Welcome to guest blogger, Janice Craig, my friend from business school. Thanks to Janice for the wonderful post on your trip to Stratton!
My family traveled to Stratton Mountain over Christmas break. While holiday travel can be off-putting, with higher prices and hordes of people, we were not deterred. With few opportunities to ski this season, my husband, two teenaged sons and I looked forward to getting away.
We chose Stratton Mountain for many reasons. My husband selected Stratton based on childhood memories of the resort. I have spent many hours listening to him reminisce about his family ski trips to Stratton. The story most often told is the “broken leg incident,” where my husband’s brother, Steve, broke his leg and blamed it on his brothers for pushing him too hard.
I hoped history would not repeat itself with the next generation and came up with my own reasons for heading to Stratton. First, Stratton is great for families, such as mine, with mixed skiing abilities. The resort offers 97 trails for skiers of all levels. The terrain at Stratton is also superior to that found in New Jersey, New York, the Poconos and most other resorts in Southern Vermont. Second, Stratton has all the amenities that a ski resort could offer: many restaurants, shops, a food market, a day spa, and a fitness center. This mom likes her amenities! Third, Stratton is reachable from Northern New Jersey in less than four hours – perfect for a quick getaway. Finally, I wanted my two teenaged sons to have a taste of Vermont. They have skied in Colorado, New Jersey and New York but had never tried some of the best skiing on the east coast. I also wanted them to experience Vermont’s charm, historic feel and beautiful scenery. The village of Manchester is only 20 minutes away from Stratton and features a quaint downtown and many wonderful restaurants.
Stratton offers an extensive list of lodging options, ranging from value hotels to condominiums to luxury townhouses. Friends recommended the Long Trail House, which is conveniently located across the street from Stratton Village and only a short walk to the base of the mountain.
Our one-bedroom condo at the Long Trail House was pleasant, clean and functional. It was definitely enough space for a family of four, although the kitchen was adequate at best. An electric cooktop stove and limited cookware resulted in an epic pancake failure one morning.
The walls of Long Trail House were somewhat thin. As a mother, I have always welcomed the pitter-patter of little feet, but the thunderous sound of the feral pre-k set running amok at sunrise is a different story.
Long Trail House offers convenient, heated indoor parking that makes loading and unloading tons of luggage, food and ski gear bearable. Although parking spaces were small, we managed. Carts are also available to help carry luggage to your room.
Another amenity at Long Trail House is the three outdoor hot tubs and pool. The swimming pool and two of the tubs are located in the North building, and these offer magnificent views of the mountain. The hot tub in the South building overlooks the rear courtyard and is a bit on the small side. I recommend staying in the North building to avoid a long sub-zero dash to and from the good tubs.
We generally found the employees of Stratton Mountain Resort to be friendly and helpful. Unfortunately, we did have one giant mishap at check-in. A Welcome Center employee wrote the wrong room number on our room key. After a long, soul-crushing search for our room, with heavy cart in tow, the concierge sorted out the situation. The Welcome Center employee walked over to our condo to apologize in person and handed us $105 in Stratton vouchers. Apology accepted.
I initially approached the slopes with trepidation. Holiday crowds can result in painfully long lift lines and jam-packed slopes, but my experience was remarkably better than expected. Yes, the lodge was crowded, but the slopes never felt congested. Stratton’s numerous trails and 11 ski lifts did a nice job of absorbing the masses of guests that week. Stratton also offers trails to meet all needs: 40 percent of the trails are novice, 35 percent intermediate and 25 percent advanced. The green trails I skied were wide and roomy. Not once did I experience the panic of having to swerve around an etiquette-challenged snowboarder. My husband and sons were also pleased with the mostly advanced and intermediate trails. The boys, however, did make a point of visiting one green trail, Lower Wanderer, to reenact the “broken leg incident” of 40 years prior.
The price for a daily lift ticket that week, $98, was more expensive than other resorts in Southern Vermont but comparable to what you would pay at a ski resort in Colorado.
Stratton has many other amenities, including a well-equipped fitness center and the stores and restaurants of Stratton Village.
My favorite was the Stratton Training and Fitness Center. Just a short walk from the Long Trail House, the fitness center provided a nice ski break. For $20 a day, you can walk in and use the entire facility, which features a cardio room, a weight room, a stretching room, a beautiful indoor saltwater pool, a hot tub, steam rooms and fully equipped locker rooms. I could have spent an entire afternoon there.
Stratton Village lies at the base of the mountain and has shops, restaurants, a small market and a day spa. Most of the stores, such as Burton, Head Case, First Run Ski Shop, North Face and Stratton Sports, are oriented toward active wear.
I had hoped to sample a few restaurants, but it was nearly impossible to get a reservation two weeks prior to our trip. Fortunately, after heroic efforts, I was able to secure a New Year’s Eve reservation at Mulligan’s, although I had to call the restaurant four times. Apparently Mulligan’s has only one reservation-taker-extraordinaire with the power to take reservations for New Year’s Eve. Fortunately dinner turned out to be a mostly pleasant experience. The atmosphere was comfortable and family-friendly (think upscale pub). The food was good, although the “special” New Year’s Eve menu was limited and overpriced. This was not surprising, however, as it was a holiday and everything on Stratton Mountain comes at a premium price.
There are much better eats to be had in nearby Manchester if you are willing to drive 20 minutes. We found that the drive is well worth the effort. We thoroughly enjoyed dinner at both Bistro Henry and Ye Olde Tavern. Special mention goes to Ye Olde Tavern, which exceeded the mark for food, ambiance and service. The tavern’s historical significance (it was built in 1790), New England fare, and cozy atmosphere made it the quintessential Vermont dining experience. It was the perfect place after a day on the slopes, and I felt it gave my sons a real taste of Vermont.
Overall, it was a great trip. Yes, it was pricey, especially since it was a holiday week, but we had no regrets as we knew this going in. My husband reconnected with his childhood, my sons sampled the flavor of Vermont and I enjoyed the amenities. Most importantly of all, though, we all had a chance to spend quality time together.