Winter has finally decided to show up in Vermont, and now that the temperatures have dropped and the white stuff has started to fall, the call of the slopes can be answered. Luckily, there are a handful of options within an hour’s drive of downtown Burlington. So grab your gear and figure out which mountain will keep you happiest as you shoosh through the powdery stashes you’ve been waiting for since November.
1. Cochran’s Ski Area: 15 Minutes from Downtown
Big things come in small packages, and Cochran’s Ski Area is no exception. While it’s the smallest mountain on the list, Cochran’s churns out Olympic skiers and medal-winning racers like no other. The nation’s first nonprofit ski area is owned and operated by the legendary skiing family, the Cochrans, and has a mission of “no child will be denied the opportunity to ski or ride.” Located in Richmond about 20 minutes outside of downtown, Cochran’s is where most local kiddos get their start on the slopes. Cochran’s has two rope tows, night skiing, and an amazing community vibe.
2. Bolton Valley: 25 Minutes from Downtown
Nestled in the middle of the mountain-top community of Bolton Valley, Bolton Valley Ski Resort is a local favorite. It has an average snowfall of more than 300 inches, and its 6 lifts and 71 runs—including three terrain parks—keep both novice downhillers and expert veterans entertained. If the inbounds skiing isn’t making the grade, Bolton has some of the best backcountry around—skin up and explore the variety of off-piste trails, take a lift up and ski off the back, or enjoy the challenging glades. And the best part about it, it’s affordable. Families can ski here together without breaking the bank, and there are awesome deals for college students throughout the season. To add to it all, Bolton has night skiing, a nordic center, and a sports center where you can take a dip in the pool or lounge in the hot tub.
3. Stowe Mountain Resort: 55 Minutes from Downtown
Stowe Mountain Resort is one of the biggest draws in the area for tourists during ski season. Located on the side of Mount Mansfield just outside the bustling downtown Stowe, this upscale resort is a massive winter wonderland come true. The skiing and riding is incredible with 13 lifts, 116 trails, and 485 acres of skiable terrain. The lift lines here can get long, especially for the summit gondola, but it’s worth the wait. The views at the top are unreal, and the ride down isn’t so bad either. And if hitting the slopes isn’t your thing, there are numerous other activities you can participate in right on the property, including ice skating, cross-country skiing, relaxing at the spa, or enjoying a meal at the Cliff House, Stowe’s own cliffside restaurant on the shoulder of Mount Mansfield.
4. Smugglers’ Notch: 55 Minutes from Downtown
Smugglers’ Notch Resort , lovingly referred to as 'Smuggs' by locals, was named the “Number One Kid Friendly Resort in the East 2016” by Ski Magazine . Its family-friendly vibe will have all members of your family, from toddler to teen, in a happy state of being. Smuggs’ three mountains, eight lifts, and 84 runs offer a huge variety of terrain—ranging from beginner to expert—with an added option for backcountry skiing in Smugglers’ Notch . Located in Cambridge, the resort is a small village unto itself and offers numerous amenities, including plenty of options for lodging, dining, and entertainment, all within walking distance of the lifts. And the daycare here is top of the line, so parents can get out and enjoy the slopes while the little ones stay happy and toasty.
5. Mad River Glen: 55 Minutes from Downtown
If you're a skier through-and-through, you may have just found your happy place at Mad River Glen in Fayston. To start, it’s one of only three skier-only resorts left in the United States. While you don’t have to worry about any run-ins with snowboarders here, you still have to stay on your toes because Mad River has some of the most challenging terrain in the area.
The mountain’s five lifts and 45 runs all live up to the mountain’s famous motto, “Ski It if You Can.” If that’s not enough to bring a smile to your skiing face then maybe this will: Mad River is the only major mountain resort in America to be skier-owned and operated, and is home to the nation’s last remaining single chairlift.
If you are willing to add a few minutes onto your drive, Sugarbush, in Warren, is one of New England’s largest resorts with 16 lifts and 53 miles of trail. Or, if your looking to head north, traveling about 90 minutes will bring you to Jay Peak, famous for being the mountain that gets the most snow on the East Coast.