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Celebrate 60 Joyful Years at Sugarbush Ski Resort Vermont

Update – in November 2019, Sugarbush Ski Resort Vermont announced they’d been sold to Alterra. Win Smith told me in an email: “Alterra is focused on sustainability at all their destinations both in terms of doing responsible things but also in advocating for initiatives to deal with the growing climate crisis.  Sugarbush has been doing this already and will have a greater voice as part of Alterra.”

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Alterra Buys Sugarbush Ski Resort

The sale is expected to go through January 7, 2020. Staff will retain their jobs, the reaction to the announcement has been positive and current staff will all remain at Sugarbush.

“The brand is not changing.”

“The right next owner was interested in Sugarbush,” he said. “The consolidation in the industry and the growing attractiveness of the multi-resort season pass, the need to continuing making significant investments to increase snowmaking capacity in anticipation of climate change were all factors making the timing right for the sale to Alterra.”

Sugarbush at 60

Sugarbush Ski Resort Vermont is the kind of place you can’t possibly visit JUST once. Tucked away in the Green Mountain National Forest of Vermont you have to search it out, intentionally driving by several other ski resorts just to get there. But I promise you, every single time, Sugarbush delivers perfect powder, friendly people, majestic views and so many twists, turns and bumps that your entire body will thank you for making the trip.

That famous Sugarbush powder and terrain is addictive, so much so in fact, that when you have to leave you will feel it deeply in your bones. The only clear remedy for this is to plan your next trip back.

Sugarbush is Always an Event

In March, we found ourselves skiing and staying at Sugarbush Ski Resort Vermont again. Returning was an event for us. We set out on a 12-day road trip through New England and up to Quebec City area. Sugarbush was our second stop before driving through New Hampshire and visiting Sunday River in Maine.

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This season marks Sugarbush’s 60th anniversary and we were ready to celebrate, while also delving into history to hear more about the Sugarbush story too. We were all extremely excited to discover a few new things waiting for us at Sugarbush Ski Resort Vermont in 2019.

Every Vermont Ski Resort Tells a Story

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If every family ski resort in Vermont tells a story then the story of Sugarbush is familiar, reliable, comfortable and steady. Located in the northern Vermont snow belt, the temperature during the height of ski season is often -10 C to -17 C and the snow is ALWAYS falling. It’s Vermont perfect.

Where to Stay

From the moment you pull up to Sugarbush Inn off Sugarbush Access Road you just can’t help but feel at home. Sugarbush Inn is the kind of warm, friendly old New England style inn that will remind you of the movie White Christmas. Welcoming lobby, warm fireplaces, and cheery people like Donna staffing the front desk. My younger daughter could have spent hours chatting with Donna because she was that friendly.

Sugarbush Then and Now Photos

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”Vermont is a country unto itself,” – > Pearl S. Buck Two years ago after an almost ten hour drive through winding mountain roads we landed here at Sugarbush Inn in Vermont. We stayed at this comfy New England inn and skied away the daylight hours. Love seeing how much the kids have grown in their ability and how much we have too of course. It’s always hard to leave Vermont. A month ago we returned on a 12- Day Road trip and stayed again at the Sugarbush inn where I took this picture of the kids in the same spot. Today I’ve been writing about our visit and the changes that have happened for the better at Sugarbush ski resort in just two short years. Committed to sustainable growth and supporting local business Sugarbush ski resort is unique in its architecture too. All buildings blend with the Vermont landscape in Mad River Valley. Buildings here either look like school houses or farm houses. You notice it immediately when you pull up to the base. This year we realized when we returned that this spot in Vermont just feels like home every time we are here. Happy we were able to visit as Sugarbush celebrated its 60th anniversary. Stay tuned for the blog post later this week. #giftedexperience #travel #wanderlust #vermont #sbturns60 #ski #travelwriter #familytravel #family #travelling #skifamily #skiing #skiingislife #ustravel #newengland #skibums #bestdays #fun #wintersports #sugarbushvt #bebetterhere #winter #springbreak2019

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There’s nothing like skiing all day and returning to your comfortable inn to find someone who is so tapped in to customer’s needs that she immediately offers to put some logs on the fire so you can sit and read or play a game in the lobby before dinner.

This year we stayed across the hall from the rooms we had in 2017 and while our surroundings were pretty comfortable then, we felt even more at home this time with our adjoining rooms.

First Day Back Skiing at Sugarbush

Our first visit to Sugarbush took place in 2017 and though I clearly indicated we were intermediate skiers at that time, I now know better. That first visit was memorable too, but I clearly recall being slightly intimidated by the impressive terrain. In fact when we hit Jester in 2017 I’m pretty sure I took a tumble and I know I was terrified at the twists and turns. We didn’t even make it over to Mount Ellen that time. What a difference two years makes!

Be Better Here

Fast forward to March 2019. This time we were ready and thrilled to be seeing Sugarbush ski resort Vermont and a bit of Lincoln Peak with the guidance of a Sugarbush ambassador named Frank. There are 80 ambassadors at Sugarbush, who are all volunteers. They help out 20 days a year giving tours and answering questions.

On Sleeper taken by Payton Schuck

Turning The Page

New and Exciting

Right off the bat I have to tell you about our first time ever skiing with RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) badges. HUGE improvement. While I talked about ski in and ski out accommodations being a hit with us this season, nothing compares to these reusable, reloadable, SugarXPress RFID cards. They are our favourite new user friendly technology for skiers.

What are RFID Badges?

RFID badges go in an upper left coat pocket without anything else near it. As you walk through the gate to the chairlift it automatically scans you and you speed past. That eliminates the person walking around with the scanner waving it at the lift tickets. Nobody needs to stop you to ask you to flip over your lift ticket, which may or may not be hanging off a zipper near your waist with 4-5 other souvenir lift tickets or season’s passes.

The New RFID system is Super Efficient!

The RFID passes are two years old at Sugarbush ski resort and they are magical. We barely had a lineup the entire three days we were there. That means more time skiing! Also you keep them for the next trip and reload. RFID passes at Sugarbush for the win.

Our First Tracks

Okay so we didn’t make FIRST tracks, but we came close. We were up and at it early Wednesday morning after a great breakfast at the Sugarbush Inn. Thrilled to note that they have expanded the breakfast options to include warm, protein rich, foods like eggs at the Sugarbush Inn. That is the kind of thing that matters to us as a family. Skiing all day makes your appetite gigantic.

Warming Up

On our first morning back at Sugarbush, Frank took us all to Pushover, Overshot, and Lower Hotshot for our first run off the Gatehouse Express Quad. We found our ski legs over there and then followed that up with Hotshot, Sleeper, Lower Jester and back to Sleeper again. A lovely tree-lined glade, Sleeper, which used to be called The Glades, turned out to be one of our girl’s favourite runs. So we did that one multiple times over three days.  

Instagram Spots

From there it was straight over to Super Bravo Express Quad, where we did Lower Jester twice. Valleyhouse Traverse took us to Snowball and Spring Fling before lunch when the tour ended. Worth noting that this was our first time on both Spring Fling and Snowball and they are gorgeous spots to take photos from. Also notable: Birch Run and Jester from the summit.

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The Past: Sugarbush Valley History

Before Sugarbush opened in December of 1958, the Mad River Valley was mostly a farming community, with lumber mills too. In 1948 Mad River Glen opened and that helped establish the area as a ski destination. Then in 1958 Sugarbush opened.

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The lobby and waiting area at the Sugarbush Inn

Mascara Mountain?

In its early days the Sugarbush ski crowd was wealthy, and they loved to party. Some of the Kennedys were frequent visitors, as was Kim Novak. At one point, in the early days of Sugarbush, the area earned the nickname Mascara Mountain, dubbed such by Vogue magazine due to the affluent New Yorkers who frequented the mountain every weekend arriving by bus from New York. This helped build the thriving après ski scene in the area.

NEARBY Mad River Glen opened in 1948. We had the chance to ski this skier’s only iconic mountain in 2017.

The Present at Sugarbush

Sugarbush continues to be one of the only privately owned ski resorts in Vermont. While there have been a few offers from large corporations wanting to buy Sugarbush, the commitment to sustainability and integrity comes first. That’s been the vision of owners Win Smith and Adam Greshin from the start. Together, they form Summit Ventures and have owned Sugarbush since 2001.

Architecture of the Village

Architecture of the buildings is Vermont-vernacular and the village at the base of Lincoln Peak has grown slowly, on purpose, to blend with the area community. Buildings all resemble schoolhouses or farmhouses, which fits the landscape.

Future Five Years at Sugarbush

Before we let Frank go for the afternoon, we thought we’d ask for his thoughts on how the ski resort has evolved. In fact, Frank has been skiing Sugarbush for forty of its 60 years in existence.

Asked what changes he thinks Sugarbush will undergo in the next five years Frank indicates he thinks a couple of lifts are likely to be upgraded. Eventually, a conference centre will also be built between the school house and condo area. 

John Bleh, public relations manager for Sugarbush agrees a new hotel and conference centre is needed in future. “There aren’t enough rooms on busy weekends and we need employee housing.”

Ever since Win bought Sugarbush he has had a vision and has clearly executed that vision, according to others working at Sugarbush.

North Lynx Lift

Our Sugarbush Ski Adventures 2.0

This time around, after numerous gorgeous long runs and half a dozen trips down Sleeper, I was committed to heading up to the summit of Lincoln Peak. While our first day was around minus 15 to 17 C and chilly as heck these are the kind of temperatures we have come to expect in March at Sugarbush in Vermont. Cloudy skies that day meant photos were a bit overcast, but the trip down Jester from the summit multiple times was nothing short of a gift. You know the kind of run where the scenery is so pristine and the snow is slippery, not slushy or icy? THAT. Over and over again, until you want to pinch yourself.

By day two the sun came out and rewarded us with clear blue skies so we raced up to Heaven’s Gate again. From the top, on a clear day you can see clear over to Lake Champlain and the photos were so worth the wait.

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After enjoying repeated rides up Heaven’s Gate to the summit of Lincoln Peak and working our way down admiring every single gorgeous tree we spied in this section of the Green Mountain National Forest, I really wanted to make it across to Mount Ellen. But all three days at Sugarbush ski resort Vermont were frigid and windy. While we were prepared for the weather, a 15 minute ride in a chairlift over to Mt. Ellen sounded a little like torture on a minus 14 C kind of day.

My Sugarbush Bucket List

BUT, there were a couple of things I had on my Sugarbush bucket list that needed to be ticked off during this visit. First I needed to try one of the longest runs they had from summit to base. So I did my best to find two of the longest trails at Sugarbush and because we made it to the summit of Lincoln Peak I had to make it to the summit of Mt. Ellen too. Luckily it wasn’t too hard to convince my family we had to see Mt. Ellen.

Slide Brook Express

There are two ways to get to Mount Ellen. One is a shuttle that runs every day back and forth. The other is the Slide Brook Express Quad. The Slide Brook Express is the longest detachable quad in the world and it is something you must try at least once. The view is spectacular on the ride over to Mt. Ellen and on the way back too.

Mount Ellen boasts Vermont’s highest chairlift, a challenging terrain park, and picturesque woods and terrain. The vertical drop is 2,600 feet and the elevation at Mt Ellen is 4,083 feet, making it the highest mountain we have skied together as a family!

From the summit of Mt Ellen we took Panorama, Rim Run, Lower Rim Run and at different times Northstar and Joe’s Cruiser as well as Straight Shot before calling it time for lunch at the Mt Ellen Base Lodge.

In the Spring and Summer Months

There’s no denying the power of the powder during the winter months at Sugarbush ski resort Vermont, but what’s there to do in the spring and summer? Well, like several of the resorts in this area of Vermont, downhill mountain biking, hiking and golfing are extremely popular pursuits. There’s a zip line here too.

Weddings at Sugarbush

Fun family activities like disc golf are offered and of course there are kid’s camps, tennis, bungee trampoline, swimming, massage and yoga are all offered. Frankly Sugarbush is also a huge draw for those who want a gorgeous setting for their wedding. Sugarbush can accommodate weddings atop a mountain or on the 18-hole Robert Trent Jones Sr. designed golf course. Receptions are held at the Gate House Lodge, Rumble’s Kitchen, or on the golf course. Guests can also do downhill at Sugarbush, or cross-country skiing nearby.

What Defines Sugarbush?

Interview from March 2019

Interview with Win Smith, Sugarbush Owner

What, in your opinion, is it about Sugarbush that makes it stand out from the other ski resorts in Vermont?

 First it is the terrain variety that exists within our 4,000 acres. It is also the special nature of The Mad River Valley which has remained authentic and beautiful. And, because we are independently owned and operated we can remain focused on our guests and make decisions that are best for the long term.

How important is it to you, and your business partner, to maintain the integrity of Sugarbush and why?

I think this is what sets us apart from the competition.  Understanding and protecting our essence is critical, but we must also continue to evolve, innovate and get better each year.

What do you see evolving or changing about Sugarbush in the next five years?

 I see us continuing to improve our snowmaking and to grow responsibly.  We can continue to grow our summer businesses as well.

How many years have you been skiing at Sugarbush? What brought you here?

I came to the Valley while I was at Amherst College and returned 15 years later when our children were young.  I have been skiing here consistently now since 1984.

Do you have a favourite trail at Sugarbush? What is it and why?

I do not have a favorite trail per se, but on certain days I prefer some over others. I always love first tracks down Snowball and Spring Fling.  On Powder mornings one of my favourite trails are with Twist or Domino at Lincoln Peak or Tumbler or Cliffs at Mount Ellen. In the Spring, the early morning sun beckons one to Birch, Sunrise or Morning Star.  But you can never get tired of a run down Stein’s or Lift Line.

Picture by Payton Schuck

What Specifically is Being Done to Celebrate 60 Years?

This season to mark the Diamond Jubilee this Vermont institution celebrated with dozens of small events throughout the year.

  • Open this year until the end of April there are also still some great anniversary prices to be had. Two days for $60 right now.
  • There’s a 60th anniversary beer. 
  • Sugarbush has had a bunch of  throwback activities planned. 
  • March madness musical acts have been taking place regularly with an emphasis on retro events.
  • Schloss wicking took place in March. This originated as a Swedish military activity. You need: snowshoes, brooms and a ski. With a ski on one foot, a snowshoe on the other and a broom to trip or throw the snow in the faces of your opponents, you race downhill. 

So What Else is New at Sugarbush Ski Resort Vermont?

Ikon Pass and Mountain Collective

Sugarbush is now part of the Mountain Collective and Ikon Pass. Alterra Mountain company created the Ikon Pass. Stratton, Killington and Sugarbush in Vermont are also on Ikon. As a result of this new membership, Sugarbush has seen a lot of new skiers from different states this season. Sugarloaf and Sunday River in Maine are also on the Ikon Pass. 

No Smoking Zone

I was thrilled to see that the Green Mountain National Forest and Sugarbush are now smoke free. No smoking anywhere on the mountain. Hallelujah!

Sugarbush Ski Resort Vermont Lift Hours

Lincoln Peak 9am to 4pm on Monday to Friday. Weekends 8am to 4pm

Mount Ellen 8am to 4pm Monday to Friday and Weekends as well.

Other Mountain Information

  • 111 Trails: 24 easy green trails, 51 intermediate, and 36 expert
  • 21 Glades
  • 3 Terrain Parks
  • 16 Lifts: including 3 double, 2 triple, and 5 hi-speed quad
  • 578 Skiable Acres

Socials:

For more information on Sugarbush Ski Resort, follow their social channels:

Facebook
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Twitter
Snapchat
YouTube
Sugarbush Magazine

The thing about Sugarbush is that it just feels like home, always.

Be Better Here is a fitting slogan for this impressive Vermont ski resort and you can’t help but take it to heart, becoming a better version of yourself after every visit. In our case, even if we arrive burnt out and exhausted, we leave transformed – a better version of the Schuck family.

We were guests of Sugarbush Resort while in Vermont and as such received accommodations, lift tickets and a few other perks. My opinion is all my own and it is also truthful.

Mom of two beautiful active girls, traveller, fitness junkie, social media consultant, and keeper of the sanity.

31 Comments

  • Erin Knight

    I have been to Vermont a few times and stayed in a few ski resort, but I have never visited Sugarbush ski resort yet. It looks like a fun place for family to spend few days there in the winter. I will definitely check this resort out during my next trip there.

  • CobusvdM

    Thank you very much for this detailed information. Just by reading through it and by looking at the pictures, I felt like a real visitor to the ski resort.
    …and thanks, I thoroughly enjoyed my “electronic” visit to Sugarbush Inn. 🙂

    • Paula

      It’s on my list every single year actually. So much to do and the skiing is exceptional. But Vermont people are my favourite part of the entire experience I think to be honest. They are just the friendliest ever.

  • artchee

    It seems that you had a really great time at Sugarbush Ski Resort. I’ve never been to one. I think I’ll also have a blast out there. :0)

  • Keshia richmond

    I’m looking forward to visiting Sugarbush Ski Resort Vermont amanu times over based on your recommendation.

  • Kristine Nicole Alessandra

    I have never been there but I hope I could. It looks like a really pretty place to go skiing. I know my boys would love to experience those slopes. We will have to plan for a trip there this year.

  • blair villanueva

    I never experience (yet) skiing and I hope I will during my first trip in Australia in August. Your view looks wonderful, very picturesque.

  • Elizabeth O

    The place is so wonderful. I bet they have good customer service because guess keeps coming back. Congratulations

  • Jenn and Ed Coleman

    Sugarbush is such an iconic ski mountain! I worked about a dozen ski mountains in the west during my professional career and I could always tell the people who came from Vermont. They were such good technical skiers. All there turns were clean and precise. I would love to ski there someday.

    • Paula

      That is really cool Jenn and ED! I am happy to hear this. We did lessons there one year. We often try to add lessons on because I think we can always improve our turns and technique.

  • Rhonda Albom

    I love the idea of ski in, ski out accommodation. The RFID tags sound great. I’m used to the old sticker lift tickets.

  • Dorene

    I loved reading this post – clearly you are a passionate skier and you’ve been there before so you can reflect and also report on many aspects of Sugarbush. Wow skiing has changed – RFID tags and all – well that definitely improves the experience for guests – short lines! Sounds like a wonderful experience, and appreciate you even got an interview with the owner during your visit for the 60th anniversary. $60 for 2 days of skiing wow, guess that was the time to get out there for a ski!

  • Linda (LD holland)

    Every year we plan to visit Vermont from Toronto. And we never make it. But now I really want to visit Sugarbush Ski Resort Vermont. We no longer ski but we do love great ski resorts with views and aprés ski. And quaint skiing villages. I can see that the RFID passes are a great improvement.

  • Stevo

    Sugarbush looks like a slice of heaven! I’ve never heard of using RFID chips like that before, but it sounds like a great idea! Anything that can get you up to the slopes faster has to be a good idea! I love that they made a 60th-anniversary beer! The hills and the snow look beautiful and pristine and I’m glad to hear they are planning to keep it that way. And don’t get me started on the breakfast! Thanks for sharing!

  • Nicole LaBarge

    I never thought of Vermont as a ski destination! And how fun to celebrate its 60th. I’m glad you and your family had a great time.

  • Medha

    I can see what would make you return to this place – it looks amazing! Such a pity that I do not know how to ski, I grew up in a warm place with almost no access to mountains or snow, the first time I experienced snow was in my mid-20s! So lucky that you got to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Sugarbush Ski Resort, it sure looks like a great place for skiers to relax after a day of skiing. The village looks pretty awesome too.

  • Indrani

    Wow it is more than half a century old, almost like a heritage place. Interesting connection with Kennedys. I am really impressed by their intentions to improve their snowmaking and to grow responsibly.

  • Francesca Murray

    I love hotels that have that caring, personal touch. How sweet of them to bring out logs and start a fire so you could enjoy time with your family! I’m glad you had such a great time skiing. Maybe I’ll learn one of these days!

  • Vasu Devan

    What an amazing place, is Sugarbush. Somehow looking at this , gives me a feeling of being in Europe. RFID passes are a great improvement. We use it to open the gates of our apartment block. . We had almost planned to go to Vermont this July.

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