Northeast's Top 10 ski areas
A lot of great resorts didn't make the list, and you may be crestfallen because your favorite isn't here.
Let us explain: We put together this list with every type of skier in mind - the double-black diamond daredevil, the bunny sloper, little kids, the once-a-season skier. There's something for everyone.
Some skiers think Belleayre, with its rural ambience and down-home flavor, is what skiing used to be before corporations got involved. The area is owned by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, and the casual, friendly spirit on the mountain hasn't changed much since it opened in 1949. Everything about the mountain is impressive, including its 3,429-foot summit; the 171 skiable acres; the extremely reasonable lift ticket and rental prices; and its proximity to the metro New York area.
In just over 35 years, Bretton Woods has gone from a wooded mountainside to a Top 10 (and New Hampshire's largest) ski resort, garnering especially high marks in grooming, service and family programs. Known primarily for its extensive and forgiving beginner and intermediate areas, Bretton Woods offers all its skiers some truly spectacular views of Mt. Washington and the Presidential Range. Befitting its ownership by the historic and opulent Mount Washington Resort, Bretton Woods caters to better-heeled and better-behaved skiers - a definite asset for families with younger children.
When there is snow, the resort at Jiminy Peak offers a good family experience and enough trails to keep even the most avid skiers and snowboarders occupied. Jiminy Peak is the largest resort in the Berkshires and features a village-like atmosphere, with retail shops, children's programs and numerous cafes.
The Left Bank trail allows for even beginners to take a run down the entire mountain and the six-passenger high-speed chairlift can get you to the top of the mountain in five minutes.
For snowboarders, Coyote Ridge offers a quality terrain experience, including a half pipe.
The overall size of the mountain results in short lift lines. More-experienced skiers will find a challenge on Whitetail, one of three double-black diamond trails.
The self-proclaimed "Beast of the East" is truly big in all senses of the word: the biggest resort (covering seven mountains), with the greatest variety of terrain, the highest vertical drop, and the most extensive snowmaking. Not surprisingly, such attributes attract large numbers of devoted, older skiers who keep Killington as lively after hours (rated No. 1 in apres-ski by the readers of Ski Magazine) as they do during the day, when long lift lines and crowded slopes can become downright annoying. But the fact that they all keep coming back year after year demonstrates that the beast is still a real beauty of a mountain.
Only a three-hour drive from Boston, Loon is the resort of choice for twentysomethings and families whose primary objective is to hit the slopes running. As a result, the weekend and holiday crowds can sometimes make you, well, loony, though Loon does its best to keep things moving with 10 lifts.
Helping matters considerably this year will be an additional 49 acres of terrain at South Ridge, serviced by two quads. A bigger-than-average resort with better-than-average lodging, food, variety and snow conditions, Loon Mountain is one of those classic something-for-everybody places and thus a good option for those groups with mixed abilities and interests.
Beginning in the mid-1970s, Smugglers' Notch, on the other side of Mount Mansfield from chic and trendy Stowe, decided to concentrate on the overlooked and underserved family market. Today Smuggs, as it is commonly known, is the undisputed king of that mountain, ranked
No. 1 in North America in the family programs category by the readers of Ski Magazine for the seventh time. Covering three separate mountains, including one just for beginners, Smugglers' Notch is essentially an all-inclusive winter sports camp where family members go their own way by day and reassemble by night in the activity-laden base village.
For 75 years, Stowe has been the most evocative name in Eastern skiing, due, in equal portions, to Mount Mansfield itself with its classic ski runs, including the legendary Front Four, and the quintessentially charming village only six miles away. The dearth of on-mountain lodging (to be addressed with the completion of the 319-room Stowe Mountain Resort sometime next year) means it's a pain getting to and from the slopes (there is a free shuttle bus), but the trade-off comes in the depth and variety of lodging, dining and après-ski options in the village and along Mountain Road.
Stowe is still as close to a traditional European resort as it gets in the eastern United States, and after years of stagnant investment, the grand old lady is finally getting the face-lift she so richly deserves.
A self-contained, condo-dependent resort community in southern Vermont, Stratton caters to an upscale clientele that demands - and is willing to pay for - premier alpine amenities, such as meticulously groomed slopes, super-efficient lifts and a genuine faux Bavarian village. Stratton's alter ego is as a snowboarders' paradise: Jake Burton, a snowboarding icon, got his start here, and his legacy is the resort's No. 1 terrain parks ranking - for the eighth straight year - by the readers of Ski Magazine.
If money isn't that much of an object and you don't insist upon that much of a physical challenge, Stratton can be counted on to deliver the goods in a seamless, reliable way.
Located in Maine's Western Mountains, Sunday River is too remote to be a viable choice for all but the most intrepid or crowd-fearing weekend warriors. A large resort (eight separate peaks) spread out - some say too spread out - over 667 acres and serviced by some of the most effective lift and snowmaking systems in the Northeast, Sunday River is much more of a come-and-spend-the-week type place for serious skiers, and it is consciously moving and expanding to meet that market. Complaints about the shortage of dining and après-ski options are generally compensated for by the overall quality and quantity of the skiing experience and the manageable crowds.
Whiteface has two great things going for it. At 3,430 feet, it has the biggest vertical drop in the Northeast. It is also close to Lake Placid, the site of two Winter Olympics and a town that offers many winter activities, accommodations and dining options. A huge mountain, with more than 225 skiable acres, Whiteface will especially please both expert and intermediate skiers looking for long trails and gorgeous views of the Adirondacks.
The folks don't care much for designer clothes up here, the area's location on state forest land prevents it from offering on-site lodging, and serious skiers love hitting The Slides, the highest skiable terrain in the East at 4,650 feet. This year, Whiteface converted its air compressors and snow guns to energy-efficient equipment, resulting in an increase in the amount of water coming into the system, which will be evident in better quality manmade snow.
The area will celebrate its 50th anniversary on Jan. 25, 2008, followed by weekend celebrations that will last into March.