Destination: Mt. Snow, Vermont
As seen in the February 2012 issue of Freeskier. Words and photos by Dan Brown.
A LIGHT WIND BLOWS WESTWARD OVER THE LOWER GREEN MOUNTAINS, CARRYING A BIT OF SWEETNESS AND WARMTH THAT’S CHARACTERISTIC OF THESE LATE SEASON DAYS ON THE EAST COAST. IT’S THE FIRST DAY OF SPRING, AND I’M RIDING MOUNT SNOW’S GRAND SUMMIT EXPRESS TO START THE DAY WITH A FEW FAST GROOMERS.
Mt. Snow, VT.
I’m alone on the chair, and with no iPod, the only playlist is the songbirds gliding in and out of the pines, maples and birch or the intermittent squeak of wheels as I pass by a lift tower. Looking over my shoulder, I survey the base area of the resort: a cluster of two- and three-story buildings, a Swiss-style clock tower and an adjacent hotel that is this lift’s namesake. Down the valley lies the town of West Dover, Vermont.
The morning snow report called for frozen granular, so I’m expecting ice and death cookies from the nighttime freeze. The resort’s main face looks east into the sun, and if I’m going to have a chance of finding anything other than boilerplate, the front is where it’ll be. I’m surprised when I set an edge and find soft corduroy. I let my skis run until I find myself back at the bottom. Grinning, I head right back to the top.
I log five more perfect top-to-bottom runs—one down Ridge, two on the resort’s north face section, another from Cascade through Choke to Canyon and one more down Exhibition— before I’m joined by someone else on my chair ride to the top. Mount Snow is famous for the Carinthia terrain parks, but on a day like today, the rest of the mountain is where I want to be.
Mount Snow offers 588 skiable acres along Route 100 in southern Vermont. Route 100, known as the “skier’s highway,” connects Vermont’s lower reaches to its border with Quebec, while passing Okemo, Killington, Sugarbush, Stowe and Jay along the way. Mount Snow’s calling card is its proximity to the major population centers of the East: four hours to New York City, two and a half to Boston, and one and a half to Hartford, Connecticut.
Fortunately, Mount Snow has more to offer than ease of access. The resort’s 80 trails span four faces. The north face, overlooking the Somerset Reservoir, holds the majority of the resort’s black diamond terrain; Sunbrook is mostly blue cruisers; and the main face sees the most traffic. But it’s the fourth zone, Carinthia, that you should care about. Carinthia was actually a neighboring ski area that was acquired by the resort in 1986, and is now entirely dedicated to freestyle terrain. After years of investment, Mount Snow has expanded Carinthia to 125 features and two pipes scattered over 100 acres of terrain. With a redesigned base lodge that includes a lounge and skate ramp, Carinthia has become a jib heaven.
[Left: Looking up at Carinthia.]
Mount Snow was the first eastern ski area to open a park, Un Blanco Gulch, in 1992. It hosted the X Games in 2000 and 2001, and now Mount Snow’s commitment to the Carinthia parks allows the resort to host events like the Winter Dew Tour and its own Carinthia Open, which has become a staple for up-and- comers on the competition circuit.
“Mount Snow is awesome,” says Brattleboro, VT local and Line Traveling Circus member Ian Compton. “It’s like a West Coast setup in an East Coast area. Carinthia is what brought me back from the West.” The level of commitment towards putting together one of the finest parks on the East Coast is evident as you head down from the top of the Heavy Metal double. Skier’s left brings you down the Gulch, a tamer alternative to the large features in Inferno, to the right. “The park rangers there are on point, they’re really good at separating the goombas from the hot doggers,” says Compton with a laugh.
Not every minute at Mount Snow needs to be spent in Carinthia’s parks though. Head into the hand-cleared glades near Mine Shaft and Nitro, and keep an eye out for both natural and manmade features. For the more advanced, look for the drop-in point near the 37-degree pitch of Ripcord on the resort’s north face for steeper runs through the native pines and maples. This is also the spot to be on a powder day. “You never hear many people talking at the top, ’cause they don’t want to tell you where they’re headed, but you get down to those bottom lifts and everyone’s hooting and hollering,” says PR and events manager Vinnie Lewis.
Mount Snow was the first ski resort to encourage skiers and riders to check in online during the day. It paired with location-based social network Foursquare in 2010, allowing visitors to explore the mountain in a new way via their smart phones. Check in once, you earn yourself a digital badge. Check in enough, and you’ve got yourself a VIP parking pass right next to the lodge and chairlift. Even Foursquare cofounder Dennis Crowley and his brother Jon consider the resort their home turf. Crowley’s got his own top check-ins on the hill: “Our favorites are long, winding runs down Deer Run; bombing down Exhibition right under the lift on snowy days; and snaking in and out of the woods between different trails under the triple chair.”
When I finally decide to wrap up the day with a few more laps on the Grand Summit Express, the sun is still sitting high in the sky, warming my face. The soft corduroy has long turned to spring corn, and I head down the hill through the rollers and moguls to my truck, still with a grin from the satisfying day.
Skiable Acerage: 467 acres
Skiable Vertical: 1,700 feet
Average Snowfall: 156 inches