Best East Coast Ski Resorts
East Coast skiing typically gets written off in favor of western mountains with bigger vertical and deeper powder. But this season, with Colorado and Utah suffering from a relative snow drought, the resorts dotting New England, upstate New York, and even Quebec look more appealing than ever. Thanks to an arctic cold snap (that’s thankfully over) and a handful of storms, there’s fresh snow blanketing authentic ski towns from Lake Placid to Maine. Read on for nine that are worthy of your turns this winter.
The big news this season is that Vail Resorts purchased Stowe, making it the Colorado ski corporation's first East Coast property. Yet aside from joining the Epic Pass (a lift ticket good at all 14 of Vail's North American mountains), the Vermont resort still feels every bit the New England classic that's been courting locals and well-healed vacationers for more than half a century. Skiing here feels timeless, with 116 winding, narrow trails spilling down two summits, from the steeps of Nosedive and The Goat on the face of craggy Mt. Mansfield (the lumpy state's highest point) to the intermediate cruisers lining Spruce Peak. In fact, the biggest change happened a decade ago when the Stowe Mountain Lodge—a 300-room stone and timber luxury hotel with an outdoor pool, kid-friendly spa, and ski valets—became the resort's first ski-in/ski-out property. It was later joined by a new day lodge, ice rink, condos, and boutique shopping. But to cloister yourself in all this convenience would be to miss out on the Stowe experience, namely a quintessential Vermont town (think white church steeple, plenty of covered bridges) just seven miles south of Mt. Mansfield. Head down for an afternoon stroll along Main Street, followed by a farm-to-table dinner at the Austrian-inspired Trapp Family Lodge (they of The Sound of Music fame) and crisp lagers in the on-site craft brewery.
Whiteface, New York
Infamously known as "Iceface," New York's Whiteface gets maligned as an experts-only mountain with harsh weather and harsher terrain. But that's some dated shade. Sure, this is home to both the longest vertical drop in the East and the steep ski trails of the 1980 Winter Olympics, but it's also blessed with undulating beginner and intermediate slopes (check out the meandering, two-mile Wilmington Trail), a revamped snow-making system, and a toasty gondola—ideal on blustery days—that'll whisk you to the top of one of three summits (pause to soak in those endless views of the Adirondack High Peaks). Early-risers are rewarded with First Tracks, a free weekend program that's limited to 14 participants and gets you one guided top-to-bottom run down an empty mountain. Experts might want to save their legs for a hike to the Slides, backcountry chutes punctuated by cliffs and even a frozen waterfall. With its authentic mix of rustic lodging and honkey tonk charm (think diners and dive bars), nearby Lake Placid defies the cookie cutter blandness of more resort-y ski towns. Treat yourself to a luxe room or private cabin at the iconic and taxidermy-studded Lake Placid Lodge, where evenings are capped toasting s'mores and indulging in artisanal fare, and you're never more than a few feet from a crackling fieldstone fireplace.
Bretton Woods, New Hampshire
Though its unobstructed views of Mount Washington and the rest of New Hampshire's Presidential Range make Bretton Woods feel rugged, the resort's skiing is anything but intimidating. The mountain's 62, mostly gentle cruisers are ideal for a stress-free family day on the slopes, while glades and terrain parks offer escapes for anyone in your party who feels like kicking things up a notch. Over 60 miles of groomed cross-country trails are perfect for a day off the slopes, or there's guided excursions to the top of Mt. Washington's 6,288 ft. summit and—for serious skiers—backcountry tours of Tuckerman Ravine's 60-degree chutes. Part of the pleasure of Bretton Woods is staying at the 116-year old Mount Washington Resort, a 200-room Spanish Renaissance grand hotel replete with a 25,000-square-foot spa, heated outdoor pool, and barrel-vaulted prohibition-era speakeasy.
Founded in the 1950s by the aptly named Amos Winter, Maine's Sugarloaf mixes an unfussy New England vibe with the sprawling West Coast scale of a mountain you're more likely to find in Colorado. Downeasters come here to rack up big vertical, carve down long, fall-line groomers, and poach powder along the summit's iconic snowfields—wide open, high alpine terrain offering the only above-treeline skiing east of the Rockies. New for this season is catskiing on Burnt Mountain. By booking a seat on one of two twelve-passenger snowcats, skiers and snowboarders will be shuttled to the top of the resort's eastern boundary, where they'll be given free reign to over 100 acres of glades, chutes, and cliffs that was previously only accessible by hiking. Located within steps of the lifts, the red brick Sugarloaf Mountain Hotel features recently renovated restaurant 45 North (reclaimed wood, locally sourced mussels and halibut) and a new 30-person hot tub that's either the best or creepiest spot for après-ski depending on how your tastes run.
Mont Tremblant, Quebec
Tucked within the frozen folds of Canada's Laurentian Mountains, Mont Tremblant embodies the charming incongruity of the Quebecois ski vacation. On one hand you've got the folksy, backwoods staples of dogsledding, dive bars with moose heads, and plenty of poutine (that's fries drenched in gravy and cheese curds, to the uninitiated), on the other you've got the sophistication of a vibrant European-style village, replete with colorful tin roofs, luxury hotels, and French being spoken, well, everywhere. The skiing feels just as varied, with a mix of steeps, gentle rollers, and tree runs spread over a multifaceted mountain—there are four sides here, start on the north for the best snow and end on the sunny or "soleil" section to thaw out under afternoon rays—that's all serviced by a modern network of high-speed lifts. Days kickoff with crepes to go as you clomp your way down pedestrian streets to the lifts, and are capped—some 12 hours later—by gooey raclette at La Savoie, with plenty of spirited après-ski in between (check out P'tit Caribou, where the ridiculously affordable happy hour inspires much debauchery). Lodges and condos abound, but we love the Hôtel Quintessence, whose 30 suites have fireplaces, deep soak tubs, and a heated infinity pool overlooking Tremblant's icy lake.
Mad River Glen, Vermont
Chances are you've seen the red and white bumper sticker: Mad River Glen Ski It If You Can. It sounds like a taunt, but it's more of an invitation. For over 70 years, the fanatic regulars of this no frills Vermont resort have been both its greatest evangelists and fiercest protectors. This is, after all, where the soul of New England skiing resides. You'll find it along 45 narrow, mostly ungroomed trails; in the deep, wind-deposited powder of the tight and gnarled glades; or maybe during a ride up the trestle towered single chair. The last of its kind in the country, the iconic chairlift defines the Mad River experience—a 12-minute ascent that offers a rare moment of solitude and introspection, where the only sound is the wind whistling through the stunted, iced over pines, the rhythm of your own breath, and the hoots of gleeful skiers passing underneath you. Founded by a group of New York investors (including a few Rockefellers), Mad River hasn't changed much since its inception: there's no snowboarding, no snowmaking, and the crowd is a mix of old money (though their jackets are trimmed with duct tape rather than fur) and ardent Vermonters, many of whom belong to the co-op that owns the place. Want to get in good with the board? You're sure to find a few at the General Starks Pub & Grill, where you can grab a pint of Magic Hat's Single Chair Ale and watch skiers work their way down some of the steepest and bumpiest terrain in the country.
Hunter Mountain, New York
Hunter Mountain's location has always trumped its terrain. A two-and-a-half hour drive from New York City, the Catskill resort is the closest "big"—we use that word lightly—mountain skiing to the Big Apple. Still, any place that serves up 1,600 feet of vertical down intermediate to advanced corduroy groomers and is within an easy day trip of our office is enticing enough for us. Beginners will love the Discovery Program, three-days of lessons that include lift tickets and equipment rentals for $139. But we're more excited about Scribner's Catskill Lodge, a kitschy 1966 relic that's been elegantly revamped by a Soho House alum. Much like Surf Lodge first catered to Montauk's influx of hipsters a decade ago, Scribner's is sure to be a hit with bohemian Brooklynites who've taken a shine to the Hudson Valley and Catskills. The 38 rooms exude a clean, midcentury modern aesthetic (white walls, custom furniture) meets cozy mountain retreat (wood stoves, mahogany floors), while the property's Prospect Restaurant and Bar is the perfect place to split a Savoyarde fondue while gazing out of the floor to ceiling windows at the slopes of Hunter rising across the street.
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Cannon Mountain, New Hampshire
New Hampshire’s Cannon Mountain sits at the top of Franconia Notch, a valley as narrow and vertiginous as a Norwegian fjord. The skiing is equally dramatic. Board the 70-passenger aerial tramway to the 4,000 foot summit, take in sweeping views of the White Mountains (whose exposed peaks and ridges shimmer on piercing bluebird days), then plunge down 2,000 feet of unbroken vertical. With steep, no nonsense trails like Zoomer and Avalanche, it’s no wonder Olympic ski racing champ Bode Miller grew up here, but you’ll find plenty of mellow terrain, too. Traverse over to the recently revamped Mittersill, a once defunct ski area that now serves up an additional 100 acres of groomed trails and winding glades. There’s little in the way of lodging at this state-owned resort, but the nearby Sugar Hill Inn is a renovated bed and breakfast with modern rooms. For those who don’t mind a 30-minute drive, the Mountain View Grand Resort & Spa is a Colonial Revival hotel sitting on 400 acres of pristine land.
Jay Peak, Vermont
Located four miles south of the Canadian border, Vermont's Jay Peak is in a sweet spot for snow. Northwest winds hit the isolated mountain, rise up its flanks and form clouds that tend to dump big payloads—as much as 400 inches in a single season. Plentiful powder days coupled with a resort that prides itself on a backcountry ethos (steep summit chutes, 100 acres of glades) long made Jay popular among storm-chasing ski bums who bunked up in budget accommodations and banged out top-to-bottom laps via the resort's 60-person aerial tramway (one of only two in the East). But in recent years, these diehards have had to make room for a new breed of Jay devotee: families. Thanks to a $350 million resort expansion, Jay's once dated base area now has three hotels (stay at the slopeside Tramhaus Lodge, where suites come with fireplaces and Johnson Woolen Mill blankets), a sprawling indoor waterpark, a rock climbing gym, and a 142-seat cinema draught house, where you can throwback local craft beers while watching throwback classics like the Godfather. Powder fans needn't worry though; an added benefit of all these new amenities is that the slopes remain blissfully uncrowded, even during a snowstorm.
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