Again, Stratton gets what it asks for. The southern Vermont resort caters to a high-end New York/Connecticut clientele. It's a tony crowd-and a tough one: Here's a hill with 2,000-plus vertical feet, three high-speed routes to the summit, as much snowmaking capacity as any resort its size and a vibrant, if somewhat contrived, base village at its feet. And yet its finicky customers reward it with surprisingly mediocre scores. Scenery is a particular sore spot, perhaps a temporary malaise explained by the perpetual state of construction in the base area (who could fault the views from the summit?). One assumes that ranking will improve as the village-with its common areas, ice rink and après-ski bars and gathering spots-comes together. Even as it is, some readers praise the "nice little base village, with everything you need right there." Many notice the appealing facelift it got last year: no more mid-Seventies oompah-alpine cheesiness. As for the terrain, no one feels overly challenged. "You could fall asleep on the black-diamonds," says one. Others love it just the way it is: "Great cruisers!" Indeed, Stratton's well-groomed trail network offers plenty of friendly terrain, especially the lovely seclusion of Sun Bowl (a great place for day skiers to set up base camp). Experts who complain of being bored perhaps haven't found the steeps of Kidderbrook Ravine, or poked around in several gladed areas. No one faults the wholesale upgrades in snowmaking, totaling $18.5 million since Intrawest took over in the mid-Nineties. Perhaps it's only a matter of time for Stratton. Things happen a little slower in Vermont, but with Intrawest at the helm, it's not unrealistic to expect a Tremblant-esque re-invention and better scores from finicky customers.
WHAT'S NEW No surprise-more snowmaking: 120-plus tower guns.
A GOOD DEAL Three-day midweek ticket and two nights' lodging: $125/person (after Jan. 2, President's Week excluded).
MEDALS GOLD Grooming; SILVER Lifts, Service, Dining.
HIGH/LOW RANK Grooming (14), Dining (27), Lodging (33); Challenge (69), Scenery (76), Value (87).
DON'T MISS A moonlit (or headlamp-lit) snowshoe trek to the beautiful Pearl S. Buck cabin at the nordic center:
READER REMARKS (+) "A luxury resort with all the amenities." (-) "Weekend stay for a family is very expensive."