Why Vermont? When people think New England, they often think small-mountain skiing.
Obviously the mountains of New England lack the bulk of the Rockies or the Alps. But let's compare ski areas, not just mountains. Compare ski-area vertical rises: Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine have 14 areas with more than 2,000 feet of vertical rise, the same number (and in closer proximity to one another) as in Colorado, and six more than in Utah.
You'll find Vermont has more ski resorts than any other New England state. Each region of VermontNorth, Central and Southhas its own special character.
Northern Vermont is a chessboard of contrasts. The topography, the relative degree of human settlement, the tendencies of weather, local personality types, local economies all can change so completely within a matter of miles that driving through the area can be like moving from black square to white, from one environment entirely into another.
When I was cutting my teeth on Eastern skiing in the 60's, Stowe always stood out as a final test on the road to skiing maturity. Stowe was a kind of star chamber for the East's best skiers if you could make it here, you could make it anywhere. To ride the lift was to experience first-rate theater a revue of Eastern hotshots strutting their athletic, acrobatic stuff on the most challenging stage around.
If you want a study of Central Vermont in three quick lessons, make the 30-mile drive along Route 4 from Woodstock to Rutland. Lesson 1 is Woodstock, a lesson in history. Woodstock might not be Vermont's oldest town, but it's so well preserved that it might leave that impression.
The drive westward from Woodstock leads in 20 miles to Lesson 2: Killington, the big daddy of New England skiing. Killington is usually the first ski area that comes to mind when people think of Vermont skiing. By its sheer size and the number of skiers it attracts, it tends to reign supreme over everything else in the neighborhood. From Killington, Route 4 descends to Rutland, the last lesson in this quick study. Rutland teaches about life in everyday, 9-to-5, workingman's Vermont. It is one of those largely unreconstructed, early-industrial New England mini-cities.
Southern Vermont , along with southern Vermont skiing, is schizophrenic in regard to time, leaping toward the future while keeping its feet cemented in the past. Southern Vermont can be as old-New England as northern New England gets, its history of European settlement reaching well back before the Revolutionary era. Yet it has seen the future, and the future is tourism, which is slowly reworking the regional landscape and way of life.
Mt. Snow does have some challenging terrain tucked out of sight on its North Face. But if I want challenge, there are other places I would seek out before Mt. Snow. Mt. Snow is a place to come to in order to restore confidence: 70 of 84 trails are rated novice or intermediate.
One appeal of Southern Vermont for skiers and other visitors is obvious: It's close to civilization. The big cities of the northeastern seaboard are all within four hours' driving time.
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