An Expert Guide to Ski Resorts in New England

Published on 12/08/2023 · 15 min readWinter Sports Expert Sean Corliss goes into detail on the top ski resorts in New England - including where to stay, eat, drink, his favorite runs, and more!
Sean Corliss, Snowboarding Expert
By Snowboarding Expert Sean Corliss

Killington Mountain. Photo by Emily Ho

Ahhh, the East Coast! Or, as some call it, the “Ice Coast.” While known for its cold, icy, and windy conditions, New England offers many great resorts for skiers and snowboarders. As someone who grew up in the area and still resides there, I have a soft spot for this region and its many fantastic mountains. So whether you’re looking for a local’s favorite mountain or booking a trip at a family-friendly commercial resort, we have the best spots to check out when planning your New England ski trip!

When to Plan Your Trip to New England

New England has a smaller window for prime conditions than many Western resorts. With that said, if you don’t mind some ice or even a really slushy spring ride, you can find snow anytime between December and March. Anything before December is usually all artificial snow, and there may not be much of anything left after March. Therefore, the best time to book your Northeast trip is in January and February. If you’re looking to avoid crowds, plan your trip on non-holiday weekends and avoid the fourth week of February (typically the 21st-25th, aka "School Vacation Week").

Please note that lift ticket prices vary depending on the day of the week and time of year. Additionally, most mountains below are featured on the Epic, Ikon, or Indy passes as well. Lastly, the mountains below are listed in no particular order. They’re all great!

Jay Peak

View from one of the lifts. Photo courtesy of Curated Expert Michelle King

About

Boasting the most average snowfall on the East Coast, Jay Peak is a must-ski/ride for anyone planning a trip to the East. Jay Peak is located in northern Vermont, just below the Canadian border, making it an ideal resort for those who avoid big crowds.

While it is not the East Coast’s largest mountain, this resort still offers 385 acres of terrain, including plenty of glades for tree lovers and some really fun terrain parks for snowboarders who like to get tricky! At 3,968ft above sea level, the mountain stands at just 2,153ft tall from base elevation to peak but offers trails for all skill levels.

Be sure to take a ride up the Aerial Tram to the peak and take in the views from Sky Haus while drinking a local Vermont beer! Then, if you have time, take the quick 20-minute trip to the Canadian border and enjoy some local eats in Quebec’s eastern townships (be sure to have your passport with you!). Lift tickets run about $96/day, but you can usually save a few bucks by purchasing ahead online.

Tips and Stats

  • Where to stay: Hotel Jay, Tram Haus Lodge, Stateside Hotel, and Airbnb.
  • Where to eat: Howie's (in the Stateside Hotel). Try the P.I.G. Poutine!
  • Where to après: Bullwheel Bar
  • What to do: Swing by the Hotel Jay and Conference Center, where there is an indoor waterpark, arcade, and plenty of dining.
  • Favorite run: Ullr’s Dream, skier’s left off of Flyer Express Quad.
  • Lifts: 9
  • Trails: 78

Killington

Curated Expert Ciara Peters at Killington. Photo courtesy of Ciara Peters

About

Known as “The Beast of the East” or simply just “The Beast,” Killington is New England’s largest ski resort and offers trails for all levels of experience (even the strictly après-skier). The resort is located in mid-Vermont and is just a three-hour drive from Boston and a 4.5-hour drive from New York City. The mountain boasts a 3,050ft vertical drop (tallest in New England), 155 trails, 21 lifts, and 1,509 acres of terrain.

Being as large and accessible as it is, Killington is usually a very popular mountain with larger crowds, so thank goodness for all the space and lifts! Lift tickets cost about $119/day on average but as always, look to book ahead online as you may find savings opportunities. Bonus: it’s on the Ikon pass. Killington’s famous après-ski scene and nightlife are just as important as the slopes themselves. Killington has several bars and restaurants ready to serve hearty meals and great beer!

Tips and Stats

  • Where to stay: Killington Grand Resort Hotel, Killington Mountain Lodge, The Mountain Inn, and rental/Airbnb
  • Where to eat: Motor Room Bar and Ledgewood Yurt
  • Where to après: Wobbly Barn
  • What to do: Pickle Barrel Nightclub, tubing park, and dog sledding.
  • Favorite run: Superstar. This iconic black diamond is the East Coast’s longest run and is home to the Killington Glaciers.
  • Lifts: 21
  • Trails: 155

Sugarloaf

With a friend at “The Beach” post Sugarloaf Charity Summit! Photo courtesy of Curated Expert Sean Corliss

About

Located in western Maine, Sugarloaf is home to New England’s second-highest vertical drop (2,840ft). It boasts more than 150 trails and is perfect for all level skiers and snowboarders. One unique thing about Sugarloaf is its snowfields, where skiers and snowboarders can carve up freshies above the treeline. Get there early, though, as the wind tends to make this part of the mountain inaccessible and cold later as the day progresses. When the snow gets deep, this mountain also has some incredible glades for those who love bobbing and weaving in the trees.

Sugarloaf is a little more isolated than other New England ski resorts, making it a good option for those who avoid day-trippers and large crowds (holiday weekends and school vacations excluded). Lift ticket prices are about $80/day, but you can also find this resort on the Ikon pass! Don’t forget to have lunch at Bullwinkle’s over on West Mountain and then hit the Widowmaker bar at the base for some après-ski bevies and live music!

Tips and Stats

  • Where to stay: Sugarloaf Mountain Hotel, Sugarloaf Inn, Gondola Village Condos, and rental/Airbnb.
  • Where to eat: Bullwinkle’s, The Shipyard Brew Haus and Tufulio’s Restaurant and Bar.
  • Where to après: The Rack BBQ, Widowmaker
  • What to do: If you’re staying on or near the mountain, I highly recommend looking at their website calendar and catching one of their scheduled on-mountain fireworks displays or moonlight snowshoe tours!
  • Favorite run: If they’re open and you are comfortable on black diamonds, then I highly suggest checking out the snow fields at the summit.
  • Lifts: 14
  • Trails: 162

Sunday River

Curated Expert Sean Corliss taking a break enjoying the groomers at Sunday River. Photo courtesy of Sean Corliss

About

Also in Western Maine, Bethel to be exact, is Sunday River which offers skiers and boarders eight peaks to choose from! My favorite is Jordan Peak, where the glades are aplenty. Pick up your rentals from Bob and Terry’s Sports Outlet. Once you get to the mountain, I recommend starting either at the leftmost or rightmost peak and then working your way across the mountain throughout the day. But with 668 acres (and 400+ more to come), there is no shortage of trails and glades to enjoy! Also, conveniently on the Ikon pass, passes can be purchased in person or online for an average of $77/day.

Start the day with a breakfast sandwich from the Barking Dog. For lunch, enjoy a fresh Maine lobster roll at the Foggy Goggle or a beer and pub food at the Shipyard Brew Haus (yes, there’s one here too). Later, grab a drink, some poutine, and a pizza from the Matterhorn Ski Bar, and maybe even join their Mug Club for discounted beers, cool discounts, and swag.

Tips and Stats

  • Where to stay: Jordan Grand Resort Hotel, Bethel Inn Resort, and rental/Airbnb
  • Where to eat: Shipyard Brew Haus, Matterhorn Ski Bar, and Sliders (located in the Jordan Hotel), Barking Dog Market (groceries, pizza, deli)
  • Where to après: Foggy Goggle, Matterhorn Ski Bar, Steam Mill Brewing and Sunday River Brewing Company (which has a sick outdoor fire pit).
  • What to do: Sunday River has scheduled on-mountain fireworks displays, but if you have time, check out the snowshoeing, River Lanes bowling, and the Maine Mineral and Gem Museum.
  • Favorite run: Right Stuff (skier’s left off Barker Mountain Express lift) and Rogue Angel (Jordan Bowl).
  • Lifts: 19
  • Runs: 139

Stowe

Lapping up the freshies at Stowe with some friends! Photo courtesy of Curated Expert Sean Corliss

About

Sometimes known as the “Vail of the East,” this Vermont ski resort offers skiers and boarders of all experience plenty of trails to explore along with tons of off-mountain activities. Two peaks connected by a gondola give riders over 110 trails (totaling 40 miles), 485 skiable acres, a 2,360ft vertical drop, and some views of what I consider quintessential New England landscapes. Take advantage of the many glades that separate groomed trails and add a little spice to the day for the skier/rider who wants to switch things up. Lift ticket prices average $93, but you can also find this mountain on the Epic pass.

Grab breakfast at the Maple Waffle Cafe at the top of the gondola and jumpstart your day with good food and incredible mountain views. If you’re looking for a beer, try a Heady Topper or Focal Banger from the Alchemist Brewery located in town. Have kids? Bring them to the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream factory for a sweet, fun experience for the whole family.

Tips and Stats

  • Where to stay: The Lodge at Spruce Peak, Field Guide Lodge, and Airbnb/rental.
  • Where to eat: Piecasso, Tres Amigos, Whistle Pig Pavillion, Maple Waffle Cafe, Ben & Jerry’s and Skinny Pancake
  • Where to après: Spruce Peak Lodge, Matterhorn, Alchemist Brewing and von Trapp Brewery & Bierhall.
  • What to do: Check out the ice skating rink at the Spruce Peak Lodge, rock climbing at Stowe Adventure Center, or take a 15-minute drive to the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream factory in Waterbury, VT.
  • Favorite run: The Front Four (Goat, Liftline, National, and Starr)
  • Lifts: 13
  • Trails: 116

Okemo

Curated Expert Ayden Frechette getting ready to hotdog it down the hill at Okemo. Photo courtesy of Ayden Frechette

About

Located in southern Vermont, Okemo receives an annual snowfall of about 200ft per year. With 667 square acres of skiable terrain, 95% of which is covered by snowmaking, this mountain is one of the most reliable for having snow all winter. Okemo has a vertical drop of 2,200ft, making it the tallest in the southern Vermont area, and boasts 20 lifts that reach 121 trails giving skiers and snowboarders plenty of variety. The trail difficulty is pretty evenly divided among beginner, intermediate, and expert-level trails, making this resort perfect for everyone and very family-friendly.

The mountain is fairly accessible in the Boston and New York City areas, so it tends to attract larger crowds than some other mountains in the region. Lift tickets average $120/day, but savings can be found when ordering ahead online. This is an Epic pass mountain for those who are card-carrying members!

Tips and Stats

  • Where to stay: Okemo Mountain Resort, Jackson Gore Inn, and Airbnb/rental
  • Where to eat: Base 68, Waffle Cabin, and Mama’s
  • Where to après: Loft Tavern (classic après vibes) and Sitting Bull Bar (get the nachos or smoked brisket grinder).
  • What to do: Snow tubing or the Winter Mountain Coaster.
  • Favorite run: Early morning, first chair, fresh corduroy, the Sapphire run is a dream. Take a skier’s left off of Black Ridge Triple to Green Ridge Triple, and a skier’s left at the top to get there.
  • Lifts: 20
  • Trails: 121

Bretton Woods

Just outside Latitude 44 mid-way up Mt. Rosebrook at Bretton Woods. Photo courtesy of Sean Corliss

About

This family-friendly resort is one near and dear to me since I spent so many winters coming here as a kid. It’s where I learned to ski and snowboard. Located in New Hampshire, Bretton Woods is one of the best groomed and maintained resorts I’ve been to on the East Coast. The customer service is unmatched, and the vibes are always high among guests. It’s a resort-style environment as opposed to a local ski area. My favorite trails are at the top of Rosebrook Summit Express Quad, but I don’t recommend them for beginners. As long as the snow is plentiful, Bretton Woods has tons of glades for anyone looking for a challenge.

If the snow is absent or you don’t fancy the trees, you can’t go wrong lapping the Zephyr High-Speed Quad (fair warning the lines at this lift are not always as high speed as the chairs). Night skiing at this mountain is also fun for those who enjoy a night ride. Lift tickets average $114/day for public, non-resort guests. Look for deals online/midweek.

Grab lunch and a beer at the Rosebrook Lodge while taking in some of the most incredible views of the New Hampshire White Mountains segment of the Appalachian Mountain Range. Later, hit the main lodge for an après cold one before grabbing some dinner at Catalanos.

Tips and Stats

  • Where to stay: Mount Washington Hotel, on-mountain condo, and Airbnb/rental.
  • Where to eat: Rosebrook Lodge, Fabyan’s Station Restaurant, and Catalanos At The Cog
  • Where to après: The main lodge bar always pops off right when the lifts close. Check out The Cave at the Mount Washington Hotel for a cool speakeasy-style bar.
  • What to do: Check out the Historic Mountain Washington Hotel. In addition to its grandeur, the hotel offers other winter activities like cross-country skiing, dog sledding, and snowshoeing. I also recommend taking some backcountry lessons if you are experienced and looking for something really cool.
  • Favorite run: Bode’s Run (experts only) and Aggassiz on West Mountain is a nice scenic trail for everyone else.
  • Lifts: 10
  • Trails: 98

Stratton

Curated Expert Sean Corliss catching air at Stratton Mountain. Photo courtesy of Sean Corliss

About

Back to Vermont. With 632 skiable acres, 98% of which can be covered with snowmaking, and 200ft of annual snowfall, Stratton is another reliable option for skiers and snowboarders looking for snow on the East Coast. The mountain has 120+ trails, equally distributed across all difficulty levels, and has some pretty sick terrain parks for the freestyle rider/skier. On average, lift tickets are $100/day, but you can also find this mountain included on the Epic pass.

Grab lunch at Mid-Mountain Lodge to refuel and warm up. Then, after a long day on the slopes, grab a bite to eat in Stratton Village. The village has plenty of great spots to eat and pick up souvenirs or some new gear.

Tips and Stats

  • Where to stay: Solstice Condos, Black Bear Lodge, Long Trail House, Airbnb/rental
  • Where to eat: Mid-Mountain Lodge,** **Verde, and Sam’s Wood Fired Pizza Co.
  • Where to après: Grizzly’s and The Drift at Mulligans. (Did someone say outdoor heated patio?)
  • What to do: Take a snowmobile tour to see some cool winter wonderland scenery, or check out downtown Manchester and hit the Orvis flagship store.
  • Favorite run: Sun Beam
  • Lifts: 20
  • Trails: 121

Sugarbush

Skis and Boards lined up at Sugarbush’s Mt. Ellen. Photo courtesy of Sean Corliss

About

Go ahead and close your eyes and picture skiing in Vermont. Sugarbush looks just like that and even better. Located in the Mad River Valley of northern Vermont, just an hour outside of Burlington is one of my favorite New England ski resorts: Sugarbush. If you’re chasing fresh powder then this is the place for you. In addition to artificial snow, Sugarbush gets dumped on, clocking an annual snowfall of 250ft per year. Offering two peaks, 481 skiable acres, and just over 110 trails, Sugarbush has a little bit for every level of skier/rider. Lift tickets start at $49/day but can cost more depending on dates. As always, book ahead online for discounts. If you have an Ikon pass, you’re lucky because this beauty is on it!

Lincoln Peak’s perfect for the casual skier/rider, but if you want to get after it, head over to Mt. Ellen, which conveniently also has one of the best on-mountain lodge bars I’ve ever been to (Green Mountain Lounge). And the views can be appreciated by all levels too! Afterward, grab a woodfired pizza from American Flatbread or a cold Sip of Sunshine from Lawson’s Finest Liquids. But honestly, there isn’t a single bad food spot here. Every lodge and local food joint is phenomenal!

Tips and Stats

  • Where to stay: Claybrook Hotel, Sugar Lodge, and Airbnb/rental.
  • Where to eat: Skinny Pancake and American Flatbread.
  • Where to après: Lawson’s Finest Liquids, Castlerock Pub, and Green Mountain Lounge,
  • What to do: This is a great place to try snowshoeing.
  • Favorite run: Rim Run to Lower F.I.S. (Mt. Ellen)
  • Lifts: 16
  • Trails: 111

Cannon

Expert Adam St. Ours’ son scoping out his next line at Cannon Mountain. Photo courtesy of Adam St. Ours

About

You’ll find another New England classic in New Hampshire: Cannon Mountain. It is another rustic, quintessential Northeast ski resort that is fine for beginners but exciting for those looking to challenge themselves. It’s a smaller mountain with just 282 skiable acres, 10 lifts, and 97 trails. But it does boast the longest vertical drop in New Hampshire (2,180ft)! The annual snowfall is just around 160ft per year so prepare yourself for those cliched “Ice Coast” hardpack groomers. Lift tickets average $94/day if you purchase ahead online. You can also buy the Indy pass, which includes Cannon, Jay Peak, and some smaller mountains not listed here but worth checking out if you’re local.

Tips and Stats

  • Where to stay: Rivergreen Resort, Nordic Inn Condominium Resort, and Airbnb/rental.
  • Where to eat: Cafe 4080’, Powder Makers, and Black Mtn. Burger Co.
  • Where to après: Cannonball Pub
  • What to do: Check out the New England Ski Museum and learn all about the history of competitive skiing in the North East as well as the history of several resorts.
  • Favorite run: Vista Way
  • Lifts: 10
  • Trails: 97

Conclusion

Whether you’re looking for something more challenging than the West Coast fluff or are visiting or new to New England and want to know all the good spots, the above mountains should get you started. While these are (in my opinion) the best mountains in New England, they are far from all of them. So be sure to ask your Winter Sports Expert about their favorite New England ski spot, as they might point you toward another local hidden gem!

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