East Coast skiers are a proud and rowdy bunch. They’ve cut their teeth on firm conditions, are no strangers to boilerplate, and their mouths water at the prospect of a few inches of fresh snow. They’re a breed of their own, known for making the most of what they’re given, and doing so with as much stoke as any Westbig mountain powder hound.
Much of an East Coaster’s stoke is rooted in their undying loyalty to their home mountain. That said, it probably doesn’t come as a surprise to most that any list of the largest ski resorts in the country is suspiciously void of East Coast favorites. With the western half of the U.S. hogging all of the vertical and acreage, it really isn’t a fair fight. Still, there are worthy ski resorts to be found east of the Mississippi that boast challenging and fun terrain, and a lot more of it than you may think. If you’re East Coast-faithful and looking to stack up the mileage this season, we have your winter hit list right here.
5. Stratton, Vt.
- 670 skiable acres
- 11 lifts
- 4-hour drive from New York City
- Accessible with the Ikon Pass
Squeaking in at no. 5 on the list is Stratton, a timeless East Coast favorite. Probably not the first mountain that comes to mind when you think of big East Coast resorts, Stratton may just be the biggest small mountain around. Harboring an impressive 670 acres of skiable terrain serviced by 11 lifts, Stratton has more to offer than what meets the eye.
Take Gondola 10 to the 3,875-foot summit and enjoy expansive views of southern Vermont, then point ‘em straight and feel the burn ripping down the resort’s 2,000 feet of vert. Stratton’s terrain isn’t going to have any experts shaking in their boots, but it doesn’t have to. Perfectly manicured novice to intermediate terrain comprises 75 percent of the mountain’s 99 trails, yielding seemingly endless, buttery smooth corduroy for anyone looking to set a firm edge on long, swooping cruisers.
What Stratton lacks in difficulty it makes up for with other amenities, including some of the finest dining around, a first-class village, and, of course, the Stratton Mountain School, famous for cranking out 46 Olympians in its storied 48-year history. A mere four-hour drive from New York City, Stratton isn’t hard to get to and may just surprise you on your next weekend trip up from the Big Apple.
Read more about Stratton: Changing of the Guard
4. Sunday River, Maine
- 870 skiable acres
- 53 miles of trails
- Charming New England ski town
- Accessible with the Ikon Pass or New England Pass
Composed of eight distinct and beautifully interconnected peaks, Sunday River is undoubtedly one of the more impressive East Coast resorts to look at, more closely resembling some of the mega-resorts of the West than most of its Eastern counterparts. Not only does Sunday River look a bit like Park City from afar, but it rides like it, too.
The resort’s 18 lifts make navigating 135 trails running a total of 53 miles a breeze. The River also boasts nearly 300 acres of developed tree skiing, adding a little more technical mite to the already impressive 870 total skiable acres. The lure of perfectly balanced terrain (30 percent beginner, 36 percent intermediate and 34 percent advanced/expert) draws families and adrenaline junkies alike from all across the region to fine-tune their skills on mellow, cascading fall lines and to test their nerves on some true rough ‘n’ rowdy East Coast bombers.
New Englanders know better than anyone that sometimes ma’ nature can be stingy, but you’d be lucky to find a mountain better prepared for her testiness than Sunday River. Wielding over 2,000 snow guns primed and ready to cover 522 acres in the finest man-made snow, you can rest assured that The River will be ready, regardless of whether or not mother nature is on board.
A charming New England vibe is the icing on Sunday River’s cake. Be sure to swing into Bethel on your next visit, ranked one of the best ski towns in the country and birthplace of nine-time X Games medalist and freestyle skiing pioneer Simon Dumont (he’s still the man, and if you haven’t seen “Resurrection” yet, do yourself a favor and click here). No matter what you’re into, Sunday River has it and should certainly be on your list this winter.
Read more: Sunday River, Maine
3. Smugglers’ Notch, Vt.
- 1,000 skiable acres
- 2,610 feet of vert
- 276-inch average annual snowfall
- Truly independent
Say what you will about the corporate expansion and development that has come to define modern-day ski resort management. Like it or not, it has actually been important to expanding the inclusivity and accessibility of the sport we all love. With that being said, there is no denying that skiing at a truly independent mountain can feel like a breath of fresh air and serve as a nostalgic reminder of a bygone era of the sport. That’s what Smugglers’ Notch is all about, and this Vermont classic has both the terrain and amenities to rival any of your favorite monster resorts.
Smuggs’ three interconnected peaks tout an impressive 2,610 feet of vert, 1,000 acres of skiable terrain serviced by eight lifts, and some of the best views around. Each peak offers distinct terrain catering to all skill levels. Morse Mountain is a family-friendly, green circle paradise, whereas Sterling Mountain offers blue square cruisers on end for anyone looking to step it up a notch without getting too crazy. If getting too crazy is your thing, however, Smuggs’ Madonna Mountain has you covered, with advanced and technical fall lines sure to challenge even the most hardcore. Think you can hang with Vermont’s best? Crank those dins and drop into Blackhole, the East Coast’s only self-proclaimed “triple” black diamond.
And there’s more to Smuggs than its objectively underrated terrain. Smuggler’s Notch positively oozes Vermont charm, offers some of the best family-friendly services in the region, and most importantly, is graced with an average annual snowfall of 276 inches (not too shabby for an Eastern ski resort). You won’t find this resort on your Epic or Ikon pass but do yourself a favor and make a trip up to Smuggs this winter—you won’t regret it.
More about Smuggs’: There Goes the Neighborhood
2. Sugarloaf, Maine
- 1,240 skiable acres
- The only Eastern resort that offers lift-serviced above tree-line skiing
- Over 650 acres of patrolled and maintained sidecountry access
- Accessible with the Ikon Pass or New England Pass
Deep in the heart of Maine exists a famous valley known for its legendary terrain, quaint New England charm, and for breeding some of the finest winter sports athletes to ever hit the slopes. The Carrabassett River Valley isn’t your ordinary East Coast ski destination, and every ski bum in New England knows that if it’s big mountain skiing you want, it’s got to be The ‘Loaf. Sugarloaf is a big-time Eastern resort that curates a skiing experience unlike any other in the East.
Boasting 1,240 skiable acres serviced by 13 lifts, there is something for everyone at The ‘Loaf. An average of 200 inches of snow blankets the 4,237-foot peak each winter, allowing East Coast diehards access to over 2,800 feet of thigh-burning vert and the only lift-serviced above-treeline skiing in the East. Get lucky enough to catch it on one of those coveted East Coast powder days and you just may never leave.
If dropping cliffs and bombing powder-laden chutes is more your forte, ditch the lift lines and pass through the gates to access the foot-powered side-country of Bracket Basin or Burnt Mountain. You’ll be greeted by over 650 acres of rugged and technical terrain, complete with all the backcountry fixings that are sure to keep all you Type-III skiers entertained.
With the addition of cat-skiing on Burnt Mountain, Sugarloaf has pioneered an experience for skiers you’d be hard-pressed to find anywhere else east of the Mississippi. Getting to The ‘Loaf is a bit of a hike, which is its one pitfall. Even so, ask anyone who’s spent enough time there—like maybe Bode Miller or Jeremy Jones—and they’ll surely tell you it’s worth the trek.
1. Killington, Vt.
- Over 1,500 skiable acres
- 22 lifts
- 3,050 feet of vert
- Accessible with the Ikon Pass
If you live and ride on the East Coast, you’ve probably heard ad nauseam that Killington is the “Beast of the East”. Well, it is, in just about every way possible. The Beast doesn’t just talk the talk, it also walks the walk. Coming in at a staggering 1,509 skiable acres serviced by 22 lifts, K Town is one giant East Coast playground. Add its sister resort Pico Mountain to the conversation, and all of a sudden you’re looking at nearly 2,000 skiable acres and 92 miles of trails.
If it’s a challenge you want, the Beast’s got your back. Take the K-1 gondola to Killington Peak’s 4,241-foot summit and rip all the way down to Skyeship for 3,050 feet of gut-busting, thigh-crushing vert. Or head to Bear Mountain and put your legs to the test on the 1,100-foot, bump-choked descent down Outer Limits, home of the famous Bear Mountain Mogul Challenge.
Still not satisfied? Dip over to neighboring Devil’s Fiddle or any of the glades in between, where more cliffs and steeps bear the technical grit to challenge even the hardest of hardcore. Killington doesn’t stop there. With an award-winning training center and its recent partnership with Woodward, K Town has something to offer for everyone—little tykes and park rats alike.
Whether they’re just feeling their first bite of windburn or airing out a massive daffy in the Big Bear Mogul Challenge, there is no question that Vermonters are about as tough as they come. The diehard spirit runs deep in the veins of the Green Mountain State, and Killington’s snowmaking team is the living proof. An average annual snowfall of 250 inches just isn’t enough for these folks—they’re relentless. It’s not uncommon for Superstar to be covered in a 30-foot base, which is why the FIS World Cup has found itself a new home on that very trail, and why New Englanders can shred corn sometimes into early June.
If you can still feel your legs after a day at the Beast, stumble your way to the Wobbly Barn to get a true taste of how Vermont’s party mountain gets down. From first chair to last call, October to June, Killington goes big. It is the true Beast of the East, in every way.
More on Killington:
Skiable acreage is the most direct and quantifiable way to measure a ski resort’s size, but we thought there were a few more resorts that deserved a shout for being awesome in other ways.
- Jay Peak, Vt.: Calling all powder hounds: The “Jay Cloud” delivers an average of 359 inches of snow to northern Vermont’s Jay Peak each year. Enough said.
- Mount Snow, Vt.: With the East’s only all-park mountain face, Mount Snow’s Carinthia terrain parks offers one of the largest setups in the East and is consistently ranked among the best parks in the nation. Park rats rejoice!
- Mad River Glen, Vt.: By no means is Mad River Glen the biggest in terms of acreage, vert, or trail count. Nonetheless, what MRG lacks in physical stature, it more than makes up for in attitude. Ski it if you can.
More from the East: Best of the East 2012