By Chris Mays
For James Hadley, getting ready for ski season is mostly about mental preparation. As the weather turns, a flurry of thoughts of snow and the local slopes come to him.
“It’s on my mind daily to say the least,” he said with two days left to September. “The anticipation.”
Even though he gets out almost daily in the winter, about 125 days a year, he tends to forget things. That’s why he does “a dry run” in October. He gets his clothing, boots and skis out as if he were really going to hit the hills.
“So when I do go, I don’t waste any time,” he said. “Off I tootle.”
Living within 10 miles of the resort, Hadley spends most of his time at Mount Snow. But he gets a mid-week pass for Mad River Glen and a spring pass for Killington. And he usually gets to Killington the first weekend the resort opens.
For those who want to improve their skiing chops, Hadley suggests committing some time the sport.
“Continuity is really good for developing your skiing, even if you’re not really learning or taking lessons,” he said. “Because if you’re paying attention to your skiing, you will progress just because you’re going a lot. Even if you don’t notice, your body will get sick of doing the wrong things and intuitively do the right things.”
Hadley also advises skiers to try out the conditions before writing them off. He has many times looked at a day as questionable but found it to be as good as any other.
“Any ski area with an enclosed chair pretty much eradicates any weather problems,” he said.
Vermont gets an average of about 4 million skiers and riders a year, said Sarah Wojcik, director of marketing and communications at Ski Vermont. Her group, also known as Vermont Ski Areas Association, was founded in 1969 to help the ski industry.
Wojcik said the visits are “pretty evenly split” between the southern, northern and central parts of the state. Southern Vermont is considered to include resorts like Bromley Mountain, Magic Mountain, Mount Snow and Stratton Mountain Resort.
“We call ourselves a medium-sized resort,” said Janessa Purney, marketing director at Bromley Mountain. “We face south. We’re known as the Sun Mountain because of that southern exposure. We don’t get that end-of-day shadow or chill some of the other mountains get.”
For its snowmaking technology, Bromley just received an award from Efficiency Vermont for project of the year. The resort also recently put a new roof on its base lodge.
Bromley touts its kids program in its Snowsports School. Private and group lessons are available. The resort also has live music every Saturday in the winter and every day during holiday periods. Fun spring events include a pond skim and a box car derby.
“While we certainly don’t boast the highest vertical in the state, our 1,300 feet of vertical drop does have a great mix of beginner, intermediate and advanced terrain,” Purney said, making note of the mountain’s “beautiful gladed tree trails.”
Magic is going for a “throwback feel,” said Geoff Hatheway, president of Ski Magic LLC. His group took over the mountain about a year ago. While still offering the same terrain width and steepness that has been around since the early 1960s, work is being done to offer more terrain for beginners. A mid-mountain chairlift is being added along with a magic carpet. Also, investments are being made in snowmaking and grooming. The idea is to go from snowmaking on 20 to 25 percent of the trails to 50 percent.
Friendliness can be found at the Blackline Tavern. Plus, lots of bands and activities are scheduled at Magic throughout the year.
“We’re a place where people will show you where all the goods are if you’ve never been here before,” Hatheway said. “The vibe here is definitely pretty relaxed. We’re pretty bare bone in terms of it’s really about skiing and riding. People can snowshoe and go uphill on their own.”
Mount Snow now has claim to the “most powerful” snowmaking system in the Northeast. Recent upgrades allow the resort to open more trails faster in the beginning of the season. Recovering from melt or rain will occur much faster, making vacation planning a less worrisome process.
Many of Mount Snow’s guests come to ski or ride Carinthia, the face dedicated completely to terrain parks with jumps and rails for tricks. Present and future Olympians have used the features for training. Other athletes prepare there for local, regional and national competitions.
“It’s consistently one of the top five parks in the East and one of the top 10 parks in North America,” said Jamie Storrs, communications manager at Mount Snow.
Carinthia was created nine years ago. Storrs calls it the resort’s “commitment to making a world-class terrain park.”
Last summer saw some more investment at Mount Snow, as crews broke ground on a new $22 million base lodge at Carinthia. The facility, which will be larger than the existing lodge with more amenities, will open in the 2018-2019 season.
For those who like a good adrenaline rush but want to stay on the ground, have no fear. The North Face is geared toward advanced skiing, with trees and black diamond trails.
But beginner and intermediate trails comprise 87 percent of the mountain.
“We’re a very family-friendly mountain and a great place to learn,” Storrs said. “We have a lot of people bringing their kids here to learn how to ski because they also learned how to ski here.”
Most weekends have some activity or event planned.
“We have an award-winning event calendar that provides fun for the family throughout the entire season that we really pride ourselves on,” said Storrs.
Lots of guests at Stratton gravitate toward the village, where a dozen shops and restaurants are located. Evening entertainment also is held there.
“You really don’t need a car,” said Myra Foster, senior manager of marketing and communications at Stratton. “You can choose from a variety of accommodations, a convenient hotel or spacious condominium. Everything you love about the mountains is right outside your door.”
Stratton has fast lifts and guarantees snow. Snowmaking reaches 95 percent of the mountain. The resort is known for its “great grooming” and having a variety of terrain for all abilities, Foster said. After skiing or riding, guests enjoy dog sledding, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, swimming or hanging out in a hot tub.
As a snowboarder, Foster loves the gondola. “It’s so much easier to disembark from a gondola than it is a chairlift,” she said. Up top is the highest peak in southern Vermont.
Big name artists also perform at the resort.
This year brought a new groomer and a few dozen more snowmaking guns to the resort. And Stratton has a new owner now in Intrawest. It joins a family with Mammoth Mountain, Squaw Valley Ski Resort and Deer Valley.
Here’s to a snowy winter.
Need to know…
Bromley Mountain Ski Resort
3984 Vermont Route 11, Peru, Vt.
Full-day tickets range from $56 to $79
Information: 802-824-5522 or bromley.com
Magic Mountain Ski Area
495 Magic Mountain Access, Londonderry, Vt.
Trails: 43, but a lot of the glades are not on the map
Full-day tickets range from $51 to $69
Information: 802-824-5645 or magicmtn.com
Stratton Mountain Resort
5 Village Lodge Road, Stratton, Vt.
Full-day tickets range from $90 to $115.
Information: 1-800-STRATTON (787-2886) or stratton.com
39 Mount Snow Road, West Dover, Vt.
Prices run from $12 to $100 depending on when tickets are purchased
Information: 1-800-245-SNOW or mountsnow.com
Chris Mays lives in West Dover and has been writing for the Brattleboro Reformer for five years. He spends his free time playing guitar, biking, snowboarding and hanging out with his Yorkie.