Now that the new year is upon us, its time to really kick this tour of New England up a notch! New mountains every Wednesday and Sunday! Lets start off with something pretty big, Stratton Mountain Resort!
With the holidays bringing storm after storm and bitter cold to the region, I thought starting the new year on a bright and sunny 30 degree day sounded like a great plan, and it was! I grabbed my friend Evan, jumped in the car at 5:30 AM and started our 2 and a half hour journey. By the time we arrived it was warm and sunny and I was more than ready to get moving. After navigating the beautiful maze that is the village that sits at the base of Stratton we hopped in line for the gondola to the summit. I wont go into details about my endless hatred of gondolas, as I have done that previously (http://nhoperator.blogspot.com/2013/12/i-hate-gondolas-rant.html), but needless to say, this was just about the worst gondola I have ever had the pleasure of using. 8-9 people plus all their equipment, crammed into a 6' by 6' box, guaranteed to make everyone happy!
Anyway, we reached the summit, and were surprised to find that it is quite flat, and has 4 lifts that each can access any side of the mountain. Talk about useful, as long as you can make it back to the top, you are never on the 'wrong' side of the mountain, like can happen at other mountains. We decided it was probably best to head as far away from the gigantic crowds that were staying in the central part of the mountain and headed for the Sun Bowl. We stopped at the top of Upper Kidderbrook to admire the view.
Summit of Stratton
We started heading over to the Sun Bowl, and I quickly realized that there is was a killer glade running the length of Upper Kidderbrook rated as a double black diamond. That seemed like pretty much the best way to start the day possible. Im not sure if it really deserved the rating, but it was fun as hell.
Test Pilot Glades, first run of the day
We spent the majority of the day testing out the most difficult stuff we could find on the mountain. Strattons glades certainly were pretty great, although they could have used a little more cover (or a little less traffic). That being said, there were still some pretty decent stashes of un-touched pow left over from the weeks storms if you worked for it. I found their steeps to be quite refreshing, as the real steep stuff on my mountain has yet to open for the season, and what is there is not nearly as long as at Stratton.
After eating lunch at the absolutely packed mid-mountain lodge, I headed down to change to my park skis which involved a trip all the way back to the car. After taking their little parks test we made the trip back up the gondola and over to the Big Ben park. Upon turning the corner into that park, we were quite stunned at the size of that park. It is absolutely massive and is quite the sight to take in. It featured two large lanes, one substantially bigger than the other. It was pretty clear as I stood atop this park, that it was mostly well above my ability level. I took a trip down the smaller side, hitting some of the smaller features, and departed quickly, as I knew there was another, smaller park on the other side of the mountain. By the time we got to the Tyrolienne park it was almost 3, and half of it was closed for some un-known reason. My legs were burning up from all the steeps and glades earlier in the day. I hit a box, almost tanked it, and decided it was probably better for my health if I didn't hit the park. I should have done it in the morning while I was fresh, but the allure of a new, big mountain got the better of me. Also, apologies for failing to have a video walk-through of their parks, it would have required several runs with just me filming the features, which I didn't really have time to do.
Big Ben Park
We decided to call it a day a bit early and get out before the major rush of traffic. Overall Stratton is a nice mountain. It is however a 'destination' resort, so expect extremely tourist heavy crowds and high prices (90 dollar lift tickets if you buy them at the window). Unless you are an extremely fast skier, and are lucky with lift lines, it is highly unlikely you would be able to ski the entire mountain in a day, although for the advanced skier it is definitely possible to hit all of the expert terrain in a single day I would say. For the park rat a recommendation is a bit harder to make. The two parks they had up were definitely nice and large, but if your one who like a ton of variety in your parks, you might need to look else where for a mountain with more terrain dedicated to the park. Personally, I do not think I will be returning, a 2.5 hour drive will get me pretty much anywhere in New England, and I would prefer Jay Peak or Killington over Stratton any day.
-Groups/Families with mixed skill levels, there is something for everyone. Alot of the mountain is dedicated to Green trails.
-People local to the mountain
-Anyone on a budget
As always, thanks for reading! I apologize for the park content being so light this visit, with these big mountains the allure of seeing everything is hard to suppress. This Wednesday (1/8/14) I am going to visit Wachusett, so if you are going to be there, let me know in the comments or PM me and we can meet up!
I'm out! Enjoy the parting pix.
Cheers to you Stratton