National Eclectic Travel Examiner - Karen Rubin
December 2, 2013

Each year, Vermont's stellar mountain resorts make improvements to their facilities and lodgings to put world-class skiing, snowboarding and other winter activities within reach of family budgets. Here's what's up for the 2013-14 season:

Southern Vermont

Mount Snow
Mount Snow is always a huge favorite with New Yorkers and the closest major Vermont ski resort with an excellent array and variety of trails and superb activities on and off the slopes.

Skiers and snowboarders love the variety. Mount Snow offers four mountain faces: The Main Face has predominantly intermediate terrain with wide open cruisers as well as classic, New England style trails. North Face is home to Mount Snow's most challenging terrain with 10 black diamond trails and glades serviced by two dedicated triple chairs. Plummet, Jaws, Olympic and Chute are local favorites, while the double black diamond trail Ripcord and the adjacent woods provide some of the steepest terrain in New England.

The south facing Sunbrook features a stunning array of intermediate terrain basking in the sun, accessible from the summit and the Sunbrook Quad. Spring mogul slayers flock to Beartrap where music blasts from the lift tower mounted speakers and the scene is always fun.

Carinthia is one of the best terrain parks in the East. This all freestyle terrain mountain face is home to ten different terrain parks ranging in size from extra small features in Grommet to extra large features in Inferno as well as a 450'-long superpipe with 18' walls. The Farm is a unique terrain park filled with everyday things in the Green Mountain State like tractors, sugar shacks, etc. that have been set-up as terrain park features to jib, bonk and slide.

Mount Snow has made improvements this year to its already stellar snowmaking system and in streamlining and improving the rental experience. Guests this year will also find a new novelty shop, Sweet Stash featuring Vermont-made goodies, plus a Market Fresh Café focused on local, fresh foods. At the Summit Lodge, “Double Diamond Bar” is now The Bullwheel Tavern, modeled after an old world tavern and showcasing German and Belgian beers.

The popular, even iconic Snow Lake Lodge, a traditional favorite, has had a $750,000 renovation, with spruced up rooms and a new restaurant; located just down the access road from the lift, it offers a free shuttle to the base. Noted for offering affordable lodging, it has a midweek ski & stay package at $85; and weekend from $149-$229.

Mount Snow, 89 Grand Summit Way, West Dover, VT 05356, Email: info@mountsnow.com, 800-245-SNOW

Stratton Mountain Resort
Just up the mountain from the charming historic village of Manchester, Stratton Mountain is a major full-service, self-contained resort with 97 trails, 100+ acres of glades, 600+ acres of skiing and snowboarding terrain including top ranked terrain parks, the fastest fleet of lifts in the East, convenient lodging, a slopeside Village, Sports Center, Spa and a full slate of events and activities.

For this season, Stratton has invested $6 million in the mountain and resort experience, including snowmaking, lodging, on-mountain dining and Village food, drink and fun. They’ve added three new snowcats, two new trails, and new double-black glade, the Squirrel’s Nest, bringing total woods runs to nearly 150 acres. The Inn at Stratton Mountain has been remodeled to combine comfort and convenience with a classic Vermont lodge vibe.

Lodging packages at Stratton include the One-Nighter with a night of lodging and two days on the slopes, and a long weekend getaway that adds a free day of skiing or riding with three nights lodging, Stay Free (two nights of midweek lodging with purchase of a three-day lift ticket) and the popular Kids Stay Free available early season and during select peak periods.

Stratton Mountain, 5 Village Lodge Road, Stratton Mountain, VT 05155, Email: feedback@stratton.com, 800-787-2886

Bromley Mountain
Bromley continues to make snowmaking improvements and the base lodge renovation. The Ski & Snowboard school is adding a backcountry offering for JETS, its premier children’s seasonal program, an exciting addition to the all-mountain and freestyle groups.

Bromley.com is a good source for catching special one-time deals on the cash saving e-coupons. Combine Bromley’s $49 midweek/non-holiday ticket with Bromley’s Family Friday deal, where each paying adult pays just $15 per kid for up to three kids (every Friday except during the holiday periods).

Bromley, 3984 Vermont Route 11, 144 Bromley Lodge Rd., Peru, VT 05152, Email: info@bromley.com, 802-824-5522

Magic Mountain
"Magic Mountain is the best kept secret in Vermont," says Jeff Hathaway. "Retro, a thowback. Like 'Cheers - a local bar where everyone knows your name. Everyone feels a part... "Magic is an interesting change of pace from what has become the norm in Vermont skiing."

Magic Mountain is a different sort of Vermont ski getaway - here you can stay at one of Vermont's quintessential country inns and can ski Southern Vermont's "golden triangle" - three areas within 11 miles: Magic, Stratton, Bromley.

Magic offers 43 trails, plus glades, and a 1700-ft. vertical- all runs are top to bottom - and caters to all levels but is especially popular with intermediates. It has two traditional chair lifts (slow). It has rentals, ski school, racing program, and offers a program for kids to learn how to go through woods and handle the hardest terrain.

Lift ticket is $63/weekend, $49/midweek and there are special deals as well. The Holiday White-Out Pass gives you 20 days of holiday skiing for $279.

Magic Mountain, 495 Magic Mountain Access Rd, Londonderry, VT 05730, Email: info@magicmtn.com, 802-824-5645

Central Vermont

Okemo Mountain Resort
Rising above the town of Ludlow, in south-central Vermont, Okemo is one of the most pleasant major resort areas in the Northeast - the size is just right for wonderful variety of downhill experiences, sensational views, and a comfortable feeling. A focus on guest service has always been a hallmark of this family-operated, four season resort which earns top awards and accolades for snow quality, grooming, terrain parks, family programs, slopeside lodging, resort dining, and friendly and professional guest service.

Okemo opened a new gladed trail that drops off of Whistler and runs parallel to Easy Rider, for a total of 120 trails and glades. Okemo has invested $1 million in snowmaking improvements which enables the resort to have top-to-bottom trail from opening day.

Okemo Mountain Resort offers a variety of deals and packages. Okemo has a new partnership with Killington, Pico and Sunapee:4.0 The College Pass is available to all full-time college students for $369, valid every day at the four mountains.

Our favorite place to stay is Jackson Gore Inn, a resort within the resort, where you ski out the door to the lift (802-228-1600 for reservations).

Okemo Mountain Resort, 77 Okemo Ridge Road, Ludlow, VT 05149, 800-78-OKEMO, email: info@okemo.com

Killington Resort & Pico Mountain
Killington, together with adjoining Pico Mountain (both owned by Powdr) offer 200 trails. It is the biggest resort in the East - Killington is the happeningest ski resort in New England and Pico is this charming, relaxed self-contained resort that is ideal for families.

Killington Resort and Pico Mountain have made $11 million in capital improvements for the 2013-14 season, the most significant capital spent since Powdr Corp purchased the resorts in 2007. New this year, is the opening of Peak Lodge, at 4100 ft., accessed by a gondola (you don't need to ski down), for skiers and nonskiers alike to enjoy an all-day, all night experience.

Additionally, construction is underway at the base of Pico Mountain for the new Andrea Mead Lawrence Lodge, a $1.3 million facility for Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports and the Pico Ski Education Foundation.

Killington Resort launches a 4-day adult Learn To Ski package for $249 that includes a two hour lesson, rental equipment and a lift ticket each day. Upon completion, participants receive a new pair of Killington Resort branded Elan eRise skis and bindings (MSRP $499) along with a discount voucher for new boots and poles, plus 50% off lift tickets and lessons for the remainder of the 2013-14 season and all of the 2014-15 season. The four lessons do not need to be consecutive and are valid any day during the 2013-14 winter season.

Killington also offers family-specific lessons so the whole family can be together for a lesson.

Pico and Killington are connected and have a common owner, but they offer very different resort experiences. Killington is bustling and sprawling; Pico is its own self-contained resort with a cozy, family feeling, fantastic trails, and resort amenities including a superb indoor sports center with pool.

Killington Resort, 4763 Killington Road, Killington, VT 0575, info@killington.com, 800-621-MTNS

Pico Mountain, 73 Alpine Drive, Killington, VT 0575, info@picomoountain.com, 866-667-PICO

Suicide Six and Woodstock Inn & Resort
Suicide Six is a gentle mountain, one of the most family-friendly ski areas in Vermont, owned by the historic, quintessentially New England Woodstock Inn. It offers 23 trails - 30% beginner, 40% intermediate and 30% advanced slope ratings - on 100 skiable acres, and a vertical of 650 feet. Guests of the Woodstock Inn, "ski free" midweek, non-holiday with complimentary lift tickets at Suicide Six, complimentary trail fees at the inn's own Nordic Center, and get discounted rentals at both locations. Children 14 & under staying at the Woodstock Inn receive complimentary lift tickets 7 days a week, non-holiday.

Set in one of America's most charming small towns, the Woodstock Inn is a full-service resort that also offers an outstanding spa, fine dining, and lovely attractions all around, including The Billings Farm & Museum, where you visit a working dairy farm, explore farm-life exhibits and tour the historic homestead to take you back to agricultural life in the 1890’s.

Suicide Six, 247 Stage Road, South Pomfret, VT 05067, 800-448-7900, email: jlr@woodstockinn.com

Middlebury College Snow Bowl/Rikert Nordic Center
Middlebury College is a destination resort but few people realize it. The Middlebury College Snow Bowl offers skiing and riding, while the Rikert Nordic Center is a major area for cross-country, with 50 km of professionally groomed trails and the most extensive snowmaking in North America, 4 1/2 hours from NYC.

The Snow Bowl offers 120 acres of open terrain, accessed by double chairlift and two triple chairs (45 percent snowmaking). With 17 trails (one is a dedicated ski school trail), six designated glades and a large climbing area, the appeal of Snow Bowl is its uncrowded skiing and riding for all abilities at an affordable price. There is now boundary to boundary access which will give skiers and riders access to over 500 acres of wooded terrain, and improved snowmaking.

Situated on the Breadloaf Campus of Middlebury College and bordering the Green Mountain National Forest and the Robert Frost Homestead, the Rikert Ski Touring Center offers 42 kilometers of varied and scenic trails for cross-country skiers and snowshoers of all abilities. The ticket costs $17.

The Rikert Nordic Center is a major training area that has produced Olympians. It is an internationally certified race course.

The rental equipment is as good as the ones used to race. And the views are gorgeous - in the bowl in the heart of the Green Mountains.

Rikert Nordic Center is rolling out a snowbike rental fleet and bike-specific trails this year to add to the fun. There's also ice fishing and snowshoeing, an art center and theater.

The ski area is owned by the 2000-student college and you can take advantage of taking in a major sporting event like hockey and basketball, as well as the school's culinary arts program.

There are delightful places to stay - country inns, and bnb's like Blueberry House and Middlebury Inn.

Middlebury College Snow Bowl, 6886 VT Rte. 125, Hancock, VT 05748, Email: snowbowl@middlebury.edu, 802-443-7669.

Rikert Nordoc Center, Bread Loaf Campus, Route 125,Ripton, VT 05766, Email: mhussey@middlebury.edu, 802-443-2744

Northern Vermont

Smuggler's Notch
Smuggler's Notch is consistently voted #1 resort for family programs. It offers a comfortable, cozy village, a feeling of community, and is as enjoyable for those who don't downhill as it is for those who are avid skiers or snowboarder, with such resort amenities as a massage center and intriguing activities like artists classes, a zipline canopy tour (in winter!), a new cabin cat tour, a new snowboard park for 3-5 year olds. Smugglers, which pioneered child care and children's activity programs, now offers snowboard training for 2 1/2 year olds, with fun games indoors and out (it already offers 2 1/2 year old skiing programs).

Smuggler's offers three interconnected mountains on northern Vermont's biggest vertical rise at 2,610 feet and 78 trails (310 skiable acres) with enough variety for all ability levels. Full-day instruction for children in skiing and snowboarding begins at age 3.

Winter activities also include snow tubing; airboarding; snowmobiling; indoor pool and hot tub; craft and health and wellness classes; ice skating; and family games and climbing inflatables in the indoor FunZone. The resort's fully certified child care center is open year-round for children from ages 6 weeks up to three years old, and an introduction to skiing or snowboarding is offered for children as young as 2 1/2 years old.

Smuggler's offers24 km of snowshoe trails. This year, among the novel events are evening and sunrise snowshoe trips up Catamount Mountain, and on nights when there are fireworks, a guided trek to Smugglers Notch up the road that is covered with snow (closed to cars for winter).

A favorite activity, for adults only is a snowshoe trek at night - you ride the last chair up to Sterling Mountain, snowshoe around the summit, have dinner by candlelight in a warming hut then snowshoe down ($70 and includes the meal, lift ticket and snowshoes).

The self-contained condominium Village offers slopeside accommodations ranging in size from studios to five bedroom townhouses as well as services including a convenience grocery store, restaurants, sport shop, and equipment rental and repair shop.

Smuggler's has made a million dollar investment in improved snowmaking.

Smugglers’ Learn-to-Ski-or-Snowboard Week January 5-12, 2014 includes free rental equipment and group lessons for guests staying three nights or longer on the resort’s ski and stay package. Entry and beginner level skiers or riders are invited to learn to ski or ride for $119 per night for adults and $89 per night for children 3-17 years old.

Guests can stay six nights and get the seventh night free over the Christmas/New Year’s Eve holiday in December (December 26, 2013–January 1, 2014) and over the Presidents’ Week holiday (February 14-20, 2014).

Each of Smugglers’ vacation packages include mountainside condominium lodging; lift tickets; snow tubing; ice skating; use of the indoor pool and hot tub, Nordic and snowshoe terrain, indoor FunZone with climbing inflatables, and teen centers; and family and adult entertainment.

Smugglers' is located 35 miles east of Burlington.

Smuggler's Notch, 4323 Vermont Route 108 South, Smugglers' Notch, VT 05464,
Email: smuggs@smuggs.com, 855-814-7325

Stowe Mountain Resort
Stowe Mountain Resort offers 116 trails on 485 skiable acres, and a 2160-ft vertical from the summit.

Stowe's newest facilities and improvements include a brand new High-Speed Quad on Mt. Mansfield, Evolution Stowe's RFID technology tickets and gates, an inter-mountain transfer gondola connecting Mt. Mansfield and Spruce Peak, a new state-of-the-art Performing Arts Center at Spruce Peak, new high-speed lifts on Spruce, new base facilities, gourmet restaurants, and $8 million improvements over the past two years in snowmaking.

Stowe Mountain Lodge, a 400-room hotel which opened in 2010, offers a Spa and Wellness Center with Spa & Stay packages that include luxury accommodations and a 50 minute massage per night, per adult. The 21,000 square foot spa boasts 18 treatment rooms, a spacious relaxation sanctuary overlooking Mount Mansfield and the Healing Lodge, with an over-sized soaking tub/Jacuzzi, dry sauna, herbal steam room and a cooling rain shower. This mountain oasis offers services ranging from salt scrubs to energy work to customized massages and facials.

Stowe Mountain Resort, 5781 Mountain Road, Stowe, VT 05672, Email: info@stowe.com, 800-253-4754, www.stowe.com.

Topnotch Resort & Spa
Situated in Stowe, VT, the new Topnotch, which reopened in June 2013 after a $15 million investment, offers a fresh experience for guests with handcrafted Vermont touches: two new restaurants, Flannel and The Roost, both using Vermont fresh ingredients in contemporary menus; outdoor event spaces, all new guest rooms, new spa treatment menu with healing pathways, a refurbished indoor Tennis Center, plus two outdoor pools and an outdoor hot tub.

Nestled at the foot of Topnotch, which spans 100 acres, The Nordic Barn Adventure Center offers 30km of groomed and ungroomed nordic and light backcountry ski trails connecting to the trails maintained by the Trapp Family Lodge as well as the Stowe Cross Country Ski Center.

Celebrate the holidays early with the Nights Before package at Topnotch, valid through Dec. 24, including overnight stay, in-room holiday welcome gift, exclusive Topnotch shopping perks and discounts from local retailers, complimentary on-demand shuttle service to Stowe village, visit to Vermont tree farm with a take-home tree (or wreath) included (priced from $265/night/double occupancy).

The Ski Stowe package, available all season, includes overnight stay, Stowe Mountain Resort lift ticket, Topnotch Ski Concierge services, including advance lift ticket purchase, complimentary Topnotch shuttle transportation. Rates from $188 in Dec; $226 in Jan-April (per person, based on double occupancy).

Topnotch Resort, 4000 Mountain Road, Stowe, VT 05672, Email: info@topnotchresort.com, 800-451-8686

Trapp Family Lodge
Based in Stowe, VT, Trapp Family Lodge is a 2500-acre mountain resort in the European tradition managed by the family that inspired "The Sound of Music."

Trapp Family Lodge is famous as a Nordic-skiing resort, offering 65 km of groomed trails and extensive snowmaking, plus back-country skiing and snowshoeing.

Guests who stay at Trapp, ski on the resort trails for free. Otherwise, the ticket for x-country is $22; a package with lesson, trail pass and rental is $50.

Trapp Family Lodge offers 96 rooms, four restaurants (including cabin in the woods), as well as two-bedroom time-share units and 3-bedroom luxury villas.

Resort amenities include a fitness center, massage, three pools (one indoor), and tours of the new brewery to see where the Austrian-style Trapp Lager is made; in season, there is mountain biking. Activities available year-round include yoga, arts and crafts classes, fitness classes, wine tastings. And yes, you can learn the history behind "The Sound of Music" on the von Trapp History Tour.

Trapp Family Lodge also prides itself on its agritourism (not to mention the good eatin') - they also make their own apple cider; have their own herd of cattle and laying hens.

This season, the Trapp Family Lodge is hosting two National Championship Nordic Events. March 1-8, 2014 the Junior Nationals will begin in a newly designed Nordic Stadium and improved FIS homologated race course' then, March 14-16, 2014 the Ski-Orienteering National Championships will take place, with competitors skiing from check-point to check-point while navigating maps to pick the shortest route.

Trapp Family Lodge,700 Trapp Hil Road, Stowe, VT 05672, Email: info@trappfamily.com, 855-318-0789, www.trappfamily.com.

Sugarbush Resort
One of the biggest ski resorts in the Northeast, Sugarbush offers six distinct peaks, two uncrowded mountain areas, a vertical of 2600 ft., 111 trails, 578 skiable acres and 2,000 acres of backcountry in the Slide Brook Basin. The heart of Sugarbush is Lincoln Peak—think quintessential Vermont meets modern slopeside living - where classic New England trails lead to Lincoln Peak Village with the Clay Brook slopeside hotel and residences, a general store, dining, and new Schoolhouse and Farmhouse. The Schoolhouse is home base for children’s day ski-and-ride programs, and The Farmhouse hosts Sugarbush’s acclaimed Ski & Ride School which includes the first-timer-to-life-timer program, private and group lessons, backcountry tours, bumps clinics and more.

Five miles north is Sugarbush’s Mt. Ellen which is known as its "hidden gem." Mt. Ellen has Vermont’s highest chairlift, a rippin’ terrain park, and a variety of woods and bump terrain.

Sugarbush has a range of deals and packages. Starting January 9, ski Mount Ellen for $30 every Thursday (non-holiday). For lodging, make sure to book early to save up to 30%.

Sugarbush Resort, 1840 Sugarbush Access Rd., Warren, VT 05674, Email: info@sugarbush.com, 800-53-SUGAR

Mad River Glen
Mad River Glen is most unusual because it is owned by a cooperative of skiers, whose goal it is to maintain and preserve the traditional alpine experience rather than overhaul or upgrade it. Skiers come to Mad River for the unique combination of legendary terrain, sense of community, low skier density and intimate atmosphere. In 17 years of co-op ownership, Mad River Glen has invested nearly $5 million in capital improvements. Mad River Glen is not for novices, though.

The Ski The Valley+ Passport lets you ski Mad River Glen, Sugarbush and Ole’s Cross XC anytime, on this exclusive universal 'passport'. It’s available in 2-7 day packages for adults and children with additional values throughout your stay at valley restaurants, attractions and activities.

Mad River Glen, 62 Mad River Resort Road, Waitsfield, VT 05673, Email: ski@madriverglen.com, 800-82-VISIT

Jay Peak Resort
Jay Peak Resort is completely remade, with over $300 million invested in new hotels, chairlifts, an ice arena, an indoor waterpark, snowmaking equipment, restaurants, pubs, a Nordic Center and a spa, but has kept a policy of exceptional value: this season a family of four will be able to ski and stay in the Hotel Jay for $359/night, or $429/night if you add in daily access to the Pump House Indoor Waterpark.

For this season, Jay Peak Resort is unveiling $43 million in improvements. Projects include a new 80,000-square foot Stateside Hotel and base lodge with restaurants and locker rooms, a rental center, 84 new mountain cottages, and a complete revamping of the resort’s entrance.

Jay Peak, 4850 VT Route 242, Jay, VT 05859, Email: info@jaypeakresort.com, 800-451-4449

Bolton Valley
Located 30 miles outside Burlington, Bolton Valley is a self-contained resort, offering slopeside accommodations, restaurants on site, an excellent recreation center, night-skiing, and presents good value for a family vacation.

Ski and Stay packages in the slopeside, ski-in, ski-out Inn at Bolton Valley start at $84 per person. Package includes ski-to-your-door lodging, lift tickets, breakfast, and unlimited use of the on-site Sports Center including indoor pool, sauna and hot tub.

Every Monday is 50/50 Monday when folks age 50+ can take 50% off All Access Lift Tickets. Saturdays, enjoy Bolton After Dark where night lift tickets are $19 and flatbread slices are $2.

Bolton Valley also has an exceptional cross-country ski center.

Bolton Valley, 4302 Bolton Access Rd., Bolton Valley, VT 05477, Email: info@boltonvalley.com, 877-9BOLTON

Ski Vermont Deals and Incentive Programs
Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month: January is Learn to Ski and Snowboard month, where Vermont alpine resorts offer beginner programs for just $29. The package includes a beginner lift ticket, rentals and a lesson. Visit www.skivermont.com/learn in December for details.

Ski Vermont: Check In to Win program rewards you for skiing around the state and getting social. Track your turns at different Vermont resorts via Alpine Replay to be eligible to win free lift tickets.

Killington, Pico, Okemo & Sunapee Four.0 The College Pass is the best deal in the East for current and just-graduated college students! Ski and ride Okemo, Killington, Pico, and Mount Sunapee 7 days a week including holiday periods with no blackout dates. Plus, with the Four.0 Pass, you get 5 College Student Buddy Passes for 50% off a full-day lift ticket.

For more information, visit www.skivermont.com.

Karen Rubin, National Eclectic Travel Examiner

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