Best Towns 2010: Waitsfield, Vermont

Best for Skiing (East)

Vermont's Mad River     Photo: Brian Mohr/Emberphoto

HOMETOWN HERO Extreme-skiing pioneer John Egan, the godfather of Mad River Valley skiing and now the chief recreation officer at Sugarbush.

THE LIVING: Waitsfield is a classic ski town harking back to the pre-timeshare era. The ski resorts and upscale condos are all up the road, allowing the tiny town to remain an authentic, year-round family-focused community. That's why nonprofits 1% for the Planet, the Northern Forest Canoe Trail, and Center for Whole Communities make it their home. It's also the land of artisanal cheeses and maple, with as many cows as people. Locals tap their own trees, wear jeans and wool plaid for formal occasions, and support local food (like American Flatbread and Kingsbury Farm) and businesses (like Small Dog Electronics, one of the largest Apple resellers in the country).

THE SKIING: Two of the East's finest mountains are within ten minutes—both with zero crowds midweek. Depending on your mood, you can charge the glades and bumps of barely groomed Mad River Glen, an old-school "skier's mountain" (read no snowboarders allowed) and the only skier-owned co-op in the country, or rip groomers, snowboard, or cat-ski at Sugarbush. Cross-training? Kick and glide the 300-mile Catamount Trail, ski groomed track at Blueberry Lake nordic center, or hit the Skatium open-air ice-skating rink.

THE NEIGHBORHOOD: It you can't find a starter home in view of the ski hills, another option is neighboring Moretown, which is slightly farther from the lifts but only a 15-minute commute from Montpelier, the state capital.

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