Group Ski Resorts: the Beasts of the East

Group Ski Resorts: the Beasts of the East

These five resorts can cater to groups of every ability level

Initially, ski outings don’t seem like enticing options for a group outing; equipment rental can be a hassle, locations can be remote and the physicality may not appeal to those looking to relax. However, with proper planning, winter sports trips can be extremely rewarding. Lodging, dining and activities are self-contained in the resort area, and various après-ski and activity options ensure your group never gets bored. In addition, many resorts tailor group packages to bundle equipment costs, accommodation and food. Here are five East Coast mountains that will please hardened skiers and fresh-faced beginners alike.

Stowe, Vermont

Stowe

This stunning segment of the Green Mountains first welcomed alpine skiing during the Great Depression, when the Civilian Conservation Corps carved the first trails into Mount Mansfield in 1933. Since then, Stowe has developed into one of New England’s premier winter sports destinations, with luxurious amenities and famed customer service to create a memorable trip. Based around Mount Mansfield (Vermont’s tallest point), the resort includes over 100 runs and 14 lifts spread across three base areas, each with its own lodging and parking. Groups with skiers of varying abilities need not worry—the resort contains distinct areas of different difficulty levels. Beginners can glide through the birch forests of the Toll House area, intermediates can cruise through routes off the Sunny Spruce Quad and daredevils can venture to the iconic “Front Four” double-black diamond chutes.

When your group is satisfied from a day on the mountain, you can indulge in some of the finest amenities of any East Coast resort. The cozy Fireside Tavern and Hourglass Lounge serve up hearty après ski charcuterie boards and craft cocktails with stunning views of the Vermont sunset, and groups can rent space for a ski–in/ski-out buffet at the Toll House Lodge. The Stowe Mountain Lodge and Topnotch Resort offer numerous group packages and mountainside access, while a variety of other options are available in the nearby village of Stowe. If your group wants to take a break from the slopes, consider a guided snowshoe tour or ice skating excursion at the Spruce Peak Village Center. (stowe.com)

Sunday River, Maine

Sunday River

No ski area in the Pine Tree State is more welcoming to large groups. The commitment to snow production, wide-open trails and proximity to the charming town of Bethel all combine to create a group-friendly resort with excellent mountain conditions all winter long. Eight interconnected peaks identified by unique crests can be accessed by 15 lifts, two base areas include parking and lodges offer ski-in/ski-out options. Experienced group members will want to explore the Jordan Bowl, home to extensive glades and chutes, while Aurora Peak features runs for all abilities.

The resort’s centerpiece is the “chondola,” a hybrid lift that carries both traditional enclosed gondola cabins and six-pack chairs. Members of your party, even if they don’t ski, can board the lift for a meal at the North Peak Lodge, which offers stunning views of the Longfellow Mountain Range. The lodge serves hot and cold lunch entrees and transforms into a gourmet chef’s table restaurant for scenic evening dining. Farther downhill lies the quaint village of Bethel, a classic New England community filled with welcoming inns and restaurants. Here your group can relax in a cozy pub, shop the stores of Main Street and snowshoe along the Androscoggin River.

An ideal location for a long weekend excursion, Sunday River offers group packages that include lift tickets and accommodations at base hotels. On-site specialists can also assist with equipment rental, meal reservations and transportation. (sundayriver.com)

Whiteface, New York

Whiteface

Lake-effect snow from the Lake Ontario shore and the greatest vertical drop on the entire East Coast makes this upstate New York peak a destination of international renown. Fittingly, the resort was a principal site for the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics, and many of those events’ facilities are still open for touring. Nestled in the Adirondack Mountains, the resort includes 88 trails that launch off three peaks that each boast their own personality. The summit quad will service daredevils to the “The Slides,” black-diamond chutes that funnel into an enormous bowl with mountain views. Group members who enjoy winding cruisers should explore Lookout Mountain, where they can meander down the Wilmington Trail, while tree-skiing junkies should attempt the expansive glades off the Little Whiteface Lift. First-timers will have plenty of wooded real estate to traverse in the Bunny Hutch area, while all group members can convene at the Mid-Station Lodge and enjoy hearty mountain cuisine at Boule’s Bistro.

The nearby town of Lake Placid offers plenty of after-hours and off-day activities, including a bevy of Olympic sites open for group touring. Your party can skate the same hockey rink as the 1980 “Miracle on Ice,” walk the cross-country trails of Mount Van Hoevenberg and strap in to experience an authentic bobsled run. While accommodations are available on-site at the Cloudsplitter Lodge, more economical options can be found in town. These hotels provide beautiful views of Mirror Lake, access to dining options in Lake Placid and scheduled shuttle service to the mountain. (whiteface.com)

Loon Mountain, New Hampshire

Loon Mountain

Views of the Presidential Range greet gondola riders as they ascend the summit of Loon Mountain. From there, they have access to 81 trails across three peaks and some of the best customer service in the region. Weekend visitors from Boston have made this resort in the White Mountain National Forest an essential winter sports destination for generations, and the constant crowds have resulted in a staff seasoned in handling groups. Begin your day at any of the resort’s three base areas (each with lodging and dining options) and explore the evergreen-lined chutes off the East Basin lift or the leisurely incline of the family zone. Snowboarders and trick skiers in your party may want to test the ramps and rails of the terrain park, while speedsters can compete against each other on the Coolidge Street slalom course. Lumberjack-themed après ski is available at all three base areas, and the steam-powered J.E. Henry Railroad can transport your group between lodges if you overindulge.

If an evening by the fire sounds too docile, your group can take advantage of the Loon Mountain Adventure Center, which offers cross-country, ice skating and snowshoe rental equipment. Thrill seekers can also experience a zip line that spans 700 feet across the Pemigewasset River and an indoor rock climbing wall. Those looking for a more relaxed excursion can wander the streets of nearby Lincoln or the Flume Gorge, a boardwalk path that follows a canyon formed during the Jurassic Period. Loon Mountain is especially welcoming to groups, with discounted lodging and rental incentives provided to parties of 20 or more. The resort also offers Beginner’s Weekends—a program that includes lessons, equipment and après gatherings at the base. (loonmtn.com)

Blue Mountain, Pennsylvania

The Blue Mountain “Great Wall” rises above the Cumberland Valley, attracting snow and skiers to this resort two hours from New York and Philadelphia. Pennsylvania’s tallest vertical includes 39 runs, 16 lifts and one of the highest beginner’s terrain ratios in the East Coast, ensuring plenty of real estate for group members just developing their ski legs. For more seasoned skiers, the Razor’s Edge double-black diamond and Sleepy Hollow Glade provide plenty of challenge, while halfpipes and rails are scattered across the mountain to tempt terrain park junkies. Lodges located both at the peak and summit are convenient meetup locations, while an enormous tubing hill with 39 lanes is an excellent alternative for group members looking for more modest thrills. (skibluemt.com)

Whether your group is planning a weekend getaway or a weeklong excursion, these five resorts should provide plenty of challenge and off-slope fun to please any group.

Contributor: Miles Dobis

Staff Writer

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