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 our readers said were Vermont ski towns’ BEST SKI BARS & LIVE MUSIC VENUES:
When it comes to après-ski, Vermont’s bars are legendary. They are the places where you might find an Olympian, a rock star, a Fortune 500 CEO, the local plow driver and a lifty all lifting a glass together. You could say that about any one of the top five finalists in this category.
The Matterhorn has seen the likes of Doug Flutie and Mick Jagger stop by, but the mugs over the bar are reserved for long-time patrons – mostly ski instructors—who come here to unwind after a day on the slopes. Owners Charlie and Louise Shaeffer cater to an eclectic crowd with a sushi bar and martinis in a sideroom with views of the West River, an arcade section for kids, and, of course, the obligatory pool table and band stand. The sushi and wood-fired pizzas are surprisingly good and the bands always draw crowds to the dance floor.
Killington’s vast Wobbly Barn is also a legend. The building retains its barn-like feel and it seems like there’s something going on at each of the multiple levels, with different crowds gravitating toward different drinking and dancing areas. There’s a band almost every day of the week for après-ski, with a second band playing from 6:30 to 9:30 on weekends. The Wobbly Barn also won for Best Live Music Venue, followed by its Killington sister, the Pickle Barrel and Magic Mountain’s Black Line Tavern.
Sugarbush’s Castlerock Pub, right at the base of Lincoln Peak, is the resort’s de facto meeting place. It’s packed on a Saturday afternoon and come spring, the scene spills out onto the sunny plaza with wood-fired pizza, bands and skiers sunning themselves in Adirondack chairs.
Next door at the co-op-owned Mad River Glen, General Stark’s Pub has been a scene since Mad River’s early days. Here, some of the best freeskiers in the East congregate. Everyone seems to know each other (and each other’s kids). Lawson’s Finest usually flows freely (a nod to the brewery in town whose founder is a MRG skier.)
Last, Grizzly’s, at the base of Stratton Mountain Resort is a legend. “Vermont is known for its barns, which is why local barn-like woods were woven into Grizzly’s design for a rustic vibe, perfect for après-ski,” was how Architectural Digest has described the renovated building at the site of Stratton’s original base lodge. We know it as the place where generations have come in for a beer after skiing and ended up dancing on tables to live bands late into the night or competing in the annual Superbowl pool. For Stratton regulars and weekenders alike, it’s the regular meeting place.
Best Après-Ski Bar: 1. The Matterhorn, Stowe, 2. The Wobbly Barn, Killington. 3. Castlerock Pub, Sugarbush. 4. General Stark’s Pub, Mad River Glen, 5. Grizzly’s, Stratton.
Best Live Music Venue: 1. Wobbly Barn, 2. The Pickle Barrel, 3. Black Line Tavern, Magic Mountain. 4. Spruce Peak Performing Arts Center. 5. Zen Barn, Waterbury Center.
Opening photo: Lawson’s Finest in Waitsfield. Courtesy photo.