By Mike McPhee
Some destinations exude a unique energy that attracts and embraces us, that makes us feel welcomed and at ease upon arrival in a way that seems like Déjà vu. These special places are rare and to be embraced and cherished whenever found. Vermont’s Mad River Valley is one of these locales and Sugarbush Resort a gem in the valley’s crown.
Most avid skiers will be familiar with the big resorts out West that offer hyperbolic stats and endless big mountain extremes, but rest assured that Sugarbush stacks up and offers its own set of unique experiences that add a cheerful charm that leaves one wanting more. The surrounding villages and towns not only emanate an old-world New England charisma, but harbour culinary experiences that are sure to please.
As one of New England’s largest ski areas, the resort itself boasts a respectable 4,000 acres of terrain over two separate mountains. The resort has a top elevation of 4,083 ft / 1,245 m, 2,600 hundred vertical feet, 111 marked ski trails and 97 acres of gladed tree runs. Sugarbush is also known to have some of the most advanced terrain in the North East. Transporting skiers and boarders up the mountain are a total of 16 lifts including a quad chair that carries you across a basin which separates two separate ski areas now connected into one resort. Even those from the West will agree that the ski terrain is an exciting mix of perfectly groomed rolling cruiser runs, gladed tree runs and black diamond mogul runs.
Having 2 base areas means ample food / beverage and lodging opportunities. Located right at the base, the Clay Brook Hotel offers luxury accommodation and a pool / hot tub area with views of the slopes. The building itself is uniquely modeled after the many large icon red barns of the Mad River Valley. With a true ski-in ski-out experience you can check your skis with the ski valet and comfortably head to Après. Rooms range from hotel rooms to five-bedroom suites.
An eclectic range of food and beverage awaits, including everything from fun food trucks to fine dining. Rumbles Bistro and Bar is both a great place to people watch on a sunny patio at Après and also have an upscale dinner later in the evening. Reks bar has long been a local favourite, serves great deli sandwiches and is known for bringing in well-known music acts from the city. Chez Henri Restaurant & Bistro is in the classic French style and has been one of the iconic spots in the base area for decades.
A ten-minute drive from the resort base takes you to the The Pitcher Inn, a Relais & Châteaux luxury hotel property in the incredibly photogenetic hamlet of Warren. This well-known romantic Inn offers unique lodging and exceptional dining on the banks of a babbling brook complete with waterfall. Rooms are individually themed, and the exceptional culinary offering is complimented with an equally distinctive wine cellar.
Other worthwhile stops include Lawson’s Fine Liquids to get your craft beer fix and the Mad River Taste Place which carries all kinds of local offerings, including the many delectable cheeses which Vermont is famous for.
Flying in is easy with Burlington International Airport just 1 hour away and Boston about 3 hours.
There is a thick history here that is both fascinating and inspiring. Historic towns, covered bridges, old world Instagram-worthy barns and quaint buildings centuries old add an authenticity to the valley that you simply don’t get in purpose-built resorts and tourist destinations elsewhere. The people of the Mad River are equally charming and there is a friendly essence to the place that stands out and warms the heart. Sugarbush Resort and the Mad River Valley are simply gems and a destination that deserves to be added to your bucket list of must visit places. ✈