Words And Photos By Jake Stangel
The four major resorts in Southern Vermont—Okemo, Stratton, Mount Snow, and Bromley—are densely packed into the southwest corner of the state. Each offers something different for riders, and they are all within an hour drive of each other. This gives snowboarders a chance to keep their routine fresh and freely venture to new mountains without sacrificing much riding time. Pipe heavies from the Teter and Mitrani families to Kevin Pearce, Kelly Clark, Ross Powers, and Tricia Byrnes all grew up riding Southern Vermont.
One of the best reasons to visit and ride Vermont is for the state itself. Vermont has done an amazing job of preserving its natural environment, as well as its unique towns, businesses, and buildings. You also won't see a single billboard in the state—they're illegal. To get the most out of your trip, be sure to check out the scenery, take in the extending landscape of rolling mountains visible from the top of every resort, and buy some real Vermont maple syrup to take home for your next round of pancakes.
WHERE TO RIDE The mountains of Vermont have always offered a classic mix of freeriding options, especially for enthusiasts of misty glades and secret side runs. Okemo, Stratton, and Mount Snow are also serious about their park game. Coming off one of the best seasons in decades, the mountains of Southern Vermont can make even the most spoiled, snobbish West Coast rider break out into a big smile—I've seen it myself.
If you're a park or pipe dude or dudette in need of a perfectly shaped Superpipe, or are seeking out a heavy double-kink leading into a poppy 50-foot kicker, Okemo Mountain Resort in Ludlow, Vermont has got what you're looking for. Often pegged as a "family resort," Okemo has been quietly slaying the Southern Vermont park scene for years. Led by a committed crew of park staff, Okemo boasts three levels of terrain parks, including the Nor'easter Superpark, a nicely flowing park full of big jumps and fun rails, walls and bonks. Okemo also has a legit, dependable, and regularly cut Superpipe serviced by an accompanying J-bar, which is a rarity in the entire Northeast. If freeriding is what you're after, head over to the rider's right side of the mountain to feast on glade runs and double blacks like Loose Spruce and Wild Thing, all serviced by the South Face Express Quad.
Distance From Stratton: 35 miles
Cost: $69 Weekday, $74 Weekend
Best For: Fans of a well-maintained park and a Superpipe with a J-bar
Web site: okemo.com
Mount Snow-Best of Both Worlds
Former home of the Winter X Games and current host to several USASA events, Mount Snow has the prestige, resources, and mountain size to successfully entertain you and your crew over numerous days of riding. Mount Snow has four mountain faces. Granted, these aren't Colorado-size bowls, but they translate to a good amount of variety for whatever your shredding mood. Feel like a challenge? Head to Ripcord on the North Face for some of the steepest runs on the East Coast. If you want a long, mellow run, slide over to the three-mile-long Long John/Deer Run trail.
Boasting five parks of every level, as well as a Superpipe of its own, park and pipe rats have their bases covered. Be sure to check out the Au Natural park, which is made entirely of natural features like wooden A-frames and wide log jibs.
Distance From Stratton: 10 miles
Cost: $63 weekday, $72 weekend
Best For: A little bit of everything
Web site: mountsnow.com
Stratton-High Class On And Off The Mountain
Considered the most upscale resort of these four mountains, Stratton feels a lot like a mini-Whistler set in Southern Vermont. Owned by Intrawest, Stratton has a village center full of chic coffee shops, gift shops, and restaurants. Don't be fooled by the fur coats and valet parking, though, Stratton is a serious mountain with fast lifts, 600 acres of rideable terrain, a clean park, and a bounty of off-trail runs.
To save some time, head straight to the Sun Bowl, located around the back of the mountain. There is a less-busy parking lot right at the base, so you can avoid having to take the shuttle from a satellite lot, and the crowds are way less hectic.
Cost: $69 weekday, $78 weekend
Best For: Shredding, heading to the spa, and a steak dinner
Web site: stratton.com
Bromley is a quaint, no-frills, friendly mountain. Yes, it is small in size relative to the other three mountains, but everything in Bromley is stress-free and manageable. Parking lot? A two-minute walk away. Liftlines? None. Crowded, zoo-like cafeteria? Nope.
Going along with its no-frills attitude, Bromley walks away with the deal of the century, 25 bucks for a midweek, all-day lift ticket. If you and your crew are looking to have some fun on the mountain without paying a fortune, head to Bromley, find yourself a log jib in the woods, and get creative.
Bromley also does have a small park, but more importantly, its got glades and powder—two things that will make any rider happy when the conditions are right.
Distance From Stratton: 15 miles
Cost: $25 weekday, $63 weekend
Best For: Beginners, messing around for cheap, and avoiding crowds
Web site: bromley.com
There are a couple of airport options including Albany, New York (two hours to the west); Manchester, New Hampshire (2.5 hours to the east); and Burlington, Vermont (2.5 hours to the north), but none are pleasantly close to the mountains. If a buddy can pick you up, there is an Amtrak station in nearby Brattleboro as well. There are also no major cities nearby, so Stratton Mountain Resort, the resort closest to the center of this four-mountain cluster, will serve as the reference point to gauge distance.
Each of these four resorts has local towns nearby, with plenty of places to grab everything from after-riding nachos and beer to live music. If you're at Stratton, Bromley, or even Mount Snow, it's worth a drive into nearby Manchester—it's three-quarters cool town and one-quarter upscale outlet mall.
Tom's Loft Tavern
This classic après-ride joint, located in the big red barn adjacent to Okemo's base lodge, is hands down the best way to end a day of riding at Okemo. Chat it up with locals and make friends with the ski patrollers, all while chowing down on muchos nachos and daily Vermont beer specials. If local brew Switchback is on tap, grab a pint and see if it immediately becomes one of your favorite beers.
300 Mountain Road, Ludlow. (802) 228-5638
Got a big group that can't decide where to go for dinner? A local favorite, DJ's consistently delivers a great mix of pasta, steak, seafood, and salads that'll please even the most diverse group of eaters.
146 Main Street, Ludlow. (802) 228-5374
For those who need a huge, super-satisfying breakfast to start the day, head over to Dot's Diner. Located five minutes from Mount Snow, Dot's serves up amazing eggs, home fries, pancakes, and waffles in a homey setting. Combined with its bottomless cups of coffee and doting waitresses, Dot's will get you ready to shred all day long.
Mountain Park Plaza, Route 100, Mount Snow. (802) 464-6476
TC's Family Restaurant
Owned by the family of Kelly Clark, this is a great option for riders looking to get a little taste of Olympic gold as well as a casual, filling dinner. TC's serves Italian food, steaks, burgers, homemade pizza, and pasta. If you're jonesin' to get home, TC's entire menu is available to go.
178 Route 100 North, West Dover. (802) 464-5900
If you're on a budget, yet staying in a hotel on Stratton's compound, Mulligan's has got you covered. Serving up sandwiches, salads, ribs, steaks, and fajitas, as well as a bevy of margaritas and 50 different beers, this fine establishment will take away your hunger pangs, without taking away too much money.
Stratton Village Square, Stratton. (802) 297-9293
The saloon offers a classy mix of nearly every type of beef and seafood possible, and all entrees include unlimited trips to the most bangin’ salad bar of all time. While on the upper end of the price scale, you can easily make two separate meals for the price of one. To go box, please!
135 Depot Street, Manchester Center. (802) 362-2600
The Local Country Store Deli
Pretty much every country store in Vermont houses a kick-ass deli that will prepare the biggest, cheapest, most delicious sub you've ever had. Amazing breakfast sandwiches can also be had. These locally owned havens are ubiquitous throughout the entire state, so keep your eyes peeled and you'll notice one. Don't even bother with gas-station food.
Clubbers beware—Vermont is probably not your scene, especially on slow weekdays. However, when weekends roll around, riders can find plenty of ways to stay entertained well into the night.
Christopher's Sports & Spirits
Aside from sponsoring local Okemo riders, Christopher's has live entertainment on Fridays and Saturday nights. If getting your groove on makes you a little hungry, Christopher's also dishes out thin-crust pizza 'til 2:00 a.m.
145 Main Street, Ludlow. (802) 228-7822
Dover Bar And Grill
Affectionately called D-Bags, the Dover is one of few nightlife spots in the Mount Snow area. Open every day from 4:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m., D-Bags also runs a Thursday-night concert series. For those multitasking types, the bar also offers wi-fi, plus there's a Laundromat next door. Score!
319 Route 100 West, Dover. (802) 464-2689
Green Door Pub
A great option for those staying at Stratton, the Green Door Pub offers live entertainment on Saturday nights, pool, and foosball tables, as well as big-screen football for all the jocks on Sundays.
Stratton Village Square, Stratton. (802) 297-0171
The Perfect Wife
Just outside of Manchester, The Perfect Wife houses both a top-notch restaurant as well as a cool tavern with a super relaxed atmosphere. It features live music on Friday and Saturday nights ranging from blues and rock to jazz, in addition to a full bar and drink menu. Solid.
2594 Depot Street, Manchester. (802) 362-2817
With Vermont becoming an increasingly popular vacation destination for affluent travelers from nearby cities, hotels near the mountains cash in by jacking up rates on weekends and holidays. Try to stick with locally owned inns that won't gauge your pocket … and who often include breakfast in the price of the overnight.
Best Western Ludlow Colonial Motel
One mile from the base of Ludlow, near Okemo, this hotel often has the cheapest rates, ranging from 90 to 200 bucks for hotels in the immediate area. The nearby Governer's Inn might also be worth a look if prices are out of hand.
93 Main Street, Ludlow. (802) 228-8188
West Dover Inn
West Dover Inn offers some slammin' package deals that cover pretty much all the bases. For a mere 200 bucks per person on weekends, Mount Snow riders receive two nights' lodging, one dinner, two breakfasts, and two full-day passes. Weekday packages are 179 per person. What a steal!
108 Route 100, West Dover. (802) 464-5207
A two-minute drive from Bromley and twenty minutes from Stratton, Johnny Seesaw's is a storied inn that offers riders affordable and comfortable rooms, easy access into Manchester, and a hella good breakfast every morning … and dinner later. The restaurant is keen on using fresh and local ingredients, and most every item, from salad dressings to desserts, is made in-house. Built in 1920, Johnny Seesaw's has been a haven against prohibition (complete with "sin cabins" out back). Check it out.
Located five minutes east of Bromley, Route 11. (802) 824-5533
Shaun White mid-victory lap McTwist at the 2008 U.S. Open at Stratton, Vermont. PHOTO:Nick Hamilton
Darkside Snowboard Shop
The crew at Darkside knows what's up. One of three locations (Killington, Stowe, and Okemo), the shop is packed to the brim with all the gear you need and a knowledgeable staff of friendly riders who can help you out.
57 Pond Street, Okemo Market Place, Ludlow. (802) 228-5444
Backside Snowboard Shop
Backside is a great resource located at the main base area of Mount Snow. Forgot your gloves under the bed of last night's one-night stand? It would be too awkward to go back, so head to Backside to grab a new pair instead.
Mount Snow. (802) 464-4040
Podium Snowboard Shop
Owned by Ross Powers and his longtime buddy Nick Pedemonti, Podium is both a snowboard shop and mini-museum for snowboarding and Ross' career. The Manchester-based store is filled with vintage skate and snow decks, each year of Ross' pro models, as well as tons of posters and memorabilia that attest to the history of the sport.
5081 Main Street (Rt. 7A), Manchester Center. (802) 367-SNOW
The U.S. Open
A six-star TTR event, the U.S. Open is one of the oldest and most storied competitions in the history of snowboarding. Held at Stratton in mid-March, the Open features some of the most next-level riding seen around the world and provides an opportunity for hungry ams to step into the spotlight, as Charles Reid and Peetu Piiroinen did in 2008. Stratton always pulls out all the stops for the Open, and sponsors throw down a ridiculous amount of swag, so you have no reason not to go.
Dates: March 16–22, 2009
Web site: opensnowboarding.com
World Quarterpipe Championships
The infamous World Quarters were brought back last year after a four-year hiatus with a location move from Waterville Valley to Timber Ridge resort. The booze and fire infused event is just as much about partying and throwing snowballs at riders in the gauntlet (the run-in to the quarterpipe) as it is about snowboarding. It's a fun way to cap off a long week at the Open for hearty VT riders.
Where: Timber Ridge private resort on the backside of Magic Mountain
When: Late March