It’s peak season on Mt. Mansfield and Stowe Mountain Resort is brimming with winter sports enthusiasts enjoying yet another bluebird day in alpine Vermont.
Among them is Director of Mountain Recreation, Dave Merriam, who is innately familiar with the resort’s 40 miles of ski trails and 12 high-speed lifts (more mile-long lifts than anywhere else in the East).
Along with the breathtaking scenery, Merriam says, “I love Stowe because of its sustained vertical. At a lot of Eastern resorts, your way down is quite stepped, meaning it’s steep and then flat for a while and then steep and then flat. [Here] you really feel gravity.”
Merriam enjoys the mountain all season long – from a week or two before Thanksgiving to late April – but notes that late January and February may be considered the most ideal for ski conditions and that many visitors enjoy the lengthening days of March.
When it comes time to plan your route on the trails at Stowe Mountain Resort, Merriam has a recommendation that many Stowe regulars would agree with: “Follow the sun.”
The resort is split across Route 108, with the Over Easy Gondola connecting the two sides. Experienced skiers and snowboarders should start on the Mansfield side of the resort, which includes the infamous front four. “National, Liftline, Starr, and Goat are part of this wonderful front four experience,” says Merriam, “which is double-black diamonds [with] speed, a very sustained fall line, and vertical.”
“And on the shoulder of Mansfield, there is some wonderful cruising terrain – just great cruisers that dip and turn and roll with the terrain. They’re very classic Eastern skiing slopes. They are more intimate with the trees and so forth.”
The front four are serviced by the Fourrunner Quad, which has a 2,000-foot elevation change from base to top, and with very little sideways traffic, the runs flow smoothly all the way down.
In the late afternoon, when the front four begin to darken, head to the neighboring Gondola space on the other side of the river basin, where you will find the sun and the majority of the resort’s blue runs. (“The Gondolier and Perry Merrill are wonderful groomers – great cruising.”)
And to finish the afternoon, take the Over Easy Gondola to the Sunny Spruce side of the mountain in the southwest. The area is home to most of the resort’s green runs and features the ski and ride school, children’s center, brand new adventure center, skating rink, ski racing programs, and Stowe Mountain Lodge – the only ski-in, ski-out resort in Stowe. (The lodge has great packages like the Snow Day offer for discounted lift tickets and lodging.)
“One thing I love about the mountains in the East is they are quite intimate,” Merriam says. “When you’re in the Rockies, it’s big. In Stowe, you’re very close to everything.”
You can also stipple your day with runs through the resort’s freestyle terrain parks on the Mansfield side. The Mountain Triple lift will get you to the large terrain park with jumps and rails for experienced skiers and riders, the medium park, small park, and natural terrain park that is popular among families.
And experienced riders will want to try out Merriam’s personal favorite run, Hayride — accessible by the Fourrunner Quad. (“It’s a very steep, groomed run. It’s just wonderful.”)
Merriam also recommends arranging a lesson – which you can do at the ski school or through the concierge at Stowe Mountain Lodge for any skill level – and trying out equipment through the resort’s demo program, to find the best fit for your style both on the slopes and in the terrain parks. “There’s such amazing gear that makes powder skiing more enjoyable, really hard snow more enjoyable,” he says. “And trying out different gear is really fun in finding the right gear for the right conditions.”
When your day comes to a close, there is a host of wonderful après ski destinations nearby, including The Den, Spruce Camp Bar & Grill, and Skinny Pancake at Stowe Mountain Resort, and, on your way back to Stowe, the classic Matterhorn at the base of the mountain.
*All images courtesy of Stowe Mountain Resort