Although Connecticut is looking forward to great ski season, there are terrific destinations all across the Northeast ready to accommodate every type of skier.
Biggest Resort Overall
Whiteface Mountain, top peak of the Adirondack chain overlooking New York’s Lake Placid, has the greatest vertical rise—3,430 feet. And not for nothing is Vermont’s Killington Mountain Resort, with skiable terrain spread over multiple peaks, known as “The Beast of the East.” But in recent seasons Sugarloaf, in western Maine’s Carrabassett Valley, has outpaced Killington in skiable acres—with 1,400 overall—particularly with its recent expansion into Brackett Basin. It’s also the current Eastern U.S. leader in number of ski trails (154).
Most Exclusive Resort
Skiers eager to get away fron the hoi polloi—that is, the crush of too many other skiers—should check out West Dover, Vermont’s membership-only Hermitage Club at Haystack Mountain. All membership options offer lifetime access for a fee of $40,000 and up plus annual dues (equity membership begins with an investment of $250,000-$750,000). Ski-in/ski-out country homes and slopeside townhouses are currently available for purchase; those who prefer the guest treatment have a variety of accommodation options at Hermitage Inn, a converted 18th-century farmhouse.
Best Place to Learn to Ski
Okemo Mountain Resort in Ludlow, Vt., loves the munchkins—its Mini Stars, Super Mini Stars and Snow Stars lesson programs are geared to skiers and boarders as young as 3 and 4—but adults also benefit, with group lessons, specialty workshops/clinics and private instruction available daily at all levels of expertise, including adaptive instruction for disabled skiers/boarders. Great incentives and discounts, too. Just for women: Two-, three- and five-day Alpine Adventure programs.
Best Expert Skiing
Killington boasts no fewer than 12 double black diamond trails, including The Outer Limits (the longest, steepest mogul slope in New England). Nearby Ovation and Growler (a run through the trees) are not for the faint-of-heart either.
Best Extreme Skiing
Little attention to snowmaking and trail-grooming—and only a single chairlift dating back to 1948—distinguish Fayston, Vermont’s Mad River Glen, giving rise to the proud catchphrases “Where skiiing is still a sport, not an industry” and “Ski It If You Can!” Thrill-seekers claim their favorite trail here, bar none, is Paradise (to which the resort provides no guidance whatsoever; if you can find it, take your chances). Hard-core adventurers—particularly those who pursue late-season skiing and snowboarding—troop by the thousands to non-lift-accessed Tuckerman Ravine on the northeastern Everest, New Hampshire’s 6,288-foot-high Mount Washington. Just be prepared for a serious uphill three-mile hike with all your gear and supplies on your back, as well as sudden weather changes, potential avalanches and plenty of no-fall terrain.
Best Cross-Country Skiing
Outside Magazine endorses Mount Van Hoevenberg, part of the Adirondack chain at Lake Placid, for its 31-mile network of beautifully groomed woodland trails that range from “extremely easy to cry-for-your-mama black diamond.” Nordic enthusiasts can also revel in the lack of crowds—most skiers in this locale are on the Alpine runs at Whiteface Mountain. Cross-country lessons are available at Whiteface Resort. Outside’s runner-up: The Catamount Outdoor Family Center in Williston, Vt., offers more than 35 kilometers of cross-country ski trails groomed for both classical and skate techniques.
East Coast boarders consider Vermont’s Stratton Mountain home sweet home, particularly world-champion half-piper and Olympic gold medalist (in the 2002 Games) Ross Powers in his formative years. Stratton is also where the sport was invented in the 1970s by Jake Burton of Burton Snowboards. The “Experience Snowboarding” visitors’ package features a one-day all-mountain lift ticket and six hours of instruction for ages 13 and up. One of the resort’s key late-season events (March) is the Vermont Open, a snowboarding competition (for amateurs and pros alike) and music fest.
Most resorts would love to stake this claim, but we’re going to go with Sunday River in Bethel, Maine, for being so efficient that the downhill season typically begins before Halloween. Roughly $2.5 million is spent on the process per year, which covers 90 percent of the resort’s 742 skiable acres and utilizes 1,900 snowguns, 72 miles of pipe, 30 miles of hose and 2,200 hydrant stations. The resort is so serious about this objective that it offers a “snow guarantee”: Not happy with the conditions? Turn in your lift ticket and come back another day—on them.
Best for a Romantic Getaway
New Hampshire’s Mount Washington Resort at Bretton Woods, not because of its sweeping vistas—though they’re dazzling—but because the historic Mount Washington Hotel, opened in 1902 and now part of the Omni chain, is still so drop-dead gorgeous. A masterpiece of Spanish Renaissance architecture, it’s now in the final phase of an $80 million restoration that will replace the hotel’s iconic red roofs. Enjoy afternoon tea and wine tastings, cozy dinners, late-night drinks at the Cave (a Prohibition-era speakeasy) and pampering at the 25,000-square-foot hotel spa, added in 2009.
Of course, every resort offers its special incentives, but here are some we especially like. If you’re partial to New Hampshire skiing, consider the White Mountain Superpass, $449-$949, valid every day of the season at Mount Washington, Cranmore Mountain Resort, Waterville Valley and Cannon Mountain. Loon Mountain in Lincoln, N.H., Sunday River and Sugarloaf—all part of the Boyne Resorts chain—offer a New England Pass that also includes benefits at Boyne’s western mountain resorts, such as Montana’s Big Sky and Washington’s The Summit at Snoqualmie. Maine’s Saddleback Mountain Resort features a $69-per-person Ski & Stay package (for up to four-bedroom accommodations) Sun.-Thurs. all season—except holiday weeks—and end-of-season weekends in April. When it comes to Ski & Stay options, few resorts are as creative as North Creek, New York’s Gore Mountain, which hosts options from I Love NY Bonus Weekends to a March Markdown.
Best for Non-Skiers
Those who find winter sports daunting—or on the other hand, a bore—will no doubt be delighted with Vermont’s Stowe Mountain Resort and its surroundings. While the rest of your clan checks out the mountain’s legendary Front Four pistes and the Nordic Center at Trapp Family Lodge, which offers 100 km of cross-country trails, you can tour the nearby Ben & Jerry’s ice cream factory, dine at more than 50 local restaurants, shop more than 70 small stores (particularly along Stowe Mountain Road) and unwind with a special spa treatment at Topnotch Resort: How about a Mount Mansfield Saucha?