Return to Smugglers Notch

I love New York. I love the ski history, the vast wilderness and the assortment of old-school ski hills. I also dig the proximity to Vermont and all that Green Mountain snow.

Vermont farm

Northern Vermont is something else. The East is challenging for skiers, as conditions can quickly go from pow to crunch.  But NoVT often escapes this fate, and even when it’s afflicted, it recovers more quickly than any other other part of the northeast.

Then there is Smugglers Notch.  For me the place has everything: old school vibe, Hall lifts, excellent tree skiing and 300 inches of snow. I haven’t been to every ski area north of I-89, but of those I have skied, I really dig Smuggs.

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Catching Winter at the Right Moment

The 2017-18 season has been a tale of at least two winters. We got off to a promising start with big storms in December that opened up trails, and the snow was preserved by a persistent and brutal polar vortex that lasted into the second week of January.

Then MLK weekend featured a devastating thaw with significant rain that devoured the eastern snowpack, and since then conditions have largely mirrored last year—extended dry periods with mild temperatures, punctuated by brief periods of heavy snowfall. Getting it while it’s good has required patience, luck, and a willingness to go the distance—sometimes even as far as Quebec.

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Deep into a Steep Vermont December

In December 2016, on an early-season trip to Killington, our group planned to visit Okemo on the second day. Conditions in the region were typical for December—the snow was hard, crusty, and mostly manmade with a slick layer of ice hiding underneath. When I saw the next morning that Jay Peak had landed nearly two feet of surprise snowfall, I headed north in search of powder, with or without my friends.

I arrived to waist-deep powder runs on some of the steepest trails and glades in the northeast, making the day trip well worth the five hours of extra driving. That was my first day as a “powderhound,” obsessively checking the weather and allowing Mother Nature to steer my Subaru to the mountains I would visit.

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