Stowe is one of the premier Eastern US ski resorts, with a long history going back to 1933 when the first trails were cut on Mt. Mansfield. My history with it goes all the way back to the early 70’s when my family lived in New York. I have distant memories of riding the single chair on cold days and being handed a heavy blanket for the ride up.
|Annual Snowfall||314 Inches claimed / 275 Actual: Rank 51|
|Review Date||January 2019 (multiple from 1974)|
|Number of visits||At least 4|
My Stowe Review begins in the early 70’s when my family dragged me (the youngest) along for our annual ski trips to Vermont. Stowe was a frequent choice and I remember always feeling a little bit of dread at the thought of dealing with the steep, icy slopes. It seems like it was always really cold when we went, and the LONG ride on the single chair was something I remember 45 years later. Still, I also remember some fun runs and the sheer impressiveness of skiing down from near the top of Mt. Mansfield was an experience that shaped my love of mountains in the following decades.
We took a huge gamble planning a trip to Vermont in mid January. That is statistically the coldest time of the year and we could have easily seen -25F air temps which would have been a total bust. Luckily it was only moderately below average when we were there, but for people who usually ski on the west coast it was still pretty brutal. The first run of the first day we hopped on the Fourrunner express which is the most wind-prone lift at Stowe. It was -10F with strong winds that made the wind chill -45F. By the time we got to the top we raced off the chair and straight into the Octagon to warm up. Yikes!
Outside there was 8″ of powder to ski though, so after a short warm-up we got after it. This was fantastic snow! No ice, no crowds, and a completely different environment for us compared to our usual spots in the west. It was so cold that we spent most of the day on the Gondola side so we could have a warm(er) ride up at least. The runs off the Gondola are very interesting with a perfect advanced intermediate pitch.
Needs some lift upgrades, and why don’t all the lifts run?
The second day it warmed up enough to ski the rest of the mountain. On skier’s right, The Mountain Triple chair has just under 1,200 vertical, but it’s still a long ride because it’s not a detachable high-speed lift. This is where most of the lower intermediate terrain is, so this could really benefit from a lift upgrade.
Strangely, even though lines were building because it was a weekend day, the Lookout Double never opened and it doesn’t look like it ever runs. I think replacing that chair with a high-speed quad and only running the triple on big days would be the best way to improve that side of the mountain.
We were not able to ski all the way down to the bottom of the Toll Road because the Toll Road chair doesn’t seem to run either. This is something that usually drives me crazy and causes a resort to suffer a very low rating, but after all, this is truly beginner terrain that we wouldn’t have spent any time on anyway, so it didn’t really affect our experience much.
Spruce Peak is far skier’s left and you have to take a connection gondola to get over there. That’s where the modern “village” is. It’s pretty small, but we found some great lunch options there. The Sensation Quad has some pretty great terrain and it feels like a completely different resort on that side. The only downside is that the quad is not accessible from the village. You have to hop a slow lift to get over there first.
Grooming and snowmaking
Even though it doesn’t feel like it, this is a small area in acreage which means that they can groom about 2/3rd’s of it nightly. In addition, an astonishing 83% is covered by snowmaking. That allows the resort to mostly do away with the unpleasant realities of skiing in the East where rain and icy slopes are not unexpected. It was the best snow we ever skied in the East.
The Front Four and other steep runs
As a kid, I remember standing at the top of Upper Starr wondering if I would ever be able to ski it. Well 45 years later I got my chance with the appropriate skills in my tool box. This is seriously steep and you don’t want to fall on the upper portion because there is absolutely no way you are going to stop on the icy first hundred feet of vertical or so. This was completely out of my comfort zone but with some carefully placed turns and slides I made it down to lower Starr which is some of the best terrain on the mountain. AiRung skied the other Front Four with me like National and Liftline which were actually groomed and really fun. Other than these double-black runs, there are plenty of entertaining single blacks like Chin Clip and Smugglers, which was our favorite.
- 2nd most snowfall in the East
- Great variety of terrain for a small area
- 83% snowmaking coverage
- Great grooming
- Quaint scenic town with lots of lodging and food options
- Plenty of steep runs and challenge
- A deep sense of ski history
- Needs more lift capacity and high speed lifts
- Tends to be very windy
- Aging lodges on the Mansfield side
The Bottom Line
Stowe is a classic Eastern resort with great terrain and a great town. Other than the extreme cold, we really enjoyed our time there and would go back again.