On weekend and holidays -- especially after a heavy snowfall -- the glamorous ski areas in New England are liable to be mobbed. On such occasions, the following list of eleven of the less well known developments is the region may prove helpful. These areas are either small, or new, or else they have not been very vigorously promoted; in many cases their facilities are equal or superior to the more popular spots.
In southern Vermont try Haystack Mountain in Wilmington, a new area this year which offers a double chair and three T-bars. Visionary long-range plans call for a gondola and two more chairs, but the present equipment opens up 75 acres of skiable terrain at all levels of difficulty. Slightly further north, Stratton Mountain begins its third season with a new 5100-foot Heron double chair and 30 acres of new trials. Stratton is one of the most substantial of the new developments and the lifts, trails and lodge have all been carefully--and expensively--built. The area's four double chairs are the smoothest and quietest in New England.
In central Vermont four off-beat areas are worthy of consideration. Okemo Ct. in Ludlow sports five pomalifts; one of them is over 6200 feet long and is said to be the longest surface lift in the East. The trails are the equal of any in the East in length and drop, while 20 acres of open slopes are perfect for the beginner or remedial skier. Uphill capacity is 3500 per hour, and lift tickets are cheaper than most.
Pico Peak in Rutland is one of the oldest and finest areas in the state. A new Mueller double chair was added two years ago to supplement two T-bars and a J-bar. The late Carl Acker's ski school at Pico was one of the first to bring European technique to North America. The base lodge is small and cheery and a wide variety of ticket plans is available. In nearby Plymouth. Roundtop Mountain will open for business for the first time this year with a 4800-foot double chair and a T-bar. Andree Mead Lawrence, one of America's finest Olympic skiers, will direct the ski school. Mt. Ascutney in Windsor is a new area on the North slope of an extinct volcano with 120 acres of meticulously groomed trails up to 1 1/2 miles in length. Its double chair lift carries 900 skiers an hour on a 4700' ride up a vertical rise, while three T-bar lifts serve the lower slopes for the novice and intermediate skier. The area is also unique because of its extensive development of year-round facilities (including a golf course), and mountain-side lots for those who wish to build their own North Country hideaway chalet.
Further north, Glen Ellen in Fayston boasts the greatest vertical drop in the East, 2645 feet, and will open its second season with a new double chair, making three in all. The upper half of a new FIS-calibre downhill trail has also been completed, with a maximum gradient of 80 degrees. A new mid-mountain restaurant has also been added this year. Madonna Mountain (formerly Smuggler's Notch) near Stowe has replaced two with a new 5700-foot Hall double chair to augment last year's 6600 foot chair. A new glant sialoza trail has been out which drops 3163 foot in 2.5 miles. The new developments provide easy sucess to the Spruce Peak area at Stowe.
In New Hampshire don't overlook Wildest Mountain which offers a 6800 foot enclosed gondols lift, a double chair, and two T-bars. The Harvard ski club's cabin nearby, makes this spot especially attractive. Just across the border in Maine, Pleasant Mountain has a chair and three T-bars. The atmosphere is comfortable and relaxing and the crowds are much smaller than the New Hampshire areas nearby.
If you're looking for novelty, try night skiing at Mt. Tom in Holyoke, Mass., conveniently close to Smith and Mt. Holyoke. The illuminated area has been tripled for this year and is open every night until 11 p.m. Snow making equipment has been installed on all the trails in the area, which are served by a double chair and two T-bars.
If apres ski life is an object, better stick to the well known developments like Sugarbush, Mt. Snow, Killington and Cannon Mountain. But if you are concerned to maximize your skiing time and maybe save a little money, take a chance on one of these low-key areas.