Today, SMS thrives on a beautiful 10-acre campus near the Sun Bowl side of the mountain, complete with its own state-of-the-art athletic facility. On a typical winter weekday, head coach Mike Morin encourages and critiques his charges as they rocket down a variety of runs all over the mountain. “We can train anything from slalom to super G, any day of the week,” says Morin. “There aren’t many places where you can do that.”
While the school still cranks out world-class alpine, nordic and snowboarding athletes (the alumni list includes 28 Olympians and 100 national team members), it operates with a broader focus. “What we provide, more than anything, is a work ethic. In the end, that’s what they all get: time management—taking care of their equipment and their conditioning and their skiing all at the same time.” And a look at the college acceptance list suggests that Ivy League schools and top universities throughout the country dearly value those skills.
Buck and Linda Margold are into their second generation of Stratton Mountain School skiers. Every weekend they plan meals, pack coolers and drive from Rowayton, Conn., to the home they bought in 1976 on North Brookside—the slopeside road settled by Stratton’s original families. “Now it’s all about the grandkids,” explains Buck. As a regular in the Early Tracks program, he’s on the lift at 7:30 a.m., making laps before the crowds hit. “You get perfectly groomed snow for an hour and a half, and at eight minutes a trip you can get a lot of runs.”
By 10:30, when the first line appears on Ursa and the early crew has broken for cocoa in the midmountain lodge, Margold has already skied as much as most people ski in a day. The rest of
his time is spent watching the grandkids race, catching up with friends and relaxing into a rhythm that involves the mountain, his home and little else. “Stratton time is family time,” says Linda.
Vermont native John Waite, owner of Bondville Realty Group, was first lured to Stratton in 1963 as an ambitious high school racer looking for the best coaching available. Since then, he has experienced the full Stratton cycle, coaching on weekends during college and eventually full-time at the resort and the school, which both of his sons attended. When he gave up coaching, the unthinkable happened. “I sort of lost my purpose and stopped skiing. I went to the gym instead.”
But if it was old Stratton’s appeal that sucked him in, it was new Stratton’s features that won him back. He realized that in the age of high-speed lifts, he could escape his office, hop on the
Sunrise Express and hammer out 15 nonstops on Sun Bowl, all in the course of a two-hour lunch break. “It was a great workout.”
Now his own college-aged son comes back to coach, and Waite enjoys catching up with the weekend families at Early Tracks, seeing them repeat their own cycles with kids and grandkids. “It’s the closest really good alternative for getting out of Dodge in the winter.”