Polar vortex. Arctic blast. These scary words that have us all running to the grocery store and fighting to the death over a gallon of milk are all actually just synonyms for this season we secretly love—winter! This freezing cold icy storm magical precipitation stuff is not a new thing. It’s time to embrace your inner kid and remember why we love this little season called winter.
One word. Skiing. Those familiar butterflies of anticipation as your chair lift rides you to the mountain peak, roller coaster style. That buttery smooth feeling of perfectly fresh powder beneath your toes…or skis, rather. The wind in your face and the mountain at your fingertips. There’s nothing quite like it. There’s also more ideal scenarios than others—for example, a long time ago I said adios to the iced over ‘black diamonds’ and hellish long lines of the resorts just outside of the city. Getting creamed by over ambitious snowboarders, trying to merge on a slope with traffic worse than the RFK on a Sunday evening—no thanks.
The perfect escape is found at the Sugarbush Resort in Warren, Vermont. It’s just a six hour drive from Manhattan but you feel as if you’ve driven cross country and somehow ended up in Tahoe or Big Sky. This winter Sugarbush has been especially blessed, having been hammered with over 50” of snow in January alone. February started off with 11” of new snow and counting and it just keeps getting better.
For a killer weekend, book a private session with the on-mountain ski rockstar (or ski yoda, as I dubbed him) John Egan. He’s more than a famous Warren Miller film star, he’s a gifted coach, an exceptional mountain guide, and a lifelong Sugarbush devotee. And he’s hella fun to shred pow with. John has an uncanny ability to look at you and just sense what would make you an even better skier/snowboarder. After one run together he had me flapping my wings and exaggerating my height and all together just looking like a crazy kook—but I was flying on black diamonds within a few hours. He gets inside your head and just helps you connect it all. He takes it back to being fun—if you focus on too many tips and tricks you get caught up in the intellectual side of it all. John helps you to be free and remember that this isn’t work, it’s fun. The most important turn of the day? Your smile!
Private coaching from John ranges from tree skiing, cliff jumping, hike-to-get-to runs, or backcountry ski mountaineering. His enthusiasm is contagious and makes for a fantastic welcome to the Sugarbush slopes.
If you are lucky, you’ll be in town for one of Sugarbush’s special ‘First-Tracks’ experience. The early bird catches the worm, right? And the early skier catches the freshest groomers (and untamed runs) possible. Ride the Lincoln Limo, aka the cushiest Snowcat ever created, and experience pristine, deep powder and untouched corduroy like never before. We squeezed in a solid five runs before the mountain even officially opened. Lucky us. Availability depends on snowfall, but for Powder-Day First Tracks the motto is “When it’s snowing, we’re going.”
This is also a super family friendly mountain. We brought along a completely inexperienced skier, four years old, ready to hit the mountain with the kind of enthusiasm only a toddler can have. Of course, he needed to spend a few days with his ‘mini-bears’ class first. His look of terror when he first saw the skis was unmatched, and it took some coaxing to get him ‘on-mountain’—but Jake and the ski school team were so patient and really understood how to get through to him. By the end of the day he was whizzing around shouting ‘Hey Ma! This is actually fun!’. What more can you ask for on a family vacation? Drop the kids off at school and by mid-week you can all be winding down Jester together.
Win Smith, the principal owner of Sugarbush Resort and beloved local entrepreneur of the Mad River Valley, has NYC roots—his father was a founding partner of Merrill Lynch. He ended up in the ski industry rather serendipitously, buying the property in 2001 and helping upgrade it from a fantastic local’s mountain to something truly luxurious. Under Smith’s ownership of Sugarbush, investments of over $60 million have been made in resort improvements, with an additional $50 million in real estate development.
Win’s hands on approach to running the resort shines in every detail that adorns the luxurious slopeside Clay Brook condominiums. The suites are luxurious and timeless, very Vermont chic—the décor doesn’t sacrifice the rustic vibe that you love from Vermont, and yet it’s not overwhelming…and it’s a slopeside as you can get.
Make sure to have a can of Heady Topper while you’re in town—it’s like gold in Warren! Hard to find and worth every penny. If you are a little crazy and determined (like us), look out for the delivery truck on its assigned Tuesday and you’ll be having the perfect après ski drink in no time. And no, you CANNOT pour it into a glass. Something about the perfect hops—you’ve gotta read the can for the full explanation. Just trust us.
Sugarbush is a place for friends, family, lovers, and (most importantly) skiers—it’s a place to getaway that feels untouched by the craziness of your daily life.