Ski East: Weekend at Mount Snow

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In the late Fifties, Mount Snow gained a reputation as "The Aspen of the East"-glamorous, creative and ahead of its time. It had a Jetson-like aircar lift to whisk guests from the Snow Lake Lodge hotel to the base area, where they could frolick in the first-ever outdoor heated pool at an eastern ski resort and gawked at the giant tropical fish aquariums in the cafeteria.

Today, Mount Snow has lost some of its singularity, but it's more popular than ever. As one of the easiest-to-reach mega resorts in southern New England and a linchpin of the American Skiing Company conglomerate (owner of Killington and Sugarbush in Vermont and Maine's Sunday River and Sugarloaf), it draws more than a half-million skiers a year. The aircar, the pool, the Jacques Cousteau re-creation in the base lodge and other Disneyesque ideas that flowed from founder Walt Schoenknecht's visionary brain have been erased from the area. But not, thankfully, the wide, fall-line trails that helped bring about a revolution in Eastern trail design.

Friday Night
Because Mount Snow is close to both New York City (213 miles) and Boston (127 miles), it attracts a large crowd of singles whose winter weekend priorities are partying and skiing-in that order. If you pull in late Friday night in need of a brew, you can count on the area bars being packed, particularly the raucous Snow Barn and the more sedate Dover Bar and Grill (DBG to locals).

With no real "town" at the base, most restaurants and hotels are scattered along Route 100, the thoroughfare that travels from nearby Wilmington to the ski area (about a 15-minute drive). Some of the best bets for lodging are the Kitzhof Lodge, Austrian Haus Lodge, West Dover Inn and Red Cricket Inn. Many of these modest properties date back to Mount Snow's formative years, but they're clean and well-maintained. Route 100 can get quite noisy with auto traffic, so if you're a light sleeper, ask for a room facing away from the road.

There are also a number of cozy B&Bs in the surrounding area. The White House in Wilmington or Craft's Inn are especially good for a romantic getaway. The Doveberry Inn, about 3 miles from Mount Snow, is another quiet B&B worth booking. It serves Northern Italian cuisine that's among Vermont's best.

Families will probably find the condos on Mount Snow's Mountain Road a more convenient, but not less expensive, choice. Most two-bedroom units go for well over $500 a weekend.

While a car is a good thing to have at Mount Snow, the free MOOver bus system (the buses are painted to look like cows) does a nice job getting people up and down Deerfield Valley. It runs every 20 minutes, from about 7 am to midnight.

Saturday Morning
Boilerplate advice for visiting most Eastern resorts applies to Mount Snow in spades: Get there early! The area is well run, but on a typical Saturday morning, the place is jammed by 9:30.

If you want to stop for breakfast on the way, try the locals' favorite, Dot's of Dover, about five minutes south of Mount Snow on Route 100. There can be a several minute wait to get in, but the food is hearty (try the French toast) and the coffee strong. For a quicker hit, go about 100 yards past Dot's to The Perfect Cup, a small spot with just a couple of booths, that serves excellent coffee and "Brooklyn bagels" (a misnomer since the restaurant uses the California-style steaming method rather than the classic New York boiling process to prepare the dough). If you're the kind of person who thinks ahead, the SuperSaver grocery, next to The Perfect Cup, is a good place to buy sandwiches for lunch.

Since queues at the mountain's ski and snowboard rental shops can keep you waiting up to an hour, take care of rentals on your way to the hill. Best bets are Equipe Rentals, Ski Mountain Snowboards or World Class Ski and Sport, all located along Route 100.

Parking lots B, C or D near the base lodge fill up early. If you're too late for a choice spot, park dowat the Carinthia or Beaver lot (where lift tickets are available) and take the area's new high-speed quad (Carinthia) or the new Magic Carpet escalator (at Beaver). Or you can slip one of the parking attendants a $10 bill and be shown a spot front row, center. This isn't a guaranteed method, of course, but in all my years of visiting ski areas it hasn't failed me yet. One note of caution: Recent construction of the new Grand Summit Hotel and Crown Club at Mount Snow (set to open in early 1998), might mean the Beaver ticket office won't open until later in the season.

While you can walk from your car to the base lodge in ski boots, it's probably wiser to wear sneakers-the base is a fun après-ski spot and you'll be more comfortable lounging around in street shoes. Day-storage lockers are also available, though most people just shove their stuff in a duffel bag and stash their belongings in a corner.

On The Hill
The skiing at Mount Snow is comprised of primarily fast, fun cruisers, with a handful of more challenging runs. It doesn't have the super-steep trails of northern Vermont areas, such as Stowe or Mad River Glen, but with 1,700 feet of vertical, it isn't wimpy, either.

Early on a cold winter morning, you can find softer snow and sunshine at the aptly-named Sunbrook area, where blue runs such as Thanks Walt and Sunspot get your legs warm. After fresh snow, powderhounds should visit the North Face and ski the birches on Epiphany and The Plunge. If it's open, Ripcord is a steep run worth a try, too.

Like many ski resorts, Mount Snow gets crowded at the end of the day. Be especially careful to avoid runs in the center of the hill, particularly below the Yankee Clipper quad. And skip casting a shadow on Long John, the narrow mountain road that funnels many beginners down from the summit; the traffic there is worse than rush hour on Manhattan's West Side Highway or Boston's Commonwealth Avenue.

One More Time, which ends at the base, tends to be empty, but with good reason: It's narrow and often icy. Your best bet down is Snowdance, a super-wide cruiser that is rarely crowded even as happy hour approaches. Another good option is South Bowl to Tramline to Ego Alley. The snow is soft, the runs wide and very few people seem to know about it.

Mountain Dining/Après-Ski
Summit Lodge, at the top of Mount Snow, is one of the best places to pitstop. There's soft drinks and coffee, and the meatball subs are worth the price of a lift ticket. The lodge has additional seating upstairs, where, if you're in a hurry, you can quickly buy drinks and chili.

The Main Base Lodge also has several places to grab a bite. Slip into the Market Place cafeteria for a veggie roll-up, a grilled vegetable sandwich on pita bread with feta and cream cheeses. It's delicious and will satisfy even the strongest appetite. The curly fries are a great complement.

The real scene at Mount Snow is Cuzzins Bar & Deli. At day's end, it offers all the smoke and ambiance of a Manhattan singles bar. Bruce Jacques and the Invisible Band (which is truly invisible; Jacques is a one-man act) has been entertaining the Mount Snow crowd for years with quirky covers of hits from artists as diverse as Jimmy Buffet and Guns 'n Roses. Don't be surprised if the cult-like regulars sing and dance along with Jacques, Rocky Horror Picture Show-style. Cuzzins' deli sandwiches don't match The Stage, but they get more than passing marks from discerning New Yorkers.

Also in the base lodge is the Midstation Bar, a little quieter with more elbow room and a mellow guitar player performing to a respectful crowd; La Cocina Pizza & Tacos, with passable Mexican fare; and the fourth floor airie, the Shipyard Brew Haus, serving burgers, steaks and salads in a faux yacht club atmosphere.

The base lodge is lively until about 7 pm, when the Snow Barn, on the Mount Snow service road, takes over as the area's hot spot. About a quarter mile from the base, the Snow Barn has wide-screen TVs, games (foosball, air hockey, pool tables), live music and dancing. If you're in a more reflective mood, head south on Route 100 to The Silo, a bar housed in a old barn connected to Fink's, a down-home family restaurant.

Despite its "singular" attention, Mount Snow works hard to keep its younger skiers entertained. Planet 9 is the hip name for the Saturday night entertainment complex at the Carinthia base, the epicenter for adolescent excitement. The slopes are lit for free bring-your-own sledding (until 9 pm), ice skating ($3, rentals available), and snowboarding on the 460-foot-long "Gut" halfpipe ($8 for riding from 5-10 pm). Even if you don't ride, it's great entertainment to see the trick bar raised during the weekly pipe jam contests. For older kids (15-20), the Planet 9 After Dark lounge in the Carinthia lodge rocks with a DJ, pool table and video games (open 8 pm-midnight, non-alcoholic beverages and snack foods available).

Younger kids (10-14) hang out at the Cave Club, a weekly version of a junior high school dance, in the basement of the main base lodge (open 7-10 pm, $5 admission). A DJ helps motivate the crowd with contests, raffles and karoke. Parents can go off and dine without worry thanks to a sign-in, sign-out system.

Sunday
Despite the scores of families who enjoy Mount Snow's slopes, it is still a favorite watering hole for single urban refugees. It's customary to stay out late Saturday and nurse your hangover Sunday morning. So if you can get on the first chair Sunday, you can crank out a huge vertical day. To keep the folks with splitting headaches from leaving too early, the resort offers a variety of Sunday afternoon food and shopping specials, including discount meals and a bargains table at the Crisports ski shop, all beginning at 3 pm.

By the way, if your route home takes you down Mass. Route 112, drive the speed limit when you pass through Colrain. That's where the cops nail skiers in a hurry.

The Essential Mount Snow
All area codes are 802 unless otherwise noted.
Vitals In touch: Rte. 100, Mt. Snow, Vt. 05356; (800) 245-7669; Web site: mountsnow.com. Getting there: 68 miles from Albany, 117 from Hartford, 127 from Boston, 213 from New York City. Base altitude: 1,900 feet. Vertical: 1,700 feet. Skiable terrain: 767 acres.
Sleeping In On a budget: The Horizon Inn, 15 minutes from Mount Snow in Wilmington, has an indoor heated pool (464-2131). Price is no object: The Doveberry Inn (800-722-3204), a romantic bed and breakfast that also serves dinner.
Eating Out For romance: If you enjoy wearing a sports coat to dinner, try The Inn at Sawmill Farm (464-8131). Best gourmet pizza: Julio's Wood-Fired Pizza, with more than a dozen combinations (464-1154).
Kidcare Mount Snow Child Care (464-4152) is right at the base of the mountain and accepts kids from six weeks to four years (approx. $55/day, reservations required).
Best Bumps Beartrap. Not only are the bumps tough, but it's right below a slow chairlift. Ski it only if you can stand the razzing.
Best Hangout The Snowbarn (464-3333).
Gift To Bring Home World-famous Vermont maple syrup, of course. Stop at any of the dozens of working farms along Route 100, but if you drive home through Bennington on Rte. 9, the Sargent's Short Stop Deli in the Texaco station usually has better prices.
Culture Stops The Shield Inn (464-3984), about 1.5 miles from Mt. Snow, styles itself as "An inn devoted to music" and has a winter jazz series to back up the claim. The Memorial Hall Center for the Arts (464-4178) on Main St. in Wilmington stages theater, music and dance productions.
Make Like Santa The sleigh ride at Adams Farm (464-3762) includes a stop at a log cabin so passengers can listen to a player piano and relax with hot chocolate.
On A Rainy Day Unlike many ski areae base, the Snow Barn has wide-screen TVs, games (foosball, air hockey, pool tables), live music and dancing. If you're in a more reflective mood, head south on Route 100 to The Silo, a bar housed in a old barn connected to Fink's, a down-home family restaurant.

Despite its "singular" attention, Mount Snow works hard to keep its younger skiers entertained. Planet 9 is the hip name for the Saturday night entertainment complex at the Carinthia base, the epicenter for adolescent excitement. The slopes are lit for free bring-your-own sledding (until 9 pm), ice skating ($3, rentals available), and snowboarding on the 460-foot-long "Gut" halfpipe ($8 for riding from 5-10 pm). Even if you don't ride, it's great entertainment to see the trick bar raised during the weekly pipe jam contests. For older kids (15-20), the Planet 9 After Dark lounge in the Carinthia lodge rocks with a DJ, pool table and video games (open 8 pm-midnight, non-alcoholic beverages and snack foods available).

Younger kids (10-14) hang out at the Cave Club, a weekly version of a junior high school dance, in the basement of the main base lodge (open 7-10 pm, $5 admission). A DJ helps motivate the crowd with contests, raffles and karoke. Parents can go off and dine without worry thanks to a sign-in, sign-out system.

Sunday
Despite the scores of families who enjoy Mount Snow's slopes, it is still a favorite watering hole for single urban refugees. It's customary to stay out late Saturday and nurse your hangover Sunday morning. So if you can get on the first chair Sunday, you can crank out a huge vertical day. To keep the folks with splitting headaches from leaving too early, the resort offers a variety of Sunday afternoon food and shopping specials, including discount meals and a bargains table at the Crisports ski shop, all beginning at 3 pm.

By the way, if your route home takes you down Mass. Route 112, drive the speed limit when you pass through Colrain. That's where the cops nail skiers in a hurry.

The Essential Mount Snow
All area codes are 802 unless otherwise noted.
Vitals In touch: Rte. 100, Mt. Snow, Vt. 05356; (800) 245-7669; Web site: mountsnow.com. Getting there: 68 miles from Albany, 117 from Hartford, 127 from Boston, 213 from New York City. Base altitude: 1,900 feet. Vertical: 1,700 feet. Skiable terrain: 767 acres.
Sleeping In On a budget: The Horizon Inn, 15 minutes from Mount Snow in Wilmington, has an indoor heated pool (464-2131). Price is no object: The Doveberry Inn (800-722-3204), a romantic bed and breakfast that also serves dinner.
Eating Out For romance: If you enjoy wearing a sports coat to dinner, try The Inn at Sawmill Farm (464-8131). Best gourmet pizza: Julio's Wood-Fired Pizza, with more than a dozen combinations (464-1154).
Kidcare Mount Snow Child Care (464-4152) is right at the base of the mountain and accepts kids from six weeks to four years (approx. $55/day, reservations required).
Best Bumps Beartrap. Not only are the bumps tough, but it's right below a slow chairlift. Ski it only if you can stand the razzing.
Best Hangout The Snowbarn (464-3333).
Gift To Bring Home World-famous Vermont maple syrup, of course. Stop at any of the dozens of working farms along Route 100, but if you drive home through Bennington on Rte. 9, the Sargent's Short Stop Deli in the Texaco station usually has better prices.
Culture Stops The Shield Inn (464-3984), about 1.5 miles from Mt. Snow, styles itself as "An inn devoted to music" and has a winter jazz series to back up the claim. The Memorial Hall Center for the Arts (464-4178) on Main St. in Wilmington stages theater, music and dance productions.
Make Like Santa The sleigh ride at Adams Farm (464-3762) includes a stop at a log cabin so passengers can listen to a player piano and relax with hot chocolate.
On A Rainy Day Unlike many ski area theaters, the Mountain Park Cinema on Route 100 (464-6447) gets first-run movies.
Snowmobiling High Country Snowmobile Tours (800-627-7533) and Rock Maple Sport & Power (464-3284) both rent good sleds and offer guided tours on marked trails.
Getting In Tune Need a stone grind? Visit Equipe Sport (464-2222), located on the access road.
Java The Hut There are lots of good coffee places, but the base lodge's Pastry Cart has an especially good brew.
Never Meet At Cuzzins, in the base lodge. It's crowded and there are often long lines to get in.
area theaters, the Mountain Park Cinema on Route 100 (464-6447) gets first-run movies.
Snowmobiling High Country Snowmobile Tours (800-627-7533) and Rock Maple Sport & Power (464-3284) both rent good sleds and offer guided tours on marked trails.
Getting In Tune Need a stone grind? Visit Equipe Sport (464-2222), located on the access road.
Java The Hut There are lots of good coffee places, but the base lodge's Pastry Cart has an especially good brew.
Never Meet At Cuzzins, in the base lodge. It's crowded and there are often long lines to get in.