80 miles north of Montreal is the stylish crown jewel of the East carved into the Laurentian Mountains: the candy-colored town of Mont Tremblant is the closest you can get to skiing or riding the Alps without blowing your budget on an overseas flight. As Tremblant has grown — since its purchase by American Intrawest Resorts in 1991 — from minor ski area to world-class resort, it has kept its Euro-soul feel. What separates Mont Tremblant’s terrain from the rest is its two-sided layout (Nord/Sud). The north side (Nord) offers up steeps that challenges any resort, let alone East Coast resorts. Brag about crushing the off-piste cliffs and chutes at the raucous bars and clubs of the base village long into the Canadian night.
Whiteface Mountain Resort
Home of the 1980 Winter Olympics, the US Winter Olympic training facilities, and the Army’s 10th Mountain Division, Whiteface Mountain Resort is one of the highest peaks of the Adirondacks. The hike-only ‘Slides’ terrain is outstanding, and the view of Lake Champlain doesn’t get any better. Whiteface is the prime of cold, icy East Coast freezes, but when the conditions are good, it doesn’t get any better this side of Denver. Their four-terrain parks are serious caliber for freestylers and additional winter activities include bobsledding, snowshoeing, ice-skating, luge rides, and Olympic Center tours and activities. The nearby Lake Placid village offers up the best (save for Aspen) après in the US.
Surrounded by Maine’s Western Mountains in the heart of the Carrabassett Valley, Sugarloaf offers the only lift-serviced skiing above the tree line in the East. Atop Sugarloaf (Maine’s second highest peak at 4,237 ft.) sits their ‘Snowfields’ expert terrain, where the snow holds surprisingly well for steeply graded trails. Brackett Basin and Burnt Mountain contain Sugarloaf’s newest wooded area, part of a massive 655-acre terrain expansion that makes Sugarloaf the largest ski area east of the Rocky Mountains. Sugarloaf also has three different terrain parks for varying abilities, a unique jump park, and Superpipe.
Mad River Glen
Mad River Glen: ‘ ski it if you can.’ ‘The Glen’ is one of the old-style holdouts of yesteryear, with the nation’s last surviving single chairlift. The extensive trail system follows the contours of General Stark Mountain to a single base area. The Glen is also is one of the last bastions of natural snow skiing in New England. While it is home to the most challenging skiing in the East, bar none, it is nevertheless rather unbelievable that they are still holding out on the ‘No Snowboarding’ apartheid. If Aspen Mountain’s old-school ideals can change, so can yours!
At over 1500 acres, Killington – known as the ‘Beast of the East’ – is the largest resort in the eastern U.S. Its location in southern Vermont is accessible from NYC, but the prices are often not worthwhile. Diversity is the most appealing aspect of Killington, but is also where it lacks. The backcountry areas (Bear Mountain and the newly opened ‘Stash’ – a natural feature park) are ambitious efforts to provide technical terrain, but Killington lacks the snowfall to cover out-of-bounds acreage. The horizontal expansiveness is great at deterring high traffic areas but makes for an awkward layout. Like Vail, it has two base villages, but they are 15 miles apart. The terrain parks are some of the best in the East with over 130 features and differing personality and target audience.
Sugarbush, located in Northern Vermont’s Mad River Valley, is essentially a combination of Ellen, Castlerock, and Lincoln Peaks, making up over 4,000 acres. Mount Ellen is one of the hidden gems of the East with a laid back, casual feel. It boasts Vermont’s highest chair lift and has the best of Sugarbush’s three terrain parks. Sugarbush now offers a partnership season pass with neighboring resort Mad River Glen, similar to Vail’s Epic Colorado Pass. Stop by the Castlerock pub to rub shoulders with the locals and knock down a Vermont microbrew for a little liquid courage before heading into the 2,000-acre Slide Brook Basin backcountry area.
Stowe Mountain Resort
Stowe Mountain Resort is valiantly earning its reputation as the luxury Eastern resort. The area’s lift system includes a gondola to shuttle guests between Mount Mansfield, Vermont’s highest peak, and its ‘sister’ mountain, Spruce Peak. This inter-mountain transfer lift provides transportation to and from the slopes at the bases of Mount Mansfield and Spruce Peak – formally linking the two (an idea Western resorts should follow). The Poma, ten-person standing gondola, spans Vermont’s Route 108 and rivals that of Jackson’s standing gondola. Vast but not very steep (inbounds), Stowe is another resort more interested in a family vacation appeal, rather than the technical steeps of its Jay Peak competition.
Located in the heart of the Adirondacks, Gore Mountain is New York State’s largest ski and ride resort. With 109 trails, 15 lifts and an eight-passenger gondola, it’s tough to beat its size. While the expansive terrain keeps traffic light, it does leave something to be desired for experts (only 4% double black) and its terrain park is a bit more geared for kids and up-and-coming X-gamers. The resort village has great dining but not much nightlife for thrill seekers looking for a party after the lifts close.
East Coast powder skiing? Yes! Jay Peak’s annual snowfall rivals resorts in Colorado. Located in Vermont’s Green Mountains, Jay Peak is home to some of the East’s best terrain and conditions. While they’ve recently ditched their beloved old-school lifts for newer high speed quads, they’ve kept they true ski town attitude. Not much in the way of a terrain park, as they are a bit more interested in maintaining their steep-and-deep reputation. Head up early enough, and grad first tracks in the glades in Tuckerman’s Chute and you’ll swear you’re in Steamboat.
Smuggler’s Notch is known for its family-friendly appeal, but the ‘Smuggs’ is often underrated for its challenging terrain. The steeps and glades under the Madonna 1 Lift line are some of the best double black runs in the East. Parents and kids love the easier but still super fun Morse side of the mountain. While the lifts are a bit slower and very dated, the Sterling side of the mountain is a healthy mix of intermediate terrain that offers something for everyone. What they lack in nightlife and dining they more than make up for in Northern Vermont hospitality.
By Derek Doyle
Derek Doyle was born in Aspen, CO. After starting his career as a pro skier, he lived abroad in London, UK and Palma, Majorca. After graduating from City University of New York, he now resides as a writer in the counterculture of the music and art scene of New York City.
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