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Local Betty Field Trip: Skiing Stratton

We are finished hunkering down, we're getting out in it Betty. We're taking on winter {because it's here to stay for a few more years months.}

We're going to get out of our rut by heading somewhere new to ski {or pretend to ski and go shopping instead}. We asked our local Stratton expert what he recommends and here is his beyond insider information...

Stratton Beckons! Here it is. Snow storms every week now and the skiing and riding conditions are the best in years. Perfect, except that you were just informed that your cousin’s condo, the one you were counting on at Sunday River, is rented out for the next few weekends.

Now what Betty? Time to consider weekend alternatives. Stratton Mountain Resort is the perfect destination to check-off your ‘always wanted to try’ list. Located about 3 hours from Boston, in southern Vermont, Stratton is a gem that may have you setting your GPS for Route 91 North next season instead of Route 93.

Known for years as a coveted weekend destination for the tony New York suburbs crowd, expect a big city vibe with lots of license plates from Westchester and Fairfield counties and the latest ski and snowboard fashions up on the hill. But fear not Betty, you’ll also see numerous Mass plates to remind you that Pats and Sox fans still have a presence here. The ski magazines rave about Stratton’s grooming and ‘service’ but it’s really the amenities, village and the mountain that keep families coming back for more.

Skiing and Snowboarding:

Stratton has trails and vertical to accommodate just about every level: from the ‘never ever’ skier or rider to the next Bode or Shaun White. To please everyone, the resort has fourteen lifts including a high-speed base-to-summit gondola and four six-passenger lifts, 90% snowmaking, and 2003 feet of vertical. See a trailmap here

The mountain is family friendly with terrain parks, glades, jumps and trails all funneling to the base lodge for easy rendezvous at the end of the day. The Sunbowl is a separate part of the mountain that offers its own parking and base lodge, but is still connected to the rest of the resort. It’s a great place for meeting and parking your car for the day.

Betty Tip: consider buying the ‘X2 Express Card’ which allows discounted ticketing all winter and gets you one free day automatically.

The resort has strong ties to snowboarding as one of its legendary founders, Jake Burton, first chose Stratton to test out his newfangled creation. Every March, Stratton is host to snowboarding’s prestigious US Open Snowboarding Championship which draws the sport’s biggest stars {and overflow crowds!} It’s a cool opportunity for the young snowboarder in your family to get up close and personal with Hannah, Gretchen and Lindsey, plus lots of signed posters, stickers, and souvenirs for the kids to impress their friends. Note: Stay away from the evening US Open events if you don’t wish to mingle with the rowdy and boozy.

Betty Tip: Ski the mountain early. By 1pm the most popular trails usually get skied off. On powder days consider paying extra for 7:45am lift access. Fresh tracks are all yours to carve!!

Snow Sport School:

Whether it’s adults or children, Stratton has a prestigious Ski and Snowboard School for both groups - at all levels.  Alison Cummings, who is director of the children’s snow sport school {lessons starting at age 4}, is  renown for pioneering the ACE, {Advanced Children’s Education} learning program at Stratton, which has been adopted at snow sport schools throughout North America.

Group lessons here are convenient for kids and allow mom and dad to do a little free skiing on their own. Reservations {1-800-STRATTON} are strongly advised – well in advance - as classes sell-out over school holidays and some weekends.

Betty Tip: Try the women’s three day Ski Workshops scheduled throughout the season. You get 2 on-snow sessions per day, breakfast and lunch daily and one group dinner. Plus, individual video analysis coaching for all participants, discounted massage and shopping all in a fun, supportive learning environment. The perfect way to up your game.  

Other Fun Things to Do:

Don’t feel like skiing or snowboarding? Stratton has other outdoor activities like ice skating on the Village Common, the Coca-Cola Tubing Park and Snowmobile Rides for kids, more. 

Another popular sport is snowshoeing - for those who want a good cardio workout. Guided snowshoe tours leave the base lodge at 10am on both Saturday and Sundays and cost $40. At the Sunbowl Adventure Center there is Nordic skiing which features classic New England terrain for beginners and experts. The trail system is unique and varied with secluded trails winding through hardwood forests and over streams. This season, the Sunbowl Adventure Center will also be offering guided snowshoe tours in the national forest to Stratton’s fire tower for great local vistas. Don’t be surprised if you see a moose, they’re thick in the woods!

Whatever the snow sport, when you're ready for lunch the base lodge has enough variety at Cobb’s Market to please finicky eaters from burgers and fries to sandwiches of every description. Try the chili - meat or vegetable – it’s a Stratton favorite.

Betty Tip: When your gang gets back from their day, go to Grizzlies, the large bar and concert venue located on the second floor of the main Stratton base lodge, for great live music, brick oven pizza and your favorite beverage.  Bands are usually rocking and kids are welcome. Go before 3pm and have someone reserve a table, the upstairs base lodge area fills up quickly and then there's a line.

But I {Secretly} Hate to Ski
You know who you are Betty {what, the idea of rocketing down a snow-covered mountain doesn't charm you?} Stratton hasn’t forgotten you. Visit the Stratton Sports Center for a wide range of facilities and amenities that include a 75 foot pool, steam rooms, massage, tennis courts, training centers... bring your bathing suit. 

The resort also has Stratton Village and the shopping there is generally {hit or miss} rewarding. Browse through the Bogner Boutique for the latest in exclusive European fashions {if a tad overpriced}. Indulge in the elements ‘that nourish the body and soul and experience all the senses’ at Decorative Interior {we can’t make this stuff up!} 

Be sure to go to Stratton Mountain Provisions in Stratton Village. Vermont is a foodie paradise.  You'll find high end groceries and local Vermont cheeses and a knowledgeable staff.

Betty Tip: Not skiing? Parking near the base lodge can be challenging. But park in the valet area next to Stratton Village after 12 noon - usually with no hassle and for free.

If that's not enough shopping, the town of Manchester, Vt is famous for it’s high-end outlet stores, only a 20 minute drive from Stratton. Go. {It's up to you to figure out how to explain how you went "skiing" and came back with Kate Spade kitten heels.} Manchester Designer Outlet

You can’t let a Stratton visit pass without a trip to the Orvis main store in Manchester, even if you don’t hunt or fly fish. Usually there are some authentic outdoor fashions to catch your eye and the indoor trout fishing tank will amaze the kids.

Even More to Do
Enjoy an elegant sleigh ride in nearby Townsend, Vt., at 650 acre Friesians of Majesty Farm where spectacular  European Friesian horses are bred. Take a journey back in time. The Friesian-drawn sleigh rides are a wonderful way to enjoy the beautiful Vermont winters. Choose from their traditional romantic one horse open sleigh or the larger ornate hitched to an astonishing Friesian pair.

See and be seen at the celebrity ‘Men Who Cook’ event - an annual mountain favorite! The entire base lodge is filled with husbands, fathers, grandfathers, sons, and special guests who come to serve their favorite appetizer, entree, or dessert to nearly 300 hungry guests. Prizes are awarded and all proceeds go to the Stratton Foundation. Arrive early with a good appetite!

Kick up your heels. Don’t miss the live music at the Red Fox Inn. Betty note: Why not make it an evening? Go early and have dinner in the Tavern, then hear the band at and avoid the cover charge!

Where to Eat Dinner?
Eating choices around Stratton are best defined by the question: with or without children?

With Kids:
Try Mulberry Street, a taste of Little Italy, serving pasta & pizza at the south end of the Village.

A short 8 minute drive away, try the Red Fox Inn. Go to the downstairs Irish tavern where the menu is traditional pub fare. Kids can play video arcade games or sports on TV.  Note: Arrive before 6:30ish if you want to get a table. The place fills up quickly on weekends.

For a broader menu selection to please the entire family, consider Mulligan’s in Stratton Village- ribs, steaks, sandwiches, salads, fajitas +.

Betty Tip:
Try the apple pie at the Red Fox Inn. Voted “Best Apple Pie in Vermont” by Yankee Magazine. Also, The Fat Spy Tavern, near the Stratton access road offers a 15’ HD projection TV game room. Warning: Your children will not want to leave!

Without Kids: You might want to consider a trip over to Manchester, VT, about a 20 minute drive, for a wider selection of venues. Start at Laney’s, {Rt.11/30} where barbeque ribs and chicken are the specialty.

At  Bistro Henry, plan on big city prices but it's definitely worth it.  It’s a contemporary restaurant offering the best dishes from Southern France & Northern Italy created by Chef de Cuisine Ian Logan.

When we're willing to splurge, we go to Verde restaurant in the Stratton Village for bold, inspired regional dishes featuring fish, meats and pasta in a sophisticated atmosphere. Wednesdays and Thursday nights they feature a prix fix 3-course dinner.

Another superb restaurant is the elegantly refurbished Mistral’s at Toll Gate Lodge, also in Manchester. Mistral’s offers exquisite French food in a romantic atmosphere.

Or cozy up to the fireplace in the Tavern at the 200 year old Dorsett Inn, the oldest continually operating Inn in Vermont. The bistro-type menu draws from local and organic ingredients.  Consider staying upstairs it's gracious and charming.

Don’t want to eat out? There is a convenience store and deli in the village, Stratton Mountain Provisions. Or find groceries at Winhall Market {expensive, but convenient} or 7-11 in Bondville, Clark's IGA in Londonderry, and Shaw's or Price Chopper in Manchester.

Where to Stay?
Lots of choices here. A few examples:

For sheer convenience, you can’t beat the Stratton Mountain Inn or The Lift Line Lodge. As the names imply, they are mere walking distance {or offer complementary shuttle service}  from the lifts and offer all kinds of Ski & Stay packages.

We love The Equinox in Manchester Center – a grand hotel in the New England tradition. Betty Note: Time luxuriating in their spa and indulging in the Sunday brunch is time well spent.

Other considerations include an abundance of condos located within a stone’s throw of the base lodge. Located directly across the street, Long Trail House offers one and two bedroom condos with mountain views and all the modcons.  

Three Mountain Inn is a perfect  weekend get-away weekend for you and your honey. Peacefully located in the Village of Jamaica just 10 minutes from Stratton, the Three Mountain Inn offers 15 guest rooms and lots of charm. Show the love!!

Betty Tip
: If you can get away mid-week, rates are lower, no restaurant reservations necessary and lift lines are non-existent. Be sure to ask hotels about their ‘Ski & Stay’ packages .…

The Final Word
Stratton is a fun family alternative to the resorts located in Maine and New Hampshire and worth experiencing. It’s run by IntraWest, which owns destinations like Mont Tremblant Ski Resort, Copper Mountain, Steamboat, Winter Park … and they just sold Whistler Blackcomb.

Does it make a difference? You’ll have to decide. But one thing is certain. They know how to operate successful family-friendly resorts.  They take a huge number of ‘guest experience’ polls to make sure that folks are happy and coming back. Try Stratton and see if it was worth your ‘always wanted to try list”.