Hometown Mountain Shoutout: A Case for Stratton, VT – Criminally Underrated

Spencer McLaughlin |
View out of the Stratton base lodge (12/17/17)

Stratton is awesome. In my opinion it is one of the most underrated ski areas in New England. Some people swear against this place, but they end up overlooking a mountain that can provide many great ski days if you ski it the right way.

Too many skiers on Black Bear
Many people’s perceptions of Stratton are shown in this image (1/19/20)

Stratton is about three and a half hours from the New York metropolitan area. If you walk around the Sunbowl parking lot on a Saturday morning, you may see a collection of yellow, orange, and blue license plates. Crowds are a common concern, and occasionally it feels like half of New York has shown up to ski here. One benefit of this though is that many other times the ski area is empty. The threat of New Yorkers scares many away from the mountain midweek and during other quiet periods. Those who are left often do not take full advantage of the lift system, staying in the vicinity of the main base area. This allows you to avoid crowds by just going to the exterior of the resort (the Sunbowl and Snowbowl areas) when lines are long on the main mountain. Stratton skiers also don’t normally ski on weekdays and tend to be less likely to skip work to ski a powder day; I have overheard complaints on the lift about there being “too much snow” at Stratton. More powder to you.

Stratton has been part of the Ikon Pass since 2018. I personally have not noticed a very significant increase in crowds since they were added to the pass. The resort was and still is crowded on Saturdays and Holiday Weekends, but Stratton has not seen an insane uptick in crowding in recent years like some other nearby resorts have. My only caveat is that things seriously break down when multiple lifts go on wind hold, however this has been at least partially remedied by the installation of the new Snowbowl chairlift.

Second tracks on Slalom Glade
Not much competition on this Sunday in April (Sunday 4/17/22)

Stratton’s terrain is more interesting than meets the eye. If you are a big fan of carving on racing skis, you will love Stratton’s groomers, although you better make sure to get up early to get that fresh corduroy. If you are a fan of natural terrain and snow like me, while you may be less interested in Stratton’s groomed runs, the areas with natural snow and natural terrain make Stratton a very interesting resort to ski when conditions permit. The best parts of Stratton are the frequent marked (and occasionally unmarked) pockets of tight tree-skiing that you’ll stumble across, which often hold some odd (exciting) terrain and untracked snow. If you know the mountain, often you can chain several of these pockets together to make one excellent long run.

Somewhat secret tree run at Stratton
Undisclosed area at Stratton (1/30/22)

Stratton does fairly well in terms of snowfall, and this is one place where Stratton really shines above its Southern Vermont rivals. The resort is several hundred feet higher than all of the other resorts in Southern Vermont, and the 160” advertised snowfall is usually enough to ski natural terrain after December. It’s not rare for Stratton to receive twice as much snow in a storm as some of the other resorts in the area, due to its higher and colder summit. When the conditions aren’t firing, there’s always snowmaking and groomers, which are known for being world-class at Stratton.

Be open minded about Stratton. Sure, it’s not perfect: it suffers from the problems every east coast ski area suffers from, along with several more. Regardless, I think you should show up at the Sunbowl on a weekday at some point. You may just be surprised at what this ski area can offer you.

Winhall VT, snow covered Route 30
Vermont Route 30 toward Stratton on a particularly snowy day (12/22/17)

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