Ski the East
Although the East is where the ski industry in the United States got its start in the 1920s and ‘30s,
much of the big noise in the industry in the recent past has centered in the west, particularly on acquisitions by Vail Resorts. Even more recently, it seems that the west has moved east.
In mid-summer 2017 Vail Mountain Resorts acquired one of Vermont’s biggest and most prestigious ski areas, Stowe Mountain Resort (www.stowe.com) on Mount Mansfield, Vermont’s highest peak. Well known for its resorts at Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Keystone in Colorado as well as Park City in Utah and other resorts in California, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, Wisconsin and British Columbia in Canada, Vail’s acquisition of Stowe marked its first move into eastern skiing.
Skiing started at Stowe 1934, making it one of the country’s earliest ski mountains. Stowe has a respectable vertical drop of 2,360 feet with northeast-facing slopes. That tends to hold a lot of the 314 inches of snow that it gets in an average year. Stowe’s 116 trails cover a total of about 40 miles of which more than half are ranked intermediate, 29 percent are expert and the balance beginner. Stowe’s facilities are located on both sides of Route 108, with ski terrain on both Mount Mansfield and Spruce Peak.
An advantage to Stowe is its attractive village with shopping, lodging and dining options. The resort has recently built a large lodging, dining and activities facility at the mountain. Stowe’s opening day for 2020 is November 20th. Face masks and social distancing are required. All transactions are cashless, and the number of people on the mountain will be managed by a reservation-only access.
There are options, such as the contemporary Topnotch Resort (www.topnotchresort.com) within a few minutes of the mountain offering luxury guest rooms, dining and a spa in a more intimate atmosphere than the ski area.
Okemo Mountain Resort (www.okemo.com) is located in the south-central part of the state at Ludlow. It’s one of the most popular ski areas in New England because of its superb terrain on three mountains and its easy access for skiers from New England, New York and the northeast corridor. Okemo is particularly popular for outstanding snow-making and grooming. While the mountain receives an average of 200 inches of snow, Okemo has invested heavily in high grade snow making, a factor that lets guests keep going when fickle weather slows other areas. The highest vertical at Okemo is 2,200 feet, with territory in five different alpine areas. The resort also spreads out skiers very well over 121 trails of which just under a third are beginner, 28 percent are intermediate and 31 percent expert. Okemo is a full-service resort with slope-side hotels, condos and several dining options.
Vermont has strict quarantine restrictions and offers guidance for travelers at: www.healthvermont.gov/response/coronavirus-covid-19/traveling-vermont
In 2017, Vail Resorts also acquired Mount Sunapee Resort (www.mountsunapee.com) in the village of Sunapee, in the south-central part of the state. Mount Sunapee is located in a State Park, and was operated by the state until the operators of the Okemo Resort acquired a long term lease of the ski area in 1998, making vast improvements to snowmaking and operations. Just over 100 miles from Boston, it is the closest big ski area to the city and the New England coast, accessed by Interstates I-93 and I-89. Sunapee’s trails lie on three slopes of the mountain and they provide a vertical drop of 1,510 feet on 66 trails, with a breakdown of 17 beginner, 32 intermediate and 17 expert trails, making it popular with families. Mount Sunapee does not have on-slope housing or hotels, so lodging must be in neighboring areas (www.mountsunapee.com/your-stay/hotels-motels).
Boyne Resorts feature some of North America’s biggest and best snowsports destinations, including Loon Mountain Resort (www.loonmtn.com) located in Lincoln, New Hampshire. This year, they plan to operate all lifts, including the Gondola, as snow and conditions permit.
Facial coverings will be mandatory while in lift queues, loading, riding, and unloading all lifts. Loon is a year-round, full service resort with slope-side lodging and dining, located in a small community with many other lodging and dining options. Loon is a good destination for intermediate skiers with 60 percent of its trails graded for that skill level. The remaining 40 percent are evenly divided between expert and novice. The ski area covers three mountain peaks with the greatest vertical being 2,100 feet.
Another major ski area in New Hampshire’s White Mountains is Bretton Woods Resort (www.brettonwoods.com), deep in the White Mountain National Forest. In terms of area, Bretton Woods is the largest in the state with 97 trails and glades on 464 acres. The trails lean heavily to the advanced-to-expert skier with 49 percent classified for those levels, 23 percent beginner and 28 percent classed as intermediate. For 2020/2021, Bretton Woods is optimistic that the season will provide opportunities to enjoy winter sports once again. Their plan is to begin their award-winning snowmaking in early November, with the goal of opening the alpine ski area for Thanksgiving.
Once open, this major, top level, ski area in a remote location offers lodging and dining on site and nearby. The major venue is the Omni Mount Washington Resort, which includes the grand hotel, the Omni Bretton Arms Inn and The Town Homes condo rentals (www.omnihotels.com/hotels/bretton-woods-mount-washington). Another grand-hotel option is the Mountain View Grand Resort and Spa in Whitefield, about 12 miles away; more hotels and inns are in Jackson (28 miles) and North Conway (34 miles) (www.mtwashingtonvalley.org).
New Hampshire requires a quarantine period of 14-days for travelers from anywhere other than New England states; Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island. Those traveling from non-New England states are asked to self-quarantine for a two-week period. More New Hampshire Covid-19 informtion can be found at: www.covidguidance.nh.gov/out-state-visitors