Big Treasures found in the Small Gems of Vermont
By Dee Dee McKinney Photos by Fred McKinney
The state of Vermont has long been a winter wonderland for downhill and nordic skiers, snowboarders, and winter enthusiasts. According to the Vermont Ski Areas Assoc., over 4.7 million skiers and riders visited the Green Mt state last winter.
Most of the 20 ski areas that line up along Rt.100 run north and south along Vermont’s Green Mountains. Areas include a full array of large mega ski areas, family areas and the smaller (often not thought about) areas along Rt 100. These small areas are great skier development areas, often run and managed by former Olympian and World Cup skiers. Their focus is on school groups & families learning to ski. High level ski and snowboard instructors guide and instruct the beginner skier to the skier developing a higher level of skills.
The small Cochran Ski Area is within the shadows of mega Stowe Mountain. It offers skiers surface lifts and is managed by a famous Olympic Class and World Cup skiing family. 1972, Olympian Gold Metal skier, Barbara Cochran, is very accessible. She can be often found skiing around her mountain lending a hand and ski tip to young skiers and adults. Her love for skiing reflects on her face as she mingles with skiers around the base lodge.
The Cochran base lodge reflects the long accomplished history of family ski racing. Racing bibs members of family members hang from the ceiling, covering walls and beams in the lodge. Barbara has 2 sisters and a brother that have raced in numerous World Cups and World Championships. Their father, Gordon “Mickey” Cochran, is a longtime accomplished ski coach. This small ski area is strongly recommended to give it a try as it still produces top level racers as well as recreational skiers.
Along the eastern boarder of Vt is another small area, Northeast Slopes in East Corinth, VT. It offers families a great day getaway when natural snow covers the state. This area offers families 360 feet of vertical drop on over 12 trails of gentle terrain serviced by 3 surface lifts. This, along with the Cochran Ski Area, are the smallest ski areas in Vermont operating today. Many other small areas have closed over the years. These were the key developmental areas for today’s skiers.
Still small in size are areas such as Bolton Valley, offering day and night skiing for all ability skiers serviced by several chairlifts including quads. A short drive from Burlington, the mountain offers slope side ski-in ski-out lodging and good restaurants.
Outside the quaint New England village of Woodstock, Vt is Suicide Six Ski Area celebrating its 80th anniversary in 2016. It is one of the oldest Vt ski areas. This area offers skiers 3 lifts, a 650 vertical foot drop on 24 trails. Suicide Six prides itself on the family friendly nature of its hospitality and terrain. The ski area is associated with the famed Woodstock Inn, known for classic Vermont charm and grommet food. The hotel has ski and stay packages including transportation to the mountain.
A short distance east of Woodstock is the Quechee Ski Area. This area is small in size but offers families great beginner terrain on the rolling hills and slopes surrounding beautiful Quechee golf course vistas.
Middlebury Snow Bowl is owned and operated by Middlebury College. Their skiers have a full range of skiing terrain. This area often hosts collegiate ski racing. The lodge offers wonderful home-cooked foods for breakfast and lunch. A rare find among all ski areas!
Heading south on Rt 100 just off Rt. 4 is Pico Ski Area owned by Killington. This is a totally separate ski area from Killington and for years skiers have been expecting the two areas to be connected. It has not happened; as the lengthy permit filings and the expense for connecting is still “a work in progress”. Pico, separated from Killington can be considered a major player in Vt skiing. It offers families great discounts with a big mountain feel! High speed detachable quad chairlifts connect and serve the summit. Pico’s double and triple chairs dot the mountain landscape spreading out the skiers, and racers. The mountain can be a true powder lovers location during weekdays for the lack of skiers. Often after a big natural snow dump, the hardcore Killington skier ventures to Pico for a powder joy that continues long after the larger mountain’s powder has been skied off.
Bromley, one of the oldest ski areas in Vermont also offer skiers a wide variety of skiing while offering bargain and special package lift tickets. Bromley is called the “Sun Mountain” as it has southern exposure and offers skiers a warm sun exposure on a bitter cold Vermont day. Bromley, because of this southern exposure becomes one of the state’s first ski areas to enjoy spring skiing in late winter. They have extensive snowmaking, modern ski lifts and a welcoming family atmosphere.
Magic Mountain was built in the 1960s with Swiss flare and ambiance. The charming chalets are reminiscent of the early owner-developer’s connection with Switzerland.
The mountain was closed for several years and reopened with new energy a few years ago. It offers skiers amazing powder and tree skiing during a good snow winter, also it’s a full operation ski resort serviced with chairlifts and snowmaking on limited trails. A good powder day at Magic will leave a skier with a memorable experience!
Often classified as a medium size ski area but considered by many hard core Vermont skiers as the Vermont’s most challenging is Mad River Glen. Located in central Vermont, it is bordered by one of the state’s largest ski areas, Sugarbush. Mad River for years has maintained the often quoted reputation of, “Ski It If You Can”! These bumper stickers are a cult-like reminder of its toughness! The mountain is serviced by a single seat chair lift. It also has a double chair servicing the peak. There’s really no boundaries within the ski area property. With winding trails dropping from the summit, skiers duck into their stash of glades. The Mad River skier is thought to be the skilled die-heart skier, able to manage any condition under foot. The mountain prides itself on being a skiers’ mountain. Snowboarding is not allowed. Most terrain is classified as advanced and expert with little snowmaking and grooming taking place. The mountain will test any skiers ability very quickly! Mad River Ski Area might be considered a mid-size mountain, but it really delivers a big mountain punch if you (are able to) ski it!
A trip to any of these small to mid-sized Vermont ski gems can be a memorable experience at reasonable pricing. The Green Mountain snow sports experience provides great Vermont food, nostalgia, ski instruction, and grooming during the winter months. Try the small to mid-sized areas, you will probably like it!
Happy skiing in the Green Mountain State!