What’s New for 2016?

From slope-side restaurants to winter mountain biking, read up on all the new things to try when the snow hits.

New base lodges, skating rinks, climbing walls and movie theaters are things to look forward to. Even better, Vermont’s snowmaking artillery is getting a major infusion.  Winter, we’re ready!

After five years of sitting idle, Ascutney Mountain may become a ski area again. This winter, a local nonprofit hopes to have a rope tow running from the base area to what had been the mid-station. The current plan is to leave the uppermost third of the mountain for backcountry skiing, accessible by hiking or skinning.

There’s a new reason to stick around for night skiing (and the weekly evening corporate race and freestyle competitions) at Bolton Valley this winter: The new South of Solitude restaurant at Timberline will feature burritos and tacos made-to-order from fresh ingredients.

You can get VIP parking at Bromley Mountain with a Parking Pass, which will be great if you have a little one who wants to try the newly upgraded Learning Zone with regraded terrain. Bromley also turned up the horsepower on snowmaking with upgrades to 50 guns.

Jay Peak has determined that you (and your kids) will never get bored there. For 2016, it is planning a 15,000-square-foot entertainment center, including a 120-seat pub/movie theater, a climbing center and a virtual reality arcade. Jay is also building 36 new mountain cottages this winter, and showing others how easy it is to close the loop by recycling 40 tons of food scraps and creating compost.

If you haven’t yet ridden it, hustle to Killington’s new Beast Mountain Coaster, a 4,800-foot-long alpine coaster that runs through the woods with 360-degree corkscrew turns, or try the mountain’s expanded mountain bike trail network. After, check out the $750,000 remodeling of the Ovations restaurant at the Killington Grand hotel. Plans call for an open-air bar and restaurant in the hotel’s lower lobby this season. This winter also look for expanded snowmaking, new ticket scanners, and a permanent airbag and full ramp on lower Superstar.

What we love about Mad River Glen is that it doesn’t change its aesthetic. In 19 years of co-op ownership, Mad River has invested over $5 million in capital improvements, preferring to preserve the MRG experience rather than overhaul it. That said, if you want to pitch in to cut some glades, maintenance days are Sept. 12, 19 and Oct. 3.

On Aug. 18, Magic Mountain announced that negotiations were underway with a prospective new owner. Season pass sales have been suspended while negotiations continue and are expected to go back on sale in October. Magic will honor all season passes purchased at the early bird rate.

This winter the Middlebury College Snow Bowl will be uphill friendly with a new designated route for skinning during operating hours. The ski shop at the mountain will also begin a full leasing program for skis and snowboards, along with its existing rental, repair and tuning program. At nearby Rikert Nordic Center, the fat bike rental fleet has been so popular the Center has put in new trails for snowshoeing and fat biking. New snow guns have allowed the Nordic Center to open in mid-November and log 140 days of Nordic skiing the last two years— the most in Vermont.

Determined to outfox climate change, Mount Snow has raised more than $50 million through a state-sponsored EB-5 project for the Mount Snow West Lake Water Project, which will increase snowmaking capacity by six times. Though completion of the full project is a year or more away, communications director Dave Meeker said skiers and riders would see benefits this winter as the installation of larger pipe “means a huge improvement in how fast we get water to the guns.” The $50 million will also fund construction of a new three-story Carinthia Ski Lodge, beginning in 2016.

Double the bubbles, double the fun, may be the thinking at Okemo Mountain Resort, which replaces its Jackson Gore Express Quad with a second bubble chairlift—a four-passenger named Quantum Four. A new chairlift will access a new novice trail, Suncatcher, while another million-dollar investment in snowmaking will allow Okemo to cover 98 percent of its trails. Also this winter, look for a new radio frequency ticket scanner that should speed up the lift lines.

In December, Q Burke cuts the ribbon on a new 116-room hotel and conference center with 4,800-square-feet of reception and meeting space, plus a day lodge, restaurant, pub café and outdoor venues for events. The best part? The new hotel’s first guests can ski for free between Dec. 11-26. Q Burke is also completing the first $1 million of a three-phase snowmaking expansion.

This summer, Smuggler’s Notch Resort expanded its mountain biking with a two-acre downhill skills park. For the winter, look for expanded snowmaking and a new evening guided snowshoe outing, among many other activities.

If you haven’t tried the longest, most thrilling zip line in the East, head to Stowe Mountain Resort before fall activities close Oct. 18 to try it and the new TreeTops adventure course. While you’re there, check out the new 200,000-square-foot Spruce Peak club house, which includes a three-story climbing gym, retail shops and locker space for club members. The club house will overlook an outdoor ice-skating rink. The resort also invested another $3.4 million in snowmaking and built a 116-million-gallon water storage area it has named Peregrine Lake.

Stratton Mountain Resort’s venerable 1961 base lodge is getting a $9 million makeover, expanding the building by 4,000 square feet and adding 350 seats to the cafeteria. The redesign will expand Grizzly’s Bar and Restaurant and feature 100 light fixtures from renowned local lamp maker Hubbardton Forge of Castleton, Vt. New Yorkers will love the new weekly bus run by Hampton Jitney that departs NYC each Friday and returns Sunday evenings. Also new: web cams at the summit, base lodge and Sun Bowl, plus a cell tower in the Sun Bowl.

Not wanting to speed past Vermont’s most beautiful time of year, Sugarbush Resort will keep its golf course, mountain biking, zip line, disc golf and family activities in full swing into October. This winter, Sugarbush unveils its new high speed Valley House Quad, which replaces the old double. The lift will more than double the number of guests it can transport uphill (748 to 1,800 per hour), and reduce the ride time to eight minutes. The new lift will extend the base lower on the mountain adjacent to Super Bravo, and is scheduled to be ready for opening day, Nov. 21. Neighboring Mount Ellen is scheduled to open Dec. 18 and will start lifts at 8 a.m. through March, which will allow early birds to get first tracks and taste the fruits of the resort’s $5 million upgrade in snowmaking. The newest slopeside condominiums at Gadd Brook at Lincoln Peak, are also due to be finished later this season.

Last, say happy birthday to the oldest ski area in the state. Suicide Six, now managed by the Woodstock Inn & Resort, celebrates its 80th anniversary with snowmaking improvements and added terrain features. The Woodstock Inn & Resort will also offer rentals from Tubbs snowshoes and Fischer skis.


Lisa Lynn

Editor of VT SKI + RIDE and Vermont Sports.