|Northern Vermont Ski Resorts|
|Northern Vermont has many of the state's best ski areas, and they're less "commercial" than the ones closer to Boston, Hartford and New York City.|
Here are northern Vermont's ski areas. Have a look at my Vermont Ski Map to see all of the state's ski and snowboarding resorts.
Bolton Valley VT 05477
Located eight miles north of Interstate 89 between Vermont's largest city of Burlington and its capital, Montpelier, Bolton gets lots of local skiers from those cities, especially college students from the University of Vermont and Champlain College.
The Interstate makes it a convenient choice for out-of-towners as well.
Founded in 1922, ownership of the ski area has changed several times over the decades. It's now back in the hands of the DesLaurier family who had bought it in 1964, sold it in 1997, and bought it again in 2017. The family is devoted to teaching kids how to ski, and hosting them and their families for enjoyable times on the slopes.
Bolton's three peaks and four skiing areas provide plenty of variety (see the map on the right-hand side of this page). Most of the trails end back at the main lodge, making it easier for families to find one another and keep in contact during the day.
The vertical drop is an impressive 1704 feet (519 meters), with 71 trails (34% Beginner, 38% Intermediate, 28% Advanced/Expert) served by six lifts: 2 quad chairs, 3 double chairs and a surface lift. Plenty of opportunity for night skiing and riding, too.
For snowboarders, there's a 1500-ft terrain park and half-pipe.
Those who don't do winter sport can stay busy at the indoor swimming pool and spa, Jacuzzi and sauna; and the indoor basketball court and the aerobics and weights exercise room. The child care center can watch the young ones.
The annual snowfall is also impressive, at more than 300 inches (7.62 meters), partly because Bolton has the highest base elevation (2100 feet/640 meters) of any Vermont ski resort. The summit's elevation is 3150 feet (960 meters) at Vista Peak, the skiable area 300 acres (121 hectares).
As for Nordic/cross-country skiing, Bolton has 62 miles (100 km) of trails, 16 miles d(26 km) groomed.
East Burke VT 05832
Well, Burke Mountain is in Vermont's unspoiled Northeast Kingdom region, it has lots of the same beauty and a substantial amount of the same snow, yet it's mid-sized, without the crowds and crowding of larger resorts.
The mountain is big, but readily comprehensible. The beginners' area with magic carpet is set off from the faster runs so beginners need not worry about fast skiers barrelling down on them. And all runs end at the Sherburne Base Lodge, so some families choose to split up and ski their preferences, with parents not worrying about their kids.
Many championship skiers have sharpened their skills here, preferring it because of the long vertical drop (2000 ft/610 meters), plentiful snow and uncrowded trails.
Burke has four ski lifts, 45 open, gladed, meandering and contour-tracking trails, a five-acre (two-hectare) terrain park, and a junior park. Not only that, you get a guarantee that your wait in a lift line will be no longer than 5 minutes. (A longer wait is rare, but if it happens, you're granted a discount on your next lift ticket.)
Not only that, because it is far from the major cities, a ski vacation at Burke Mountain is considerably less expensive than at resorts closer to the cities.
Spend a bit more time driving, and a bit more on gas, and save substantially on lift tickets, lodging and meals.
A good variety of lodging is available: condominiums right at the slopes, cozy Vermont inns (such as the Wildflower Inn) out in the country, and other inns and motels in the towns of Lyndonville (such as The Colonnade Inn), Lyndon Center, and East Burke.
A small, affordable beginners' ski area only 15 miles (24 km) southeast of Burlington, and not far from Bolton Valley, Stowe, and Sugarbush, Cochran's was the first non-profit ski area in the USA.Cochran's Ski Area is the USA's first non-profit (Section 501 (c) (3) ski area.
It's small: vertical drop is only 500 feet (152 meters). The 30 acres of skiable area have 5 trails served by 3 lifts (including a T-bar and a rope tow).
But this modest learners' area may have the most U.S. Ski Team-member-to-vertical-foot ratio of any ski area.
Founded in 1961 and converted to a non-profit ski area in 1998, Cochran's has a mission "to provide area youth and families with affordable skiing and snowboarding, lessons and race training, in the Cochran tradition. No child will be denied the opportunity to ski or ride."
With that mission, and perhaps the most family-like atmosphere of any New England ski area, lots of young people get to try and enjoy skiing at Cochran's, and plenty go on to championship careers.
Lots of youth races fill weekdays, with lots of ski lesson sessions on weekends.
Cochran's is located 15 miles (24 km) southeast of Burlington VT, just south of I-89 in Richmond VT (map). Coming from the north or west, use Interstate 89 Exit 11; coming from the south or east, use I-89 Exit 10.
Jay VT 05859
Vertical drop is another reason to come: 2153 feet (656 meters), among the highest in Vermont.
Just in case, there's also a high-efficiency snowmaking system covering 80% of the slopes just to guarantee good conditions, but in fact Jay Peak prides itself on being "unfake, unfancy and unpretentious:" real skiing for real skiers.
Jay Peak's 76 trails are 20% beginner, 40% intermediate and 40% advanced, and thus suitable for all skiers, but biased toward the skilled and experienced. To have a Jay Peak lift ticket on your ski jacket is to class yourself with the pro's and near-pro's.
By the way, Jay has 24 distinct gladed runs, more than almost any other New England ski resort.
The trails are served by eight lifts, including Vermont's only aerial tramway, three quads, a triple chair, a double, a T-bar and a Moving Carpet.
Naturally, not everyone coming to Vermont's Northeast Kingdom will be an expert skier (note the T-bar and the Moving Carpet), so Jay Peak is in fact a well-rounded ski resort with trails, lessons and programs for skiers of all abilities.
For snowboarders, there are four terrain parks, including two for novices—so it's a great place to learn the sport, and also to try every trick you ever learned—and some new ones.
Hotels are nearby, such as the 15-room Jay Village Inn, with a restaurant and hot tub only 2 miles (3 km) from the slopes; and the larger 57-room Tram Haus Lodge at Jay Peak Resort, with fireplace-equipped suites located right on Jay Peak. Services include swimming pools, hot tub, sauna & spa. More...
Want to speak French? Fully 50% of Jay Peak's skiers come from Canada for the same reason Americans come: great snow, great slopes, real skiing for real people. Jay's international ambience is fun, especially for kids who have yet to travel outside the USA.
Distances (map) to Jay Peak from...
Montréal: 85 miles (137 km, 1.5 hours)
Burlington VT: 70 miles (113 km, 1.5 hours)
Boston MA: 230 miles (370 km, 3.5 hours)
Hartford CT: 250 miles (402 km, 4 hours)
New York City: 371 miles (597 km, 6.5 hours)
Smugglers' Notch VT 05464
It's a ski resort designed with families in mind.
78 trails served by 8 ski lifts descend the vertical drop of 2610 feet (796 meters). Smuggs has 30 km of cross-country ski trails and 20 km of snowshoe trails as well.
Lots of programs for beginning skiers, young skiers and non-skiers are available.
For safety and educational purposes (tracking distance, elevation, speed, etc), GPS units are provided to ski students, and may be rented by more experienced skiers.
The fact that Smuggs is good for beginners does not detract from the beautiful and challenging slopes on Madonna Mountain.
As you can see from the photo to the right, the views are spectacular—all the way to Canada on a clear day.
Accommodations are in or near Jeffersonville, the nearest town, or in condominiums on the resort property, perfect for families or small groups.
You must drive 32 miles (52 km) around the mountains from Stowe to reach the resort on the north side of the notch at Jeffersonville. The drive takes almost an hour. Plan your travel time accordingly.
Stowe VT 05672
Following Vt Route 108, the Mountain Road, north from the town center you parallel the Stowe Recreation Trail, a great resource for walkers, joggers, hikers and bicyclists. You pass inns, resort motels, restaurants, boutiques and shops.
As you approach Smuggler's Notch and the ski slopes, Mount Mansfield looms huge to the left (west) laced with white ski trails, and to the right (east) rises the great bulk of the Stowe Mountain Lodge, a 312-room alpine-style luxury hotel, with the maze of Spruce Peak ski trails behind it.
Stowe's 116 alpine ski trails and 12 terrain parks on 485 acres (196 hectares) are in six distinct ski areas down the slopes of both Mount Mansfield (4395 feet/1340 meters) and Spruce Peak, the mountains on either side of the Smuggler's Notch defile (map).
They are served by 12 ski lifts, including a high-speed summit gondola, an inter-mountain transfer gondola, 4 high-speed quads, 2 triples, 2 doubles, and 2 surface lifts.
Stowe boasts that it has more mile-long lifts than any other ski resort in the eastern USA: the 8-person gondola travels 1.45 miles, the Forerunner and Sensation quads and the Lookout double are all over a mile. Toll Road is its longest ski trail at 3.7 miles (6 km).
The longest vertical drop is 2360 feet (719 meters). Snowmaking covers 83% of the trails.
The variety of trails is such that there's plenty of adventure for everyone, no matter what your ability: Beginner trails 16%, Intermediate 55%, and Expert 29%.
Beginners will want to start off at the Toll House slopes, near the base of the toll road up Mount Mansfield.
The next logical step is to Spruce Peak, across the valley.
After you've mastered that, go on to the more difficult among the Mount Mansfield trails and slopes.
Lessons and equipment rentals are available, and there are restaurants at Cliff House (top of the Mansfield gondola) and Octagon (top of the toll road), as well as at the base camps.
A big event of the winter season at Stowe is the annual Winter Carnival, held during the second week in January, when special races, church suppers, square dances, hockey and skating matches, a snow sculpture contest, and even a Queen's Ball are held. See the Stowe tourist info page for more information.
The town of Stowe has been a summer and winter resort for a long time—since the early 1800s, in fact, when visitors came by stagecoach to climb Mount Mansfield. Skiing began here in the 1930s.
—by Tom Brosnahan