Skiing Trip To New England
By Trudy & John Lymer
Having pre-booked flights, hire car (sorry, "rental car") and all hotels on the internet beforehand, we arrived in Boston after fairly good Lufthansa flights from Manchester via Frankfurt. It was only a short stay at Frankfurt, just long enough for the inevitable security check... and it was snowing in Boston!!!!
We spent a couple of days in Boston at either end of our holiday, and it is a lovely city, compact, with lots of sightseeing and a good choice of places to eat. Hotels are perhaps not in the budget price range, but there are some fairly decent reasonably priced ones near to the airport and you can use the T (subway) to get into the centre.
On the Monday we collected the hire car to drive to the mountains, and a 5 night stay in our next hotel in Rutland, Vermont, about 120 miles away. Although we got lost getting out of Boston, we still managed a half day skiing en-route at the small resort of Ragged Mountain, New Hampshire. This was a wonderful little place (once we managed to find it) and very well kept, it would have been okay for a full day or two. You couldn't get lost, as all the runs take you back to the same place, though widely spread across the mountain and offering skiing for all levels. Rutland is reasonably handy for Killington and Pico ski areas, though like so many towns it is quite spread out, with no particular focus. We had been unable to book accommodation actually in Killington, but found that lots was available when we arrived.
The 4 day lift pass for Killington and Pico was bought over the internet in advance. This saved $24 each and included a two hour lesson. I got some good tips, and John "consolidated" his knowledge! Killington offers the highest vertical drop (3,050 ft) in New England and a summit of 4,241 ft (most other areas offer about 2,000 ft of vertical or a bit more). An odd point at Killington it that one of the gondola cabins is painted to look like a hot tub, occupied of course, and quite realistic it is too!
Then, on to our next 5 nights in the small town of Waterbury (famous as the home of Ben and Jerry's ice cream factory which, of course, we sampled), stopping off for a day's skiing at Sugarbush en-route. The hotel here was also very nice and even had it's own covered bridge (as in "The Bridges of Madison County") and was fairly central for Sugarbush (two days), Stowe (two days), Mad River Glen (1 day) and Bolton (not tried).
Sugarbush is two separate mountains, linked by a lift, but that lift only works at the weekend and nowhere in the publicity is this mentioned. We got a cheaper pass for the Mount Ellen half on the Saturday and went to the other mountain, Lincoln Peak, during the week. There, we had to buy a full lift pass, but could only use Mount Ellen if we'd got a bus! Not very satisfactory. The skiing was fine though.
We also spent a couple of days in Stowe (No, we didn't visit the Von Trapp place). I think that we both expected more from Stowe, but having said that, it was okay, and we did enjoy ourselves.
Sugarbush and Stowe both face mostly east, so after 3.00 pm they are in the shade and starting to get icy in parts. You actually want to leave before the lifts close.
A great find was Mad River Glen, Vermont. This is a skier-owned co-operative - you can buy a share for $1,750. They have just two (second hand) piste bashers and do a minimum of "grooming", so much of the area is "au naturelle" and all the better for it. There were moguls galore for John (and a few smaller ones for me) and some excellent and challenging runs. Hence the local bumper sticker, which proclaims "Mad River Glen - Ski It If You Can". "The portions are good today, Betty's in the kitchen" was the conversation across the restaurant at lunchtime. This banter also helps to sum up the friendly atmosphere and enthusiasm amongst the skiers there. Somewhat uniquely, Mad River Glen prides itself on its 1949-built single chair lift, a lovely ride up the mountain on the sunny day that we were there. We got to know it well. It rises 2,000 feet in 12 minutes, which they claim is quicker than the combination of the 2 high speed quads at nearby Sugarbush! There is plenty here for a day or two and if moguls are your thing, don't miss it. Having enthused about the area, it wasn't all perfect - John did a run called "Paradise" as his last run. What a misnomer, first a 6ft sheer wall of ice, then rocks, roots, trees, steep, shadowy, and topped off when he needed to remove his skis to pass between 2 trees just 4 ft apart on a slope of 30 degrees plus with more trees just below! Oddly, no snowboarding is allowed here (like Alta, Deer Valley and Taos), which is something to do with maintaining the traditional feel of the place and the co-operative's majority vote not to increase uphill capacity.
Vermont, as well as being famous for skiing, also makes cheese and maple syrup (there are many sugar houses all over, which is their word for the places where they make the syrup). There is something called Vermont Cheddar (I wonder if they have Vermont Parmesan, Brie etc?)
We broke the 200 mile return trip to Boston mid-way, skiing at Mount Sunapee, New Hampshire from late morning. What a good decision, 4" of new snow, sunshine and lots of runs. What a good way to round the skiing off.
Back into Boston, return the hire car and a couple of days more sightseeing. No snow this time. The first weekend we had seen families skating on the pond at Boston Common, the second time we walked through the Common in the sunshine.
We were probably lucky with the weather, mostly sunshine and cloud, about -5C and plenty of snow. New England is notorious for its cold and icy conditions, which is why we chose to go in March. We did see large glossy patches of ice a couple of times and the Spring snow conditions you might expect only started to occur in the second week. We discovered that Killington is open until mid-May and sometimes until June.
Vermont and New Hampshire (and Maine) have dozens of small ski areas (statistics and piste maps available at www.snocountry.com ). We found that many of these areas have offers such as 2-for-1 days on a Wednesday. All very well if you know this in advance, but we rarely got this quite right, so a visit to each resort's website when you plan a trip is well worth it. Beware also, when choosing ski areas in America, of relying too much on the number of "trails" - these change their name at least twice on any route down a mountain. It is also as well to look at how many acres an area is and compare this with an area you've visited in the past. Many areas with 50 trails or 250 acres are ideal for a day, maybe two, but would involve a lot of repetition after that. Runs in New England are shorter than some Alpine ones, but at least there are none of the altitude problems associated with skiing in Colorado and it is all below the tree line. All of the 6 places visited offer some steep skiing and a reasonable range of other runs. Off-piste could be good in the right conditions. Only Stowe disappointed and 1 of our 2 days there was a Sunday, so perhaps the only day during our holiday when we thought the slopes were busy.
I hope that this article helps some members to decide on whether or not to try New England, as we previously always seemed to hear about how cold and icy it is.