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 IN VERMONT
The question was quite simple: What’s the best overall ski area in Vermont? Killington Mountain Resort came away the clear winner, with Sugarbush not far behind and Jay Peak, Stowe and Mad River Glen within a few votes of each other.
Killington has worked hard over the last decade to evolve from the wild-and-crazy weekend destination where the Tri-State came to bash bumps by day and pound PBRs all night, into something, well, still hard-charging, but in a healthier way. The Beast of the East is still the fun-loving mullet of a mountain where the King of Spring reigns. But it’s also a good place to get a few quiet morning powder runs.
“It’s like they’re trying continually to make me feel like I’m on a great ski vacation even though I live in Vermont and ski there all the time,” notes local Stephen Dulli.
The mountain has always been the biggest in the East, the first to open and the last to close. It is known for legendary bump runs like Outer Limits (where the Bear Mountain Mogul Challenge has been held for more than 40 years) and Superstar, which has played host to the Women’s World Cup since 2016.
But there are also quiet glades, expert terrain like the cliffy Devil’s Fiddle, long cruisers like Great Northern, seven terrain parks… the list goes on. With nearly 1,500 skiable acres and 155 trails running for 73 miles, there has always been something for everyone.
That wasn’t enough. Under president Mike Solimano the list of improvements in recent years is staggering and covers all fronts: terrain, snowmaking, lifts, hotel upgrades, a new lodge, new events.
In 2018/19 alone the resort added the new Snowdon Six Express bubble lift, move the old Snowdon across to South Ridge, excavated four huge tunnels to help skiers cross busy trails, upgraded the K-1 Express gondola cabins, put in new RFID ticketing and added the Woodward Peace Park. “The investments we’re making will re-shape the guest experience for years to come,” said Solimano at the time. “Uphill capacity will increase to 48,000 riders per hour and the downhill enhancements will create more diverse terrain for all levels of skiers and riders.”
The resort invested $16 million in those upgrades. And then Killington announced the new K1 Lodge – a $30 million dollar building (delayed during Covid) that is expected to open next year. And then there was the $2 million upgrade of the Killington Grand Hotel and Preston’s restaurant and bar.
When we asked locals what they felt have been Killington’s biggest improvements, they listed all of these things. Then also praised the new app, the mountain bike park with 35 miles of lift-served trails and the Beast 365 pass that allows year-round access to skiing, biking, golf and other activities. “It’s one of two mountain resorts in Vermont that does not die in stick and mud seasons. It might slow down but there is no off season now at Killington,” said Michael Christopher Owens.
But what struck us the most were the intangibles. “I loved the way Killington took care of staff with food banks during Covid last year! When an employer takes care of staff it trickles down to the customers,” said Anne Calhoun.
Brooke Mars noted: “I was staff for about 5 years and the big thing during training was ‘create joy.’ It wasn’t until I moved that I realized all the little things they do to really improve the guest and staff experience; like when Mike Solimano has helped push my car out of the K1 parking lot when it got stuck, and the random handouts of burritos or some other snack or beverage, and not just during the weekends. All the little things add up.”
Perhaps the only things that got thumbs down were the new Fast Tracks program (pay $49 per day and you can use a special lift line) and priority reserved parking: elitism doesn’t go over well in a place that has catered to the masses.
Killington also earned top votes—or was a runner up— in the categories of Snowmaking and Grooming, Events, and On-Mountain Dining.
Sugarbush, which placed second overall, was the winner in Best On-Mountain Dining and was named among the top five in many categories, including Best For Kids, Best Après-Ski Bar, and Best Grooming. Jay Peak earned top honors for Best Sidecountry. Completing the top five ski areas in Vermont are Stowe and Mad River Glen.
1. Killington, 2. Sugarbush, 3. Jay Peak, 4. Stowe, 5. Mad River Glen
See the other VT Ski + Ride Reader Survey winners: