SPRING BREAK SKI VACATION IN VERMONT
By Paula Schuck
BIG BLEND RADIO INTERVIEW: On this episode, travel writer Paula Schuck discusses her family adventures in Vermont. Listen or download the podcast on BlogTalkRadio.com, Spreaker.com, YouTube.com, SoundCloud.com.
Spring break family ski vacations have become our specialty, especially as we now travel with teenagers. In elementary school, kids can miss a week and take homework with them. But teens have social lives, part-time jobs and extra-curriculars in addition to academic obligations, so scheduling family vacations can be challenging.
The last few years, we’ve done an epic spring break ski vacation. As soon as the kids finish school in mid-March, we pack up our ski gear and take our annual road trip to Vermont. Vermont is a state that has it all and delivers great family vacation experiences all year round. This week, we are on the road again, for spring skiing at Smugglers’ Notch.
In the winter, Vermont shines with epic skiing and snowboarding continuing straight through spring. Vermont has a huge range of ski resorts and mountains from which to choose. So, if your family is just learning how to ski you could go to one of the smaller areas like Bromley and enjoy three to four days there. Bromley is a very manageable hill in the southern area of Vermont. It’s family-friendly, quiet at night, and close to Manchester. Stratton, Mt. Snow and Magic are also in the southern area.
If you want a convenient ski in and ski out experience, Okemo is your spot. With bountiful pristine snow-covered deciduous trees, sprawling Green Mountain views, long, wide, memorable trails, and a quaint, downtown area, Okemo in Ludlow, Vermont rewards visitors for embracing an outdoor lifestyle.
Last March, we did a 12-day epic family road trip. First stop was Okemo Mountain Ski Resort in South-Central Vermont, where we stayed at Jackson Gore Inn. There are many Vermont family resorts that elevate winter to an art form, but Okemo easily holds its ground. With style and substance, Okemo is pretty and has several quirky touches.
Jackson Gore Inn features spacious, clean accommodations, where you can ski right out the door and hop on the lift first thing for fresh tracks. Okemo also has two lifts featuring an enclosed heated bubble chair! That’s a luxury you need to try.
If you’re an expert powder hound, then you’ve probably heard of Killington. It is legendary and large. Many road trips stop there, and people never venture further north. That’s a mistake, in my opinion. We’ve enjoyed some of our most memorable family vacations in Central Vermont and Northern Vermont. Keep driving past Killington to find treasures like Sugarbush.
Sugarbush recently celebrated its 60th anniversary and it’s easy to see why this resort has had such staying power. With 6 peaks, 2 separate mountain areas that are gloriously uncrowded, and acres of backcountry, plus cross country too, Sugarbush works for all levels of experience. The terrain is majestic, and the views of the Green Mountain National Forest are unrivalled. Take Heaven’s Gate Lift all the way to the top of Lincoln Peak and gaze out. On a clear day, this is one of the best spots for views and photos. Take my favourite trail, Jester, all the way down to lower Jester. Don’t miss Mount Ellen!
Not even half an hour from Sugarbush is Mad River Glen. Mad River Glen’s slogan Ski It if you Can tells you what you need to know about this mountain coop. Skiers only! While it might be a very tiny mountain, it boasts scenic terrain, a lodge with comfort food and mostly natural powder. Look for the famous single chair lift that launched in 1948.
The people at Mad River Glen are quintessential Vermont residents. On our first visit, we were looking forward to an afternoon skiing at Mad River Glen, but our minivan’s all-season tires wouldn’t grip the slippery hill to the mountain. Eric, with Mad River Glen communications, met us at Sugarbush and gave us a lift. Lesson learned – always get snow tires on before you go.
Further north are two family-friendly resorts: Jay’s Peak and Smugglers’ Notch Ski Resort, which was the backdrop for our first ever visit. Both are easily accessible via Montreal through Québec. Smugglers’ Notch was our introduction to Vermont in 2016 and it stole our hearts. In July of 2019, we made the drive there again to see what summer offers. It was mind-boggling to see how the ski resort adapted itself to become an all-weather resort, with hiking, swimming, mountain biking, late-night outdoor movies by the pool, a teen lounge, and FUNZONE indoor arcade, climbing wall and obstacle course.
This spring break we return to Smugglers’ Notch and hit the terrain we first tried as newbies. In the winter and spring months, there are many things to do outside at Smuggs. There are 30 kms of cross-country ski trails or snowshoeing terrain, and the whole family will love tubing.
The first time we went to Smugglers’ Notch we flew to Burlington via Toronto’s Billy Bishop Airport. Every year since we’ve driven, which is typically about 8 ½ to 9 hours.
Food in Vermont is always farm to table fresh and creative. Brussel sprouts on pizza? There are several towns where restaurants are open Wednesday through Sunday, so double-check the schedule, if you plan to dine out. Better yet, stop at a grocery store along the way and stock up on power bars, lunch and breakfast materials, to save money.
Vermont is a great choice for a family trip. The snow lasts well into the spring and they also have Brewfest and Maplefest then. There’s a peak and a resort for every type of skier, every family, and every age. It’s a manageable drive or flight to some of the best snow on the east coast. Plus, you can often save on lift tickets and accommodations in spring.
One final tip: if you’re Canadian, don’t forget to check which Vermont resorts offer Canadian at par. The exchange can be dramatic, so look into it before you go!
Paula Schuck is a travel and lifestyle writer based in Ontario, Canada. Married with two teen daughters, she writes about health and wellness, family travel, ski vacations, girlfriend getaways and soft adventure. She often writes for: Today’s Parent, Canadian Family, The Globe and Mail, trivago.ca, CBC.ca, Better Farming and Food, Wine and Travel magazine. Keep up with her at https://www.thriftymommastips.com/