i spent the winter of 2005-06 on these mountains. 85 plus days. from powder days to doing runs in the rain. i mentioned the lake effect monster. when the winds are hard out of the northwest, i.e. closing upper mountain lifts all day...this is usually a good sign that the bush will get monster lake effect snow, and usually other mountains will get nothing. might want to be here the next day.
the other thing about sugarbush is the valley effect. it can hold in the cold air...which is heavy. i believe the 06-07 winter had this event occur...rain for all mountains (exception would be jay), and snow for the bush. so much so, 100% open the next day.
now, my reviews tend to focus on terrain, and this is where i turn to now.
starting with sugarbush north -- MT. ELLEN. trails cut very much like gore mountain in ny. two halves of the mountain, upper and lower. the locals tend to love north. some great trails, woods, and terrain. upper f.i.s. is the steepest trail at sugarbush. lower f.i.s. is hike out or pole out as the bottom is really flat. i must say lower f.i.s. is one trail i never road as in 05-06 the trail was almost never open (tough winter for the entire northeast, and yet the bush was considered by many to be in the best condition the whole winter, both trail count and grooming). warning, exterminator is the real deal, double black diamond. moguls the size of volkswagen buses. i would compare it to hunter west's double black diamond. fall line cut with large moguls. you will also definitely want to hit tumbler, the cliffs, hammerhead, and encore. the inverness quad is slow, and mainly that peak and its main trail is used for the racing teams to train -- you can skip the inverness peak and not miss out. it does have some beginner terrain, as does the lower half of ellen.
caveat -- sugarbush has a limited amount of green circle terrain on both mountains. there is however a good progression throughout both mountains. the goal is to get you to the blue squares and then continue the progression of improving your skiing and riding. lincoln peak (sugarbush south) is really set up for this.
LINCOLN PEAK -- beginners begin at the magic carpet, work to the village double, and then gate house. yes, on gate house is the world famous blue square SLEEPER. every kid somehow knows it exists before they show up. it is a fun trail. but the goal is to get you on the mountain.
if you have a trail map, or can go online and have one available to look at, this will make more sense. looking at the trail map, from skiier's left, it starts with blue squares and works to double black diamonds. the trails are cut in a learning progression starting from the blues like snowball and spring fling working towards paradise, and then castlerock.
CASTLEROCK -- the ungroomed, 99% all natural snow part of sugarbush. one blue square trail for cat use. the rest is all black and double black diamond trails. this is where it is at. if you don't believe me, get in line on a powder day and listen to the anticipation.
THE TREES -- in between all these trails, are lots of great areas for tree skiing and riding. totally permissible. i will not give away the goods. what i will tell you is many areas have nicknames, and you can hear people talk about them and not find them on the trail map. do your homework.
SLIDEBROOK -- accessible back basin in between north and south mountains. BUT, you better be with the instructors, or with someone who knows where to go. again, there are areas with nicknames in this area. you need to learn them and where they are and how to get to them, down them, and out of the basin. must be able to ride or ski in the trees well. it is accessible from both peaks, but the instructors will take you in from lincoln peak.
THE CHURCH -- this is the only off trail entity i will mention. you will see it every time you go up heaven's gate lift. it is the rock outcropping skier's right. you can't miss seeing it. now, the church is holy ground, mecca, in your adventure in skiing and riding. i only know of jon egan, the director of the ski school for having done this extreme terrain. it is a 30 foot cliffdrop into trees. i know more have done it, but that doesn't include me. you really, really, really better know what you are doing.
one final thought -- i love the trails at sugarbush. some of my favorite trails in the entire east are here; however, its not the trails at sugarbush that make it so special, its what's in between and off trail that makes this place so sweet.