From the time we stepped out of the truck until we left for the day it snowed nonstop. So I’m not sure if it was the snow or the fact these buildings look like castles from a fairytale, but this place looked absolutely magical. Stratton Mountain was the first stop on our Vermont Road trip and we almost skipped it. Earlier in the week they only had 13 slopes open while Killington (our next stop) had over 50.
I am so glad that we didn’t skip this little gem and we made the stop on our way from Albany, NY (where we stayed the night) to Killington, VT. I’ll tell you a quick funny story about our day and then give you all the tips you need for spending a day at Stratton Mountain.
Why Map Reading is an Important Part of Skiing
Tyler and I are pretty opposite when it comes to snow sports. He skis, I snowboard. He heads straight for the black diamonds, I’m happy to stay on greens all day. He wants to go as fast as humanly possible, I just want to make it down the mountain in one piece. So you can see why we don’t always stay together.
I told him that I wanted to start on some easy greens though and surprisingly he said he would come with me. I start on the easier ones just to make sure everything is fitting right for the day and I like to get my legs under me. After looking at the map I decided I wanted to start over at the Tamarack lift which takes you up to about mid-mountain.
We headed that direction and stopped at what we thought was Tamarack, but we saw an awful lot of kids and people who didn’t know how to use the ski lift. We took this lift up, but could see the top of the lift as soon as we got on. I thought, my goodness if this is mid-mountain then we’ll both be very disappointed today. Turns out we were on the Villager lift instead. Which is a quarter the size of Tamarack. We didn’t figure this out until a bit later though, so we decided to just head down to the Gondola.
Fast-forward to after lunch when I went to find Tamarack on my own. This time instead of walking through the snow to try and find the lift, I went down the sidewalk and was going to cut through the buildings. Finally I saw a lift and blazed a path through the fresh snow in between two condo units. I climbed a small ledge and had to pull two kids up over the top. Once I stood up and turned around, where do you think I was at? The Villager lift.
I finally just asked the parents of those kids that I hoisted up the snowbank how the heck I was supposed to get to the Tamarack lift. Apparently all I had to do was take the Villager lift and a trail to the right (when facing down the mountain) would take you over to Tamarack… Lesson learned: if you have the map reading skills of a rock, you’ll spend half your day on the kiddie lifts.
Tips for Visiting Stratton Mountain
For more general tips, check out Stratton’s website here. These are things I would have found useful before my trip.
Parking is simple
I always worry about how easy it’s going to be to park somewhere. How easy will it be to find the parking lot? Are the spaces tiny? Will I be able to find an open spot? Are other cars giong to be packed in here? This may be just because I drive a Chevy Silverado though. Parking at Stratton was incredibly simple and free.
They have big orange construction signs that tell you which lot is full and parking attendants that show you which spot to park in. If you are in Lot 1 the busses run continuously but you can also walk. I walked it in snowboard boots and Tyler in ski boots.
Bus Drop Off
We caught the bus up to the entrance and it drops you off a level below the slopes right below the Village so you have to climb some stairs. Once you get up the stairs, directly across the courtyard on your right is where you can purchase lift tickets on the top floor and there are restrooms in the basement.
You can check out a Village map here and if you look in the bottom right hand corner, the bus drop you off right above ‘I’ and below ‘18’ right next to the deck. You’ll come into the courtyard around ‘28’ and can head directly across for the slopes. The location for purchasing lift tickets that I mentioned is Guest Services at ‘22’.
Pretty Easy Terrain
The terrain is relatively easy for the east. If I can do a black diamond then it’s definitely easier than most. But for an intermediate boarder it was absolutely perfect and a lot of fun. If you’re looking for more challenging terrain, then head about an hour and a half northeast to Killington. They have a larger variety.
I will say half of their mountain was not open. That is probably a key factor also. As always, check the trail report before you head to your destination. Remember to never ski outside your comfort zone and always make sure you’re in control. Follow the responsibility code.
Mike’s Way is Crowded
From the very top of the mountain you can string together all green runs that hug the side of the mountain. This first green trail at the very top is called Mike’s Way. Be warned, it seems that this is what every family and group of beginners does. These greens were the most crowded section of the mountain. If you’re looking for easier terrain that’s less crowded head to the Tamarack lift. I hope you have better luck finding it than I did.
No Lift Lines at Lunch
This is the general rule, but I found it to be especially true here. Once 12pm hit there was NO ONE in any lift line. There could be another explanation to this though. It was New Year’s Day and everyone could have skied that morning, then left to go back home that afternoon from the long weekend.
The Green Door Pub – A Hidden Gem
We are not people that wait for a table. My max wait time is 20 minutes and Tyler’s is zero. I knew as soon as we walked in the base lodge that this wasn’t going to work. They gave us a wait of about 40 minutes so we turned back around and decided we’d try the Village.
First thing you come to is Mulligan’s and we were starving so we headed in. Again, a 20 minute wait. But then the hostess told us that the Green Door Pub was open and served food as well. The Green Door Pub was just downstairs and when we walked through the door we were the only ones there! And they have the SAME menu as Mulligan’s. The only difference is they don’t have as many options for beer on tap.
We hung out here for about an hour and a half and during that time there were a few people that came through to get a drink at the bar, but for the most part it was just us. The food was amazing too. We had a cheeseburger and split it, but I found myself wishing I had ordered my own.
Spend some time in the Village
This is one thing that I regret not doing. We wanted to get to Killington before it got too dark though so we left as soon as the lifts closed. The Village looks like a mini-European town and the shops looked like they had a lot of great finds. It was absolutely enchanting in the pouring snow.
One Day is Not Enough
Sometimes you just can’t do it all. We arrived at Stratton around 10am and left a little after 4pm. This is not even close to enough time there and all the trails weren’t even open when we visited! It’s best if you have a full two day weekend to spend here and even better if you can make it a long weekend.
Preparation for a Ski Day
Skiing or snowboarding can turn into a nightmare if you aren’t prepared. Make sure that you have all the right gear. I’ve put together a ski packing list so you don’t miss anything you might need to bring.
If this is your first time, then I also have seven tips for first time snowboarders. Many of them apply to first time skiers as well. Most importantly take the trip and have fun!