The roads were snow-covered and slick as we traveled along Route 11 to Bromley. It was dumping outside during a March Nor’easter, and the snow had no signs of letting up.
When we scheduled our winter ski weekend trip to Bromley Mountain a couple of months ago, I had wondered if skiing in March would be a gamble in terms of the weather. But then I remembered that March is typically Vermont’s snowiest month—so I crossed my fingers that we would be golden. Sure enough, when we arrived at our Bromley Village ski condo on Friday afternoon, it was clear we had hit the ski weekend jackpot.
Not only did we show up just in time for a powder weekend, but my husband Dave and I would finally be venturing out with our 6-year-old daughter, Phoebe, on the very trails I skied as a child.
Bromley Mountain is where I first learned to ski in the 1970s. Back then, I would ski through the woods between the School Slope and Plaza trails, or cruise along Runaround or Thruway with my friends. Some of my fondest childhood memories are skiing at Bromley, and the mountain feels like home to me more than any other ski area.
It turns out that a lot of people feel that way about Bromley. While the ski area has certainly undergone snowmaking advancements, lift upgrades, and building improvements in recent decades, the mountain oozes a timeless vibe. Everything from the base lodge to the trails are relatively the same as when I was growing up in the 1970s and 1980s, yet nothing about the mountain seems outdated. While it’s not drearily stuck in the past, Bromley also didn’t leave me behind by becoming a place I no longer recognize. That’s the magic of this place.
A Lesson Plan at Bromley
Our visit to Bromley included a full day of skiing on Saturday and a few runs on Sunday morning. On Saturday, we enrolled Phoebe in a two-hour, private lesson at the Snowsports School at Bromley. We opted for a 10 a.m. lesson to give us time to get to the mountain and not be rushed (what a concept!). It was Phoebe’s first private lesson of the season, and she was looking forward to tagging along with Eliza, her instructor.
Bromley prides itself on its ski school, which teaches about 4,000 kids ages 5-12 per season in its Kidsrule group lesson program. The school’s general philosophy—for group and private lessons—is for kids to experience safety, fun, learning, and friendship on the slopes.
Billy Davidson, director of the Snowsports School, is a former field hockey coach who also taught in a Montessori school. For him, the success of Bromley’s lesson program is all about making personal connections and building trust with parents and children.
“There are some days when I need to convince a five-year-old child that being out in the cold and wearing uncomfortable boots is fun,” Davidson says, adding that he wants to know if a child is not having a good time skiing or riding.
“If I see a child who is unhappy in a lesson, I want to find out why. Sometimes their boots hurt or maybe they miss their mom,” he says. “It’s important to recognize that for these little kids, what they’re feeling in that moment are real problems to them. We can solve whatever is going on by listening and trying to understand their point of view.”
Davidson isn’t just waxing poetic when he talks about connecting with kids. On any given day, he’s out there observing lessons, giving pointers, or enthusiastically greeting young first-timers on the Magic Carpet.
“Bromley is special because we’re a small mountain and we do a good job creating personal relationships.” Davidson says. “You get a hand-holding kind of feel here, too.”
The hand-holding approach he talks about is true. When we arrived to Phoebe’s lesson area about 12 minutes early, at least three friendly staff members stopped to say hello and to ask if we needed anything. Rather than just standing around by ourselves and Phoebe worrying where her instructor was, the staff’s effort to connect with us put my antsy daughter at ease. It was a small gesture, but it made a difference.
When Eliza arrived at 10 a.m. sharp to take Phoebe out for her lesson, the two of them explored Bromley’s well-groomed trails and worked on practicing turns. After the lesson, we skied together as a family on some of my childhood favorites, including Lower Boulevard and Runaround. We raced to the bottom of the mountain at the end of the day, kicking off our gear, and devouring hot chocolate and chili in the base lodge.
It’s hard to pinpoint my favorite part of our winter ski weekend because we had so much fun. There was, however, a moment while skiing on Lower Thruway when I felt an enormous sense of gratitude. I was grateful for my childhood at Bromley and joyful that my daughter was making memories of her own.
Where to Stay
Ethan Allen Trail, Peru
Bromley Village, located next to Bromley just west of the ski area on Route 11, offers a variety of condominiums with one-to-four bedroom options. The condos include full kitchens, wood-burning fireplaces, a washer and dryer, free WiFi, and easy access to the mountain by shuttle. The three of us had more than enough room in a three-story, three-bathroom, three-bedroom condo, which was very comfortable and clean.
The condo included a sizable kitchen and large dining room table, making it easy to cook breakfast in the mornings before we headed to the hill. We stocked up on coffee, milk, cereal, bagels, and eggs at Bromley Market (3776 Route 11, Peru), located just east of Bromley a few minutes from our condo. The delightful little roadside store has everything you need—from cheese and wine to wood-fired pizzas, sandwiches, and baked goods.
Where to Eat
J.J. Hapgood General Store and Eatery
305 Main St., Peru
The J.J. Hapgood General Store and Eatery is one of the longest-running general stores in Vermont. Located in the heart of Peru village, the store reopened in 2013 after it sat empty for five years. Proprietors Juliette and Tim Britton have made J.J. Hapgood much more than a country store. J.J. Hapgood is now offering dinner with table service in its 50-seat cafe (plus seasonal outdoor patio seating).
We dined at the store on both Friday and Saturday nights during our visit, enjoying everything from hearty winter salads and Brussels sprouts to beef tenderloin, salmon, and wood-fired pizza. The store also includes a full bar, with tasty cocktails such as a maple old fashioned and a citrus spiced margarita, as well as a good selection of wines, hard ciders, craft beers. Six stools at the bar make J.J. Hapgood the perfect place for Après ski, and the restaurant can accommodate small and large parties (reservations are recommended). Not only is the atmosphere wonderful, the food at J.J. Hapgood is some of the best you’ll find in the area. Trust me, one dinner at J.J. Hapgood will leave you wanting to come back for more.
For more information, visit www.bromley.com.
Erica Houskeeper is a writer and communications professional with nearly 20 years of experience. She grew up in Manchester, Vermont, and started skiing at age 4 at Bromley Mountain. She also spent her childhood skiing at Stratton, Magic, and the former Snow Valley ski area. After working as a journalist in Vermont, Erica later became director of communications for the Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing. In 2009, she launched www.happyvermont.com, a Vermont travel blog that explores the places and people of the Green Mountain State. Her blog has hundreds of subscribers and a loyal following. Active on social media, Erica has more than 2,400 followers on Twitter (@EricaHouskeeper), as well as many Facebook friends and a growing audience on Instagram. She currently works as a communications and PR consultant, and lives in Burlington with her husband and young daughter.