The Best Ski Resorts in the East

Our favorite ski hills in New York and New England

Dec 1, 2015
Outside
Outside Magazine
The Best Ski Resorts in the East

Vermont's Stowe offers some of the most intense skiing in the east and a European-style village to stay in after.    Photo: Greg Petrics/Stowe

The 50 Best Ski Resorts in North America

Check out the rest of our comprehensive guide.

Don't sleep on the East: you don't have to get on a plane for good vibes and bad-ass terrain. 

Bretton Woods

Bretton Woods, New Hampshire

bretton-woods-ski-resort.jpg
4.1.2   Photo: Courtesy of Omni Mount Washington

Vertical Rise: 1,500 feet
Acres of Terrain: 464
Average Snowfall: 200 inches
 
Across from Mount Washington in what meteorologists call an upslope snowbelt, Bretton Woods gets its own weather patterns, which means more snow than the surrounding areas. The terrain is diverse, but a favorite run for guests of all ages and abilities is often Granny’s Grit. It’s an intermediate trail full of rollers and bumps accessed from the top of the Zephyr chairlift. Stop for a chili break at Latitude 44 Restaurant, located at the top of the Bethlehem Express chairlift. In the evening, head to Fabian’s Station, across the street from the slopes, for a bowl of chowder and a glass of beer. For lodging, we like the elegant, old-school Bretton Arms Inn, a quick shuttle from the lifts. —Kim Fuller
 
Must-Ski Run: Bode’s Run, a steep groomer named for New Hampshire native Bode Miller. 
Best Après: Slopeside Pub & Restaurant has huge windows for drinking a pint while watching the stragglers come down. 
Local Tip: You used to have to hike to get to the Stickney Glades, but now they’re serviced by a T-bar. 

 

Jay Peak

Jay Peak, Vermont

jay-peak-resort.jpg
  Photo: Jay Peak Resort

Vertical Rise: 1,936 feet
Acres of Terrain: 385
Average Snowfall: 377 inches

Jay Peak, four miles south of the Canadian border in the Green Mountains, gets the largest annual snowfall of any ski area in the East. It’s said to benefit from the “Jay Cloud,” which sits on the mountain dumping snow all winter. The mountain has the terrain to make use of all that snow, with classic tight New England glades like Valhalla and Kitz Woods. For fuel, stuff your pockets for the day at the Jay Peak Provisions General Store, which has a full-service deli offering to-order subs. Most of the lodging at Jay Peak is ski-in, ski-out; we like the new Stateside Hotel and Baselodge. —K.F.

Must-Ski Run: Kitzbuhel, named for the famous Austrian downhill course; it almost deserves the name. 
Best Après: The Tower Bar in the Tram Haus Lodge has good views and cold beer. 
Local Tip: Unlike a lot of East Coast resorts, Jay Peak offers good access to the backcountry.

Killington

Killington, Vermont

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killington-ski-resort.jpg
  Photo: Killington

Vertical Rise: 3,050 feet
Acres of Terrain: 1,509 
Average Snowfall: 250 inches

The Beast of the East boasts the largest vertical drop in New England and spans six peaks. There’s mixed terrain for every ability—the mountain is split almost evenly between greens, blues, and blacks. Experts have an array of moguls, trees, and steep groomers dropping from Killington Peak and Bear Mountain. For the intermediates, Killington and Snowdon Peaks boast a web of cruisy blues. And anything coming off Ramshead or the lower slopes is perfect for beginners. The Stash, a terrain park with more than 50 features and a 500-foot superpipe with 18-foot walls, is where snowboarders and freeskiers get their kicks. There’s a lot to do off-mountain, too, from tubing to snowmobile tours in the Calvin Coolidge State Forest. The ski-in/ski-out Ledgewood Yurt is great for lunch (and servings of locally made Caramel Whiskey), or take a final peak-to-creek run before cocktails at Skyebar. Nearby lodging abounds, but the Inn at Long Trail has tree-trunk beams, a stone fireplace, and a redwood hot tub; or get a little farther from the bustle at the affordable Salt Ash Inn, just down the road in Plymouth. —Nick Davidson  

Must-Ski Run: Outer Limits, the longest, steepest mogul run in the East.
Best Après: Long Trail Brewing Company in Bridgewater.
Local Tip: Rent fat bikes from Fat Bike Vermont and hit the trails at Killington Golf Course, the Mountain Meadows cross-country ski trails, or Pine Hill Park in nearby Rutland.

Loon Mountain

Lincoln, New Hampshire

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  Photo: Courtesy of Loon Mountain Resort

Vertical Rise: 2,100 feet
Acres of Terrain: 370
Average Snowfall: 163 inches

Loon Mountain is just two hours from Boston, in the woods of New Hampshire, and is the perfect place for ripping New Englanders. We recommend setting an edge and charging down double-black Ripsaw, which overlooks the town of Lincoln. The twin-tip crowd can play in the terrain park, a mile-long lineup of jumps, rails, and New Hampshire’s only superpipe. Once you’re off the mountain, head to the Gypsy Cafe in downtown Lincoln for an eclectic menu ranging from vegetarian pot stickers to enchiladas with red chile. Lincoln also offers plenty of lodging a few miles from the resort, but we like the slopeside Mountain Club on Loon so we can ski right up to the gondola in the morning. —K.F. 

Must-Ski Run: The tight trees of Mike’s Way are tough but worth the challenge, especially after a big storm.  
Best Après: The Paul Bunyan Room at the base of Loon Peak has live music and 24 taps.  
Local Tip: Rather than just ride the gondola on the main mountain, venture to the South Peak for quick laps of varied terrain on an express chair. 

Mad River Glen 

Waitsfield, Vermont

mad river glen bridger bowl skiing mount abram
  Photo: Flo21/Flickr

Vertical Rise: 2,037 feet
Acres of Terrain: 120 
Average Snowfall: 250 inches

For better or worse, most eastern resorts try to be pint-size versions of their western competitors: lots of grooming, luxury base areas, and high-speed lifts. That’s not true of Mad River Glen—the hill (owned by a co-op) is a proud anachronism. It has one of the only single chairs in the country, doesn’t allow snowboarders, and doesn’t groom much. That all adds up to a very Vermont good time. The famous Mad River Glen bumper sticker says “ski it if you can,” and the steep moguls and glades deserve their reputation, but more than half the mountain is beginner or intermediate friendly, and a top-notch ski school makes it a good place to learn. Even advanced skiers can learn something new: the mountain is the unofficial world capital of telemark skiing, and there’s a demo center with free-heel gear from G3 and Black Diamond. So crush bumps until you can’t anymore, then occupy a bar stool at General Stark’s Pub & Grill for a plastic cup of Single Chair ale. —Chris Cohen 

Must-Ski Run: Bomb down Chutes. The line below the single chairlift is a steep pitch of “do-or-die bumps in front of a highly opinionated audience,” as the resort puts it. 
Best Après: This corner of the Green Mountain State is the home of some of the world’s most sought-after beer, from breweries like Hill Farmstead, Lawson’s, and the Alchemist. It’s all on tap down the road in Waterbury* at the Prohibition Pig.   
Local Tip: Check the Alchemist’s website to see where you can score a four-pack of Heady Topper tallboys, which is nearly impossible to get anywhere else in the country.    

*Not Warren, as we said originally. We regret the error! 

Okemo

Ludlow, Vermont

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  Photo: Okemo Mountain Resort

Vertical Rise: 2,200 feet
Acres of Terrain: 667 
Average Snowfall: 200 inches

It used to be that skiers would come to Okemo to relax and cruise the pleasant, cushy groomers with little expectations for a challenge. But roughly ten years ago, the resort opened the more daunting south face of the mountain and gained a reputation for steep and exhilarating terrain. Families still love the well-marked, superbly maintained trails, while advanced skiers have plenty of room to play all across the south face down to Jackson Gore Village. Okemo has made improvements for winter 2015 with a second, high-speed chair, expanded snowmaking, and the brand-new SouthFace Village (which has its own quad chair). Grab lunch at any of the dozen or so eateries. Epic, at the base of the Solitude lift, serves eclectic fare like lentil and chickpea stew and Japanese noodles. Or try the paninis, wraps, and brews at Sitting Bull in Jackson Gore Village. Stay mid-mountain at the ski-in/ski-out Solitude Village, which has on-site saunas and hot tubs, or bunk down in Ludlow, which has dozens of options, including the historic Henry Farm Inn, which offers shuttle to Okemo and ski-and-stay packages. —N.D. 

Must-Ski Run: Dream Weaver or Double Diamond to Moment’s Rest to Cat Nap on the South Face
Best Après: The Sitting Bull in Jackson Gore Village or Tom’s Loft Tavern in Ludlow.
Local Tip: If you’re renting, get your gear the day before at the shop at the base, which stays open until 10 p.m. on Friday nights.

Smuggler’s Notch

Jeffersonville, Vermont

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  Photo: Smugglers' Notch

Vertical Rise: 2,610 feet
Acres of Terrain: 1,000  
Average Snowfall: 322 inches

Smuggler’s Notch may be renowned for its family-oriented vibe, but that’s not to say it’s all tame. There’s a healthy number of steeps at two of its three mountains—Madonna and Sterling. Madonna has a collection of double blacks, and there’s even a triple called Black Hole—a densely gladed, 53-degree run that’s considered one of the scariest drops in the country. All that spells good times for the experts, but Morse Mountain is the happy haven for kids and families, and Smuggler’s takes kids seriously. Its children’s ski and snowboard programs are renowned, but the amenities are even better: an on-site childcare center; a FunZone with putt-putt, bounce houses, an indoor pool, and hot tubs; a lift-served tubing hill; and even a dedicated kids’ trail map full of cartoon characters. The ArborTrek zip-line canopy tour is open for year-round rides (from $65). Those who like the flats can make tracks along 58 kilometers of Nordic and snowshoe trails. Nine dining options, like Morse Mountain Grille & Pub or the Green Mountain Deli, have the usual fare but cater to eaters with special dietary needs, and the resort’s Bootleggers’ Lounge hosts live music. For lodging, try one of the options in Jeffersonville, like Smuggler’s Notch Inn, a restored 1700s farmhouse with on-site massages and cozy fireplaces. —N.D. 

Must-Ski Run: Black Hole—but be careful! 
Best Après: Bootleggers’ Lounge offers Friday night karaoke for the brave (or properly lubricated).
Local Tip: Tour the Boyden Valley Winery in nearby Cambridge, where you’ll learn about making wine in a cold climate in the restored 1875 carriage barn. 

Stowe

Stowe, Vermont

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  Photo: Stowe

Vertical Rise: 2,360 feet 
Acres of Terrain: 485 
Average Snowfall: 314 inches 

Stowe has some of the East Coast’s best skiing amid a European-style village and eclectic international crowd. Eighty-five percent of its 116 trails cater to intermediate and advanced skiers, who can plummet down exposed runs like Ridgeview and Lookout. It has some of the country’s gnarliest skiing with the legendary “front four”—National, Nosedive, the Goat, and Star. There are several terrain parks catering to different abilities, free guided mountain tours, and a Nordic center with 45 kilometers of groomed trails and another 30 kilometers of backcountry terrain. On-mountain dining is easy: the rustic Cliff House restaurant at the top of Gondola lift has panoramic views and a spicy black bean burger with guacamole, or you can eat at the Pantry, which serves craft brews and local hard ciders. Bring the pup and stay at the 312-room Stowe Mountain Lodge, where dogs get a bed, food and water bowls, and a bag of treats. Bonus: the lodge offers dog-sitting services while you’re on the slopes. —N.D. 

Must-Ski Run: The serpentine Nosedive trail for the steep, narrow chutes.
Best Après: The Matterhorn, about a mile down the road from the resort, has pizza specials and pool tables. 
Local Tip: The Spa at Stoweflake is the ideal spot to soak in a stone hot tub under a waterfall, get a full-body maple scrub, or enjoy something called “an Ayurvedic dosha balancing massage.”

Stratton Mountain

Stratton, Vermont

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  Photo: Hubert Schriebl

Vertical Rise: 2,003 feet
Acres of Terrain: 670
Average Snowfall: 180 inches

The highest peak in southern Vermont attracts skiers and riders from around the Northeast looking for wide slopes and sweeping views. Start your morning in the Sun Bowl, and after a few cruisers, get on the Shooting Star six-pack to the north face summit. Beginners can work their turns in the designated learning zone and on Easy Street, a moderate three-mile run. Experts hit steep bumps on World Cup or lay trenches on Middlebrook, a black-diamond groomer that’s off the beaten path. For lunch, head into the Village Square to Mulligans for burgers, 20 taps, and huge servings of nachos. Stay at the Liftline Lodge, an inexpensive option within walking distance of the village and ski lifts. —K.F.

Must-Ski Run: Sunrise Supertrail is a cruisy classic in the Sun Bowl.
Best Après: Grizzly’s at the Base Lodge heats up midafternoon and is open until 1:30 a.m. on Saturdays.
Local Tip: Grab your snowshoes and ride the gondola up to the summit for a 1.6-mile round-trip hike to the historic fire tower, which sits at the intersection of the Long and Appalachian Trails.

Sugarbush

​Waitsfield, Vermont

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  Photo: Sugarbush

Vertical Rise: 2,600 feet 
Acres of Terrain: 4,000 
Average Snowfall: 269 inches

Sugarbush has six peaks and is a huge resort by East Coast standards. Its 4,000 acres include the Slide Brook Wilderness, 2,000 acres of wooded outback terrain between the two base areas. Start your day by riding up to 3,975-foot Lincoln Peak and descending via the twisting curves of Jester. To show off your steep-skiing skills, hit the lift line run under the Castlerock double chair and prepare for heckles. Then take the meandering trip over to the Mount Ellen base area for high-speed groomers. Stay slopeside in a village condo (Clay Brook is the nicest spot around), or get a room in picturesque Waitsfield in the heart of Vermont’s Mad River Valley. The best grub in the area is at the Common Man in nearby Warren. In true Vermont style, the restaurant is in a converted 19th-century barn. —Megan Michelson  

Must-Ski Run: Bump skiers test themselves on Stein’s Run.
Best Après: Hit up the Castlerock Pub for barbecued chicken wings and only-in-Vermont beers like the Alchemist’s Heady Topper. 
Local Tip: The Slide Brook Basin is technically out of the resort boundary—it’s ungroomed and for expert riders only—but you can hire a ski school guide to show you the best route through the glades. 

Sugarloaf Mountain Resort 

Carrabassett Valley, Maine

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  Photo: Sugarloaf Mountain Resort

Vertical Rise: 2,820 feet
Acres of Terrain: 1,056
Average Snowfall: 200 inches

On a clear day on the top Sugarloaf, you can see as far as Maine’s Mount Katahdin, and to Mount Washington in New Hampshire. The terrain is well-rounded, with 162 trails and glades spread almost evenly between green, blues, blacks, and doubles. Moose Alley is the designated kids-only terrain at Sugarloaf, and includes mellow winding trails and kid-friendly glades. For a family cruise, head down Tote Road, which is three-and-a-half miles from summit to base. It’s Sugarloaf’s longest trail and has laid-back skiing, terrain park access, and sweeping mountain views. More challenge can be found on the summit Snowfields, on trails like White Nitro and Powder Keg, where skiers and riders can rip on the only above tree-line skiing in the east. Brackett Basin and Burnt Mountain boast over 650 acres of backcountry-style glades, chutes, and cliffs. Grab bite at Bullwinkles—a casual, on-mountain food stop, then some back on saturday evening, when the eatery transforms into a six-course dining experience, complete with a cat ride to the summit. Stay at the Sugarloaf Mountain Hotel and don’t miss the restaurant, which dishes out New England classics like baked haddock and lobster. —K.F. 

Must-Ski Run: Ignitor, straight down the Snowfields 
Best Aprés: The Widowmaker Lounge on Sugarloaf Road.
Local Tip: Keep an eye on the forecast. If you can get the time off, midweek powder days are the best: no lift lines, and endless runs in fresh powder.

Newry, Maine

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  Photo: Nick Lambert/Sunday River

Vertical Rise: 2,340 feet
Acres of Terrain: 870
Average Snowfall: 167 inches

Sunday River is spread across eight individual peaks, and each peak has a different personality and draw. White Cap, the farthest east, has White Heat, Sunday River’s most popular steep groomers. Jordan Bowl, farthest west, highlights tree-skiing and beginner terrain. In between, the peaks are used for competition areas and terrain parks, beginner- and family-friendly slopes, and long cruising runs. Sunday River is a great place to learn: the resort offers clinics for $39, which includes rentals, a three-hour on- and off-snow clinic, and a beginner ticket that provides access to 17 beginner trails. The upscale ski-in/ski-out Jordan Hotel is our pick for lodging. It’s also a great spot for lunch on a sunny day—settle into an Adirondack chair next to the fire pit with Sriracha and molasses wings. —K.F. 

Must-Ski Run: Show off your skills on double-black Caramba down the Jordan Bowl lift line.
Best Après: The Barker Bar on Barker Mountain at the base of Monday Mourning run.
Local Tip: Park at White Cap Lodge, the first lodge you come to as you drive up the access road. It’s rarely crowded and has easy access to all the trails. At the end of the day, you can ski directly to the base of White Cap from all eight peaks, or you can take a shuttle back if you après somewhere else.

Whiteface Mountain 

Lake Placid, New York

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  Photo: Marco/Flickr

Vertical Rise: 3,430 feet
Acres of Terrain: 288
Average Snowfall: 200 inches

Towering above the town of Lake Placid, Whiteface has the greatest vertical drop in the East, with big-mountain terrain, glades, and parks for jumps and tricks. Experts will like Skyward, which starts at the summit of Whiteface Mountain and has a sustained steep drop from start to finish but is still wide enough to lay down GS turns. The terrain is weighted toward experts, but cruisers are accessible from the summit and there are beginner options, like Runner Up and Silver, closer to the base area. Families can also head off the hill for Olympic-inspired activities like a bobsled ride a few minutes down the road in the town of Lake Placid. If you want to stay near the slopes, we like the Ledge Rock at Whiteface Mountain, but there are plenty of places to stay in town, like the Adirondack Inn by the Lake, within walking distance to shops and restaurants. —K.F. 

Must-Ski Run: Cruise down Excelsior from the summit of Little Whiteface.
Best Après: Grab a cocktail at Liquids and Solids in town. 
Local Tip: The Whiteface Slides are a series of steep and narrow chutes, but they’re only open when they’re considered safe by ski patrol. They are in-bounds, but definitely off-piste. 

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