Road Trip Vermont: The Epic Mountains of the East Are Closer Than You Think

This trip wasn’t supposed to happen. But when our annual ski trip to BC was cancelled due to poor conditions last February we opted for Vermont, then in the midst of its snowiest winter in years. For me the timing was less than ideal—I was just getting over a bout of flu and the thought of food other than applesauce was repugnant. But I was well enough to travel and this was my first-ever chance to ski Vermont; so with a cooler of safe foodstuffs and my backcountry gear, I piled into a truck with three buddies and made for the border. Destination: the mountain resorts of Killington and Stowe.

 

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Photo courtesy Killington.

 

By Edward Taylor

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We had discussed flying, but our buddy’s truck was comfortable and more than big enough for all our gear. And when you factor in the parking, lineups, and delays attached to flying, the potential for hassles is major. Though the drive from southern Ontario to the mountains of central Vermont isn’t short—it isn’t painfully long, either. You can do it without stopping to stay overnight.

 

 

Our first stop is Killington Resort, where we stay in a condo about a five-minute drive from the Ramshead Quad. Though we don’t have fresh powder, the base is huge, and it snowed about four days ago. With a bit of legwork we’re able to find freshies in the Anarchy and Stairs glades and elsewhere.

Killington is an untypical resort—it’s an industry forerunner in sustainability and boasts the K-1 Express Gondola and new Peak Lodge, both powered solely by manure (ie, methane) from local dairy farms. In a business that can’t generally boast about its small carbon footprint, Killington stands out.

 

Photo courtesy Killington.
Photo courtesy Killington.

 

In our three days here, we can’t hope to cover all the skiing on offer. The locals are extra-friendly and proud to show us their mountain playground. You come to The Beast of the East for snowsports; there isn’t much in the way of other distractions like big nightclubs, supermarkets or chain stores. This suits us well.

Our next stop is Stowe Mountain Resort, about an hour and a half north on Highway 89.

 

 

With the same base-heavy but powder-light conditions, we head straight off Bypass and into the well-spaced Nose Dive glades, which are not quite skied out, and then hike over to skier’s left of Chin Cup. Here, after cautiously funnelling through some nasty chutes and cliff bands, we find pristine and deep glades of silver birch and hemlock that eventually lead us down to Smuggler’s Notch Pass, a mountain road (closed in winter) cut between Mount Mansfield and Spruce Peak. (Not far up this road is the equally epic Smugglers’ Notch Resort.)

 

Photo courtesy Stowe.
Smuggler’s Notch Pass. Photo courtesy Stowe.

 

As we hike back out to the main gondola along this hushed, snowed-in road, forested slopes rising steeply on either side, it feels like a perfectly remote eastern North American mountain experience. But 20 minutes later, we’re back in the epicentre of Gondola Base, ready to do it all over again.

 

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Photo courtesy Stowe.

 

We stay in Stowe Mountain Lodge, spitting distance from the Over Easy Transfer Gondola. This calibre of ski-in-ski-out accommodation is scarcely to be believed, and every member of our group has his own palatial room. We feel like crown princes in the centre of a benevolent civilization dedicated to snowsports. We never want to leave.

And as a cure for flu, the Vermont Ski Trip isn’t medically proven—but it sure worked for me.