After I first visited Magic Mountain Ski Area with my family two years ago, I wrote that it was the best kept secret in southern Vermont. I’m pretty sure that’s not true anymore, given that the resort won the first place 2016 Liftopia Best in Snow Award, which showcases the ski areas that skiers and riders are most passionate about in North America.
But I’ve got good news: The secret may be out, but that doesn’t mean that Magic is any less fun to ski, as a return trip recently proved.
New Owners, Same Magical Vision
There are some things that have changed at Magic Mountain in the past couple of years. In 2016, the ski area was purchased by a group of 13 investors, all of whom have ties to either the mountain or the surrounding community. They immediately set to work making improvements to both the lifts and the snowmaking with an eye toward lengthening the ski season while at the same time shortening lines, which admittedly can get a little long on busy days since the mountain has only had one chairlift operating for the past three seasons. (Although the burden of waiting in these lines is offset by the fun atmosphere, which includes friendly ambassadors who read trivia questions and toss candy to people who answer them correctly.)
The 2016-17 season saw the Black Chair return to operation in February; so there are now two ways to get to the summit at Magic. In addition, the ski area has amplified its snowmaking capabilities through pumps with increased horsepower and new low-energy snow guns. The result is that mountain operations can now blow snow on trails on both sides of the mountain at once while also covering individual trails much more quickly. The mountain’s management is hoping their investment in improved snowmaking gives them the opportunity to open the mountain in December next year, regardless of how much snow falls from the sky early in the season.
But all these improvements are aimed at enhancing the experience of skiing at Magic and making it more accessible – not of changing it in any fundamental sense. In fact, plans are in place to limit how many individual tickets are sold during busy periods to keep the mountain from getting too crowded. You’ll find phrases like “independent and proud” and “the legend lives on” on Magic’s website. The mountain’s tagline is “where skiing still has its soul” and that soul is still very much in evidence in the terrain and in the people who ski there.
The Magic of a Powder Day Times Two
We returned to Magic exactly two years after our first visit. In fact, the Saturday we were there the mountain hosted the same college club racing event, which meant it was once again very busy (and fabulously full of college kids rocking their parents’ gear from the 1980s including some shiny leotards). Lines at the Red Chair, which was the only lift operating at the time, got a bit fierce midday.
But even when there was a line the crowds dispersed as soon as we got on the hill. Thanks to that special Magic touch we once again had the pleasure of skiing without much company.
The terrain at Magic is just so great and so varied – it truly is a skier’s mountain. I felt challenged and entertained on every single run. I love how careful and selective the grooming there is. I love how steep the top of the mountain is.
And this is the place to go in southern Vermont to ski in the trees. In fact, that’s mostly what my boys and I did.
But the absolutely best part about our second visit to Magic Mountain was that once again, we were blessed with a snowstorm on our second day there. It was a total repeat of our 2015 visit; like the happiest kind of Groundhog Day, we once again got “stuck” at Magic for an extra bonus Monday of skiing. And unlike the last time, my younger son didn’t catch a stomach bug and have to spend the snow day in bed.
He was so happy.
Music + Munchies = Awesome, Family-Friendly Après-Ski
The fun at Magic doesn’t have to end when the skiing day does. The Black Line Tavern was a lively place when we visited before, but the facilities there have been improved. The new bar is easier to access, even when it’s really crowded. And they’ve got some great local beers on tap.
The system for ordering food in the tavern has had a logistical overhaul; the Base Camp 1400 offers window service for quick ordering off of the tavern menu. We placed an order for wings which were rapidly delivered to our table despite the large crowd. They were sweet, a little bit spicy and delicious.
They say that magic doesn’t strike twice. Happily, when it comes to skiing at Magic Mountain Ski Area this saying just doesn’t hold true – our smiles were just as big on our second visit as on our first. This is a place for families to create magical memories together again and again.
More information about Magic Mountain
- Next season Magic Mountain Ski Area hopes to add a third mid-mountain chairlift that will offer access to the advanced beginner and intermediate terrain on the eastern side of the mountain as well as a conveyor lift in its learning area, which now just has a tow-handle lift. All of this is aimed at making the mountain more accessible for young families and people who are learning to ski.
- Speaking of learning, the lesson programs at Magic Mountain are a great deal, including season-long “Devo” program that’s designed to help kids aged 5 to 9 learn to ski and ride better. Children meet weekly as a group with the same instructor. And the mountain’s Alpine Club offers both racing and freeride season-long programs for kids 8 and up. Both sets of programs cost less than $1000 for the season and include a season pass. That’s a pretty unbeatable deal.
- Magic Mountain’s regular operating hours are still Thursday to Sunday with the exception of the Christmas, Martin Luther King Day, and Presidents Day holiday periods when they are open during the week. This season, thanks to the snowmaking improvements I mentioned earlier, they added some Monday openings to the schedule. And of course, there are still “Powder Days” like the ones my family was fortunate enough to experience on both our visits. These are days when the resort receives more than six inches of snow before 8 a.m. and opens for the day. Check the Magic Mountain website or Facebook page or give them a call to find out if they will be open. And don’t miss Throwback Thursdays with $25 lift tickets.
- When you’re figuring out where to stay, I still can’t recommend Upper Pass Lodge enough for families who want to ski at Magic or at any of the other nearby southern Vermont mountains. It’s still the friendliest, coziest game in town with the best bar and delicious food at the in-house Red Slate restaurant. Check out my updated post to learn more.
- See my post about our earlier visit to Magic Mountain to find out just how much we loved it the first time. And P.S. – my friend Steve from that earlier post? He was there again on this visit. He’s still mad that I told everyone how great Magic is, so don’t tell him I wrote about it again OK?
Mara Gorman may live at sea level now, but she’s a native New Englander and mountain aficionado who grew up skiing in Vermont. She spends as many days each winter as she can chasing her two teen boys through glades and across mogul fields and regularly journeys far and wide to get on the slopes. Mara blogs about her family’s many travel adventures at The Mother of all Trips. She is also the author of The Family Traveler’s Handbook and an award-winning freelance writer whose work has appeared in various USA Today print publications as well as on websites such as BBC Travel. When there’s no snow, Mara and her family can be found hiking, biking and eating around the United States and Europe.