The Soul of Stratton

Here’s the thing about those icy, flat slopes: They absolutely make you a better skier.

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I’m about to talk about Stratton Mountain, the ski resort that’s just 10 minutes from where I grew up in Vermont, and I know what you’re thinking: Ice. Bitterly cold temperatures. Liftlines crowded with New Yorkers and Bostonians. Terrain that’s, well…the place is known as “Flatton.”

Yes, it’s all those things. But it’s also my home ski area, and here’s why I love it.

To me, Stratton is tailgating out the back of my grandparents’ Chevy Suburban in the Sun Bowl lot (where locals park because it’s away from the crowds and has direct access to a lift). Overdosing on gummy bears at Sugarplums in the village. Skiing spongy bumps down Spruce and World Cup on those few warm spring days. Easter Parades. (I won a free season pass for best costume—my mother dressed me as an Easter egg.) First tracks on the most perfect corduroy in the whole country. Watching those New Yorkers and Bostonians destroy themselves in the terrain park on Suntanner while I sit sipping a Long Trail on the deck of Grizzlies as the sun sets behind the mountain.

And here’s the thing about those icy, flat slopes: They absolutely make you a better skier. I was writing a profile about world and Olympic champion Ted Ligety last year, and he said, “When I’m working on something, I always find flat terrain. You can’t get better on the steeps. Only on the flats.” There you go.

Now I live in Jackson Hole, Wyo., drawn here by the narrow couloirs and 50-degree steeps. But I couldn’t ski any of them had Stratton’s flats not helped me develop the technique I needed.

There’s no place else I’d have wanted to grow up.