Stowe Mountain Resort - Mega-resort extraordinaire
After surviving the negative 15 degree temps over night in my car, I awoke early and made my way up the road to Stowe. The first thing I noticed as I drove into the base area is just how huge this place is. It may not be the biggest mountain I have ever been to, but because all the slopes face each other it seems way bigger than it is. The next thing I noticed is that they have a gondola that runs over the road, connecting the two base areas together. Finally I noticed how god damn confusing it is for one to figure out which lodge to park at. I settled with the one at the base of the FourRunner Quad, as it was the only one spinning. After booting up I made my way inside to get my ticket. To be clear, I like Stowe. What I think is absolutely disgusting is their ticket prices. Any day of the week, a single adult ticket will cost you 98 dollars at the window. You can save a little by buying online but that is absurd. Just to add insult to injury, they charge you 5 dollars extra for the ticket because it is RFID enabled. They try to justify it by telling you its good for life and you can come back anytime you want and they will not charge you for another, but that requires you to remember where you put the thing when you decide to visit again 2 years later. Frankly I find it inexcusable considering Jay Peak has the same RFID tickets, and charges nothing extra. Oh and their tickets are 30 dollars less.
Why is this 5 dollars?
Anyway, after I was done feeling fleeced by the cost of a ticket, I made my way up the very steep hill to the FourRunner Quad. I hopped on and sped to the top. The view from the summit of Stowe is just stunning. I was lucky enough to be there on a crystal clear day and you could see all the way out to Mt. Washington, somewhere near 75 miles away. On top of that you have a great view of Smugglers Notch.
Once I was done admiring the view, I decided I would take a warm up run on a cruiser trail. That lasted about 200 yards when I ran into a double-black labeled trail named 'Starr'. 50 yards into 'Starr', I seriously wished I had finished my warm-up run. Steep as hell and covered in moguls, it was a beating on the legs. Half way down I ducked into a glade on the right of it for some relief. It offered some, but unfortunately the glade was not all that long, and quickly booted me back into the bumps. I made my way down and jumped back on the quad to the summit, then took a few real warm up laps on the groomers.
I do not normally have much to say about the standard groomers that comprise the majority of most mountains in the east, but I found myself unable to do anything but fly down these things at max speed. They were well groomed but something about how they are cut just seems to encourage you to go fast. I really can't put my finger on what it was about them, but it was a good time.
With a few more runs under my feet, I decided it was time to hit the last ultra-hard trail left on my list. When doing research about the hardest trails in New England the two that were at the top were 'Paridise' at Mad River and 'Goat' at Stowe. Doing them both so close together was an excellent way to really tell which one is worse. As I stood at the entrance to 'Goat' I thought it did not look too bad. A bit narrow but nothing un-manageable. A couple was headed down behind me too, so at least I was not skiing it alone.
About 50 yards in, it got steep. It would not have been too much of an issue if there had been say...2 more feet of snow. Instead half the already narrow trail was littered with rocks making it un-skiable. The other half, at some points was glare ice edge to edge. At some point in the upper half of it, I was attempting to side-slip over a patch of glare ice (on my park skis no less, an un-wise decision on my part) when I lost my edge and slid out, popping out of my uphill ski. I managed to arrest my fall within a few feet, but my ski decided it wanted to keep going. I thought the brakes had failed to deploy, turns out it was just too steep for them to matter. Luckily the ski stayed on the trail, but it went a good 20 yards before it stopped. After sliding on my ass for 20 yards over a mixture of ice and hard pack, I managed to get to it without dying and get back in. The rest of the trail was substantially easier, with hard pack moguls edge to edge. I stopped and watched one of the couple behind me fall over and over as she tried to navigate the steep terrain before continuing down. The rest of goat was a nice narrow mogul run that ended up twisting through a forest before depositing you a short ride away from the base.
For the next several hours I spent my time cruising around the mountain, making my way around the bowl that makes up the mountain. If you do not like bump runs, try to not venture off onto any black-diamond trail, most of them are bump runs here. Eventually I made my way to the gondola that takes you across the road to the main village of the mountain. I skied that side as well for awhile before making my way back to take care of my park coverage.
On my way to the park I saw a trail named 'Toll Road', and although it was a green, when I saw its route on the map I decided to give it a try. It is extremely long and windy. I later found out you can apparently drive up it in the summer. Anyway it seems to go on forever on a lazy trip through the forest before depositing you at the base of an old slow double somewhere near what must be 2 miles from the base of everything else. It was an interesting little ride, but not worth the excruciatingly slow trip back up the double to get back onto the main mountain.
With everything else done, and my legs sore from me beating them into the bumps, I was more than happy to retire to the park for the rest of the day. The parks at Stowe are awesome. There is something for everyone, and they are all accessible off of either the main quad or the triple to the left of it. The only park I see an issue with is the small progression park near the gondola, for such a small park there is no easy way to lap it without doing full mountain runs off of the gondola, which seems a little silly considering its only 50 yards long or so. Speaking of that park, here is a picture of it. Small progression for the first time park rider.
From there, a park lap at Stowe has you hitting 3 parks in a row off, for one hell of a long park lap. From either of the two lifts on that side you start out going through the 'Fifth Ave Terrain Park'. This is a small, narrow park with nothing but rails for you to jib on.
t is a short hop from 'Fifth Ave' to 'Tyro', Stowes Largest park. Tyro has some massive jumps, and a cannon rail that is even bigger than the one Sunday River has. It also features some gnarly rails that I am not even close to good enough to do.
Once you are out of 'Tyro' you have a choice of either the 'Lord of the Rails' Park or the 'North Slope Medium' Park. Both were excellent parks. The 'Lord of the Rails' park is another rail run all the way down with a variety of rails for your jibbing pleasure.
The 'North Slope Medium Park' is probably where I would spend most of my time if I were a local at Stowe. As its name implies, all the features here are solid, intermediate level hits. I wish I had more time to spend there, as I can see being quite happy with it for a very long period of time.
By about 3 p.m. my legs were shot. They had been for awhile but I was skiing through it because of how much fun I was having at Stowe. Begrudgingly I headed to my car and packed up and started the long journey home, eager to take a shower and sleep in a real bed.
Stowe is an excellent, excellent mountain, it really is. The only category I feel it is lacking in are Glades. There are a couple, but for such a large place, it has surprisingly few of them. Stowe has something for everyone though, and that even applies to the parks. I doubt Stowe has an issue drawing a crowd, but if they really want to put themselves on the top of the heap, slightly lower ticket prices could really make them shine. If you can afford it, you really should visit Stowe.
Some GTNS news for you, I have gotten to hit up Mount Sunapee since I finished up the tour, and a piece on that will be coming up soon. Also I am in the process of working on an edit to go with the review of my home mountain Gunstock, so I hope to have that done shortly as well. Anyway, thanks for reading!
Keep on shredding!