This post is the start of something I’ve wanted to do since I started this blog. Skiing is my absolute favorite winter activity! I started skiing in my 20s, and I’m lucky enough to have skied a ton of mountains in a short period of time. This is the first of what I hope will be a series of posts by state or resort for the big mountains with my thoughts and rankings of all things skiing.
I’ve skied a lot of the major mountains in Vermont, some for only a day, some time and time again. I spend more time at the Southern mountains, so I have a lot more detail there. We’ve mostly stayed away from the smaller, family-friendly mountains (looking at you Pico and Bromley) because we are looking for bigger, harder terrain if we are driving that far. However, with a toddler now, that may change. Also, I’ve been to Mount Snow but wasn’t medically cleared to ski for the trip, so I’ll save my review for when I actually get some turns in.
As we ski more mountains or go back to others, I’ll be sure to update this post!
Disclosures: I’m in no way compensated for any of this (I wish someone would sponsor my ski trips). Opinions mine, rankings come from conversations with my husband (mostly) and some friends. Thoughts were accurate as of my last visit, which could be up to 5 years ago.
To keep things comparable, I’ve created loose criteria for rankings. All scores out of 5, 1 being the best and 5 being the worst. The lower the score, the better the mountain, in my opinion. The “All-Around” score is a weighted average with the on mountain scores counting double because at the end of the day, skiing is what matters! This criteria is completely subjective.
Terrain: How many trails/acreage do they have and how is it distributed across ability?
Uphill Capacity: What’s the lift situation like?
Snow: You can’t ski without it! This will compare snow-making and actual snowfall
Personal Experience: How did I, my husband, and our friends (where applicable) feel about it? Also, if I took a lesson here, I’ll try to note it.
Food and Beverage: Not everyone can survive on tall boys and PB&Js on the lift
Getting There: The thing I love and hate about ski resorts is how hard it can be to get there! For reference, I live in New Jersey, about 4-4.5 hours from Southern Vermont, and prefer flying from Newark.
Accommodations: what’s available, how much is it, and how far is it from the mountain?
Après ski: I’m combining both the post-day beers and the evening activities here for simplicity
Rest Day Activities: Not everyone wants to ski every day… In the northeast, we rarely take a rest day, so I’ll only be adding the score here for the big resorts.
The Vermont Score Box – The Lower the Better
|Food and Beverage||2||1||3||4||4||4|
|On Mountain Average||1.8||1.6||2.0||3.0||3.4||3.2|
|Rest Day Activities||2||n/a||n/a||n/a||n/a||n/a|
|Off Mountain Average||2.0||2.7||4.0||2.0||2.3||4.0|
|Daycare?||Y – 12 Weeks+||Y – 6 months+||Y – 2+||Y – 6 Weeks+||No||No|
Killington – All In Score: 1.9
1,509 skiable acres – 155 trails – 3,050 vertical drop
Killington is probably the best mountain in Vermont, maybe even in the Northeast. The mountain has several base areas, a ton of terrain, and something for everyone. The town has the most rocking Après scene in the east. The only downside to Killington is it’s a bit further North. Killington is generally on the Ikon pass.
On Mountain – 1.8
Terrain – 1: Killington has the best we’ve skied in the east. The Beast has it all. Steeps, bumps, trees, parks, a separate beginners area. Be careful though, my husband did blow out his ACL in the glades.
Uphill Capacity – 2: With 2 gondolas, and multiple high-speed quads, you can manage to ski with minimal lines if you know where to go. The main gondy line can get long, although the singles line tends to move.
Snow – 3: Killington has good snow-making and boasts the longest season in the east, but it’s a bit of a marketing scheme/novelty experience. In our experience, a lot of the mountain opens when there’s snow but might not necessarily have snow blown to stay open. It’s also an issue with some ski-in/ski-out places so check your listings closely.
Personal Experience – 1: Killington is one of our favorite mountains. The skiing is the best we’ve skied in the east. The on-and-off mountain scene is fantastic. I just wish it were an hour south of where it is or we lived an hour further north.
Food and Beverage – 2: Have I mentioned the bar scene? Killington has plenty of on-mountain dining options and some fun bars. It’s all basic bar or cafeteria food though.
Getting There – 3: At just shy of 5 hours from NYC, Killington is a little far. It’s juuuuuust on the edge of doable for a weekend for us pre-kid and is a no go these days for a weekend. It’s an easy drive and the roads are fine.
Accommodations – 2: There are plenty of rentals and hotels at the mountain and in town. You do have to decide when you want to drive through since the town and mountain are about 15 minutes apart. That said, we’ve always been able to get cabs/ride shares to get around.
Après ski – 1: honestly, the après scene and nightlife at Killington competes with the big mountains out west. The mountain itself has about 5 different bars across the various peaks. The town has a great dining and party scene. You haven’t been to Killington unless you hit Pickle Barrel and Wobbly Barn. They rock with live music and DJs until 2am all season.
Rest Day Activities – 2: While I’ve only done a no-ski day once at Killington, I know there’s a lot of options. There’s a very nice spa at the main hotel at the base of the mountain that includes pool/sauna access with any treatment (or at least they did when we went). There are a ton of breweries nearby and snowmobile outfitters as well.
Okemo – All-In Score: 2.0
667 skiable acres – 121 trails – 2,200 vertical drop
Okemo is my compromise mountain. It’s smaller than Killington, but comparable, and close enough to make a weekend so much more doable. The skiing is great, the on mountain experience is top notch, and the Loft is a Vermont classic. Ludlow is a little small, and you end up at the same 3 places every time you are there, but it’s good enough. Okemo is a Vail resort and thus is on the Epic pass.
Terrain – 2: Okemo has it all, albeit a little less of it all than Killington. The glades here are top notch, making this an epic mountain when there’s snow. Overall, the grooming is good, there incredible variety so there’s truly something for everyone here.
Uphill Capacity – 2: Two bubbles, several high speed quads, and fixed grips scattered throughout, Okemo keeps you skiing. The main bubble gets pretty crowded, especially when it’s cold. Our move is usually to lift up in the morning and avoid it until after 2pm.
Snow – 2: Okemo has excellent snowmaking, and in our experience, once they open, they keep everything open deep into the spring. Obviously, the glades are dependent on natural snow.
Personal Experience – 1: I’ve never had a bad time at Okemo, even when it’s been icy as all get out. It’s a really fun mountain and really does offer a bit of everything. They also have great lessons. I had a blast doing an early morning 2 hour one, though I don’t think they offer it any more.
Food and Beverage – 1: Okemo has the best on mountain dining scene in Vermont, in my honest opinion. In addition to the various options at the bases, there are several on mountain restaurants offering grab and go, BBQ, all kinds of options!
Getting There – 2: Further than Stratton but oh so worth that extra half hour.
Accommodations – 3: There’s a mix of rental properties and crappy ski hotels in Ludlow. We always find something and it never breaks the bank.
Après ski – 3: There is really only one option here: The Loft. To be fair, the Loft is AMAZING. Absolutely packed, incredible energy, and good bar food, if you can snag an eating space. But, it’s there or base bars which are low key and not that exciting. Ludlow has a few restaurants that are nice, a fun Irish bar, and a great cocktail bar. And that’s about it.
Rest Day Activities – no score: I’ve never taken a rest day at Okemo and honestly have no idea what’s in the area. I don’t think as much as Stratton or Killington.
Stowe – All In Score: 2.7
485 skiable acres – 116 trails – 2,360 vertical drop
Everything about this review of Stowe comes with the caveat we skied one day as part of a trip based out of Burlington. But that’s also part of the scoring. Stowe is far, and it’s EXPENSIVE. Even as an Epic pass holder (Vail acquired the mountain in 2017), we hesitate to go to Stowe given the sticker shock of accommodations and daycare. Stowe is a destination mountain and prices like something out west. And honestly, at that price, I’d rather jump on a plane.
Terrain – 2: The day we were at Stowe, it was ICY, even by East measures. Conditions on the fabled front four were scary, I stayed off of them. So I realize that colors this score. I think in better conditions, from what I know about Stowe, this is probably a 1, but given what we skied, it felt more of an intermediate mountain, and it was split up into 2 sections, which felt further apart than Killington or Okemo’s bases do.
Uphill Capacity – 1: I don’t think we waited in a lift line all day. We could have been lucky, but it was a holiday weekend so I actually think they have solid capacity.
Snow – 2: Like most northeast mountains, they have good snow making. Stowe also gets decent natural snow.
Personal Experience – 2: We had a great day at Stowe despite the ice. I’d definitely love to go back, staying ski-on ski-off because I’ve heard the parking/drive to the mountain in the morning is a disaster nowadays.
Food and Beverage – 3: There didn’t seem to be a ton of on mountain options beyond the two base areas. Looking at a map it looks like there might be some bars on the peaks? I don’t think they were there when we were.
Getting There – 5: Stowe is far. This is what makes it a destination mountain, but also why we don’t end up there often.
Accommodations – 4: We stayed in Burlington, about an hour away. It made for a fun weekend and we hit both Stowe and Sugarbush from there. Stowe has plenty of accommodations on the mountain and in town. But, it will cost you. That’s why we stayed in Burlington. Plus, it’s a fun little town.
Après ski – 3: There may be more options in town, but at the mountain, it seemed like just the base bars, which were fun but nothing special. The actual town of Stowe is super cute and has lots of options for dinner. No idea how the night life is. Again, I’d love to actually go back and spend a long weekend here.
Rest Day Activities – no score
Stratton – All In Score: 2
670 skiable acres – 99 trails – 2,003 vertical drop
Stratton is a classic. It has an alpine village at the base, which is lovely and makes it feel like a real “ski trip.” That said, it’s a smaller mountain (despite having a comparable “skiable acreage” as Okemo) and the gondola sometimes gets closed for wind, which leads to a disaster of a lift situation.
On Mountain – 3
Terrain – 4: Stratton is just not that big. Everything is groomed except on rare occasions. Runs tend to be easier, even the diamonds. There are some glades, but there aren’t a lot and they do tend to be tight.
Uphill Capacity – 3: Stratton has a gondola and 2 high speed quads. They still get slammed on weekends and lift lines can get intense. And, if the gondy can’t run due to wind, it’s a fairly miserable lift situation.
Snow – 2: Stratton has solid snow making so once they get open, most of the mountain stays open through the season.
Personal Experience – 2: I think of Stratton as a scaled down version of a great mountain. It really does offer everything, just not a lot of it. We always have a great time. It’s a really solid weekend mountain.
Food and Beverage – 4: There are not a lot of options on the mountain beyond the two base lodges and the mid-mountain lodge, which is easy to miss on the trail. You can always take a walk into the village for a longer lunch, but we tend to ski through and have a late lunch at the base at the end of our ski day.
Off Mountain – 2.7
Getting There – 1: We end up at Stratton a lot because it’s an easy drive from Jersey and we can make it in just over 4 hours. The roads are usually fine, although it can get dicey during storms and thaw season when the fog is nuts.
Accommodations – 2: Rentals are the way to go here, although the Black Bear hotel isn’t too bad. There’s plenty of ski in/ski out properties to rent and most of the housing off the mountain road is serviced by shuttles. The surrounding area offers cheaper rentals, but you will need to drive and park.
Après ski – 3: After skiing you have 2 choices: Grizzlies or Green Door Pub. Grizzlies is yuppie, GDP is a local legend. At night, the village offers lots of (pricey) dining options. If you are going out to drink, you are going to GDP. Honestly, this score would be way lower if GDP wasn’t so awesome. My husband feels it’s a bit of a dive, and also feels it’s important to mention it’s in the basement of Mulligans.
Rest Day Activities – no score: I’ve never taken a rest day at Stratton because the mountain just isn’t that big. I do think they have a spa. I know they have a Nordic center and offer lots of snow shoeing/cross country skiing options.
Magic – All In Score: 3.0
120 skiable acres – 50 trails – 1,500 vertical drop
Ok, there’s something special about Magic. This is a skiers mountain. It’s an experience. This mountain forces you to slow down and appreciate what you love about skiing. The mountain is stunning, it’s a truly beautiful place to be. The lift situation is a throw back, and keeps on mountain traffic down (the wait is worth it). The mountain remains independent.
Terrain – 3: I’m a fairly good skier, but Magic is a mountain for the real experts if you want to take advantage of the glades and lift line runs. My husband and his brothers had an absolute blast. So did I, but I am the kind of person who’s content doing the same run again and again. Magic just isn’t that big.
Uphill Capacity – 5: When we went, Magic was turning 2 fixed grip doubles. Yup. They did add a fixed grip quad this year (2022-2023 season), but don’t expect to make laps here.
Snow – 4: Magic has limited snow making and really puts their faith in Mother Nature. Skiing Magic on a powder day is a bucket list item of mine.
Personal Experience – 1: There’s a reason this mountain wins top mountain in the East on the regular. It’s an incredible experience.
Food and Beverage – 4: There’s one option: the base lodge and bar. It is a solid option though.
Getting There – 3: Southern Vermont, but a little off the beaten path. Magic’s about halfway between Stratton and Okemo, so it’s easy to hook on a day there with another mountain.
Accommodations – 2: Magic is close to plenty of housing options, and there are some cute villa looking hotels right at the base if you really want to go for it.
Après ski – 1: Black Line Tavern is fantastic. We didn’t want to leave!
Rest Day Activities – no score
Sugarbush- All In Score: 3.5
484 skiable acres – 111 trails – 2,600 vertical drop
This review gets the same caveat as the Stowe review. This was the other mountain we hit when we based out of Burlington for a weekend (about an hour away). Overall, Sugarbush was a fun mountain with some great technical skiing. It didn’t seem to have as much going on as some other mountains, but had lots of quintessential Vermont charm. Sugarbush is generally on the Ikon pass. In writing this review, it also looks like they’ve really made some investments since we were last there, which makes me want to go back and update once we do!
Terrain – 2: We had an absolute blast at Sugarbush. There was such a variety of terrain spread across the two mountains. Probably a little more tilted towards intermediate/expert skiers.
Uphill Capacity – 4: Sugarbush felt like a throwback mountain, with largely fixed grip lifts across the mountain. To get from one side to the other, there’s now a express quad, and it looks like they’ve added a few more express quads. So perhaps this has improved since we went.
Snow – 4: Again, when we were here, it was ICY. I’m not sure if that’s a standard for the mountain, but overall, I was left with an impression the snow making wasn’t as comprehensive here, making the mountain more reliant on natural snow, which in the East, can be a gamble.
Personal Experience – 2: We had such a fun day at Sugarbush! I definitely want to go back for a weekend. It felt like a great 2-3 day mountain and wasn’t as commercialized as Stowe or Stratton.
Food and Beverage – 4: This is another area that I think may have changed, but when we were there, it was base options and a handful of on mountain grab and go. Not bad, but not memorable.
Getting There – 5: Alas, the reason we haven’t been back is Sugarbush is just a touch too far for us to do on a weekend.
Accommodations – 4: There is a village and various hotels and condos nearby the resort.
Après ski – 3: The bar at the lodge was rocking for après. We had a great time!
Rest Day Activities – no score
That’s it, for now. Share your thoughts in the comments! Agree, disagree, think we need to just do the drive and go to Jay Peak already? Let me know! Next state, New York.