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