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Ski and Ride Guide 2010

The 10 best places in New England to ski and snowboard this season. By Jack Morris. Photograph above by Greg Petrics.

nsfm10_skifeature_2Jay Peak: trails: 76; lifts: 8; lift tickets: $67

If there’s one thing skiers and riders don’t have to worry about at Jay Peak, it’s snow. With over 350 inches of the white stuff each year, some of the best glades, a liberal policy about skiing pretty much anywhere, and honest snow reporting (if it’s raining or it’s 20 below, they might just tell you to stay off the hill), Jay could be one of the finest places on the East Coast to make turns.

If you can snag a place in the tram line early in the morning (and if your legs can handle it), it’s tough to beat first tracks down the Face Chutes when there’s new snow. But when it’s all buffed out, a few laps on The Jet could bring a tear to your eye.

Where Jay has typically fallen short has been off-mountain amenities and a virtually non-existent village. But as part of a major long-term expansion plan that includes a hotel, ice rink, and Nordic center, Jay opens the doors this season to the long-awaited Tram Haus Lodge, a mix of 57 studios, one- and two-bedroom suites, a new restaurant, coffee shop, and a bar that looks out on the mountain. Yes, it’s a bit of a drive. And yes, it’s well worth it. 4850 Vermont Rte. 242, Jay, VT, 800-451-4449,

Loon: trails: 55; lifts: 12; lift tickets: $73

Standing at the top of the Loon Mountain Park, one of the resort’s five terrain parks and arguably the biggest and baddest of the bunch, it’s easy to see why this mountain has transformed itself from a family-friendly day trip destination to a jibber’s weekend paradise. With over 30 jumps and terrain features, as well as a 425-foot superpipe and quarter pipe that seems to reach as high as the gondola, this is where skiers and snowboarders from all over New England come for massive hang time.

But Loon is also famous for its groomers. Head straight to the summit with the stiff boards in tow and let it fly down Cant Dog or head over to the Lincoln Express quad  and carve into the sunny slopes of Boom Run or the bumps of Ripsaw. The new South Peak Resort is adding a touch of luxury to the area with on-mountain homesites starting at $400,000, but there are also plenty of options in the town of Lincoln with shuttle service to the hill. 60 Loon Mountain Rd., Lincoln, NH, 800-229-5666,

nsfm10_skifeature_4Smugglers’ Notch: trails: 78; lifts: 8; lift tickets: $62

Don’t let the family-friendly reputation fool you. Above the village center, slopeside condos, and low-angle groomers lie plenty of  steeps and secret stashes. With close to 300 inches of snowfall each year and lift ticket rates that leave enough cash in your wallet for a few apres-ski pops, Smuggs is easily the best bang for your buck. Head to the summit of Madonna early for a screamer down Liftline, then take your pick of any of the resort’s long cruisers while the kids get five-star treatment at the ski school.

The resort’s Snow Sport University ski and snowboard camp is helping to keep your kids entertained all day this season by outfitting them with Flaik GPS units that will track the miles, vertical, and trails skied each day. Smuggs also rewards its visitors with plenty of off-mountain options including airboarding (think sledding, but more intense), a Nordic center, outdoor skating rink, teen centers, The FunZone, and more. There’s also a mountain massage center, arts and crafts center,  and more options in nearby Jeffersonville. 4323 Vermont Rte. 108 South, Smugglers’ Notch, VT, 800-419-4616,

Sunday River: trails: 132; lifts: 16; lift tickets: $79

Celebrating its 50th year this season, Sunday River has come a long way. And by long, we mean it’s going to take you some time to explore all eight peaks, so you better have a plan of attack. An early morning run or two down Spruce Peak is a good call, but if you don’t mind riding a few lifts, make your way over to Oz and Jordan Bowl before the crowds get there and you’ll be rewarded with either first tracks or some smooth corduroy, not to mention sweeping views of New Hampshire’s Presidential Range and Mt. Washington. If bumps are your thing, leave the kids to the terrain parks at the base of North Peak and Barker Mountain, then go show off on White Heat or stick to the more narrow and wind-protected runs of Top Gun and Right Stuff.

No matter where you make turns, you’re going to need a place to rest your head, and with plenty of on-mountain condos, making that last run of the day means skiing or riding right into your living room. But pampering is something Sunday River also does well. New upgrades at both Sunday River Grand Resort Hotels mean you can now sack out in front of a 42-inch flat-screen after a wild night at the Foggy Goggle. 15 South Ridge Rd., Newry, ME, 207-824-3000,

Stowe: trails: 116; lifts: 13; lift tickets: $89

As you wind your way up Stowe’s Mountain Road, there’s one turn that usually brings about the same reaction each time as the massive ridge of Mt. Mansfield comes into view: jaws tend to drop and stomachs tighten. Fly down the rollers of Lord and Hayride on any given morning and you’ll see why. Or head over to Nosedive and reach top speed on your new boards, then tackle the bumps of Goat on the next run.

For beginners and families, Spruce Peak’s tamer and sunnier slopes make carving turns memorable. With some of the best snow around (and conversely, some of the windiest conditions), classic runs that don’t always follow the fall line, and unbeatable backcountry terrain, Stowe makes it all worthwhile. The addition of the Stowe Mountain Lodge last season upped the ante ever more. The $400 million resort brought lush accommodations and a dedication to service more commonly found at Aspen and Deer Valley. Of course, there’s always the Rusty Nail down the road if your version of entertainment includes live music and shots of Jagermeister. 5781 Mountain Rd., Stowe, VT, 800-253-4754,

nsfm10_skifeature_9Killington: trails: 141; lifts: 22; lift tickets: $82

With six peaks, five base areas, five terrain parks, a 430-foot superpipe (with 18-foot walls), a seemingly endless network of lifts and trails, and a town that rivals Newburyport for its variety of bars, restaurants, and shops, Killington is unquestionably the “Beast of the East.” If you know how navigate the mountain, a good day at Killington will leave your legs sore and your belly ready for a full meal.

Head straight for the Skye Peak quad with a lap or two on Skyeburst, then tackle Bear Mountain’s steeps. Beginners have it made at Killington with their own learning area at Snowshed, as well as some great intermediate runs down Ramshead. While the area sees less snow on average than some of its northern neighbors, Killington makes up for it with unbeatable snowmaking. A trail that looked like an ice rink in the afternoon can turn into a buffed-out carving paradise by morning.

Take your pick from just about any type of lodging at Killington; there’s plenty to go around. The plush Killington Grand Resort Hotel and Spa is a top choice, while slopeside condos abound. Don’t forget to stop by  the Long Trail Brewery in Bridgewater for a few pints by the fire. 4763 Killington Road, Killington, VT, 800-621-6867,

Bretton Woods: trails: 101; lifts: 10; lift tickets: $74

If you haven’t been to Bretton Woods lately, it might surprise you to learn that it’s now the largest resort in New Hampshire with four terrain parks, expert glades that you’d expect to find at Stowe or Jay Peak, and a wild zip line that hurls your carcass above the tree line straight down the mountain. Lapping runs off the Zephyr quad is a great way to warm up the thighs. Once you’re ready, and if the snow’s right, duck into the Rosebrook Canyon Glades or any of the double blacks on West Mountain. This is Bretton Woods? You betcha.

What hasn’t changed are the views of Mt. Washington, which make you feel as if you can reach out and touch the Cog Railway. On-mountain accommodations include an assortment of condos  but if you’re going to do it right, book a room at the upgraded Mount Washington Hotel, where crystal chandeliers and four-course dinners await, along with a nightcap at The Cave, easily one of the coolest taverns around. Route 302, Bretton Woods, NH, 800-314-1752,

nsfm10_skifeature_11Sugarloaf: trails: 138; lifts: 15; lift tickets: $75

Some might say that the long drive into central Maine to reach Sugarloaf is the reason they don’t go there. Let’s hope more people feel this way because once you’re here, you have access to some of the best skiing and snowboarding in New England.

On powder days, Sugarloaf offers a couple of great options. Hop the Sugarloaf Superquad early, make your way to the summit, pick a line down the Snowfields, then do a couple laps in King Pine Bowl. With over 2,800 vertical feet of skiing and riding, it’s hard not to feel the burn.

If you’ve still got any juice left in your quads after lunch, go for greatness in one of the three terrain parks; a 400-foot-long superpipe, minipipe, and a skiercross course; or cool down under the Timberline triple.

Want to really spoil yourself? Book a three-level penthouse suite at the recently upgraded Sugarloaf Mountain Hotel, where a private sauna and hot tub await as well as easy access to the shops and restaurants in the village center. That’s a good thing, because after a burger from The Bag and a few Carrabassett Pale Ales at the Widowmaker, you’ll be glad your room is only steps away. 5092 Access Rd., Carrabassett Valley, ME, 800-843-5623,

Sugarbush: trails: 111; lifts: 16; lift tickets: $82

With a combination of groomers, bumps, steeps, terrain parks, and high-speed lifts nestled in a classic Vermont ski town, Sugarbush makes it hard to drive home after a long weekend. When the snow’s good (which it tends to be in this neck of the woods), calling out sick on Monday morning from the lift line isn’t uncommon.

Start with a warm-up off the Valley House Double on Lincoln Peak, then make your way over to Heaven’s Gate and charge down Ripcord or Paradise, or just scrap the warm-up altogether and make a beeline to Castle Rock if there’s fresh powder. In the afternoon, hop on the Slide Brook Express for some cruisers on Mt. Ellen or some big air in the terrain parks. This season, the ‘Bush has added 75 acres of new glades. The resort also offers snowcat skiing when there’s a storm and the option to tour the backcountry with longtime local and ski movie star John Egan.

You can’t go wrong booking a room on the mountain at the luxurious Clay Brook, but there are also plenty of homes and condos in the valley and in nearby Waitsfield to suit anyone’s needs. 1840 Sugarbush Access Rd. Warren, VT, 800-531-8421,

nsfm10_skifeature_13Waterville Valley: trails: 52; lifts: 12; lift tickets: $67

For classic mountain towns in New Hampshire, it’s hard to beat Waterville Valley. The Town Square features a skating rink, a grocery store, and multiple restaurants and shops all surrounded by high peaks.

Because of its proximity to Boston, buses unload passengers by the hundreds in Waterville Valley, so be sure to get in line for the White Peak Express quad when the bell rings. If you are, you’ll be treated to some of the best cruising around, thanks to 100 percent snowmaking coverage. Roll over those edges and feel the wind scream through your helmet on runs like The Chute and Sel’s Choice. In the afternoon, after a sandwich and a cup of coffee at the Schwendi Hut, soak up the rays while lapping the Sunnyside triple on Ciao and True Grit.

Waterville has also gone out of its way in recent years to build up its terrain parks. Four different sections of the mountain are dedicated to jibbers with plenty of rails, boxes, and a 350-foot-long superpipe with 15-foot walls and its own Poma lift. Add to all of that a great racing program; an assortment of learn-to-ski and ride programs; multiple lodges, inns, and condos, and you’ve got a resort that’s worth moving to. 1 Ski Area Rd., Waterville Valley, NH, 800-468-2553,