Stratton’s 3,875-foot summit may not be the tallest ski resort on the East Coast, but it offers skiers a more-than-respectable 2,003-foot vertical drop. The skiing and boarding takes place on 670 acres, divided by 97 trails and 11 lifts, including a high-speed gondola that runs from the base to the summit. Since Stratton Mountain’s inception in 1961, the resort has always had a small-town feel, complete with local rituals and traditions. Every New Year’s Day, a huge group of skiers hikes to the summit before dawn to meet the New Year and ski or board down as the sun rises.
Stratton Village is a compact, pedestrian-only town at the base of the mountain–the kind of place where you can park your car and not see it again until it’s time to go home. You’ll find everything from pizza to dogsledding in the village, but everyone should try one of the snowshoeing treks. You can take a guided moonlight trek that ends at a bonfire in Stratton’s side country, or rent shoes and set out on your own to Stratton’s historic fire tower.
The resort also layers in the family-friendly amenities, including a Kids Night Out program that includes activities like arts and crafts or movie screenings, along with the Coca-Cola Tube Park and loads of live music events.
This southern Vermont resort embraced snowboarding from its earliest days, and had the first snowboard school in the country, with members of the original Burton team teaching certifications for new snowboarders. The snowboarding school is still one of the best today, churning out Olympians and X Games stars like Ross Powers, Lindsey Jacobellis and Jackie Hernandez.
Stratton also prides itself on delivering a low-stress environment for new skiers. The Learning Park is quarantined (in a good way) and serviced by a magic carpet, so beginners don’t have to fumble with traditional lifts. And beginner lessons include access to the park, rentals and classes geared to either skiing or riding, which is key for driving home those new skills. They also offer a few kids-only programs, broken by age group–the Big, Little and Mini Cubs–focused on mountain exploration and on-snow skill development.
Almost half of Stratton’s trails are devoted to beginners, but advanced skiers have plenty of room to explore including the double black Squirrels Nest, a gladed area that used to be a secret tree stash for locals before it became a named run. Polar Bear could be the mountain’s highlight, though. The black diamond is tucked between the trees, offering remote, steep fall line skiing with incredible views before it drops back toward the Ursa Express Lift.
A large share of the mountain is also devoted to intermediate skiers, with wide-open cruisers and tree runs gladed perfectly for skiers looking to develop their tree skills. Drifter is a long, tree-lined run where fresh powder collects in big, fun pillow-like drifts. Sun Bowl has glades and wide-open cruisers like Sunriser Super Trail, where you can carve acres of perfect arcs. Plus, Sun Bowl has its own base lodge and dedicated lifts. Locals typically park there to hit the mountain fast without having to navigate the village. So just follow their tracks.
Black Bear Lodge delivers a classic Vermont inn experience along with modern features like an in-house yoga studio. It’s a ten-minute walk to the lift (or take the free shuttle), but you’ll save some coin.
The Fire Tower Restaurant and Tavern has artisan pizzas and massive burgers, as well as big glasses of wine, all served inside a rustic, timber-frame dining room that just screams, “I’m eating in Vermont!” For a more winter-centric experience, however, consider dinner at the mid-mountain lodge, which includes a snowcat ride up to the restaurant.