In my family, Thanksgiving means one thing: A chance to gather with people we love in Vermont’s Mad River Valley. We have a very traditional New England Thanksgiving with virtually no variations to the menu allowed: From the Anadama bread stuffing to the creamed onions to the casserole we call “corn junk” everyone knows just what to expect – and we like it that way.
Of course, food isn’t the only tradition we observe. For the last two years my family has been lucky enough to add a day of skiing at Sugarbush Resort to our agenda of beloved activities. Even central and northern Vermont don’t get natural snow consistently in November but it is usually cold enough for resorts to make snow, which Sugarbush had been doing for days ahead of our visit.
We arrived on Sunday morning in time to get on the Super Bravo chairlift just as it started running. My husband Matt and I were eager to try out our new gear – we both bought ski boots earlier in the month and Matt was trying his brand new Rossignol Pursuit 12 TI skis for the first time.
Even though it had warmed up earlier in the week, Sugarbush did a great job of husbanding their resources. There were basically two runs open from the top of Super Bravo – a smooth groomer and a really nice bump run with a surprisingly good surface.
Unfortunately for us, the wind picked up that day, which means some of the snow-covered terrain wasn’t accessible due to a wind hold on the Heaven’s Gate chair. But we still had a really great time.
The views were beautiful.
We took eight runs and called it a day – which turned out to be just the perfect amount of time to move those muscles in our thighs that seem only to be used while skiing no matter how many boot camp videos or wall sits one does. And after showers, we headed over to the cozy tavern at local favorite the Hyde Away to enjoy a little football (don’t tell anyone that we weren’t rooting for the Patriots) and pot roast poutine.
This led me to think (once again) that Vermont ski vacations really are the best family vacations no matter what the conditions or the weather. There are always so many fun things to do. In fact, we had been enjoying ourselves for days before we went skiing. Besides hanging out with family and playing word games we enjoyed local beers, delicious popcorn, and The Penguins of Madagascar at The Big Picture. We got some holiday shopping done at All Things Bright and Beautiful (one of the best stuffed animal stores anywhere). And we went for several long walks along dirt roads, enjoying snow covered vistas.
My kids never once said they were bored – and they can’t wait to go back at Christmas. I’m pretty sure they are going to spend every day in December doing a snow dance.
And just in case the dance doesn’t work, what are some other non-skiing holiday pleasures you might enjoy in Vermont during December?
- In Stowe, you can visit Laughing Moon Chocolates and make your very own candy cane.
- At Smuggler’s Notch start a new tradition of riding the zip line – it’s open year-round.
- Ice skating isn’t just fun – it’s a great way to get your legs in shape for skiing. Okemo Mountain Resort and Jay Peak both have indoor rinks; at Smuggler’s Notch and Stratton Mountain you can skate outside.
- Want to snap some photos that look like a Currier & Ives holiday card? Try a sleigh ride at Adam’s Farm in Wilmington (near Mount Snow), Pfister Farm in Landgrove (near Stratton, Bolton Valley, and Okemo), or Mountain Valley Farm in Waitsfield (near Sugarbush and Mad River Glen).
- Give your kids a holiday they won’t soon forget by taking them to the Pump House Indoor Waterpark at Jay Peak.
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.