Going places: Vermont’s indie ski resorts offer special allure

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Going places: Vermont’s indie ski resorts offer special allure

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

The ski industry’s giants may have come into the Northeast, but Vermont is still home to iconic “indie” ski mountains – each with its own personality, character, heritage and loyal fan base. They also tend to pack in a lot of value in lift pricing, and strike back at Vail’s Epic Pass and Alterra’s Ikon Pass with their own innovative ticketing plans as well as the Indy Pass (82 resorts altogether including four of in Vermont – Bolton Valley, Jay Peak, Magic Mountain and Suicide Six – indypass.com).

Here’s what’s happening this season at Vermont’s top indie mountain destinations:

Bolton Valley

Bolton Valley is proudly locally owned, independent and back in the hands of the DeLaurier family that founded the mountain resort in the 1960s. Bolton Valley is distinguished by night skiing (five nights a week until 10 pm) and back-country skiing. A major mountain, it nonetheless feels more like a neighborhood destination than a resort.

“We’re no Killington, but we punch outside weight class,” said Scott Pellegrini, Bolton’s director of sales and marketing. “The vision has remained same: Ralph DeLaurier saw an opportunity to reach the everyday Vermonter with skiing and riding. Night lights enable school kids and working people to ski after school and after work. It’s all about accessibility and value. There is sticker shock of lift tickets. We want to maintain a good accessible rate to recreate. Season pass prices are affordable; night skiing is $25, skiing Mondays is $39.”

Bolton Valley sits high in the Green Mountains of Vermont, a mountain alpine village surrounded by over 5,000 pristine acres offering 71 trails and glades for Alpine skiing and riding and 100km of Nordic, snowshoeing and backcountry trails.

Bolton Valley is a self contained, family friendly resort focused on providing excellent value to skiers and riders All the lodging, including hotel rooms, suites and condominiums are either ski in/ski out or within a short walking distance of the lifts. Two restaurants, a cafeteria, deli and general store are conveniently located within the village which also offers an indoor sports center with heated pool, Jacuzzi and sauna.

With its proximity to the alpine resort and all its amenities, the Bolton Valley Backcountry Program stands alone in making backcountry skiing and riding easily accessible to everyone. Bolton Valley is very possibly the only lift-serviced ski resort with back-country skiing. Every private guided tour and lesson includes two 1-ride lift tickets so backcountry skiers and riders are instantly transported to the high peaks of the Green Mountains. “This sets us apart from any other guiding company in the Eastern US and Canada by maximizing the amount of vertical our guests can expect from a day or half-day of guided touring.” There are rentals, guides, passes, and learning programs.

Bolton Valley is a proud partner of Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports which promotes independence through sports and recreational opportunities for people with physical, cognitive and emotional disabilities, including alpine skiing and snowboarding in winter (www.vermontadaptive.org).

Bolton Valley Resort,4302 Bolton Valley Access Rd, Bolton Valley, VT 05477, 802-434-3444, www.boltonvalley.com

Magic Mountain

“There is a special allure at Central Vermont’s Magic Mountain. On the one hand, the vibe is retro and frill-less. On the other, it’s a quiet, nearly private skiing experience. Considering how rustic and unpretentious Magic Mountain is, this actually feels like the ultimate in luxury,” reflect ski writers Dave E. Leiberman and Laini Miranda.

Magic Mountain remains fiercely proud in being independent and a throwback to Vermont’s ski heritage. The owners continue to make investments in lifts and snowmaking, last year spending $2 million in improvements to ensure an uncrowded, “soulful” ski experience.

Magic is a mecca for skiers and riders who want to challenge themselves on its legendary expert trails and off-piste glades. Magic’s original 1960s-style trails are real black diamonds, with real snow, real steeps, and real obstacles to overcome.

A northern Vermont mountain in southern Vermont, Magic boasts being more challenging than its neighbors. The mountain installed a mid-mountain chair improving access for intermediate and novice skiers (there is no beginner trail from the summit, but a low-intermediate can take the 1.6 mile trail from the top). Magic offers a 1500-ft vertical, 51 trails on 205 skiable acres.

One of the advantages Magic offers is that it limits capacity on the mountain (having nothing to do with COVID-19). Only a maximum of 1,500 tickets are sold on any day, even with a new quad lift coming online this season, keeping the ski experience more open and less crowded.

It’s Magic’s skiers and riders who create a spirited community with a laid-back, friendly vibe where friends and families commune at the Black Line Tavern and where volunteers pitch in to help clear trails and create new glades.

Magic Mountain, 495 Magic Mountain Access, Londonderry, VT 05148, info@magicmtn.com, 802-824-5645, magicmtn.com.

Mad River Glen

Mad River Glen is an iconic “holy grail” for many Northeast skiers offering some of the most challenging and diverse terrain in New England with an uphill capacity that guarantees low skier density on the trails even on the busiest days. It is one of the last bastions of natural snow skiing in New England and is one of only three areas in North America that prohibit snowboarding. The trails were cut to follow the mountain’s natural contours. Skiers can descend the entire 2,037 feet of vertical on true expert terrain with no run-outs.

“The area’s character, the result of a long and proud history, reflects the terrain and natural beauty. There is a special camaraderie among the skiing community, with its co-op ownership, non-commercial, family-friendly atmosphere, dedicated staff, and – of course- the Single Chair, America’s favorite ski lift.”

Mad River Glen offers 45 trails on 120 skiable acres, a 2037-foot vertical, accessed by one surface and three double lifts, all funneling to a single base area.

Mad River Glen Cooperative, 57 Schuss Pass Road, Waitsfield, VT 05673, 802-496-3551, madriverglen.com

Jay Peak

Jay Peak is a four-season resort in northern Vermont, close to Canada and Burlington, and far from anything resembling ordinary (the word “quirky” has been used to describe Jay Peak) with a reputation for making big mountain skiing and riding affordable. It offers 81 trails (the longest, Ullr’s Dream, is three miles) and four parks on 385 skiable acres with a 2153-foot vertical, accessed by 9 lifts including 1 high-speed quad and a tram. There is also Nordic skiing and snowshoeing.

The resort features a year-round indoor waterpark, ice skating arena, indoor climbing gym, movie theater, recreation center, arcade, championship golf course, and disc golf course, ski in/out lodging and 16 restaurants.

Jay Peak, 830 Jay Peak Road, Jay, Vermont 05859, 802-988-2611, 800-451-4449, jaypeakresort.com

Bromley Mountain Resort

Bromley Mountain, in southern Vermont, is keeping the flat ticket-rate introduced last year – $89 every day, holidays, weekends, midweek. Bromley also added more kiosks to make pick up tickets easier. This year, Bromley is bringing back all its kids programs, which were on hiatus last season.

Bromley is famous for being Vermont’s Sun Mountain, with a warming southern exposure so the sun shines directly on its 47 trails (longest is 2.5 miles), six glades, two terrain parks on 178 skiable acres with a 1,950 foot vertical, accessed by nine lifts including a high-speed detachable quad). One of the oldest ski resorts (it was established in 1936), Bromley is a family-friendly just-the-right-size Vermont ski resort with slope-side lodging and terrain for all skill levels from green circles to double black diamonds.

For après-ski entertainment, enjoy Bromley’s Wild Boar Tavern as well as expanded events calendar with more free, family-friendly entertainment. Top off your ski days with a scenic sleigh ride at beautiful Taylor Farm, take a stroll through the sculpture garden at the Vermont Art Center, treat yourself to shopping at the Manchester outlet center, all within a 10-mile radius.

Bromley Mountain, 3984 Vermont Route 11 Peru, VT 05152, 802.824.5522, bromley.com

Suicide Six

Suicide Six, which is owned by the grand historic Woodstock Inn & Resort, remains independent. Now in its 87th consecutive season, Suicide Six (it actually is one of the most family-friendly ski mountains), consists of 24 trails (30% rated as beginner terrain, 40% intermediate and 30% advanced, with the longest run 5,280 feet), and two newly updated terrain parks on 100 skiable acres with a 650-ft. vertical, accessed by three lifts. Rentals, repairs, lessons and a cozy base lodge are all available on-site.

The mountain continues to upgrade snowmaking with 30 new guns, capable of generating ten times what could be produced before.

The downhill ski area is owned by the grand, historic Woodstock Inn which also offers the Woodstock Nordic Adventure Center (in its 57th season) providing 30 kilometers of trails to explore via cross country skis, fat bikes or snowshoes; a 10,000 sq. ft Spa; and Woodstock Athletic Club, with indoor and outdoor tennis courts, racquetball courts, a 30-by-60-foot heated indoor lap pool, a whirlpool, workout equipment and steam and sauna rooms. Woodstock Inn provides a free shuttle to the mountain. The resort, which offers family-friendly ski and stay packages, makes it easy to organize a private lesson for the family where the kids learn to ski and parents learn how to continue to teach them.

Woodstock Inn & Resort, 14 The Green,Woodstock, Vermont 05091, 888-338-2745, woodstockinn.com.

Trapp Family Lodge

Situated on 2,500 acres in Stowe, Vermont, where it specializes in cross-country skiing on 100 km of groomed trails, Trapp Family Lodge (yes, that Trapp Family of “Sound of Music fame”) is a mountain resort that combines Austrian-inspired architecture and European-style accommodations with the best of Vermont. Snowshoeing is also popular (equipment rentals available). Take a horse-drawn sleigh ride through the meadows. There are tours to learn the history of the von Trapp family and lodge; how maple sugar is made; and the von Trapp Brewing’s state-of-the-art brewery; dine in the Bierhall to sample the lagers and enjoy the authentic Austrian experience and cuisine. There’s also ice/rock climbing, spa, pool, hot tub and three restaurants. For downhill skiing, shuttles are provided to nearby Stowe (700 Trapp Hill Road | P.O. Box 1428Stowe, Vermont 05672, 800-826-7000, trappfamily.com)

Mountain Top Inn & Resort

Mountain Top Inn & Resort, set on 350 acres ringed by the Green Mountain National Forest, is breathtakingly enchanting, offers 60 km of groomed cross-country ski trails(snowmaking on a 2 km loop insuring optimal conditions); horse-drawn sleighrides; a small old-fashioned (natural) skating pond; snowshoeing (twilight tours available); snowmobiling; spa; hot tub; fire pits; and the coziest fireplaces. For downhill skiing, Killington and Pico are a 30-minute drive (shuttle transportation available). The inn offers 32 rooms plus 23 individual guest houses; dining 195 Mountain Top Rd., Chittenden, Vermont 05737, 802-483-2311MountainTopInn.com).

When planning a trip, skiers and riders should still:

• Know Before You Go. Plan ahead and check your destination resort’s COVID guidelines page for information on indoor masking, online ticket purchases, or vaccination guidelines. The same goes for your lodging if you’re not staying on-mountain. The situation is changing. Resorts may now require advance purchase of tickets.
• Stay home when sick. Avoid travel if you or someone close to you is sick or experiencing symptoms consistent with COVID-19 infection, has tested positive for the virus or has been in close contact with someone who has (see a list of symptoms here). If you have a reservation, contact the ski area and make plans to visit another time.
• Bring a mask with you so you’re prepared for situations that require one.
• Proof of vaccination and possibly a negative COVID-19 test may be required for indoor events.
Once at your destination ski area:
• Respect signage and employee direction related to policies and procedures throughout the ski area. These measures have been enacted to help protect both guests and employees.
• Masks and face coverings are not required outdoors, but indoor requirements vary based on ski area. Make sure you have masks and any items required to be indoors before leaving your car.
• Remember frequent hand washing and use of hand sanitizer.

Vermont COVID testing sites are free and open to everybody so visitors who need to get tested before going back to work, school or travel, can get negative result before returning home.

More information at SkiVermont.com.
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