You wouldn’t think that a small Vermont town just a few hours south of the Canadian border could have ever been considered party-central for the ski-and-be-seen celeb crowd. But in the early 70′s, Sugarbush Ski Resort welcomed enough actors, models, designers and even Kennedys, to earn the moniker “Mascara Mountain.” Just a few decades later, Sugarbush Resort seems to have returned to its roots, but it hasn’t left its sense of style behind. With equipment upgrades enhancing your ski experience and new constructions including the Clay Brook Hotel, Schoolhouse (where the children’s programs are housed) and Farmhouse (adult programs) built in an updated Vermont vernacular style, Sugarbush melds past, present and future together in one idyllic setting.
With 111 trails, 578 skiable acres and 2600 vertical feet, Sugarbush isn’t just one big mountain – it’s two. Between Lincoln Peak and Mount Ellen, downhill enthusiasts will find plenty of varied terrain with almost 75% of runs for intermediate and advanced skiers. But novices are more than welcome, with the resort’s famed First Timer to Life Timer program offering a free season’s pass to absolute beginners who complete their three-lesson package ($255). Regardless of your skill level, you’ll love the long, winding, well-groomed runs. Our fave: The Jester from the top of the Heaven’s Gate triple chair.
Want to know more about the mountain while mastering the moguls? There’s an app for that. The Sugarbush VT app works with your phone’s GPS to track your runs so you can brag about how many miles you skied that day and then back up your boast with some serious stats.
Our ski and boots were whisked away the moment we entered the Clay Brook Hotel, carried by the Ski Valet to the base of the hill where they waited for us the next morning. All we had to do was flop down on our four-poster king-sized bed in our rustic-yet-luxurious room, complete with Molton & Brown beauty products, a lush bathrobe and plenty of hooks for our gear. But with over an hour before dinner, we couldn’t wait to sink into the stunning outdoor hot tub with a view of the mountain. Bubbles and bubbly? Don’t mind if I do!
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The locavore movement started in Vermont, and the menus in all the resort’s restaurants are created with seasonality and ethical eating…and drinking! The bar features local beers, including Heady Topper from the Alchemist Brewery. The appetizers include many items that feature local cheese, including our favourite, the Timbers fondue melting local cheverw with with smoked butternut squash and served with country bread and local apples to sop up the cheesy sauce. Many menu items offer information on provenance, like the Neill Farm hamburger, the Misty Knoll Chicken breast and the Smith Family Lamb. And vegetarians options receive the same level of care at both Timbers and the relaxed CastleRock Pub, where you might just decide to stop in for a beer and then end up chilling out to the classic rock playmix for the rest of the afternoon. If you do? Try the VT Bean Crafters black bean burger densely packed with local, organic beans and topped with cheese from Cabot farms.
But local dining doesn’t mean you have to stay put. For an experience of a lifetime, reserve way ahead to ride the 12-seater Cabin Cat to Allyn’s Lodge for a fireside four-course meal cooked by Executive Chef Gerry Nooney. Cooking equipment at the cabin is a minimum, so the meals are rustic and delicious. We started with a creamy squash soup followed by perfectly cooked lamb. Be sure to imbibe in moderation, as dinner is followed by an adventurous moonlight ski back to the base ($175 per person). You’ll only have headlamps to guide your way, but the trail is groomed perfectly so you don’t have to worry about any unexpected ice patches or rough terrain. You’ll have a smooth ski all the way to the bottom, other than a quick top to tun off the headlamps and enjoy the huge expanse of starry sky. No need t be nervous. Of course you’ll make it back to the base! That’s where they’re serving dessert!
If you have time, do head into picturesque Warren and admire the incredible perseverance of local businesses that rebuilt after Hurricane Irene. Roads and buildings were completely flooded and many of these local entrepreneurs were forced to start again almost from scratch. We adored the Warren Store where we stocked up on Vermont Peanut Butter and local honey. Pop upstairs to see the clothing and accessories for children and grown-ups, including the guaranteed-for-life (and made in Vermont!) Darn Tough Socks. Stop into the Artisans’ Gallery of Vermont run by local artists, and find local and international fashion, including beautiful jewellery made by the owner herself at 4orty Bridge.
Sugarbush Resort, 1840 Sugarbush Access Rd. Warren, VT 05674, www.sugarbush.com
Main Line: (800) 53-SUGAR
Snow Phone: (802) 583-SNOW
Reservations: (800) 53-SUGAR
Fax: (802) 583-6532