Early season ski and ride conditions looking good


Madison Doucette

Zach Higley rides at Smugglers’ Notch

Vermont skiing is almost in full swing. With mountain after mountain opening for the season all across Vermont, some even pushing up their opening dates at the last minute, it’s time to look at some of the biggest names in the state and what the conditions are like from south to north.

Killington has historically been the first mountain on the East Coast to open for the season. This year, they loaded up the first chair of their three open lifts on Nov. 8, bringing skiers and riders to 600 vertical feet of advanced-only terrain. Opening day brought with it classic early season conditions of man-made snow and machine groomed surfaces. Since then, they have received nine inches of natural snowfall. Currently, the snowpack over their 40 trails is between 12 and 18 inches with access from seven different lifts. Killington’s snowmaking team doesn’t plan to quit blowing snow anytime soon and is working hard on opening more terrain over their multiple peaks.

Sugarbush Resort, known for its large size and 158 skiable acres of terrain, opened on Nov. 16. According to John Atkinson, a snow reporter at Sugarbush, opening day was soft and fun. Colder temperatures over the days before the 16th allowed snowmakers to keep the guns pumping out lots of snow and open with two trails. They are now offering 12 trails with 7 to 30 inches of machine-groomed snow for skiers and riders to enjoy. Sugarbush continues to get a few inches of natural snow here and there, and wind loading has caused deeper pockets of natural snow to gather in some places. Conditions have become firm as temperatures have dropped, but this only means snowmakers will be out making more snow and opening more terrain.

Stowe Mountain Resort’s opening day on Nov. 17 was a big one this year: the first day under their new ownership by Vail Resorts. They opened with a base of 12 to 36 inches and were blessed with a natural snowfall of 4 inches to cushion to tops of machine-groomed trails. The FourRunner Quad offered access to top to bottom trails. Current conditions are similar to others found throughout Vermont.

Man-made snow covers their 35 open trails and they have six lifts spinning to get skier and riders to that terrain. According to their website they have received 37 inches of natural snow so far this season and are crossing their fingers for some more.

Smugglers’ Notch, whiich gets its name from the narrow mountain pass smugglers used to use to get illegal goods across the Canada-US border, opened for the 2017-18 season on Nov. 24. The resort, which was expected to open with six trails, had 14 trails available for skiing on that day due to an unexpected 5-inch snowstorm. This allowed the resort to open up beginner terrain that rarely is available on opening day. According to Mike Duncan, a ski patroller at the mountain, it was a record breaking opening day for Learning Center sales. The base depth is currently at around 14 to 30 inches of man-made snow. Most of the eight trails they have open lie on Sterling Mountain, with one lift open. Beginner terrain is available through the Sir Henry’s Learning Hill on Morse Mountain.

Jay Peak has the deepest snowpack, currently offering a 25 to 35-inch base over their open terrain. Jay is known for their incredible snowstorms, offering some of the deepest powder on the East Coast. They opened their lifts on Nov. 17 and are currently sporting three lifts, 11 out of 79 trails and a total of 55 inches of natural snowfall. One snowstorm last week brought them 22 inches of fresh snow.

Snowmaking teams across the state will be working hard to expand terrain options on all mountains. With Mother Nature’s cooperation, and maybe a little help from some of her snowstorms, full access to the Vermont skiing, maybe even some off-piste, will be available soon.

For now, with the colder temperatures having moved in after a slight thaw, and the absence of snow-coverage between the trees, it is smartest to keep your edges sharp and stay on the corduroy.

Trail conditions are sure to improve in the wake of considerable new snow on Dec.12-13.