, probably in late January or early February. I've searched the forum and acquired some good information, but I've still got some questions.

I'm currently skiing Rossingnol Bandit B68s. They're great on groomers but I'm wondering if I shouldn't pick up something a little fatter if the conditions dictate. For the price I'd pay to rent for a week, I could pick up a decent used or demo pair, but I'd like to get it beforehand so I can get used to them. I'm hoping to ski some of the less challenging glades, so is it a worthwhile investment, or just a waste at this point?

I'm planning to arrive Saturday afternoon, ski Sunday-Saturday, and drive back home the next Sunday, so I've got a full 7 days to ski. It looks like staying in Burlington would put me in the middle of the better ski areas while still keeping it fairly cheap. Any recommendations on a cheap hotel/motel for 2-3 people?

Based on what I've read here, my plan will be to ski Sunday and Monday at Sugarbush, Tuesday and Wednesday at Stowe, Thursday and Friday at Smuggs, and if my legs still work hit up MRG on Saturday. One person may be snowboarding, if so, MRG is out. Will I be spending too much/little time at any of them?

I'm hoping to get all the logistics worked out early so that I can recruit some extra bodies to share gas and lodging. Hopefully my first post isn't asking too much.

Thanks in advance
post #2 of 75
If you have only been skiing for a year, you might want to consider skiing in areas that have more selection of easy and intermediate skiing areas, while still having plenty of more challenging runs if you want to test yourself. Its one reason why this season I plan to ski Mt. Snow, Okemo, and Stratton on the same ski trip; members of my group are novices and easy blue skiers, but I am not. If you were to stay centrally near Okemo you could ski all these places and still be in a nice town with plenty of lodging.

Oh..and welcome to Epic Ski.
post #3 of 75
Burlington is a 45 minute drive to the Bush or Stowe, and mid-week lodging is cheap in Vermont ski towns. Stowe is the best ski town in the East, and it still has some old 50's style lodges and motels along with the nice hotels. Waterbury is halfway between Stowe and Sugarbush, and it might be another choice You might find a deal on a condo at Smuggs as well, or a slopeside room at Jay Peak. All of those choices would be better than Burlington for me.

All of those mountains have lots of groomed trails, but you might feel you are missing the main event if you don't do the front four at Stowe or Castlerock at Sugarbush. Okemo and Mount Snow are good choices for intermediates, as is Bromley. Stratton is too Deer Valet for me.

The best time to ski Vermont is usually mid-February to mid-March, although you can get 2 feet of fresh any time between Thanksgiving and April. The same for rain.

Hope this helps.

post #4 of 75
Good plan.

You'd know best whether to consider RR's suggestion of looking at So VT areas rather than Burlington based on your experience at Whiteface and Killington. If you stuck to greens and blues at WF and K and would not consider hitting the blacks there, then perhaps So VT is better; you can ski all or most of the whole whole mountain at Stratton, Okemo, Mt Snow and Bromley, including the blacks, but you'd probably feel more constrained at places like Sugarbush and MRG where the blacks and double blacks would be out of range. OTOH, if you ventured into harder terrain at WF and K and enjoyed it - or think you'll be there by by mid Feb, then by all means head north. And frankly I'd head north anyway - limited terrain at Sugarbush is still better and probably bigger than the whole mountain at Stratton or Okemo. There's also Bolton Valley for intermediate terrain and Sugarbush North (Mt Ellen).

Gear question - you know the answer here will be go for it, get a fatter ski. Can't say which is more probable - boilerplate, rain, or fresh snow. But what you're hoping for is fresh, in which case you will likely have an easier and better time on something fatter than 68mm boards. My first powder day on 63mm skis my second year out was frustrating. Moved up to 76mm the next year and now at 87mm for soft snow ski. My skills improved but the right gear made all the difference at the outset. I'd suggest looking in the 80+ range, so you'll have one if you like the B68 for harder conditions and something like a B83, Dynastar 8000 or maybe 8800, Salomon Scrambler Custom, or Fischer Watea 84 for softer. If you're into this enough to take the week in VT and be asking strangers on the interwebs should you buy new skis in September, get the skis.
post #5 of 75
If you feel overwhelmed by Mansfield at Stowe ... just head across the area to the Spruce Peak section.

Nice intermediate terrain and a bit more southerly facing.

The time of year you selected can be cold .... like real cold so be prepared with some hand warmers and mitts instead of gloves.
post #6 of 75
I agree with RR. Based upon your description of yourself and the other members of your party Okemo, Stratton and Mt. Snow may be better choices. Plus the area around Okemo will provide greater dining and other choices.

The B68's should be just fine unless your get a huge dump. I would hold off on getting another pair until your get a few more days on snow and better feel for your skiing. If you get an epic day or two you can always demo.

Welcome and enjoy. There are alot of very smart skiers and gear heads here....ask lots of questions.
post #7 of 75
Either option is good. The northern option will offer more advanced terrain and I don't think you will get you moneys worth in that option. The southern option will offer much more intermediate long cruisers with some steeper terrain for you to test you ability with and without getting in over your head. If you do get a day of dumpage, you have Magic right there, which will replace the MRG option.
post #8 of 75
Better chance of good natural snow further north though. As an old East Coaster, I wouldn't get too worked up about ski width unless I was planning on spending the whole season in Vermont or maybe planning a week in Jay. The chances are, you'll need edges more than girth.
post #9 of 75
One of the things I'd question, with only a year on skis, how much bang you'd be getting for the buck out of powder skis?

One of the nice things I remember about Spruce Peak at Stowe was that they groomed half of the wider trails on powder days and left the other half untouched.

This was great for my wife who, after three years of skiing was not comfortable in powder yet it let us stay together (kinda' brings a tear to your eye doesn't it?); she had her groomed and a few yards away, I was in mid-shin powder.

Oh! I rented powder skis once a dump was predicted. I really still don't have much use for them .... especially in the Poconos. Later on you may get some use out of a mid-fat crud/pile buster, but I'd hold off for now.
post #10 of 75
If you are going for skiing then Stowe's the place to be. Yuki mentioned Spruce, the Gondi is pretty easy too. The front four when the snow is good is great and will make you feel like a hero. Even though they are steep, they are not that hard, when there's snow.

If you are blue skiers then Stratton would be fun. And if it snows, like Phil said, Magic is right there. I ski Bromley, but it's really not much of a mountain.

If it were me, I'd park it at Stowe. You can go to Jay,
Sugarbush or Mad River easily from there. Skip Smuggs this time around. Northern Vermont is where it's at.
post #11 of 75
Remember, this is a person with ONE season on snow.
post #12 of 75
Ok then stay away from the front four as your first run But Stowe would be even more perfect a mountain. Hell at 23 they will be improving minute by minute.

Cross off MRG I guess. Jay would be do-able but not that great for a blue person. Magic is probably off the list too. Stratton is perfect but Stowe is where it's at
post #13 of 75
Originally Posted by Paul Jones View Post
Cross off MRG I guess.
Fightin' woids (to all of us who learned to ski there... and learned to swim at Christmas Cove, to drive on the Major Deegan, you know the drill...).
post #14 of 75
If you really want the steep/deep trees, but unfortunately not much to do after the lifts close: Jay (I'd suggest waiting a few years, but definitely go someday, it's every ice coast skier's right to ski jay, I just don't think you'll appreciate it yet)
Burke is a fun smaller Mt. not to far from Jay, not sure if it's worth a weeks worth, but it's a real laid back kind of place with some fun terrain. If you go to either make sure to have dinner at The River Garden in East Burke. One of my all time favorite restaurants, try the fried ravioli with tomatillo cream sauce, unreal.

Want to kick it back 30 years, ski way over your head and piss off your snowboarding buddy: MRG (again wait, but go, I haven't been yet, but its on my list for sure)

Want to go to a good overall mountain with some really tough stuff and some groomers, with a nice town and don't mind shelling out some cash: Stowe or for a cheaper option in the same area Smuggs (both could be a good option)

Want to pay out the wazzoo for an over rated lame mountain that doesn't really have any of the character of a place like Stowe: Stratton (I wouldn't bother, but they do have nice lifts)

I have a love/hate relationship with big K, it is a good mountain, but gets very crowded and I'm not so sure about the new owners. I hear they are really scaling back open terrain on weekdays.

I've heard Okemo is good if you like groomers, so this may be a good option, if you go make sure to hit up Long Trail brewery for some sampling and pub fare, they make a great Heffeweizen (this also applies if you go to Big K)

Mt. Snow is ok, i've only been there on single day trips early season, so not too much info

My pick for you is Sugarbush, they have a bit of everything including some easier trees if you want to try that route, it's not too expensive if you find a good package. Really friendly joint, decent surrounding area, very central locale so you could drive to Montpellier/burlington/Stowe/Rutland if need be. The lift layout is a bit weird, but you figure it out pretty quickly and as you are leaving they give you hot cider!! I kind of think they are currently trying to over develop a bit, but it's still a cool place.

So Reader's Digest version Sugarbush/Stowe/Smuggs are your best options IMHO.

I'll second recommendations of bringing your current skis and demoing. It's a fun way to see how other skis handle various types of terrain, good education if nothing else.
post #15 of 75
Friends don't let friends ski Okemo or Flatton.

For a first vacation you want to expose him to gaperworld??? .

You're right - go further north than mid VT as the conditions will be much better, and the hills resemble something more than a slightly tilted pool table.

If you need ego massaging, you can always hit K-Mart or Mt. Snow on the way back, but do the better hills north and at least you can challenge yourself, since you won't get better unless you do.

MRG might be a bit of a push as there's no grooming to speak of, and it can get a bit challenging, but go as far north as you can and enjoy.

You're probably best off using your Rossi's and demoing some things, as you're new to the sport, and it'll take a while for you to recognize the nuance of various skis.
post #16 of 75
Agree with the discussion basically.

I think you would be fine in the Londonderry area (Mt Snow, Stratton, Bromley, off chance of snow Magic) and of course Okemo. They really do it right over there for consistent snow surface. Obnoxious NYers abound in S Vt especially Stratton. I can say that because I've skied there A LOT over the years (because I have family in the area). But you know, everyone can get along too - just be patient and tolerant and try not to fall for the "in NY we have this and you don't have that bla bla". Just smile, nod and take their money if you can ... but I digress . That place is a boarder haven btw - some great snowboarders come out of S Vt!

N Vt is definitely more variety but at your level maybe above your head. There's also Bolton Valley too which has a lot of easier stuff and one or two really kickin trails. Less crowded too.

Killington is Killington - one of the biggest and they do get snow. Maybe not as much as they report but they do get it .

One consideration: if it's vacation week ... umm don't go on vacation week . But if it is, you might want to PLAN to ski at out of the way places, not the more popular mountains (Bolton, Ascutney, Magic, Bromley, Burke...). Just for crowds. This can be as challenging as any of the trails - avoiding accidents.

Have a great time too! Vermont can be a very natural, relaxed place - I love it!
post #17 of 75
Dumpy: good stuff. Nice concise insiders' guide to Vermont skiing. I'd only add that MRG is much better for novice and intermediate skiers than a lot of people think. Where MRG falls down, IMO, is stuff for "advanced" (eg, not yet "expert", no longer "intermediate") skiers. And of course, no snowmaking, which is great except when it's not. Don't know if I'm ever going to ski in the East again, but I'd like to try Smuggs and Jay someday. And Sugarloaf. Otherwise, I think your guide is spot-on. Ct55 is onto something with the crowd-beaters too. Hell, I've skied at Ascutney, it wasn't half bad.
post #18 of 75
Originally Posted by ct55 View Post
Agree with the discussion basically.

I think you would be fine in the Londonderry area (Mt Snow, Stratton, Bromley, off chance of snow Magic) and of course Okemo. They really do it right over there for consistent snow surface. Obnoxious NYers abound in S Vt especially Stratton. I can say that because I've skied there A LOT over the years (because I have family in the area). But you know, everyone can get along too - just be patient and tolerant and try not to fall for the "in NY we have this and you don't have that bla bla".!
I'm assuming you mean the NYC/LI/NJ crowd, most of the state (geographically speaking) is not at all like that. I'm from the empire state and all of us north of say, Kingston hate that attitude as much as anyone else.

Kind of like saying all people from Massachusets are typical Boston M*******s who can't say the letter R if you paid them . You're from central mass, what part of Boston is that?

Then again assuming everyone in a smaller geographic location all have similar traits is probably just as bad, but at least more accurate.

Anywho I like your suggestion that this guy hits up some of the smaller really cool little mountains in VT. From Burke to Bromley is a bit of a geographic spread, but there is a lot in between and could be kind of a fun week.

Although I bet all of the conflicting suggestions are going to get confusing. We should set up a poll, pick one overall best mt. for this guy and he has to go where we democratically pick
post #19 of 75
Yeah, exactly, as a kid from Jersey I demand to be included in the rude and obnoxious club! Obviously, upstate NY'ers don't count. Hell, in Ticonderoga or Plattsburgh they almost have Vermont accents.
post #20 of 75
Yes I understand dumpy - we all generalize. Upstate is different.

But don't get me started - for a while you couldn't get pizza unless it was "New York" style around Stratton. Because it's better of course ... sorry it's the best

Actually truth be told I love New York (and NYC - it's a great city, my dad would like to live in Manhattan again - and he's lived everywhere).

It's Yankee fans I hate

Personally I'd like for the guy to pick his own place based on everyone's feedback and just try and share honest opinions in an open relaxed helpful environment. But that's just me ....
post #21 of 75
Best choice for him and his group would be Okemo.....IMHO. Heck they have a whole mountain just for novices and intermediates....it doesnt get better than that, they have a great town and its in the middle of lots of other choices.

Some of you are suggesting great places to ski....for experts, but for someone just starting out, its a quick way to turn them off from the sport.
post #22 of 75
Originally Posted by Michael Ridolfino View Post
Based on what I've read here, my plan will be to ski Sunday and Monday at Sugarbush, Tuesday and Wednesday at Stowe, Thursday and Friday at Smuggs, and if my legs still work hit up MRG on Saturday. One person may be snowboarding, if so, MRG is out. Will I be spending too much/little time at any of them?
Thanks in advance
That's a great plan but I might consider substituting one day at Smuggs for a day at Jay depending on conditions.
Finally, either dump the boarder or make him ski so you can hit MRG which would complete a great trip!
post #23 of 75
Oh Yeah, other than MRG every one of these mountains has PLENTY of wallyword beg/int type skiing and are not just for experts...which is nice
post #24 of 75
There are plenty of people that could be skiing blues and maybe easy blacks in VT after one season. Depends on how much he skied and how much he learned.

If you want the ski experience, stay in ski country. If you want to be most awed by mountains, ski Stowe and Sugarbush North and South. You can add in MRG also. If you want something lower key, try Bolton Valley.

Wherever you go, be sure to start on the easiest of trails. The ratings are relative to the mountain. A blue at Stowe will be hard than many blacks in PA. Feel free to walk up to anyone who works at the mountain, patroller, off-duty instructor, whoever and ask for a recommendation for what trails to try.

If at SB, the bottom 2/3rds of the Lynx Peak part of South is designated a "Family Fun Area" and it skis a bit easy than the rest of the mountain. Sames true of Spruce at Stowe.
post #25 of 75
Thread Starter 
First, a big THANKS for all the information, it will take me a while to digest it all!

I'm pretty confident in my skiing ability after one season. I skied close to twenty days last winter from mid January into April. At Whiteface I skied some of the easier blacks and the blue glade areas. I felt that the blues were not challenging enough, but I was cautious about most of the black runs because of icy conditions. My trip to Killington was at the end of April, so the choice of trails was very limited, I think they advertised 50 trails that day. I think I hit every blue that was open and a couple blacks. The snow that day was either freshly groomed, piles of crud, with a couple trails iced over with golfball sized chunks littering the trail. By the time I go on this trip I should have at least 20 days under my belt in the Poconos, and I'm hoping to get some day trips in to southern Vermont by that time as well. I'm training specifically for skiing at the gym a few days a week as well.

I'm planning to move out west next summer, so the fat skis would be as much an investment for the future as they are insurance for a dumping.

It seems the consensus is to head north and give it a shot. Worse comes to worse, I have to drive south to get home anyway, so I can always alter my plans if I find we're in over our heads.

Once again, thanks for the great information, and feel free to keep it coming
post #26 of 75
Originally Posted by ct55 View Post

But don't get me started - for a while you couldn't get pizza unless it was "New York" style around Stratton. Because it's better of course ... sorry it's the best
NY pizza is hands down the best!!

I lived in the NEK for a few years and my biggest complaint was the lack of decent pizza. I'm from upstate too, where the pizza is very very good, but NYC still has better, so what would a downstater think??
I only found one I could eat and nobody sold it by the slice, WTF is up with that?? I was a poor college student that wanted a cheap slice, not to buy a whole pie to feed a family of 4. A pizza shop with a couple of slice pies out during lunch is an American tradition on par with mom and apple pie, tell me Northern Vermont are you that un-American??

So if good pizza is a requirement for this trip, he should stick to southern VT and brave the Jagerbomb crowd (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4JMOh-cul6M WARNING EXPLICIT) or go to Stowe and hit up Pie in the Sky.
post #27 of 75
First, you really need to state more about your ability, how many days you skied last year, what trails you liked at Killington so we have some reference. Don't just say "I can ski blacks" That just tells us you went down it. It doesn't tell us how you went down it. Have you done trees? Bumps? Fresh snow? At what point does your confidence wear thin?

Second, I don't care how old you are, if this is your first week long trip and you've only skied for a year, don't expect to ski 7 full days in a row. Trust me on this.

Third, I agree that due to you just starting out, buying a new pair of skis just for this trip is premature. You will spend the first 2 valuable vacation days just getting used to them. You don't know what the snow will be like. Take your existing skis and demo a few times to make some comparisons. If you have never skied powder and you get the chance, just buying fatter skis isn't going to make you instant superman. You really need to learn a little bit of technique before you can demo skis in powder. Skiing powder is a whole 'nother skill set than the one you have. Trust me on this too.

If you have the chance, demo some 80-85mm waisted skis on the soft snow days in December and January. Find what you like and then look for deals.

Fourth, choices of what mountain reflect not only your ability, but budget and personal tastes as well. A lot of the advice here is from old timers and highly skilled skiers, reflects some hard core vantage points, and really may not be what you want. I mean, front 4? MRG? Show this guy something predictable and within his ability. MRG is not predictable snow.

Fifth, ask around about ski clubs in PA. I know there's one in Bucks County; they were at Jay one year when I was. Clubs can get you great discounts on lift tickets.

I wouldn't rule out Bromley at all. It faces south, and will be warmer. It's a great hill for non experts. It's in the Stratton/Magic/Bromley grouping, and not far to Okemo or Mt Snow.

I do agree with your sampling idea. Make sure you try a few different areas. You might consider doing the bigger, more crowded areas (Okemo, Killington, Stratton, Mt Snow) on the week days, and do the smaller less crowded areas on weekends.

While Stratton and Okemo do resemble tilted pool tables, they are still very big pool tables compared to PA areas. You might like them.

Also, consider waiting for good conditions to book the trip. If you commit to a certain week months ahead, you may not get very good conditions. Good conditions trump new skis every time.
post #28 of 75
Well, you will likely get more snow and base up there in N Vt. And if you can already handle black diamonds and like the challenge, you'll be happier.

Tons of great skiing in N Vt and where I prefer to ski these days (if I can get up there)!

... on the fatter skis - sure get something fatter. Not crazy fat but maybe up to 80s-90mm. But there isn't a TON of pow skiing in the east, UNLESS you are willing to go into the woods. But I REALLY don't think you're ready for that ...
post #29 of 75
Originally Posted by Treewell View Post
Finally, either dump the boarder or make him ski so you can hit MRG which would complete a great trip!
Did you know that MRG will rent skis for free if you show up as a snowboarder. Maybe he'll stick with it you never know.

It is true that Mad River may not have good snow but no more so than any other mt in VT if you exclude the grooming. If it's not good then skip it. I think you could have a blast at Mad River by the way you describe yourself. It's a fun place and the people are friendly. It would be worth a visit in my opinion. The hard trails at Mad River are harder than at Stowe for example, but there is plenty to explore for a few days.

I still think that Stowe is the number one choice for what you are talking about. Expensive but worth it. The place is for skiers and it's in the heart of the Green Mountains. Good places to go at night, diners for breakfast, great snow. There is so much for your ability plus the front four, if the snow is good, might be within your reach.
post #30 of 75
Original plan ok, but pretty ambitious with respect to mileage and terrain.
Southern VT suggestion pretty good for newbies. Northern suggestions fine for young wannabe hardcores.
Concur with waiting on new ski purchase and possible need for rest day. Doing the whole week at one place can be great with right people, mtn, & slopeside accommodations.

Compromise suggestion: ski and stay three days at Okemo, rest/drive/sightsee one day while relocating near Stowe/Waterbury, ski and stay three days at Stowe. Could substitute Killington for either. For cheaper motels, but less convenience and atmosphere, stay along I91 and I89 and commute daily to mtns.
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