Best Ski Towns
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 the BEST SKI TOWNS:
When we asked “What’s the best ski town?” one respondent pretty much summed up the results with this answer: “Stowe, if it wasn’t a frickin’ city all of a sudden. So Option 2 isn’t a town, it’s the Mad River Valley.”
That’s pretty much how the votes went. Stowe, with its postcard-perfect village (made prettier since the power lines were recently buried), wealth of boutique shops and restaurants, breweries and distilleries (The Alchemist, von Trapp, Idletyme, Stowe Cider all within a couple of miles from each other) and dozens of hotels and inns is clearly a resort town. Witness the three spas, a handful of salons and even a place devoted to faux mink eyelash extensions. And then there is the Spruce Peak base village, with ski-out suites, skating rink, raclette and whisky pavilion and Performing Arts Center.
That might make it a great resort destination but what makes it a great ski town is the fact that many moved here to ski – be it at Stowe Mountain Resort or on the trails of the Trapp Family Lodge, Stowe Nordic Center or the trails of Edson Hill—and for most, that’s the reason for living there. Walk into any shop and the conversation starter is: “So how’s the mountain, today.”
The Tuesday ski bum races draw locals of all ages and abilities to compete as teams (often sponsored by area businesses or individuals) and prizes are not just for the winners: local businesses hand out random awards, such as a spa daypass to Stoweflake, for whoever takes, say, 63rd place. On weekdays, locals move from town to mountain several times a day. A sign even on the Stowe Seafood Market, 8 miles from the base of the mountain, reminds “No ski boots.”
Stowe’s ski history runs deep. The Stowe Derby (a race on skinny skis from the top of the Toll Road trail on Mt. Mansfield all the way to town) celebrates its 77th anniversary this year. The Vermont Ski and Snowboard Museum sits at the village’s main intersection.
The towns of the Mad River Valley, Waitsfield and Warren, are a little earthier, more hippy than hipster. Community spirit runs deep here, and the ski areas – Sugarbush and Mad River Glen – are heavily involved with local causes, ranging from supporting school programs to Vermont Adaptive, which just opened a new facility at Sugarbush’s Mt. Ellen.
The vibe here is artisan –whether its crafts and arts or food. You can still buy cheeses, meats and eggs from local farms in the Valley such as von Trapp and with eateries such as American Flatbread, the acclaimed Mad Taco and Canteen Creamery and Lawson’s Finest Liquids in town, Waitsfield’s food scene is both good and inexpensive
These two areas were at the top of the list, but Killington, Ludlow and Manchester all earned votes as places where ski bums and business moguls alike mingle with one common ground: skiing and riding.
1. Stowe, 2. Waitsfield/Warren, 3. Killington, 4. Ludlow, 5. Manchester
Opening photo: Stowe’s downtown village, by Mark Vandenberg/GoStowe.com
See the other VT Ski + Ride Reader Survey Winners:
2. BEST SKI AREA TO AVOID CROWDS
3. BEST SKI AREA FOR KIDS & FAMILIES
4. BEST SNOWMAKING AND GROOMING
5. BEST BACKCOUNTRY/SIDE COUNTRY
9. BEST CROSS-COUNTRY SKI AREAS
13. BEST SKI BARS AND LIVE MUSIC