MOUNTAINS OF POWDER AT SUGARBUSH
by Paul Maraschiello
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We drove through a blizzard from the airport at Manchester to all the way to Waterbury, Vermont. I have a lot of experience driving in the snow, having grown up in Buffalo and living for many years in Vermont, but even I was a little worried as I saw cars off the road and traffic slowing down to a crawl. We headed up the interstate following the taillights ahead of us with our heats in our mouths, stopping often to clear the ice form the wiper blades.
We traveled a little slower than usual but arrived safely at the Old Stagecoach Inn in Waterbury, a charming Bed & Breakfast, halfway between Sugarbush and Stowe. The first thing that struck me as I entered this historic landmark built in 1826 were all the antiques. It was like stepping back into the 1800's. On the main floor is a large parlor filled with antiques. We found out later that they were the original sofas, easy chairs, organ, tapestries, and oriental carpets.
We headed upstairs to our room and were just delighted. There were two double beds, an overhead fan and a skylight. The room was tastefully furnished with antiques and we thought it was a very romantic place to stay.
In the morning we met the friendly staff and had a great breakfast. We were greeted by a buffet table loaded with muffins, pastries, fresh fruit, cereal, juices and three varieties of Waterbury's very own Green Mountain Coffee. Then we sat down and looked over a menu that contained: Eggs Benedict, Belgian waffles, a variety pancakes and omelets, Harrington's cob smoked bacon, sausage, Huevos Rancheros and more. I can tell you that the blueberry pancakes were great and Regina enjoyed her omelet which was cooked-to-order. The small staff was very accommodating and friendly and made you feel right at home.
We explored some of the other rooms and found that one had a great 4-poster bed and another had a "Vermont window".
We headed down the snow-covered road and arrived at Sugarbush eager to hit the slopes. There had been a two-foot snowfall and the trails were piled high with deep Eastern powder that got bumped up fast. I had neglected to bring my powder skis but my Blizzards e-Racers seemed to handle the powder just fine.
BIG GIRLS NEED STIFF SKIS
Regina, on the other hand, was having problems. She had rented a pair of high-performance lady's Rossignol Bandits and she hated them. She complained all morning about the powder and the skis. "Why do people like to ski in this stuff," she asked? "It's awful hard to ski in." She had never skied in any kind of powder and this introduction to the heavy, wet snow that passes for powder in the East was not to her liking. She had only been skiing 12 days in her life and although she is very athletic and already parallel skiing, she was having problems. I gave her a few pointers but she was not a happy camper. She kept complaining that her skis were fish-tailing, so I advised her to take them back to the shop and complain.
Now, Regina is a tall athletic gal. Even though she hasn't been skiing very long, she needs a stiff ski. She had problems with a pair of lady's Volkl skis a few weeks prior and now she was unhappy with these Bandits.
I had a little discussion with the shop tech and she walked out of the shop with a pair of men's Bandits that she liked infinitely better. I have had other tall, athletic female friends that have been disappointed with skis specifically made for ladies. So, if you're 5'2" and under 120 lbs., a lady's ski might be right for you. If, on the other hand, you parallel ski, are over 5'8" and over 160 lbs., you might find the men's version of a ski more to your liking.
BACK ON THE SLOPES
We had lunch and headed back to the slopes. We spent the entire day skiing the trails on Lincoln Peak. We skied Downspout, Birdland, Jester and even Murphy's Glade. We hit Spring Fling a few times and Racer's Edge. Regina liked the male version of her skis a lot better but was still having problems with the powder which had bumped up and turned all the trails into mogul fields. She got a few pointers in skiing the bumps from me and was able to ski these soft bumps, even though I could not convince her to like them. Later on, when we were taking off our ski boots we struck up conversations with a few other skiers who were having problems skiing in this heavy snow.
We headed back to our charming Bed & Breakfast. I had a chance to chat with some of the other guests and the owner. I found out something interesting on this trip. Many of the guests at the Old Stagecoach Inn were "regulars". Instead of purchasing a share in a ski house, they buy their season passes and booked accommodations at the Old Stagecoach Inn, using it just like a ski house. The place has such a homey feel and is so inexpensive that a small family can afford to visit often AND there is maid service, not-to-mention the great breakfasts every morning and a bar that runs on the "honor" system. If you like to ski Stowe, Mad River, Bolton Valley, or Sugarbush, you should consider staying at the Old Stagecoach Inn. It's a charming place filled to the brim with antiques and the folks there will make you fee right at home.
SUGARBUSH COMES THROUGH
Regina was not thrilled with the idea of battling the heady snow and bumps AGAIN. I assured her that now that the snow had stopped falling, Sugarbush would groom the snow and it would be a lot better skiing on Sunday. They didn't let me down, the grooming crews did a great job, the sun came out and the skiing was really terrific.
We decided to check out the trails on North Lynx Peak. I usually don't ski this part of the mountain, so it was an interesting treat for me. The trails were more to Regina's liking. We skied Birch Run to Sleeper and did Hot Shot and Over Shot. There was a lot of corduroy and the well-groomed sloped gave Regina back a little of her confidence. As we were getting on the chair, we noticed a beautiful rainbow surrounding the sun. It was really beautiful. I had never seen a round rainbow before.
After skiing almost all morning on the trails fed by the Gatehouse Express Quad, we hopped on the Slide Brook Express Quad that links this area with Mt. Ellen. I like to call this chair the "White Knuckle Express". It goes up and down the mountains, linking two different mountain areas. I don't mind riding UP a chairlift but I get a little nervous riding DOWN a mountain. However, Regina held my hand and I overcame my vertigo and by the time we got there, I was ALMOST at ease.
We checked out the trails off the North Ridge Express, skiing Elbow and Which Way. We skied all the way down to the bottom and rode up the green Mountain Express. We took a run down Rim Run and Even came down Lower FIS, only to find out that it turns into a cross-country trail at the end. When we got back on the Green Mountain Express, we skied back to the Slide Brook Express, returning to the main Sugarbush ski area.
We had a great lunch in the main base lodge and were really enjoying a fine day of skiing. The sun was shining, the snow was in great shape and the temperature was cold enough to keep the snow firm but not so cold as to be uncomfortable. As we had skied Lincoln Peak the day before, we knew where we wanted to ski and all the trails were in good shape. We skied the trails off the Heaven's Gate, Valley House and Super Bravo chairs and we both had a really good day.
If you have never skied Sugarbush, what are you waiting for? Sugarbush has more than 100 trails, four mountains and short lift lines. Sugarbush is one of the best ski areas in Vermont and has a lot to offer skiers of every ability. There are 112 trails and 15 lifts. Experts can get their jollies on Stein's Run and Rumble. I have been challenged by a trail called Paradise and skiing in the trees is fun at Sugarbush. There are a ton of intermediate trails at this resort and enough novice trails to keep a beginner occupied for many days. The only thing lacking at the ski resort is adequate base lodge facilities but I was informed that they are in the planning stages of a new base lodge. It will be a much needed improvement.
Now that the trails were all groomed and Regina was on a set of skis that were better suited to her, we had a great afternoon. We skied our hearts out and then headed back to the airport for our flight back to Washington, D.C., tired and happy.
A few years ago I visited Sugarbush after not skiing there for many years and I was really impressed by the trails, lift system and extensive snowmaking. If you want to ski a big ski area in the center of Vermont where there are seldom crowds, ski Sugarbush. The people who ski there on a regular basis are friendly and you are guaranteed to have a good time. They make a lot of snow and have coverage late into the season. I like Sugarbush and have always had a good time. You will too.
If you are looking for an inexpensive place to stay that is convenient to Sugarbush, Mad River, Bolton Valley, and Stowe, try the Old Stagecoach Inn. The charm of this Bed & Breakfast, tasty food and friendly staff will make you feel right at home.
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