Very sweet terrain, beautiful area, nice bars and good food
Clay Brook Hotel Double Bed = $890 per night
I just got off one of the sweetest days skiing I have ever had. When I was on the mountain February 26th and 27th, like another reviewer concluded, I found myself grinning and uttering aloud, "Sugarbush is sweet." It is, Brothers and Sisters. It is.
I had skid Sugarbush several years back in a blizzard, confining myself to Sugarbush North (which was good), only taking the connector quad near the end of the day to taste the beauteous terrain off Lincoln and Castlerock peaks. Comparing the sweetness of Sugarbush's slopes to what is available south of Killington is like comparing a inexpensive box of Hershey's chocolates to a box of Lake Champlain or Godiva chocolates, with ribbons and all (albeit Snow is alright when it lives up to its name and you will not be disappointed with Okemo if the management and staff have anything to do with it). You may enjoy the lesser crafted chocolates, but you'd much prefer the other.
The plan was originally Killington for a day, maybe two. The weather was rain/snow on the highway - you could tell it dumped for a while - but as we got nearer, we were witness to a winter whoop-ass land. It was snow as snow is to water when you are under the water. The next day there was three to four feet of as-of-yet uncompacted fairly wet stuff under foot. With snow throughout the day, it was a workout for the eyes and legs but if you fell it was like dropping a marble into a bucket full of cotton candy. The lift service was on and off throughout the day due to the intense weather. After a choice meal at - no pun - Choices, we weathered out the storm in the Grand Hotel through a night of non-stop snow and wind reminiscent of The Shining. The next morning was offered similar weather with only three out of 21 lifts in operation due to the onslaught, so we decided to try our luck at Sugarbush.
We rolled north on rt 100 late in the morning to catch a half day and were dismayed descending from the Killington region up country to see that it had rained hard in the valleys to the north. Our hope was that it at least didn't rain on the mountain. We found It did at the base but interestingly the snow on the mountain was more powdery than at Killington, although not as deep. The lower-mountain high speed quads were open so we skid all the blacks and double blacks available. Straight-pitched Stein's Run held some choice snow up top and the nicely shaped moguls smashed under our skis the way a villain blows up in a video game. The Mall, a perfect inverse power curve to the bottom wasted my legs before lunch. Untended Twist to Lower Twist finished them off. Since I already paid the money, I bopped around on the perfectly shaped moguls on Morningstar, Hot Shot, Waterfall and Lower Hot Shot. Wide enough to rip, tight enough to keep the snowboarders on the trails either side. At the end of the day, spent, we worked to revive ourselves at the Castlerock Pub, featuring Vermont-crafted beer, food and architecture: My kind of place.
We trucked into Waitsfield for more of the same for dinner at John Egan's Big World Pub and the Smoke House. John Egan's is not TGI Friday's as to aesthetic or food - meaning it is good. The Smoke House is not McDonald's - meaning it is highly authentic - an old, oblong livery and grain storage buiding, perhaps - with good beer and music. Since we were pleased so far we started out big calling for rooms.
Why not shoot for the moon? Why not. First call was Sugarbush's "luxury slopeside hotel," Clay Brook Lodge.
Me: "Hi, I'm looking for a room with two double beds, do you have any available?" The front desk: "Let me put you on hold for a minute." Four minutes later: "Sorry about the wait. We have a king with a fold out couch." Me: "That'll do. How much?" Front desk: "The room is $890 per night." Me: "Does that include lift tickets, meal and spa services?" The front desk: "No sir, I'm sorry." Me: "I think we'll shop around a bit and try to find a better deal." We were able to find "excellent" accomodations at the Golden Lion Inn at the bottom of the access road for 100 or so bucks, breakfast included. The beds were slightly worse than I am sure those at Clay Brook Lodge are. The shower was perhaps not as warm either. We slept well anyway. At sunrise, four inches of snowflakey snow was on the valley floor.
This is where things became great, and I mean great. That day they opened the upper half of the mountain for the first time in four days. The fruit of the storm lie like a banquet of fuzzy white peaches atop freshly laundered linen and balsam boughs. - I cannot extend the metaphor far enough - Our first runs were on Paradise. The snow and the interesting dips bumps and jumps up top were just too fun. Next was Paradise woods, a steep and well managed tree run off Paradise that provides a great view around the arc of peaks making up Sugarbush as well as of the country to the east. Lincold Peak dished it up. We were all smiles.
I reserve the dessert - what we've been waiting for - for last. That is lift line - you guessed it - under the lift off Castlerock Peak. Let me tell you, this run is awesome. Once we were on it, we could not get off despite the slowness of the double servicing the terrain. The run drops over cliffs, rolls, speeds up, straightens out, drops again and does all sorts of interesting thinigs on its way back down to the bottom of the chair. The other runs around it were excellent as well, and the fact that the chair only serves blacks and double blacks makes it so that skiers of lesser ability aren't cross-migrating into the area, allowing the expert skiers and riders who can handle it to deal only with the terrain. I missed the deliscious-looking open birch groves stashed with virgin snow just off Lift Line. But that's how good it was. Castlerock and Sugarbush, I will always come back. See you soon. Miss you. Bye. Later. Call me...