Sugarbush ski resort offers one of the premier ski experiences on the East Coast. Nestled in the picturesque Mad River Valley of Northern Vermont, Sugarbush is only a 3 hour drive from Boston and 5.5 hours from New York, but feels like a world away.
Sugarbush may not be the biggest, the tallest, or snowiest ski resort in the East, but it may just be the best. From lifts to terrain to ambiance, Sugarbush delivers an across-the-board experience that is difficult to match in New England. Long views from two of Vermont's highest peaks across the majestic Mad River Valley compliment Sugarbush's consistently top notch snow conditions.
When it opened, Sugarbush earned the nickname "Mascara Mountain" because it attracted so many movie stars and celebrities. Drawn by the ski area's well-earned reputation for consistent snow and first class terrain, the Northeast's social elite (including the Kennedy family) frequented the resort. Sugarbush even went out and attracted a celebrity to run its ski school, hiring the legendary Stein Erickson to found its ski school in the 1960s.
While the crowd may have changed a little since the resort's first golden age in the 1960s, the skiing has not. With over 53 miles of trails spread across 2,600 vertical feet on peaks that top out at over 4,000 feet, Sugarbush is big time skiing. 250" of snowfall blanket Sugarbush's outstanding mix of rugged advanced terrain and well-groomed trails each year, making it easy to see why so many people fall in love with this charming Vermont resort. And speaking of golden ages, it's plain to see Sugarbush is in the midst of a renaissance of sorts as owner Win Smith continues to reinvigorate the resort with new lifts and an exciting new base village at Lincoln Peak. Sugarbush's village is highlighted by the new Claybrook hotel, one of the best ski in/ski out hotels in New England.
The ski area is actually comprised of two entirely separate ski complexes - Mount Ellen and Lincoln Peak. The two areas are connected by the world's fastest express chairlift (the Slide Brook Express Quad) and by a shuttle bus from each parking lot.
Both Mount Ellen and Lincoln Peak provide skiing for all ability levels, but Lincoln Peak, the larger of the two areas by acreage, is considered by most to be the "main" base area and is home to Sugarbush's new Claybrook base village and the legendary expert-only "Castlerock" area. Mount Ellen, however, is actually the taller of the two mountains and offers 2600' of vertical drop compared to Lincoln Peak's 2400'.
The highlight of any advanced skier's visit to Sugarbush is Castlerock, an advanced skier's paradise with no snowmaking or grooming. Skiing Castlerock is like taking a step back in time to an era when skiing was more primitive and natural. Or put differently, Castlerock offers a taste of the experience at neighboring Mad River Glen without forcing a guest to commit to an entirely throw back experience. Sugarbush has taken special care to preserve the character of this special section of the resort, even going so far as to replace Castlerock's aging double chair with a new double chair that had the exact same uphill capacity. Modern technology permitted a quicker ride, but Sugarbush decided to space the chairs farther apart to ensure that the terrain receives the same number of skiers as it did prior to the replacement. That type of attention to detail is the hallmark of the Sugarbush experience.
Intermediate skiers will find Sugarbush offers a great variety of terrain on both Lincoln Peak and Mount Ellen. Intermediates can take the Jester trail from the top of Lincoln Peak or the Rim Run trail from the top of Mountain Ellen to ski the full vertical drop of each mountain. The views from the top are simply stunning and well worth the trek for solid blue skiers. Intermediates can expect each run to take at least 10-15 minutes. Another great blue square option is the Birch Run off the Lynx Triple at Lincoln Peak. Birch run is a groomed slope sprinkled with trees that offers high speed turns in the morning sunshine.
Beginner skiers won't be able to get to the top of either Lincoln Peak or Mount Ellen, but should be sure to take the Green Mountain Express to the Glen House for a fantastic on-mountain lunch. The views and the food are fantastic and the Northway trail is a great novice cruiser on the way back down.
Updated Winter 2014-15 - David B. Cronheim