The Deep Dive
Skiing + Riding Tips and FAQs
When is the best time of year to ski and ride in Vermont?
While arguments could certainly be made for all of the Winter months, our vote for best ski month in Vermont is March. Not only is it historically the month that receives the most snowfall, but the days are getting longer, and the temperatures are just about getting into that elusive Spring skiing sweet spot. Fresh snow in the morning and sunny riding in the afternoon - does life get any better?
What mountain gets the most snow?
Hands down, Jay Peak Resort. Now, before we have too many locals causing a brouhaha and up in arms, this is not to say that there are not some storms that deposit absolutely massive amounts of snow all throughout the state (we’re looking at you Stratton’s 44.8” doozy of a 2020 Nor’easter!), but if we’re talking consistently getting absolutely dumped upon? There’s just something magical about that Jay Cloud!
Where should we go with a family?
Well, the good news is when you’re coming to a Vermont ski area with the family, it’s pretty near impossible to not have a great time! That being said, there are a few spots that really just go the extra mile into making your skiing and riding adventure the vacation that your family will be talking about for years to come! Smugglers’ Notch Resort (literally called America’s Family Resort!) is so confident that your crew will have a blast that they have a Family Fun Guarantee. No, really - check it out, it’s amazing. Additionally, Bromley Mountain in Southern Vermont also takes on a family first approach that really lets them shine. With programs for all ages and ability levels, their instructors are patient, talented, and most importantly for the little groms, fun! Wherever you go with your family this Winter, remember the two most important tenets of family skiing and riding: 1) Every day out on the hill is a good day and 2) Every good day ends with hot chocolate.
Where is the best place to learn to ski or ride?
Alright, first of all, you’re thinking of learning to ski or snowboard? You’re an absolute rockstar and you’re going to love it! Now, a few considerations are needed in order to answer this question. We’re looking for snow consistency - ie: where are you going to go where you can know that the terrain is going to be immaculately maintained? So we’re talking about snow-making and grooming. Next, we’re looking at the number of beginner trail options. Even if this is your first day out on the hill you don’t want to be limited to just one trail for your entire trip. You’re looking for a large and varied amount of beginner terrain to keep you on your toes and looking forward to your next session. And finally, we’re looking for facilities and personnel that can take you through all the levels of your skiing and riding progression. This is a top notch ski and ride school with an impeccable pedigree. For all of these reasons (plus a ton more) our answer is: Stratton.
Who has the most advanced terrain?
Again, we know this might ruffle the feathers of a few locals, but we have three answers. Killington, Mad River, and Jay Peak (with an honorable mention to Magic Mountain, who we also absolutely love!). Jay Peak Resort features some intensely epic in-bound and out-of-bound lines that are sure to leave your knees shaking and your adrenaline pumping. Mad River Glen’s bumper sticker reads “Ski it if you can” and we’re sure as heck not going to argue with them! And finally Killington, or as it’s affectionately labeled, The Beast in the East. From the bumps of Outer Limits to the steeps of Cascade, if you're looking to test your mettle, Killington is your Huckleberry.
Should I buy a lift ticket or season’s pass?
Great question! More than just a simple math question of how many times you expect to hit the trails X the cost of a single day ticket, there’s a lot more that goes into this answer. Nowadays, there are passes that are for not only a singular ski mountain, but a whole slew of mountains within that pass’s network. The Icon Pass and the Epic Pass being the two big players in the game. So, now you need to ask yourself, do I want to be able to see where the snowfall takes me this year and ski at multiple Vermont mountains, or would I prefer to put in a ton of days at a singular resort and get to know one area really well? Additionally there are an assortment of further perks that come with a season’s pass: discount rentals, early lift access, equipment demos, food and beverage deals, and buddy passes to name a few.
All that being said, there are also a ton of great deals as of late for single lift tickets, or lift ticket bundles. Many resorts have Ski and Stay Packages that are seriously impressive, plus they allow the flexibility for a last-minute weekend getaway or a full on week-long ski trip! For a concrete answer: of course as mountain lovers, we are understandably biased, but we’re going to go with a season’s pass. Not only for the overall ease of use, but there’s just something about having that year’s season’s pass attached to your hip that makes you feel like you’re part of a crew, that you’re committed, you’re out there earning your turns and you belong.
Resort Lodging vs Short Term Rental?
Phew, bringing on the heat here! Alright, we know you’re looking for a black and white answer, but sometimes it’s just not possible. This one completely depends on the situation. Romantic ski weekend with couples massages, and candle-lit dinner? Resort hotel. Family ski reunion with game night and family olympics? VRBO all the way, baby. BUT! Have you ever found that perfect A-frame set on 10 private acres, with a roaring fire and bottle of wine? Yup, VRBO FTW. Or, have you ever stayed in a ski-in, ski out townhouse right on the resort with your kids, your best friends and their kids? That’s right, a Resort Townhouse is the thing of dreams! So for better or worse there’s no cookie cutter answer to this question because thankfully there’s no such thing as a cookie cutter ski trip! Our best advice, go check out our loding guide and use the hell out of all the filters and sliders until you find the absolute perfect spot for your ski and ride adventure.
Bring equipment or rent?
We’re firm believers that you’re always going to have the best time on the mountain when you’re most comfortable. Is it a PITA to schlepp 5 pairs of skis, boots, and poles in the car? You bet it is. The quality at rental shops these days is really next level (Pro Tip: be sure to ask about any demos that the shop might recommend for your skill level) and if it makes for a more pleasant drive up, absolutely get your rental game on! The same philosophy applies to the more technical considerations. Do you have your gear absolutely dialed in with the perfect bevel and wax job? Would riding on a different setup put a damper on your day? Then by all means, be sure to bring your rig to the resort! Our typical rule of thumb when going on a ski trip is to bring as much of our own equipment as possible, but if space or anything else is at a premium, we try to at least bring our own boots. But again, comfort wins the day, so decide accordingly.
Another point to throw into the mix - if you’re at all considering upgrading or changing out any of your equipment, there’s no better place to explore all those options than at the rental shop. Just ask for recommendations and you’re sure to be impressed with all the knowledge coming your way! One last tip: if you do decide to rent your equipment, try to do whatever you can to pick it up the night before! The mornings are always the busiest times in the shop and you’re going to want to get your runs in and out on the mountain ASAP.
Best place for boot fitting?
Nothing ruins a great day faster than boot pain. Luckily there are some true magicians out there! Two of our favorites spots can be found at the Ski Rack in downtown Burlington and The Boot Lab in First Run Ski Shop on Stratton. The folks at these two spots are masters of their crafts and able to perform some real miracles when it comes to dialing in your boot fit. Our recommendation is to give a call and set up an appointment, that way you can have some dedicated time to get down to business.
What are some great apres ski spots?
Oh man. Easiest answer? Follow the noise! After a day of ripping out on the mountain there’s no better way to unwind than a cold pint or two! You can bet your bottom dollar no matter where you’re riding that there’s a bar or lounge nearby. Most likely they’ve got a killer band playing, sizzling food being served and drink specials flowing! Some of our favorites: Grizzly’s at Stratton, Black Bear Tavern at Smuggs, James Moore Tavern at Bolton Valley - honestly we could go on and on and on…
We have some people in our group who aren't planning on skiing or riding - are they going to be bored?
As much as we want to convince you to twist their arms and get them out on the hill anyways, we get it, sometimes you just want to lay low and stick to the sweet indoors. The good news is there are a TON of options to keep everyone in your group engaged and having a great time! So where should you vacation if outdoor activities are not on everyone's agenda? We have two recommendations; Manchester and Stowe. Both are picturesque, classic Vermont towns replete with covered bridges, country stores, art galleries, sensational dining, and more shopping then you can shake a shearling-lined glove at! In our opinion, the Spruce Bar & Lounge at Stowe has the absolute best vantage point to sit in front of a fire with a great cocktail or meal and watch all the skiing members of your group hit the trails right outside the massive picture windows. If you're in the town of Stowe, also be sure to check out Doc Ponds, Shaw's General Store, and the Green Mountain Inn. In Manchester, don't miss The Crooked Ram, Northshire Bookstore, and H.N. Williams.
What about nightlife?
The Pickle Barrel in Killington is known for getting rowdy! Great music and cold drinks, if you’re looking to let loose, head to The Barrel. Similarly the Green Door Pub on Stratton (just find Mulligan’s Restaurant and keep going, down, down down the stairs) is equally amazing. A bit of a stretch, but if your ski trip has you spending the night in Burlington, be sure to hit up Nectar’s. The birthplace of Phish and an absolutely legendary music venue.
I’m a first timer - which is better? Should I ski or snowboard?
Yeah, right. Like we would dare ignite that powder keg! Let’s put it this way, Vermonters are skiers, Vermonters are snowboarders, and they’re some of the best in the world at both. No matter if you’re skiing or riding, if you’re having fun out on the mountain you’re doing it right! We will say that if you have any surfing or skateboarding experience, the learning curve is a bit easier for picking up first time snowboarding than first time skiing.
What age should I get my kids started out on the hill?
Yesterday. Seriously, there’s no age too early to start your little ones off skiing or riding. We’ve seen babies being carried before they can walk, toddler rippers absolutely shredding, and pocket-sized skiers tearing it up. The great thing about starting your kids off skiing or riding at an early age is they’re rubber and they’ll soon come to love their time out on the hill even earlier! It’s a pretty special connection to be able to share time out on the mountain with your kids and we wouldn’t trade it for anything. As we mentioned in an earlier question, be sure to keep in mind the Hot Chocolate Rule and keep ‘em smiling out there!
Am I too old to ski or snowboard?
Are you too old to have fun? No way! As the late, great Warren Miller said, ““If you don't do it this year, you will be one year older when you do.” Get out there, friend!
How much does it cost to go skiing?
Ah, the dollars and cents of it all. We’re not going to lie, it can get expensive. BUT! The great news is there are all kinds of deals and specials running all the time and a little research can go a long way! From Military discounts, to mid-week rates, rental and lodging packages, to senior pricing. There are a ton of ways to save and get onto the hill. Also, in recent years, ski resorts have been amazing at offering steeply discounted passes for young adults and families, which we absolutely love to see! Skiing and riding for all!
Should I take skiing/riding lessons?
Oh heck yes! The skiing and snowboarding schools at these Vermont resorts have some of the absolute best instructors in the world who love what they do! For beginners and experts alike, if you want to get better this season (and we all have something we want to work on, right?), then a lesson is exactly what’s in order. With group lessons, semi-private lessons, and one-on-one instruction available, just find the option that suits you best, and jump in! Plus, a lot of times there’s a separate line for ski and snowboard lessons, so you’ve basically unlocked the answer to lift lines!
Where are the best places to buy ski gear?
A few of our favorites are Equipe Sport (multiple locations, but our fave is in Bondville), and Outdoor Gear Exchange in Burlington.
What is the best ski resort in Vermont?
We don’t want you to take this answer as a cop out, but this is the absolute truth. We’ve been very fortunate to have unbelievable days at all of these ski areas. We could go on and on about the terrain here, the snowfall there, the nightlife, the amenities, etc. The fact of the matter is that the biggest determining factor to where was the best place to ride was never the weather or what features were to be found, but it was always who we were skiing with. Some days the best person to be on the hill with was ourself and some days the bigger the crew the bigger the smiles. Sappy we know, but you’ll always find exactly what you’re looking for at each and every one of these mountains, just get out there and enjoy it!