Vermont and skiing go hand in hand. Even though the western part of the country might get a little bit more of the skiing limelight these days, Vermont pioneered the sport in America. Iconic towns like Stowe and Killington, developed in mid-20th century, were among the first “ski towns” in the country. Today, Vermont is still a haven for skiers. The culture, terrain, and abundance of natural snowfall make the state a winter paradise. Whether you’re looking for a modern, mammoth ski area or a more laid back, traditional option, you will certainly find no shortage of choices in Vermont. Here are the 10 best places to ski in Vermont.
Smuggler’s Notch has a lot going for it. The mountain is easily accessible from Burlington. Its three mountains offer over 360 acres of skiable terrain and a 2,610-foot vertical drop. The resort consists of three mountains— Sterling, Morse, and Madonna—and the area gets its name from a small mountain pass that smugglers used to transport Canadian alcohol during Prohibition. A lot has changed since those days, and Smuggler’s Notch, affectionately called “Smuggs,” is a great place to ski with the whole family. SKI Magazine ranked the resort the “No. 1 Kid-Friendly Resort in the East.”
No list of Vermont ski destinations would be complete without including Stowe. The Stowe Mountain Resort ski area is comprised of slopes from Vermont’s tallest peak, Mount Mansfield, and Spruce Peak. There are 116 trails and 485 acres of skiable terrain here, and the area receives an annual average of 333 inches of snow. Stowe itself was one of the country’s first ski towns and the ski area featured one of the first lifts. The ski area’s three terrain parks give snowboarders a place to shine. Stowe is an iconic New England ski area. Look no further than the Vermont Ski Museum to prove it. This is definitely worth a visit.
It’s not nicknamed “the Beast of the East” for nothing. Killington is the largest ski area in the eastern United States. On top of this, it contains the largest vertical drop in Vermont, at 3,050 feet. While the area can accommodate skiers and boarders of all ages and ability levels, Killington tends to appeal to a younger, more adventurous crowd. It contains a wealth of high-adrenaline, challenging trails—more than any other mountain in Vermont for that matter. The ski area is made up of seven peaks. Smaller peaks like Ramshead and Snowshed offer trails for beginner and intermediate skiers, however once you get up to Killington Peak itself, you’ll find mostly black diamond and double black diamond trails. Because of their advanced snowmaking technology, Killington can stay open from October through May.
Pico Mountain ski area is adjacent to Killington Ski Resort and is in fact owned by the same company. Despite the shared ownership, Pico Mountain has a very different feel from its neighbor. Pico Mountain, comprised of 48 trails and over 400 acres of skiable terrain, has a laid back, traditional vibe. Despite its quiet nature, the ski area boasts a 1,967-foot vertical drop and trails, slopes, and glades of varying difficulty. As you get higher up the mountain, the trails become more challenging. “Little Pico,” popular among expert skiers, is a particularly challenging area. If you are in the Killington area but are looking of for a break from the hustle bustle, Pico Mountain is a good bet. Lift passes from Killington Ski Resort are valid at Pico Mountain, however passes from Pico are not valid at Killington.
Located in the Mad River Valley, this colossal ski area and resort is one of the largest in the state, encompassing over 3,000 acres on the slopes of Mt. Ellen and Lincoln Peak. With over 100 trails, there’s something for everyone here. Experienced skiers can choose from 35 challenging trails, but there are also 24 beginner-rated trails. Sugarbush experienced rapid development in the 1960s, and thus, there are condos scattered around the area and an elaborate resort at is base. To this day, the area has a rather posh reputation. Still, Sugarbush is one of the only places in Vermont that offers “cat” skiing, giving skiers the chance to ride up the mountain first thing in the morning on a snowcat, and have the first run on fresh snow.
Even though it shares a mountain with Sugarbush, Mad River Glen could hardly be any more different. While Sugarbush is a manicured, luxurious ski resort, Mad River Glen is a far more rugged, bare-bones area with an emphasis on the New England ski tradition. What this means is that there is very little man-made snow, and the trails tend to be narrow and natural as opposed to groomed and wide. As a result, Mad River Glen is widely considered one of the most challenging ski areas in New England. Mad River Glen is unique in that it’s a cooperative. Individuals can purchase shares and attend meetings to manage the area. There are over 40 trails here, some of them are very difficult, and there are great tree skiing opportunities. The area operates one of the few remaining single chair lifts, and snowboarding is not allowed. Mad River Glen is old school, but there’s a definite charm to that.
Jay Peak gets a lot of snow—the most of any ski area in eastern North America. This is due in large part to its location, which is just south of the Canadian border. The mountain itself offers skiers 78 trails over 385 skiable acres. The mountain’s 2,152-foot vertical drop is good for eighth highest in the state. With eight lifts, the mountain can hold up to 12,000 skiers per hour. The ski area is known for its liberal boundaries, making for lovely backcountry skiing. Jay Peak has received accolades in numerous publications, and was named “Best Ski Resort in New England” by Yankee Magazine.
The allure of Bolton Valley is its unspoiled natural surroundings. Although it is close to Burlington, the area’s 300 skiable acres and 71 trails are surrounded by nearly 5,000 acres of completely undeveloped forest. The 1,704-foot vertical drop and diverse network of trails will challenge any skill level. One of the more distinctive features of this ski area is its illuminated trails that allow for night skiing. Nordic skiers will also find a lot of backcountry trails to love. This is a great place for kids in the Burlington area because they offer very discounted after school rates. The ski area has received high praise for its environmentally friendly initiatives, running primarily on wind power.
Although its fallen on hard times over the past years, Magic Mountain maintains a laid-back, yet traditionalist atmosphere, giving it a special appeal. It was opened in the mid-twentieth century and still utilizes many of the same, 60s inspired trails. The strong community spirit here is a nice alternative to the corporate resort atmosphere and would be a great choice for skiers looking for a truly authentic, yet challenging experience. Its trails and glades weave through beautiful backcountry, and although the mountain itself is small, the vertical drop is still over 1,000 feet.
Okemo is a beast of a mountain that more than lives up to its reputation. The mountain itself has the largest vertical drop in southern Vermont and offers skiers and snowboarders a variety of slopes and trails. The resort uses state-of-the-art snowmaking technology to supplement the natural snowfall, ensuring great conditions and top quality grooming. Although it may get busy at times, there are 121 varied trails to spread things out. With its abundance of activities within the resort itself, including a zip line course, ice rink, heated pool, and award winning dining, this is a great family option.