There is a strong, inescapable sense of nostalgia as you exit Interstate 91 in Brattleboro, Vermont, and make the final 30-plus mile jaunt to Stratton Mountain. If your GPS is like mine, you’ll duck onto Cedar Street in Brattleboro, where the Harris Hill ski jump appears almost out of nowhere. Carved into the hillside with a corridor of trees to either side of the jump and long, steep landing area, Harris Hill dates back to the 1920s, and still hosts events.
You’ll then take a hairpin left onto Route 30, which hugs the West River, and motor northwestward. Along the way, you’ll pass the now-defunct Maple Valley Ski Area in Dummerston, one of those classic New England “learner” hills that spawned generations of local skiers but has sat dormant since 2000 (despite numerous rumors of re-opening). The narrow two-lane meanders through a number of historic Vermont towns, like Newfane and Jamaica, conjuring memories of ski vacations with the kids crowded into the “way back” of the family station wagon.
The long access road climbing from the valley floor up the hill to Stratton, which begins just past the Startingate ski shop (if you’re traveling north), is reminiscent of so many New England resorts, and particularly Killington and Sugarbush. Four miles later, you roll into the village of Stratton. Most ski resorts boast a “village” at the base, but that’s usually a turn of phrase. Stratton offers a real village, built in the true Tyrolean style — like a miniature version of Ischgl or St. Anton am Arlberg in Austria — with a wonderful assortment of restaurants, bars, shops, a market, a delicatessen and a day spa, populated by carved black bears (Stratton’s mascot) large and small, surrounded by lodging options. But more on those later, because you’re here to ski, and Stratton has the goods.
To be perfectly honest, Stratton is an ode to the wonders of intermediate terrain. I say that as an unqualified compliment. Yes, it has expert trails, and challenging glades, but those are unquestionably in the minority. During our recent visit, the trails that shone the brightest were the playful variety of blue-square routes, from wide-open cruisers to gentle serpentine tracks that let skiers and boarders work their turns without picking up too much steam.