Stratton is the kind of mountain fussy skiers love to hate. They complain about the "uneven weather" and the "need for more expert terrain" and they whine that it's "way too pricey." Consider theirs the whines of envy. Stratton caters to a tony crowd that would rather be pampered than challenged, one that prefers buffed slopes to mega-moguls. That's not to say there isn't challenging terrain here; the pitch is good, and the glades will satisfy expert skiers for at least a short visit. Still, most of the black-diamonds are negotiable by confident intermediates. Loyal Strattonites see this ego-boosting terrain as a plus. Indeed, "well-groomed cruisers" are the resort's calling card. Stratton is especially popular with families, who praise the manicured slopes and "excellent snowmaking," as well as the family-oriented programs. Although it boasts a 2,003-foot vertical drop, making it "almost a big mountain" in the eyes of one skier, the resort's biggest asset is its southern Vermont location: It's "easy to get to from Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut." The downside of this accessibility is that "it gets crowded on weekends," as one reader gripes. But this doesn't translate into long liftlines. Since acquiring Stratton in 1994, parent company Intrawest has invested heavily in high-capacity lifts so that "even during the busiest times, you can get a lot of runs in," one reader notes. The base village, which includes a good selection of shops and restaurants, has also received a much-needed face lift. This village, combined with the shopping of nearby Manchester, means even non-skiers have plenty to do. "Vail East" says one visitor. A "very underrated resort that gets better every year," says another.
WHAT'S NEW Two more high-speed six-packs, one servicing Sun Bowl, the other connecting the top of the Sun Bowl to the summit. The old lift has been moved to Sun Bowl's beginner terrain.
A GOOD DEAL The Stay Free package, $129, midweek during non-holiday periods: three-day lift ticket with two nights' lodging at the slopeside Liftline Lodge.
MEDALS GOLD Grooming; SILVER Snow, Lifts, Service, Dining, Family Programs.
HIGH/LOW RANK Grooming (13), Service (24), Lifts (30); Challenge (62), Scenery (64), Value (71).
DON'T MISS Escaping Saturday crowds with a free guided snowshoe tour to the Fire Tower at the mountain's summit; view takes in four states; rentals available.
READER REMARKS (+) "A great family resort with a pleasing variety of terrain."
(-) "Lack of real challenge for advanced/expert level."