State of Shred: VermontBy Jeremiah Paquette • Feb 18th, 2011 • Category: Features, Latest, States of Shred
Jay Peak. Photo: Johndavidgeery.com
For such a tiny state, Vermont certainly packs a punch when it comes to East Coast snowboarding. It’s not just sitcoms based in NY that travel there for the goods, but aspiring pipe jocks, wanna be Burton employees, and just about anyone else in a five hundred mile radius. And for good reason: as far as the east coast goes, it doesn’t totally suck! We’ve taken the liberty of breaking it into Northern and Southern, which, for being about 15 feet apart, really are very different.
If you mention Northern Vermont and snowboarding most people think Stowe and Burton. These two are undoubtedly very popular but by no means all northern Vermont has to offer. Northern Vermont and snowboarding to me means dirt parking lots, frigid winds, run down lodges and old snow mobiles. Almost into Canada you have the deep, cold Jay peak and just outside of Burlington you have the often over looked Bolton valley. Northern Vermont gives you the option of riding 5 (sorry Burke you didn’t make the cut) great areas all within 2 hrs of wherever you are, or go creep around for some urban delights.– Jeremiah Paquette
Best snow: Jay Peak
Best park: Stowe
Best parking lot: Bolton Valley, park in the hotel guest only lot.
Best food: Jay Peak, they gave my class free pizza one day.
Best pipe: Stowe, however many years ago Jay Peak had a curved halfpipe.
Best run: Shermans Pass at Bolton Valley, its got it all: flats, hips, jumps, steeps, and logs.
Best babes: Stowe, college girls out for their 4 days a year looking to meet rad dudes busting moves.
Best dudes: Smugglers Notch, no scene just backwoods guys doing their thing.
Best event: They all suck, go to NH. They know how to throw a snowboard event.
Best Post season riding: Bolton valley, they leave the features out all summer.
Worst Babes: Tie between Jay Peak and Bolton, Jay has smelly granola eating hippy women and Bolton has 13 year olds with cigs.
Worst Dudes: Stowe, Frat boys and Burton bros.
Worst Drive: Jay Peak, its within 5 miles of the Canadian boarder in north eastern Vermont.
Worst employees: Bolton, they are either old grouchy hicks or South Americans tricked into working there with a promise of winter in the mountains.
Best place to get your gear jacked: Bolton
Best lift: Smuggs T bar.
Worst lift: Jay Peak
It’s a little bit of a drive to get all the way up into the North East Kingdom, but with an annual snowfall rivaling many more western mountains (350 inches) it’s well worth it. In years past, Jay Peak maintained a fairly decent park with large smooth jumps and solid rail features. The park has since lost its luster and is no longer its once great self. At Jay Peak you will find a much more rugged type of skier or snowboarder, one that is there for the snow and not the spa. So if you can handle blistering cold and lots of Canadians, head to Jay Peak for what could most likely be the deepest and best powder you will ever ride on the east coast.
The goods: find someone who can show you to Big Jay
Sugarbush gives you the option of riding two separate, but connected via chairlift, peaks. Lincoln peak offers the more traditional ski resort base with lodging, dining, and a few shops. Lincoln peak also lays claim to the majority of Sugarbush’s terrain. Mt. Ellen on the other hand is where I spent my time at Sugarbush. The base area is much less developed, perfect for the patron who just wants to park, throw back a drink or two and get on the chairlift. Home to the highest chairlift in Vermont, Mt. Ellen tends to open their upper mountain section early in the season (downloading is required to get back to your car). Mt. Ellen is also the location of the Sugarbush terrain park where you can find anyone from local legends Yale Cousino and Chris Rotax to Lukas and Jesse Huffman cruising around. Every time I’ve been to Mt. Ellen there’s rarely been a line and I’ve had a great time casually cruising with friends.
The goods: Harwood Highschool rail and the Lincoln notch.
Off somewhere near Underhill, VT is Smugglers Notch, or “Smuggs.” Smuggs is keeping the rustic Vermont look alive and well with a fleet of double chairlifts and dirt parking lots. If you feel like testing your skills make your way up to the Black Hole, the East’s only triple black diamond. Once you’ve conquered the triple black cruise over to the T bar accessed park where you can hot lap for hours without having to unstrap once. Try not to have fun riding a slew of rails followed by a fairly stellar jump line. As a bonus Smugglers Notch, like some other northern Vermont locations, tends to leave features unattended once the season ends. So when may hits and you’re not ready to pack away the gear drive over and drag a rail onto the patches of snow left to melt.
The goods: Ride to the T bar from the parking lot and don’t unstrap until you ride back to your car. Somewhere in the woods there’s a mellow 25 foot handrail, I was never able to find.
So you want to stand in big crowds of tourists, college students and Burton employees? Then Stowe’s the mountain for you. To be fair Stowe has quite the snowboard legacy. Kyle Clancy, Jake Blauvelt, Travis Kennedy, and even Jeremy Jones (big mtn) have all called Stowe home at one point in time. For you adventurous types, take the gondola to the summit and get hiking. Rumor has it the chin is pretty awesome. I personally never explored this section of the mountain, something about hiking for “back country” in Vermont just didn’t make sense to me. Stowe keeps itsparks spread across the mountain in 4 different zones. This type of set up keeps your park laps fresh by allowing you to get some trail/tree time in between all the man made features.
The goods: Cabot cheese/ Champlain chocolate store on the way home. More free samples than you’ll know what to do with.
The often over looked and driven past, Bolton Valley is my favorite northern Vermont spot (probably because I worked coaching there for 4 years). Notorious for old lifts, night riding, and stolen gear, Bolton offers up an old school feeling with crusty old Vermont hick type employees and a run down base lodge. As it is the closest mountain to Burlington most weeknights you’ll find the slopes filled with 11 to 15 year olds sneaking into the woods to make out and smoke or trying to steal your gear. Grab yourself a few drinks and head to the top where you’ll find Sherman’s pass, a mellow, winding, side hit filled top to bottom run. Bolton also has the only lit terrain park in Vermont. Perfect for the student or the lazy guy who cant seem to leave the house until 3pm and still wants to hit some ice block jumps.
The goods: Great booze hill. I liken it to the Ski Bowl of the east, but in place of powder you have ice.
If the thought of buying a lift ticket or getting caught poaching is too much for you Northern Vermont also has quite the selection of urban zones. Burlington, Johnson state, and Middlebury all have a wealth of popular and still unseen spots to get your street cred up on.
Geographically, Southern Vermont is made up of pretty much anything that isn’t adjacent to Burlington. As far as snowboarding is concerned, it gets less snow and bigger crowds, but if you’re into parks and pipes, the mountains down south are for you. You can trust me on this, since I haven’t lived there since the 90s. I’m sure not much as changed. –Brooke Geery
Best snow: Northern VT
Best park: Mt. Snow
Dumbest lift: There is a super high speed 6-person chair to nowhere at Stratton. Seriously, it takes you to the middle of nowhere.
Best food: Okemo french fries
Best pipe: Killington, circa 1996
Best run: The one at Okemo with all the rollers. Ignore the no jumping signs.
Best babes: Probably Stratton, if you’re into babes who do boardercross
Best dudes: These days rumor is Mt. Snow
Best event: The US Open, Circa 1996
Best post season riding: Stratton. They used to save a pile of snow.
Best Bar: Rutland as a whole, do the tour!
Worst Drive: Mt Snow was the furthest from my parents house. Let’s go with that one.
Worst lift line: K1 Gondola
Killington has gone through many ownership and management changes over the years, but the one consistent piece of the puzzle is Jay Rosenbaum, who has literally kept the park and pipe in tip top shape since I started snowboarding (and I’m old.) Rosey is pretty much the only reason to go to Killington anymore, as the latest owner’s approach is “quality” guests, meaning the prices have been jacked up monumentally high on everything. Beware of the Juggernaut two, the worst traverse ever made into a trail, and skip the K1 on the weekends (guaranteed longest line ever.) In the spring, Bear Mountain is the spot, and you’ll probably run into at least one old dude who will tell you how awesome the park there was in 1994. Now they have a “Stash” but let’s face it, it’ll never be the same. If you’re not into sharing the trails with every idiot from NYC, check out Pico for shorter lines, and an overall mellower scene.
Somewhere between birthing Kelly Clark and hosting the Dew Tour, Mt. Snow became the spot for snowboarding in Southern Vt. Personally, I don’t get it, as it’s still flat and spread out, but if you’re into park stunting, this is the spot thanks to the advent of Carinithia. It’s an all park mountain (the only on the east coast) with tons of options and nothing but jib zones and half tubes.
Stratton is the kinda of mountain you either go to school at, or go to once a year. Maybe twice if you’re into On Snow demos. However mediocre the hill itself is, many memories have been made at Stratton, such as getting kicked out of hotel hallways late at night, sneaking into the Green Door at age 15, or seeing a member of the Wu Tang Clan at Mulligans. If you want to be a world class Olympian, they do take pride in their halfpipe, but the $85 day tickets might dissuade you. If they haven’t changed it, you used to be able to find a ticket stub on the ground and turn it in for a free one, although we would never recommend doing that!
Okemo was actually closer to my house growing up, yet we drove the extra 10 minutes to go to Killington. Why? I have no idea. Okemo actually caters fairly well to snowboarding, and is usually the first in VT to open a real park with actual jumps. Aside from the longest walk ever to get to the lift, and then the fact that you have to take a lift to get to the real lift, it’s a fun mountain with lots of natural rollers that you’re not supposed to jump off of. They also must have a decent pipe, since the Teters grew up there.