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11 best ski resorts on the East Coast


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There’s no denying it — when it comes to skiing in the U.S., there’s nothing like skiing out west. But, for those closer to the East Coast, it’s oftentimes significantly easier to jump in the car and drive to your favorite ski resort, which might be located in a charming New England ski town with some top-tier lodging and dining options.

In terms of the actual time spent on the mountain, yes, conditions can be variable, and there’s a decent chance you’ll hit some ice, but we think that also brings some of the joy (and skill). The magic that you get on a bluebird day is indescribable and keeps us East Coasters itching for more. And, truth be told, if you can ski the East, you can ski anywhere.

While you won’t find the same megaresorts that you find out west, you will find charm and that storybook, ski-town feel. Skiing the East can also be more favorable for your wallet. With less expensive lift tickets (which you’ll typically see at independently owned resorts) and ski school pricing, you can experience the mountain feel for less. If you’re a season pass holder with Epic, Ikon or Indy, there’s a plethora of resorts on the East Coast with less restrictive — and less expensive — pass options.

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What’s more, there have been many enhancements for the 2023-2024 winter season. For starters, Sunday River Resort in Maine will be debuting a new high-speed chairlift, which is set to be one of the fastest and most advanced six-person chairlifts in North America. Loon Mountain Resort in New Hampshire has also expanded its South Peak terrain with more than 30 additional acres of skiable trails. One of the most awaited enhancements is at Attitash Mountain Resort, another resort in New Hampshire, where the Summit Triple will be replaced by a new four-person, high-speed lift.

So, with many resorts already open, where are the best ski resorts on the East Coast?

Best snow: Jay Peak Resort

Jay, Vermont

JAY PEAK
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As the most northern resort in Vermont, Jay Peak is one of the best when it comes to natural snowfall, averaging 347 inches per year. As a frame of reference, this is similar to (or even more than) what you’ll see at some of the mountains out west, where Beaver Creek averages 323 inches and Park City 355 inches per year. With this much snow annually, you’ll find excellent terrain and a plethora of tree glades. Jay Peak also offers a 45-person aerial tram to the summit — the only tram in the state. Be warned, though: Jay Peak is definitely one of the colder mountains you’ll find on the East Coast, so dress accordingly.

Keep in mind that Jay Peak is known for even more than epic skiing and snowboarding trails. After a day on the mountain, there’s the Jay Peak Pump House, featuring an indoor water park with a lazy river and FlowRider. There’s also an indoor climbing gym, arcade, movie theater and ice skating arena. With a spa for the parents and child care starting at 6 weeks old, there’s plenty to keep the entire family occupied — both on and off the mountain.

Jay Peak is also one of the 20-plus ski resorts on the Indy Pass (although there’s currently a waitlist). With this pass option, you’ll receive two days of skiing at each participating resort. If you find yourself skiing at many participating independent resorts this winter — or even next winter — this is one of the least expensive ways to ski.

However, its location, just south of the Canadian border, makes Jay Peak one of the more challenging mountains to visit. For those already located in the Northeast, it’s close to a four-hour drive from Boston and seven hours from New York City. If you’d prefer to fly, Burlington International Airport (BTV) is your best bet at just slightly over an hour away.

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With no big-brand hotel options in Jay, using points is a challenge. However, there are many ski-in, ski-out condos, which you can book through Vacasa and potentially use your Wyndham points this way. There are also three hotel options, with many packages available, such as lift ticket combos and access to the water park.

Related: Redeeming Wyndham points with Vacasa is a great deal — with a catch

Best for luxury: Stowe Mountain Resort

Stowe, Vermont

STOWE MOUNTAIN RESORT

Nicknamed the Vail of the East by many, Stowe has an extremely luxurious feel, not dissimilar to what you’d find at some of the high-end resorts out west. The Village at Spruce Peak, located right at the base of Mount Mansfield, offers a top-notch lodge, along with many shops and restaurants. With an outdoor ice skating rink in the center and many fire pits around, you’ll experience the ideal apres-ski scene (it looks like a mini Swiss village). You can even reserve your own outdoor private pergola right in the village center.

The creme de la creme is certainly the aforementioned accommodations, The Lodge at Spruce Peak. This Hyatt-affiliated hotel has luxury written all over it. From its ski valet and sumptuous spa to its outdoor pools and hot tubs, you’ll truly feel like you are on a splurge-worthy vacation. The resort even offers everything from your typical studio hotel room to four-bedroom penthouse suites. With recent expansions, you can even book your own separate residence or townhome. It’s also the only hotel option right at the base of the mountain.

Related: Vail of the East: Everything you need to know about skiing at Stowe Mountain

But luxury doesn’t go easy on the wallet. Ticket prices at Stowe are some of the most expensive you’ll find on the East Coast — fortunately, your Epic Pass can help bring down the cost. And with the Epic Pass, you’ll also get 20% off group ski lessons — which is another way to make the cost of ski school more palatable.

Hotel rooms are also available at a jaw-dropping price. But again, you can bring the cost down significantly by using your World of Hyatt points. Throughout most of the winter, the property charges peak pricing, which means you’re looking at 45,000 points per night.

But if you aren’t looking to spend the money — or points — to stay at the mountain, there are plenty of hotel options — at many varying price points — in and around Stowe (check out the historic Trapp Family Lodge, Topntoch Resort or Talta Lodge, which are a few of our other favorites). And if you don’t mind a 30-minute drive, you can even stay at the Fairfield Inn & Suites Waterbury Stowe with your Marriott Bonvoy points — or even your free night certificates that come with select Marriott credit cards.

The town of Stowe is also totally adorable and worth a visit. With plenty of shops, restaurants and activities, you’ll never be bored. If you’re looking for a ski resort in northern Vermont, Stowe is slightly closer than both Smugglers’ Notch Resort and Jay Peak Resort while also offering more to do away from the mountain.

Best for families: Smugglers’ Notch Resort

Jeffersonville, Vermont

SMUGGLERS’ NOTCH VERMONT

Known as America’s Family Resort, Smugglers’ Notch offers the best family atmosphere you could ask for. In addition to the 1,000-plus acres for skiing and riding, the resort offers more activities than you can even imagine for the entire family. In addition to your traditional snowshoeing, tubing, cross-country skiing, ice skating and even swimming, there’s also the FunZone 2.0 complex. Here, you have access to obstacle courses, laser tag, minigolf, arcade games and inflatable slides. The resort also organizes many activities — day and night — catered toward the entire family. This includes bingo, winter carnivals, scavenger hunts, bonfires, board game nights, magic shows and much more.

Smuggs will also allow those as young as 3 years old to enjoy the magic of a full-day ski school program, whereas many other mountains start at 4 years old — or require a private lesson. The resort also features terrain for everyone, with three distinct mountains, allowing all skiers to enjoy the slopes at their own pace. Those just starting out on skis will thrive on Morse Mountain, which is made up of mostly green trails. But, if you’re really looking to push yourself, head over to Madonna Mountain, where you can experience the only triple-black-diamond trail in the entire Northeast.

To experience the joy of Smuggs, staying on-site is the way to go. You’ll also find accessing the mountain and other activities to be extremely easy, especially due to the on-demand shuttle that’ll take you around the resort. And with condos ranging from one to five bedrooms — which can be booked through Airbnb or directly with the mountain — you’ll be able to book accommodations that work for your family. There’s also the Club Wyndham Smugglers’ Notch Vermont, where you can theoretically use your Wyndham points, but availability — on points — is extremely hard to come by.

Keep in mind that in the winter, Smugglers’ Notch Pass, known as the Notch, is closed. This makes the drive to Smuggs about 30 minutes longer than if you were to visit Stowe Mountain Resort.

Related: Best credit cards to use on ski trips

Best for variety: Sugarbush Resort

Warren, Vermont

SUGARBUSH RESORT

Many would say that Sugarbush offers some of the best terrain in the east. Whether you’re looking for cruises, bumps, ungroomed trails or glades, you’ll find a variety of options at this resort. You’ll even find some trails that are never groomed, making it a go-to spot on a powder day. The resort also features a 2,600-foot vertical drop, which is one of the steepest in New England.

But don’t let the variety discourage you if you aren’t an expert. There’s plenty of terrain for beginners as well, making this a great resort option for all skill levels. However, Sugarbush can be thought of as two distinct peaks; if you’re heading to the mountain with skiers and riders of all levels, you might find yourself separated for most of the day.

The Clay Brook Hotel & Residences is the ideal lodging option if you’re looking to be slopeside. However, there are many resort condos and townhomes along the shuttle route, making it easy to get to the base.

With Waterbury, Vermont, being right between Sugarbush and Stowe, you could even opt for the Fairfield Inn & Suites Waterbury Stowe and visit both resorts during your ski vacation. Note that Sugarbush is on the Ikon Pass.

Best for beginners: Okemo Mountain Resort

Ludlow, Vermont

OKEMO MOUNTAIN RESORT/FACEBOOK

While Okemo can cater to all skiers, those who are just getting their feet wet (or snowy, rather) on the slopes will thoroughly enjoy the mountain. Here, you’ll find many wide trails with plenty of beginner and intermediate terrain. The resort is also well known for its ski school, making it a great place to truly learn how to ski. Many guests also appreciate the two bubble lifts that’ll take you to the summit. On a cold or wet day, a lift ride can be one of the most painful experiences when it comes to skiing. But these heated bubbles can be a game changer and give you time to warm up during your ride to the top. There are plenty of green trails down from the peak of the mountain, allowing beginners to enjoy the summit. If you’re an Epic Pass holder, Okemo might be your best bet to keep your overall cost down.

Okemo offers two different base lodges, with beginner slopes accessible from both. There are also plenty of accommodations at both lodges, but if you can swing it, Jackson Gore Inn is a great option. Or, if you prefer to spread out, there are many ski-in, ski-out condos, some of which even offer indoor pools or other amenities right on site. While you won’t be able to use points from any specific hotel program, this is the perfect opportunity to cash in some of your flexible award points with programs such as Chase Ultimate Rewards and Capital One.

Being in southern Vermont, Okemo is significantly easier to access than many of the northern Vermont mountains — especially if you’re coming from the New York tri-state area or farther afield. Unfortunately, there aren’t many good airport options nearby, with Albany International Airport (ALB) and Manchester-Boston Regional Airport (MHT) both being two hours away.

Related: What’s the best ski pass this season? Comparing Epic, Ikon, Mountain Collective and Indy passes

Best terrain park: Killington Resort

Killington, Vermont

KILLINGTON RESORT/FACEBOOK

This legendary resort’s nickname, the Beast of the East, says it all. When it comes to East Coast skiing, this is the largest resort you’ll find, with over 100 kilometers of total slope length and 22 lifts. But what really makes the resort special is the Woodward Mountain terrain park. With a slew of park options across the mountain, there’s a terrain park for every age and skill — whether you are new to the sport or looking to perfect your 360. Killington also maintains the park weekly by changing the features, allowing you to encounter a different park experience on every visit.

But being one of the biggest mountains in the east comes at a price. The slopes are quite packed on the weekends, especially being part of the Ikon Pass. But with down-the-road Pico Mountain also being on the pass, you can explore both mountains during your ski vacation (Pico is much smaller and typically less crowded). Killington is also known for its apres-ski party scene, so while the resort is great for all age groups, you might feel the younger vibe.

If you’re looking to use your hotel points, the Killington Mountain Lodge is a Hilton property and costs between 40,000 and 60,000 points per night. While this isn’t a ski-in, ski-out property, it’s only 2 miles down the road.

Although Killington is in southern Vermont, it’s still farther away than Okemo Mountain Resort and Stratton Mountain Resort, which is just something to keep in mind if you’re not looking to extend your drive. But, the distance is very comparable from Boston.

Best village: Stratton Mountain Resort

Stratton Mountain, Vermont

STRATTON MOUNTAIN RESORT/FACEBOOK

If you’re yearning for a classic ski village at the base of the mountain, then Stratton is a great fit. The resort is also an ideal destination if you’re heading to the mountain with non-skiers; while you are hitting the slopes, other guests in your party can stroll in and out of shops throughout the day. And with many restaurant options, you all can enjoy a relaxing apres-ski scene.

At Stratton, visitors will also find a tubing park, indoor rock climbing and an outdoor ice skating rink. You can also take an evening snowcat ride for a unique dining experience at the Mid-Mountain Lodge. And as long as you book a hotel or condo at the mountain, you truly never have to get in a car during your entire ski vacation.

Stratton is also one of the closest southern Vermont mountains if you’re coming from the New York tri-state area. With no major traffic (i.e., if you leave before Friday afternoon!), you can make it to the mountain in less than four hours from the George Washington Bridge. The mountain is also part of the Ikon Pass.

Best for slopeside lodging: Sunday River Resort

Newry, Maine

SUNDAY RIVER RESORT

If your goal of a ski vacation is to stay on the mountain — at a reasonable cost — then Sunday River Resort offers just that. The resort boasts slopeside lodging across the mountain, with most options being close to one of the three base lodges. This allows you to pick a condo or hotel that fits your entire family at a price point that works for you. For example, we were able to find a ski-in, ski-out studio condo for about $250 per night during a peak winter weekend, which is significantly better than other East Coast resorts.

Sunday River is also a great option if you’re looking to stay away from the crowds. Despite being one of the more popular ski resorts in Maine, it doesn’t get the same number of visitors as you might find at many well-known Vermont and New Hampshire mountains. It also offers eight mountain peaks, with varying terrain on each. This allows beginners to find a ton of green runs on North Peak, while those looking for ungroomed double-black-diamond trails can head over to Oz and Jordan Bowl. (Note that while challenging for some, the double blacks aren’t the steepest you’ll find on the East Coast.)

The resort also features twilight skiing, which you won’t find at many other resorts these days. On Fridays, Saturdays and holidays, you can extend your ski day all the way through 6:30 p.m. Throughout the winter, you’ll also experience slopeside fireworks shows and many other family-friendly activities — especially during peak holiday periods.

Sunday River is also on the Ikon Pass, but access is limited. Depending on the pass you purchase, you’re limited to just five or seven days of skiing throughout the season. Or, if you’re looking for a one-time trip, the two-, three- or four-day Session Pass might be the best option.

Keep in mind that Sunday River is quite far for those outside of New England. While it’s only a 3 1/2-hour drive from Boston, it’s well over seven hours from New York City. But, if you’re looking to fly, the mountain is just 70 miles from Portland International Jetport (PWM).

Best scenery: Bretton Woods

Bretton Woods, New Hampshire

OMNI MOUNT WASHINGTON RESORT/OMNI HOTELS

When it comes to East Coast skiing, there truly is nothing as breathtaking as the scenery from the top of Bretton Woods. On a clear day, you’ll have views of Mount Washington and the Presidential Range. At the summit, you can experience the relatively new Rosebrook Lodge, which can make you feel like you’re out west. Here, you can enjoy lunch — or a drink — outside on the patio, truly soaking in the entire ski experience. And with a gondola that’ll take you from the base to the top, even non-skiers can experience the summit.

The resort is the largest ski resort in all of New Hampshire and includes 63 trails, 35 glades and three terrain parks. The mountain is also constructed so that most levels can find a way down from the top — especially with many long-wide greens.

Bretton Woods is also home to the iconic Omni Mount Washington Hotel. Although there are some condos at the resort, the Omni is truly the place to stay. At just a few minutes’ drive from the base, the hotel provides a shuttle right from the front door. The hotel dates back to 1902, and although there have been many renovations and additions since that time, you can still experience the historical decor and charm throughout. Adults will enjoy the spa and speak-easy, while kids will want to spend time at the on-site bowling alley, arcade and outdoor tubing area. There are also both indoor and outdoor pools. For those loyal to the Omni brand, you can use your earned Omni credits for a free stay.

With Bretton Woods close to three hours away from Boston, you’ll find it to be one of the farthest New Hampshire resorts. But the stunning drive is worth it.

Related: A step back in time: Upscale getaway at the Omni Mount Washington Hotel and Bretton Woods Ski Resort

Bottom line

With many East Coast ski resort options, you’ll see that you don’t have to fly all the way West to enjoy the mountain feel. With many well-recognized mountains represented throughout the East Coast, you can strap on your skis and enjoy a ski vacation in no time.

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