SkiVT Press Room/

Top Trends: Uphill Travel, Guided Excursions Gain Momentum at Vermont Ski Areas

Uphill travel is trending at Vermont ski areas, as more and more visitors are using alpine touring gear to expand their exploration of the state's alpine terrain. (Jeb Wallace Brodeur photo)

Every year, unique activities or services at Vermont ski areas pop up on the radar of savvy skiers and riders and begin to gain momentum. These experiences are shared, via word of mouth and the ever-growing power of social media and become trends.

Heading into the Winter 2019-20 season, ski areas across the state have identified trends that are likely to keep the alpine community buzzing long after the snow first flies and the lifts spin to life:

Stowe Mountain Resort
The single largest growing trend at Stowe Mountain Resort is skiing and riding with a Private Mountain Guide to fully customize your on-mountain experience. Stowe’s vacation planners are specifically trained, experienced, and care about finding the perfect guide for every person and have successfully created relationships that last a lifetime. Whether you want to make the most of the mountain or are just getting started, Stowe can customize the experience to fit everyone’s needs, whether individually or as a family.

Smugglers’ Notch
The top trend at Smugglers’ Notch Resort? Family togetherness. Families have always enjoyed skiing and riding together on their Winter vacations at Smugglers’. Last Winter there were more activities in the mix, as the resort responded to requests by families for even more activities to enjoy together. Families chose to vary their vacation days by joining craft sessions, broomball challenges, scavenger hunts, snowcat tours, storytimes, and pool games, which were included in their Smugglers’ vacation package. Most popular activities? Oohing and ahhing over the weekly torchlight parade and fireworks, belting out tunes in family karaoke and building a sled to launch from a jump in I-Did-A-Sled – all had approval ratings of more than 95 percent. Furthermore, based on tremendous success over the past few seasons, S.T.E.A.M. activities bring fun ways to explore science, technology, engineering, arts, and math. Families can work together on exciting activities with a mildly competitive focus!

Magic Mountain
Uphill skinning and snowshoeing continue to increase in popularity (uphill travel up over 20% vs year ago---something Magic Mountain supported fully before it was even popular. Magic continues not to charge fees for access to its mountain for uphill travelers who “earn their turns”, and even offers one free lift ride that same day for those that ascend to the top. Magic has specific uphill travel routes for both skiers and snowshoers, and with connections to the backside of Magic (old Timber Ridge ski area), Magic has also developed programs around Alpine Touring. Magic’s rental shop is one of the few ski areas to offer AT gear for rent and instructional lessons and tours for new AT-ers through Magic’s Snowsports Learning Center with advanced reservations for backcountry into Timber Ridge and our own gladed system off the front side. The adventure continues at Magic for those that seek it.

Pico Mountain
At Pico Mountain, guests will find big mountain skiing with small mountain charm. For this reason, and many more, it’s the perfect place to learn! Enter the wonderful world of winter sports right here at Pico Mountain where guests are guided every step of the way. No long lift lines or crowds to feed your nerves. There’s room to roam and grow your skills at Pico.

Jay Peak Resort
Jay Peak is continuing its trend away from being a destination that solely relies on snow for its economic health with its opening of two synthetic-turf athletic fields in the summer of 2019. The FIFA-sized pitches have already hosted soccer, lacrosse, field hockey, and ultimate Frisbee tournaments. The resort looks to expand on the success it realized in the youth-sports market with the opening of its Ice Haus, an NHL-sized skating arena that currently hosts 42 weeks of 10-18 team hockey tournaments.

Suicide Six Ski Area
This year, Suicide Six is proud to announce its re-commitment to the growth and progression of freestyle skiing and riding. As one of the earliest adopters of snowboarding and hosting the world’s first “Snow Snurfing” championship, which would later become the U.S. Open Snowboarding Championship, we have deep roots in the birth and development of freestyle. With renewed focus, we will create a larger terrain park area with progressive parks and features to appeal to all levels of skiers and riders. This new terrain will be crafted by experts, and will coincide with new programming options to develop freestyle and freeriding skills for all to enjoy.

With a snowy start to the 2018-19 season, Stratton saw a 60 percent increase in adult learn-to-ski programs and a 24 percent increase in teen lessons. With snowsports participation flat nationwide, the influx of new skiers is a welcome sign.  Fat bikes are a new way to add fun to winter fitness. With wide tires and low pressure, it’s like they float over the snow; tours and rentals are available at Stratton’s Nordic Center.  Uphill travel is increasing each year with participants heading up the slopes with skins, snowshoes and now more than ever on splitboards thanks to advancements in the gear, and perhaps because of Jeremy Jones and his Deeper, Further and Higher movies.

Middlebury Snow Bowl
The Snow Bowl’s uphill community is thriving!  With a 20 – 30 minute “commute” to the top, the 700 acres of old school Vermont trails and glades are a true reward.

Mount Snow
Interest in uphill travel has continued to increase at Mount Snow with more skiers and riders looking to power their own adventure. From dawn until dusk, guests are permitted to hike, snowshoe, or skin on the mountain, as long as they purchase an Uphill Travel ticket or are in possession of a season pass with a complimentary Uphill Travel endorsement. Uphill travelers can use any open trail to access the summit but must stay alert to any snowmaking or grooming operations on the mountain.

Sugarbush Resort
People love earning their turns. Uphill travel at Sugarbush continues to see a huge increase in popularity year over year. The resort offers free uphill travel passes valid for skinning up designated routes at the resort before and after lift-served operating hours. Sugarbush enters its sixth year with such a policy. For those looking to refuel after some hard work, the resort hosts Tour De Moon several times throughout the season – a guided skin to Walt’s at the Glen House at Mt. Ellen where the bar and restaurant stay open into the evening and also offers an uphill travel option for Allyn’s Lodge Fireside Dining.

Après for everyone! Okemo is reinventing the art of après ski, the practice of unwinding after a day on the snowy slopes, huddling with friends and family for socializing and having fun. There will always be those who search out the raucous scenes of dive bars, loud cover bands and shotskis, but Okemo caters to a different, more discerning reveler. For families who want to keep the day’s activities rolling, Okemo offers après-ski ice skating, snow tubing, mountain coaster rides and swimming. A more relaxing alternative might include mugs of hot, spiced cider by the fire or a sweet treat such as Coleman Brook Tavern’s signature S’mores. This family favorite includes Graham crackers, chocolate and a tabletop campfire for roasting marshmallows to perfection. And speaking of indulgences, après-ski at Okemo can include a fine vintage, a Vermont craft beer or a sampling of locally distilled spirits. And like many après-ski sessions that may extend into the evening hours, Okemo offers on-site family programing during vacation periods: Montshire Museum Pop-up Science, Fairbanks Museum and Planetarium Star Gazing, a Family Karaoke Party, Torchlight Parades, Fireworks Displays and more.

Bolton Valley Resort
Bolton Valley offers the only in-house backcountry skiing and riding program in North America.  A full array of guiding and instructional services are available from the Bolton Valley Backcountry Guides, along with top-of-the-line alpine touring and splitboarding rental and demo equipment.  Introductory Backcountry clinics and discounted group tours are offered weekly, as well as Wilderness First Aid and Wilderness First Responder certification courses over the course of the season.

Another popular draw is Bolton Valley’s iconic night skiing. At only 30 minutes from both Burlington and Montpelier, Bolton’s long been THE place to get your après work laps in as the only resort in northern Vermont to offer night skiing and riding. With dawn patrol human powered laps before work and lifts spinning until 10pm, Bolton Valley has long been employees and student’s best friend for getting laps outside of their daytime grind.

Bromley Mountain
Locals and out-of-towners alike make up the Bromley family, and the Sun Mountain loves to show its affection in some sweet material ways. History of community benefit events runs strong at Bromley, with Mom's Day Off Breast Cancer fundraiser/awareness day running on the first Friday in February for over 15 years. Ladies pay just $25 for a lift ticket, and 100% of the proceeds are donated to the Cancer Center at Southern Vermont Medical Center in Bennington. Bromley also plays for Ski for Heat, Peru native Martha Robertson's annual event to raise heating fuel assistance funds for Southern Vermonters in need during the winter months. Join Bromley for its Fire on the Mountain event in January, eat some super spicy chicken wings, and earn a donation to Ski for Heat in your name from Bromley.

Killington Resort
At Killington Resort it’s all about four seasons of beastly activities, and now the Beast 365 All-Seasons Pass gives guests access to it all. This pass offers the best value to experience everything at Killington, all year long. It all starts in summer with unlimited lift and trail access for mountain biking, plus golf course greens fees and access to the Adventure Center including the Woodward WreckTangle. And of course, unlimited winter access to the Longest Season in the East.

Mad River Glen
The Naturalist Programs at Mad River Glen become more popular every year. Keep an eye on the calendar for one of Naturalist Sean Lawson’s full-moon snowshoe dinners these events are paired with his famous craft beer and are served with supper after an evening trek through the woods. Valley visitors can learn more about local wildlife, ecosystems and forests of Vermont while taking part in one of Mad River Glen’s award-winning Naturalist Programs.

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