Learning to ski or snowboard at an early age is the perfect way to help young children instill a love for winter. Exploring the slopes helps kids build self-confidence, meet new friends and develop a lifelong affinity for the outdoors.
My family returned to Upper Pass Lodge in February 2017 to discover with delight that almost nothing had changed. I’ve updated a few things in this post to reflect the differences, but really it’s basically still the same family-friendly, wonderful place to stay. Whether you’re skiing at Magic Mountain Ski Area next door (you can literally ski into the parking lot) or are headed for another southern Vermont mountain like Okemo, Stratton, or Bromley I highly recommend making this your home base.
How long did it take me to figure out that I loved Upper Pass Lodge?
Approximately five minutes after I arrived on a cold Friday evening in February my nine-year-old son was deep in conversation with a fellow skiing-and-Pokemon-loving kid, my older tween son was petting a very friendly golden retriever that belonged to one of the other guests, and my husband was bellied up to the bar with a glass of Wolaver’s IPA in his hand.
And me? Well, I was warming myself by the big fire, sipping a another local Vermont brew with the joyous name Sunshine and Hoppiness and chatting ski conditions with a contingent of loyal Magic Mountain skiers. After six hours in the car this was just what the doctor ordered.
Comfort is the ultimate luxury at Upper Pass Lodge
There are no pretenses at this lodge in Londonderry, Vermont. Rooms are old-school ski lodge comfortable, which means built-in bunk beds, weathered blankets, and not a chic or trendy decorative item – but plenty of space for your jackets and ski boots.
We stayed in a Family Deluxe room, which offered a separate sleeping area for the kids complete with its own sink. It was the perfect for a gear-filled ski vacation, letting us spread out a bit. The lodge also offers a set of triple adjoining rooms with three bathrooms, a sitting area, and a kitchenette that would be perfect for a big family or for two families who wanted to vacation together.
And it’s not just the guest rooms that fit like a warm pair of mittens. The leather sofas in the main sitting area are comfy and weathered, made for putting your feet up. I also saw more than one guest wandering around the lobby in pajama bottoms. Kid- and pet-friendly, warm and welcoming, Upper Pass is designed to make families feel at home in both the private and public areas of the hotel.
Sleep, eat, ski, eat, repeat
Upper Pass is slope side to Magic Mountain, which means you can put your ski boots on in your room and be on the lift five minutes later. My sons loved skiing back at the end of the day.
Mornings bring coffee for all the guests. On weekends the lodge’s Red Slate Restaurant serves a buffet breakfast laden with Vermont products. Everything was delicious – and the buffet makes for a quick in and out, perfect if, like us, you want to try and hit the mountain when the chairlift starts.
You can also enjoy dinner at the Red Slate from Wednesday to Sunday (there are only eight tables so it’s a good idea to make a reservation even if you are staying at the lodge). We ate there twice and I highly recommend the Steak Frites, which is a big pile of hand-cut fries with a side of really delicious seasoned steak. The burger is also a treat. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the lava cake.
The bar at Upper Pass prides itself as the only one in Vermont that serves only beer, wine, and spirits produced within the state’s borders. In addition to enjoying a variety of beers on tap I also discovered what may be my favorite drink ever: The Maple Ball. Made with an artisinal globe of ice over which maple bourbon has been poured, it is dangerously good.
Or, if you prefer beer, why not buy a Magic Mountain stein for 25 bucks? Fill it with Vermont beer for only 4 dollars.
Where the manager knows your name
A big part of what makes Upper Pass such a great place to stay is Vince, the general manager. He has a long career in hospitality behind him (and counts the Ritz Carlton in Philadelphia among his former employers) and it shows. Calm, ever present, and helpful, he also is the owner of Brico, who may be the cutest pug, period.
Vince not only pulls beer like a pro, he is kind and generous with his guests. When he learned that my younger son had caught a stomach bug and was up half the night throwing up he made our day easier by cleaning the snow off our car and digging it out so we could easily drive down into town for dinner.
Upper Pass is supremely convenient to Magic Mountain. But it’s also an easy drive from Stratton, Bromley, and Okemo. The access road up to it isn’t steep or long, which means that you can count on getting in and out even during snowy weather. If you’re planning to ski in southern Vermont with your kids, I highly recommend making it your affordable home base.
Upper Pass provided me and my family with several nights of complimentary lodging, a discounted rate for the remaining nights when we got stuck in a snowstorm, and some of our food as well.