What a difference a year makes. Last winter New England was positively drowning in snow. Early season was fantastic. There was snow everywhere, and all the resorts were going full blast.
So who could blame you for booking a ski vacation for Christmas week? Seemed like a no-brainer. So what if you were locked in and couldn’t get your money back. We were going to get hammered again, right?
Uh, no. Mother Nature is fickle, and this year she’s been keeping all the snow out West (and yes, they deserve and need it, given the abysmal snow drought they’ve been through) and throwing nothing at New England but warm temps and rain. It’s actually the East’s lowest snow year on record. Yay us.
Just take a look at this tongue-in-cheek snow report posted on December 19th by Mad River Glen. If it wasn’t so funny, I think I’d cry. (Keep in mind that MRG depends heavily on natural snow and has very little snowmaking.)
The bottom line is that a ski vacation in Vermont, New Hampshire, or Maine is going to be a bit of a challenge this year. The skiing right now, frankly, doesn’t look too promising. Still, who knows. We could get lucky. It could snow. And even if it doesn’t, the resorts are doing all they can to blast snow the moment that temperatures allow.
But before you scream obscenities at the sky, take a moment. Breathe. Believe it or not, you could still have a great vacation. It might just be different than what you had in mind. There’s still a lot to do in ski country, if you’re creative and a bit flexible.
Among the most obvious: explore the surrounding area. This is something you might not have a chance to do when you’re spending all your time on the slopes. For example, if you’re in Vermont around Stowe or Sugarbush, you could visit the Ben & Jerry’s factory, where they make all the good stuff. Not far from Killington, the town of Woodstock, one of the most picturesque in the state, is well worth checking out. Visit Long Trail Brewery in Bridgewater or Harpoon Brewery in Windsor. If you’ve got kids, a good choice is Billings Farm & Museum or VINS (The Vermont Institute of Natural Science). And farther south, the town of Manchester, VT, offers terrific shopping and one of the best bookstores anywhere.
The resorts have a lot non-skiing options, too. For example, Jay Peak has its 50,000 square foot Pump House indoor water park. Okemo and Killington both have alpine coasters that rocket riders down the mountain all year long. And Bretton Woods has a 3-hour canopy tour that’ll have you zip lining through a network of platforms high in the trees, as well as an indoor slopeside climbing wall.
Many of the resorts have scheduled a lot of events during Christmas week to keep the family entertained. You’ll want to visit the resorts’ websites for a complete listing, but here’s a sampling of some of the things going on:
Stratton Mountain is holding “The Running of the Bears” 5k, which will take place at the resort’s golf course on December 28.
Sugarbush has added programs through its Schoolhouse Adventure Camp like guided nature hikes and field games. They’ll also be holding a Gingerbread House Building Workshop on the 26th, and a Food and Wine Sampler on December 28.
Jay Peak is planning to play ski movies in the resort’s ballroom every day during the holiday. They’re also holding a mixology class for adults.
Q Burke Mountain Resort is offering an adult dinner and comedy show on December 26
Okemo will be screening Warren Miller’s Chasing Shadows on December 27. They’re also hosting a DJ Dance Party on December 28, Paint & Sip on December 30, and an early Family New Year’s Eve Party on December 31.
There’s a pretty good list of events at ski areas in Vermont here.
Loon Mountain is hosting a Best Damn Ugly Sweater Party on December 26, Kids Face Painting on December 27, and Kids Karaoke on December 28.
Sunday River has a bunch of off-slope activities planned, including twin ziplines, family games, live music, a fire dancer, and fireworks. They’ve added a second family dinner at the Peak Lodge on 12/29. For New Year’s, they’re having a Black Diamond Entertainment party geared toward families and kids, with laser tag, a photo booth, and an inflatable sumo wrestling ring — all before 8pm, so the countdown will be on Icelandic time.
Of course, there’s the usual stuff, too. A lot of resorts will be having firework displays. Many provide spa services, like facials and massages. And your lodging may have a pool. For the kids, that’s often enough.
I know, I know. There’s no denying that the skiing situation in New England is awful. The important thing is not to let it ruin your vacation. You’re out of the house and away from work. You’re with people you love. Enjoy one another’s company. Go out to eat. Talk to each other and be sure to listen — really listen — too. Remember it’s the season for peace, family, and love. Just enjoy your time together.
Wishing you a very happy holiday and remember, THINK SNOW!