The Perfect Ski Getaway

By Ben Hewitt | Boston Magazine |

In the pit of winter, when even normally cheery folks are consulting survival guides (See Winter Fun) just to make it through one more day of frigid misery, ski junkies are positively in their prime. For them, the concern isn’t how to cope with the snow so much as it is how to make the most of it before mud season kicks in and ruins it all. To that end, we dispatched our experts to sniff out the ingredients for the ultimate weekend on the New England slopes. One is the K2 Burnin’ Luv skis shown here; for more tips, check out the links on the right.

 

The Choicest State
(Here’s a hint: It’s not Rhode Island.)

[sidebar]Although it is entirely possible to experience the elemental joy that comes from zooming down a mountain on a pair of glorified sticks in Maine, New Hampshire, or Massachusetts, none of these noble destinations offers the sheer breadth of Vermont’s terrain. Compared with its neighbors, the Green Mountain State simply reigns supreme in all matters relating to slopes and snow. (Yes—all of them.) From the craggy 3,968-foot summit of Jay Peak, to the winding historic trails of Stowe and Mad River Glen, to the expansive dome of Mount Snow, Vermont delivers the finest skiing and riding east of the Rockies, hands down. It’s a bold statement, which also happens to be the truth. Just ask any self–respecting Vermont powder hound. A tad biased? Perhaps. Wrong? Most decidedly not. .

On her: Orage Maria jacket, $240; Killy Emerald ski pants, $299; Smith Heiress goggles, $110; Swany Toaster glove-mitten hybrid, $60; Bern Baker helmet with removable cotton-acrylic liner, $100; Nordica Olympia Sport ski boots, $550; K2 Burnin’ Luv all-mountain women’s skis with M1 11.0 bindings, $1,100; and women’s 4 Karat ski poles, $75. – Photo by Jörg Meyer

The Coolest Gear
Because not even bank robbers look good in ski masks.

Clued-in snow bunnies don’t waste time hopping around from store to store. Instead they head to Ski Market, a one-stop shop for the slopeward bound, for waterproof jackets and layering pieces in the latest high-tech fabrics; superinsulated gloves and socks; and snow boots that easily translate from mountain to lodge and back. Unless you’re solely about the après, you may need some skis, too. Not to worry: Unlike at most megastores, the staffers here really know their stuff, and will make sure you get the right pair. -Rachel Baker

860 Commonwealth Ave., Boston, 617-731-6100, skimarket.com.

On him (above): Mountain Hardwear Conduit soft-shell jacket, $190; Killy Berlioz fleece under-layer, $149; Smith Hustle helmet, $120; Smith I/O goggles, $160; Gordini Vector Gore-Tex gloves, $94.50; Marker Celsius pants, $289; K2 Apache Xplorer all-mountain skis with MX 14.0 bindings, $1,300; and K2 5 Speed ski poles, $100. - Photo by Jörg Meyer

The Ultimate Wheels
Getting there is half the battle.  

The slopes are at their best when the roads are at their worst, so you’ll need a car that will keep you from sliding around on icy blacktop on your trek north. The Audi A6 Avant Wagon ($53,310) is Old Reliable. Audi’s proprietary Quattro all-wheel-drive system has long been the pick of discerning snow-sport enthusiasts, delivering catlike agility over snow-strewn roads. Better yet: The A6 Avant got an overhaul for ’09 and now churns out a whopping 300 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque, giving you the best shot you’ve had at first tracks since that night you got locked in the base-lodge bathroom.-Ben Hewitt

Audi of Brookline, 308 Boylston St., Brookline, 888-242-0315; audiusa.com.

The Best Runs
Mellow or monster? Bunny or steep? Six Vermont trails to satisfy any proclivity.

By Ben Hewitt

OUTER LIMITS, KILLINGTON (EXPERTS ONLY)
There are two types of skiers- in this world: those who loathe moguls, and those who can’t get enough of them. If you count yourself among the latter, aim your tips down the humpbacked throat of Outer Limits, the finest bump run in the state, bar none. There are a handful of chosen lines on OL; we’re partial to the one that runs far skier’s right and gets less traffic than the rest of the hill. Maybe that’s because it’s littered with rocks and drops. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

802-422-6200, killington.com.

TUCKERMAN’S CHUTE, JAY PEAK (EXPERTS ONLY) What with the economy heading downhill faster than a sober Bode Miller, everyone’s looking for a break. Here’s yours. Save yourself airfare and jet lag, and hop Jay’s tram to the vertiginous steeps of Tuckerman’s Chute. Not only is Jay on the receiving end of copious powder, it also boasts some of Vermont’s most feral terrain, including the 10-to-20-foot drops, hulking stumps, and tree-ridden chutes of Tuckerman’s. More than you bargained for? Take a cruise down the moderate, well-groomed pitches of Northway or Ullr’s Dream instead. We won’t tell a soul.

802-988-2611, jaypeakresort.com.

ANTELOPE, MAD RIVER GLEN (INTERMEDIATE TO EXPERT)
Way back when, all eastern ski trails were like Mad River Glen’s Antelope: narrow, twisty, and ungroomed. Thankfully, some things never change, and Antelope still entices with its undulating pitch that demands sharp focus and quick turning skills. It’s not terribly steep, so strong intermediates can dive in with confidence, but it remains a challenge even for experienced skiers, particularly in hard snow conditions. Our recommendation: Wait for at least six inches of fresh snow and drop in.

802-496-3551, madriverglen.com.

TOLL ROAD, STOWE (BEGINNER) Beginning and casual skiers often resign themselves to low mountain flanks, where most resorts confine their mellow terrain. The Toll Road does better by newbies, carving a meandering path from the top of Stowe’s storied Four Runner quad chairlift. Hot tip: Rather than following Toll Road all the way to its terminus at the soporific Toll House double chair, bear skier’s left onto Lullaby Lane and return to the quad for more of the good stuff.

800-253-4754, stowe.com.

JESTER, SUGARBUSH (INTERMEDIATE) The jester’s lifework is putting smiles on faces, and such is the effect of this winding slice of blue-square piste at the recently revamped Sugarbush resort. Getting to Jester takes a little bit of effort: You’ll need to board two chairlifts (Super Bravo Express quad and Heaven’s Gate triple), but the seductive pitch and endless turns make it all worthwhile. If you get tired of playing GS racer, veer onto the Valley House Traverse and take the Snowball to Spring Fling for some wide-open cruising. 800-537-8427, sugarbush.com. 

One Very Family-Friendly Slope
We love the low-key vibe at Okemo. And we love that Dee Snider, frontman of the ’80s hair-metal band Twisted Sister, skis there. But mostly, we love cruising with our families down mountain road, which begins from the summit and traces a mellow route all the way down the mountain. It’s got just enough turns to keep the little ones interested, and even in adverse weather, Okemo’s class-leading grooming squad keeps it soft and edgeable.

800-786-5366, okemo.com. 

The Dreamiest Lodgings
Nothing cures muscle ache quite like fine linens.

Every ski town in the northeast is suddenly bursting with "luxury" lodges—and no shortage of underwhelmed guests. Stowe Mountain Lodge, though, is the real thing. It all begins when you meet snowflake-sweatered Peter Mix (part of the in-house "Alpine Concierge Team"), who guards the gateway to the six-story, 139-room behemoth that neatly sidesteps a megahotel vibe. Mix can expound on the resort’s various trappings—ski valet, in-room fireplaces—but we uncovered a few less-obvious gems.

Although the Solstice restaurant serves hunky chef Sean Buchanan’s excellent local fare, we prefer the atmosphere at Hourglass, the cozy tapas bar. Don’t miss Solstice’s generous brunch, though, complete with its life-changing take on hot chocolate.

For premium repose, the well-connected head to the private Front Four lounge, where VIPs like Tyra Banks have stopped in for a spell. If you can’t finagle the requisite access, console yourself by sinking into the sumptuous leather pedicure chair at the Vermont outpost of Salon Mario Russo, where the diligent technicians will have you looking like a toe supermodel in no time.

Perhaps the best Stowe Mountain Lodge pampering option is underground, in the locker room. It goes a little something like this: Sauna. Hot tub. Steam room. Repeat. These are no ordinary amenities: Each is the finest we’ve seen in New England. (A helpful staffer also pointed out an exclusive "Indian shower" that sprinkles a misting rain. We couldn’t figure it out, but it sure sounded nice.) The sprawling spa is a tad hard to find, so flag down Peter Mix. He’ll show you the way. -Sascha de Gersdorff

7412 Mountain Rd., Stowe, VT, 888-478-6938, stowemountainlodge.com

The Most-Savory Grub
High-octane fuel for the famished schusser.

Californians might bloviate endlessly about their local/seasonal/organic food, but just try getting a good meal after a day on the slopes in Tahoe. By contrast, finding terrific eats in Vermont ski country is as easy as scoring a reservation at Hen of the Wood. Helmed by executive chef Eric Warnstedt—named one of Food & Wine‘s Best New Chefs in 2008—the Waterbury kitchen puts out exquisite locally sourced fare all year round, from Vermont bacon and wild mushrooms served atop a crusty tartine; to pork loin with parsnips, lemon, and sage; to an intoxicating cheese board. Practically the only thing sourced more than an hour’s drive away is the smart list of food-friendly wines—that, thankfully, hail mostly from California. -Amy Traverso

92 Stowe St., Waterbury, VT, 802-244-7300, henofthewood.com.

Source URL: http://www.bostonmagazine.com/2009/01/the-perfect-ski-getaway/