Vermont Skiing at Its Peak

A steep, narrow trail runs between dense snow-covered trees with more snow-capped mountains visible in the distance.

Black diamond trail on Killington. Photo © Hyun Lee, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

For many visitors, winter is the best time to see Vermont. Twinkling Christmas lights on the pine trees at quaint country inns call to mind a Norman Rockwell version of the season. But enough of that—the real reason you come to the Green Mountain State in the winter is to strap on some sticks or a board and get up on that fresh powder. Here’s a primer on finding slopes for every desire.

Big and Bad

For many skiers in the East, the sport starts and ends with Killington, the biggest, baddest mountain in these parts. Or make that mountains—with six peaks to choose from, Killington literally has something for everyone, including careening double diamonds, twisting glades, and family-friendly cruisers.

For a slightly less crowded experience, many skiers head north to Sugarbush, which is second only to Killington in number and variety of trails; it boasts a large amount of natural snowfall thanks to the storms that come in from Lake Champlain.

“Uncrowded” doesn’t describe Mount Snow, the rowdy party mountain in the southern part of the state, but it does have the most accessible big mountain skiing around, making it a favorite of day-trippers from New York and southern New England.

Skiers’ Mountains

You know the type—those who eschew the latest moisture-wicking jackets and snowboards for a beat-up old parka and the same skis they’ve had since high school. In Vermont, purists like this flock to Mad River Glen, an unapologetically ugly and demanding pile of rock in Waitsfield, where half the trails are double diamond and the motto is “Ski It If You Can.”

Somewhat more forgiving is nearby Stowe Mountain Resort, which hugs the slopes of Vermont’s highest peak, Mount Mansf ield, and has resisted the runaway development of some mountains we won’t name to work with the surrounding community and keep alive the true alpine village.

Those really wanting to get away from it all go all the way to the Canadian border to Jay Peak, which boasts the most snowfall of any mountain in Vermont and gives skiers plenty of elbow room with which to enjoy all that powder.

Crowd-Pleasers

Winning the prize for best all-around resort is Stratton Mountain, which offers a good balance of big mountain skiing and accessibility. It’s particularly popular with snowboarders—after all, the sport was invented here, and Stratton claims no fewer than five terrain parks for the sport.

Nearby, Okemo wins accolades for its skier-friendly atmosphere and a good balance of difficult trails and programs for kids and families.

Family Fun

Parents can’t do much better than Smugglers’ Notch, which offers a money-back guarantee if any member of the family doesn’t have a good time. Small chance of that, as three mountains, kids’ and teens’ programs, and an indoor activity center provide plenty to put a smile on the face of even the most recalcitrant youngster.

In southern Vermont, Bromley Mountain markets itself as a resort for the whole family, with nearly 50 trails for all abilities and a ski school for kids featuring mascot Clyde Catamount.

Next door to Killington, pint-sized Pico Mountain offers inviting terrain for beginners and intermediate skiers, along with lift privileges at its big brother for the experts in the family.

Off the Groomed Trail

The best deal in Vermont skiing is undoubtedly the Middlebury College Snow Bowl, the official course for Middlebury College’s alpine team. Free from crowds and affordable at $30 for adults, it nevertheless offers plenty of challenging terrain.

Similarly off the beaten track is Burke Mountain, a much larger mountain with 50 trails hidden in the Northeast Kingdom. It’s usually buried under snow, which it gets some 250 inches of annually. Yet despite that, and despite some truly challenging upper-mountain slopes that could hold their own with any mountain in the East, it is a virtual ghost town during the week.


Excerpted from the Third Edition of Moon Vermont.


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