This season, 2021-22, Vermont Ski + Ride took a page from our sister publication, Vermont Sports, and sent out the Black Diamond Reader Survey. The survey asked readers to rate the best ski areas in Vermont in 14 categories, including Best Overall, Best to Avoid Crowds, Best Snowmaking/Grooming, Toughest Trail, Best Ski Bar, Best Ski Town and more. (Scroll down for links to all categories.)
Here’s what readers said was the: BEST SKI AREA TO AVOID CROWDS
Let’s face it, unless you can sneak out weekdays, skiing at many Vermont areas has gotten crowded. Witness the hour-long traffic jams to get to the mountain (Stowe), paid parking (Mount Snow) and powder-day lift lines that feel interminable (everywhere).
The good news, you know where to go to escape the crowds and Burke Mountain Resort came up on top in this category. Though it is just as close to White River Junction (where I-89 and I-91 meet) as Stowe is, most folks coming from New York or Boston head west, instead of north. Burke has a year-round population of 1,651 (according to the 2020 census), and other than the 116-suite Burke Mountain Hotel, there are few lodging properties in the area that have more than 50 rooms. As a result, lift lines are practically non-existent and you can still find powder stashes long after a storm.
Runner up in this category is, not surprisingly, Magic Mountain in Londonderry. This local favorite in southern Vermont has been limiting the number of tickets sold and when the parking lot fills up, that’s it. With old-school lifts and terrain, Magic is a quiet throwback to the days before multi-resort passes crowded the slopes.
The other sleeper mountain that folks seem to forget about is Pico. While it’s under the management of its big sister, Killington, Pico doesn’t see nearly the traffic that its counterpart gets. For anyone who lives on the western side of the Green Mountains, it’s an easy stop off Route 4 and a favorite with locals. Pico’s lift layout also works well to disperse crowds and if you want to skin up for your turns, the lifts don’t spin on Tuesdays and Wednesdays (except during holiday weeks,) so the mountain is all yours (with an Uphill Pass, of course.)
Two other independent resorts rounded out the top five in this category. Middlebury Snow Bowl, also nestled on the western side of the Greens, is someplace you can usually ski right onto the lift. From the top of Worth Mountain you have a choice of steep runs like the Allen or wooded glades, as well as some winding intermediate trails.
Bolton Valley Resort also earned points in this category. Still very much a “locals” mountain, its high base elevation, big snowpack and abundant backcountry draw even Stowe skiers who want to escape the holiday and weekend crowds.
1. Burke Mountain Resort. 2. Magic Mountain. 3. Pico. 4. Middlebury Snow Bowl. 5. Bolton Valley Resort.
Opening photo: Empty trails at Burke Mountain Resort. Photo by Jeb Wallace-Brodeur.