With 20 alpine (a.k.a. downhill) ski resorts including New England's largest, Vermont is a no-brainer destination for skiing and snowboarding enthusiasts from the moment it snaps cold enough to fire up snowmaking machines. The state's family-friendly slopes and challenging mountains are scattered statewide: Some of the best remain intimate, independently owned, and under-the-radar while others have been absorbed by big players like Vail Resorts. Ski Vermont makes it easy to check ski conditions across the state before you hit the road for an exhilarating day on the slopes at one of these top resorts.
The biggest ski resort in Vermont (and all of the eastern U.S.), Killington also has New England's largest vertical drop: 3,050 feet. Predictably the first resort in the region to open for the season, Killington prides itself on offering the longest skiing and snowboarding season in the East. You'll find 212 trails here, spread across seven distinct mountain areas, plus terrain parks galore including one of only six Burton Stash terrain parks in the world with more than 65 features. Centrally located in the town of Killington, just two hours and 15 minutes from Albany and less than 3 hours from Boston, "The Beast of the East" is also renowned for its apres-ski scene. Spots like the Wobbly Barn steakhouse and nightclub are as legendary as Killington's impressive stats.
On the eastern slope of Mount Mansfield, Vermont's tallest peak, Stowe caters to an elite ski crowd that tends to be serious and experienced. The mountain collects an average of 314 inches of natural snow each year, and 83 percent snowmaking coverage supplements what Mother Nature provides. With 116 trails served by a dozen lifts including more mile-long lifts than anywhere else in the East, you'll have access to diverse and challenging runs. You don't have to ski or snowboard to be utterly charmed by the resort and the village of Stowe, located in the northern part of Vermont about a 45-minute drive east of Burlington. There's a European feel to this mountain enclave, and you'll love setting out on a horse-drawn sleigh ride with Gentle Giants, sipping Austrian-style lagers at von Trapp Brewing or the famed double IPA Heady Topper at The Alchemist, and cozying up to share Swiss Fondue by Heinz.
When it comes right down to it, great skiing is all about one thing… snow. And Okemo, owned by Vail Resorts, is constantly recognized nationally for its natural snowfall, which averages 200 inches each year, as well as its 98 percent snowmaking coverage and the quality with which all of this white stuff is groomed. If you're introducing kids to skiing or snowboarding, you'll love the family-friendly vibe and the expert instruction available. And with 121 trails including two double black diamonds, you won't have to downgrade your ski vacation just to include the wee ones. Staying on-property is a good option, but do venture into Ludlow, the cute town at the mountain's base, to shop and dine. Tom's Loft Tavern is a popular apres-ski hangout, and The Downtown Grocery should be on foodies' radar.
Mount Snow Resort
Located in the Green Mountains in West Dover, Mount Snow is the closest big mountain if you're driving up to Vermont from Boston. Expect this Vail-owned resort to be crowded with city folks on weekends, but with four mountain faces and 20 lifts, you'll get in plenty of runs. The energy is youthful here in part because this is snowboarders' nirvana with 10 terrain parks and a monster super pipe on the 100-acre Carinthia mountain face. The apres scene is at Cuzzins Bar & Grill in the Main Base Lodge, or make the 15-minute drive to Wilmington for an authentic Vermont experience at the Dover Bar and Grill (Dbags to the locals), proudly recognized as the state's best dive bar.
Magic Mountain Ski Area
When you want your ski dollars to support the smaller places working hard to keep old-school skiing alive in Vermont, head to Londonderry in the southern part of the state. Independently owned and operated, Magic Mountain has conjured up a community of loyal followers who love its throwback aura. A daily lift ticket here will cost you about 60 percent of what a Stowe lift ticket would set you back, and if that's not thrill enough, wait until you conquer the mountain's array of double black diamonds and glades. There are classic trails here for beginner and intermediate skiers, too. Black Line Tavern's your place to mingle with other purists at the end of the day.
In the far northern Vermont town of Jay, just 4 miles from the Canadian border, Jay Peak has accomplished the unimaginable: guaranteeing wintertime vacationers both snowsports and waterpark fun. The mountain receives more natural snow than any other ski area in the East, an average of 359 inches annually, and with 80 percent snowmaking coverage and 50 miles of trails for all abilities, you know skiing and riding conditions are bound to be good. What makes Jay Peak singular among Vermont resorts is its Pump House Indoor Waterpark, where it's always the perfect temperature for surfing, boogie boarding, and making a splash.
Drive Vermont's scenic Route 100 to Warren and enjoy a multifaceted winter vacation that feels far from the stressors of everyday life. In addition to offering varied ski and snowboard terrain on six interconnected peaks, Sugarbush has some unique offerings such as Base Cabins families can reserve as their own personal mini lodges and Cabin Cat Adventures that allow groups to experience the dual thrills of riding in a snow cat and accessing remote dining, sightseeing, or skiing experiences. When you tire of downhilling on the resort's 111 trails, give cross-country skiing a go at Ole's Cross Country Center, also in Warren. This is a region of bountiful condo rentals and lovely inns, so it's easy to find the perfect accommodations for a family vacay or a romantic escape.
Bromley or Stratton? The debate is always raging, and since these two beloved ski areas are only about a half-hour apart in central Vermont, the easy answer is to ski both. If you really do have to choose, let's give the edge to Bromley: a storied mountain where the first trail was cut in 1936. If you're the type of skier or snowboarder who would get more for your money if only you could stand the cold for longer, you'll love the "Sun Mountain." Bromley's the rare New England ski destination with a south-facing slope, so its 47 trails bask in the sun's warmth. With lessons available for ages three and up, this is also the perfect small mountain for kids.