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The Modern Guide to The Thing Before Preppy

Thursday, March 14, 2024

New England Ski Mountains, Resorts, and Traditions

 A reader question:

Which ski traditions, mountains/resorts/areas has the community traditionally cherished in New England? I grew up skiing at Stowe and I understand it has suffered much development in recent years. Thankfully, Mount Mansfield and the physical runs remain much the same. Yes, I’ve been out west, but Eastern skiing remains grittier and more authentic . I’m sure this community will agree.

24 comments:

  1. Nothing is authentic anymore. Everything (on the west and east coast) is being bought up by a handful of corporations. https://247wallst.com/special-report/2022/01/13/companies-that-own-the-most-ski-resorts/

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    1. Same thing has happened to veterinary services. Mars Inc (the candy company) have been making many multi billion dollar acquisitions in the vet space across the country and in Europe. They've also bought up most of the smaller vet practices including trusted emergency care facility Blue Pearl
      (sorry not about skiing)

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    2. https://observer.com/2023/03/veterinary-practices-are-increasingly-corporately-owned-and-pets-owners-pay-the-price/

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    3. It's tough to run a resort below 5000 ft without serious snowmaking anymore, and family resorts struggle with those sorts of capital investments. As unfortunate as it is, corporate money for fake snow might be the only thing keeping skiing going within driving distance of population centers in the northeast.

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  2. I would contend that Mad River Glen remains authentic

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    1. Mad River, no question about its authenticity. It’s the only ski area likely in the world where you sit at the base, look up at the mountain, and can’t see any trails. All the trails were purposefully cut so they couldn’t be seen from below. That way only those who ski the mountain know the mountain. And that old adage is basically true; if you can ski the East you can ski anywhere. And, not all ski ares, beside Mad River, have gone corporate. Non-corporate slopes still exist in New England. Magic Mountain is one. Also don’t give up totally on Western ski areas. They’re not all corporate. Montana, for example, has a number of mom and pop ski areas. These are not “ski resorts.” Check out Turner Mountain way up in Montana’s northwest corner. 2,100’ vertical, only open Fri-Sun. Buy your lift ticket at the snack bar.

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    2. You’re right. Montana has great mom and pop ski areas. Snow Bowl is another. It’s just 20 minutes from downtown Missoula. It’s plenty big. We were buying our lift tickets at the window. My friend asked the ticket seller, who owns this place?” The ticket seller said, “I do.”

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  3. At the risk of courting controversy by including the Adirondacks in New England, I'd suggest staying at the Adirondack Mountain Club's Johns Brook Lodge, skinning up and skiing the slides during the day, and eating in the communal dining hall at night before retiring to a board game or a book in front of the giant fire.

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    1. What controversy? The Adirondacks are the Adirondacks. New England is New England. And by the way, New York has some excellent state owned ski areas that will never be corporate. Gore Mountain is one.

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  4. Careful what you wish for, you could be spending the winter skiing at Wildcat! Several of the Mt. Washington Valley ski areas have gotten substantial big money upgrades (Bretton Woods, Cranmore) and some are working on it (Attitash, Pleasant Mountain). Black, which probably remains close to original-ish, needed an infusion of funds to open this year. The snow situation was sub par this year, so, finger crossed, they made enough to open next year.

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  5. Any Catamount fans?

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    1. Right here! We live right smack dab in the middle between Catamount, Butternut and Mohawk. We rotate between the three. Each, like every ski area I’ve ever been to, has its own personality. Catamount is steeper and more wide open than the others. Butternut has a bit more old New Englandy feeling. Mohawk in the smallest, but no matter. The lifts are strung across the ridge. So it seems bigger. And their lodge is best by far. Very roomy. 50-60’s vibe with original signage etc..

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  6. The Camden Snow Bowl!

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  7. Cherished tradition? Taking off my boots and enjoying apres at the Matterhorn after a long day

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  8. A lot of ski areas everywhere have experienced major development as the sport became an increasingly high dollar enterprise. Look for ski areas with difficult terrain, because they tend to be a little less popular due to the difficulty of the skiing experience. Mad River Glen is pretty authentic, and close to Sugarbush in case the dearth of snow requires better snowmaking capabilities. (Mad River doesn't have much available water or artificial snowmaking capacity). If Stowe is too developed for you, try Smuggler's Notch, and stick to the upper Madonna liftline part of the mountain. Wildcat in New Hampshire is great skiing and has amazing views of Mt. Washington; that suffering dot you see might be me struggling toward the summit in crampons. Sugarloaf in Maine has nice terrain, and it's a little too remote to be highly developed.

    Though not in New England, Whiteface outside Lake Placid, NY has the largest vertical drop in the East, 3,400 feet, and some of the most challenging skiing. For the sake of comparison, that's more vertical than most of the Colorado resorts (go to Telluride or Silverton if you crave tough skiing in the Rockies), and approaching my favorite ski area, Jackson Hole, which is a bit over 4,000 feet vertical & the most challenging days of skiing I've had.

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  9. You can ski into your 70’s “absolved.” Senior tickets turn skiing into not at all a high dollar enterprise. At a local southern New England ski area that is admittedly not Jackson Hole, much less even Mount Snow, a 4 hour senior lift ticket costs less than what people pay for a pub hamburger. You can get your runs in. Did you ever think you’d see the day when a hamburger costs more than a lift ticket ?!

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    1. i miss the days when i was so short (i started skiing when i was three, local ski area in New Hampshire) that i could zoom in under the ropes and cut the lift lines. and i was too cute to reprimand.

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  10. Ah, the good old days. Very old days. Caravan of families off to Stowe over Christmas break into New Year's Day. Leather tie up boots; Head skis; paper tickets. Toll Road to start things off. Chair lift operators draped horse blankets on us getting started and checked for frostbite at the top. Lots of skiing on ice, the occasional bare rock ...and the most colorful of my parents' friends in his full length raccoon coat. Purists all. None of that glitzy Mascara Mountain crowd. (I have no clue which mountain that refers to. Mt Snow maybe?)

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    1. Yes. The good old days. I haven't skied regularly each winter like when I was young in the 1960s with my friends locally on Massachusetts 'rope tow hills' and with parents, their friends, children, siblings and their friends in Vermont and New Hampshire and occasionally Sugarloaf. For a numbers of years it was a Christmas to New Year's and then spring vacation tradition to rent the same big house for about twenty of us in Franconia (NH) overlooking the valley where Cannon Mountain loomed in the distance. The mothers would wake up before dawn, cook big breakfasts and wake us to get to the mountain early just as the lifts opened. They'd take their place at tables by the lodge windows, watch and talk and unpack sandwiches, hot chocolate and soups to lay out for everyone. The adults would smoke and chat while we were banished after warming up to the trails and lifts for as much as we could take. In December and January it was icy, cold, with steep, narrow trails and exposed chairlifts and T-bar lifts. In the spring it was warmer, easier and more pleasant.The house had a huge living room with fireplaces at each end. Us kids took over one end for games and roughhousing and cooking things over the fire while the parents at the other end conversed and enjoyed their drinks in big couches around their own fire.

      In college I joined the ski team which replicated a similar experience; big groups, big house, communal meals, Cannon Mountain training days, bunk rooms for all of us.

      I gave up regular skiing after college. It was becoming expensive. About twenty years later when our children were old enough we did go to Colorado twice with friends to spend a week at a dude ranch right near several ski resorts. It was spectacularly luxurious with a variety of things to do and I recommend that particular experience highly: C-Lazy U Ranch https://www.clazyu.com/

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  11. It's fun to go to independent ski areas like Magic Mountain. Much more affordable and still like the olden days...fun apres bands and a great local community.

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  12. Oh Epic Pass what have you done?!

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  13. Middlebury College Snow Bowl, Ripton, VT. Non-Middlebury people can ski there. Still a secluded down-low ski area.

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