Celebrating Winter on Stratton Mountain
Unplug with family and friends with cold weather adventures
By: Gina Vercesi
Snow day—that simple phrase translates into childhood bliss. At least it did when I was a kid. I remember waking early on those post-storm mornings of the eighties and shrieking with joy when the radio announcer revealed my town made the list. I would head straight for the neighborhood sledding hill where my friends and I would spend hours digging tunnels, building snow forts and staging snowball battles, finally returning home soaked and frozen when the streetlamps glowed across the icy streets.
Though they still hold plenty of appeal, snow days no longer equate to my epic outdoor adventures from back in the day. Sure, my three tween-teen daughters have been known to follow a superstition or two—wear their pajamas inside out and put spoons in the freezer the night before a storm is expected—but they tend to spend the bulk of the day inside, held hostage by the ubiquitous pull of technology and pseudo-connectivity to friends via social media. As parents, we’re often guilty of checking email “just once more,” too.
A cure for what ails you
My nostalgia for those cold weather capers was soothed during a family weekend at Stratton Mountain, a Vermont ski destination where playing outside is far more exhilarating than hibernating with a screen. Winter hadn’t made much of an appearance in our southern New York hometown, so one weekend we packed our car and headed north, with visions of snowy Vermont mountains dancing in our heads.
On our way up, we plotted our Stratton adventures. There would be plenty of skiing, a family group lesson and an evening on the tubing hill. There would be time for some runs through the trees, and hot cocoa and sugary waffles. There would be cozy dinners by the fire and rousing games of Scrabble. FOMO be damned. The girls would be so busy they wouldn’t even think about their phones. Neither would I as soon as I saw the twinkling lights of the big Stratton sign that marks the entrance to the Mountain Access Road.
Every day is a snow day
The next morning we woke to a fresh dusting of powder across the already white landscape behind our condo in the Styles Brook neighborhood. The weekend forecast called for snow and plenty of it, with a bigger storm expected on Sunday. An old-fashioned snow day was on the horizon and we didn’t even need to wait for the DJ to announce our school district.
As soon as we stepped outside, our 10-year old daughter flopped down to make a snow angel and the other two pelted my husband with snowballs while we waited for the school bus-style shuttle to bring us to the base area. After booting up, we stowed our handwarmers and spare mittens in one of the base lodge cubbies and hopped on the Gondola (a lower mountain six-passenger lift) to the summit for a warm-up run on East and West Meadow. In typical Stratton style, the wide, winding trails were beautifully groomed and we had plenty of room to play with our turns, carving down the slope one after the other.
Later, spying a pocket-sized opening in the woods, my husband and middle daughter ducked into the West Pilot glades. My other two girls and I watched them zigzag through the trees as we cruised along another trail, Drifter. We all met up again near the bottom of Old Log Road, where we came across a family walking an excited black lab puppy. Snout covered with snow, we felt as giddy to be in the crisp mountain air as he did. A few times throughout the day I tried to snap some photos with my phone, but the gloves I was wearing made it difficult. I wasn’t irked—the memories would linger without the digital capture.
Snowy days, cozy nights
When the lifts stopped spinning we had one more adventure on the docket. Despite being a ski family, we’d never tried tubing and Stratton has one of the best hills around. With four lanes of lift-serviced snow tubing under lights, it’s a great way to end a day on the mountain. We all loved the feeling of flying down the hill with the wind in our faces. We also loved being pulled back up to the top by the rope tow, an extra bonus for tired kiddos (and parents!) after a full day on the slopes.
We ended each evening with a quick pit stop in Stratton Village to pick up some hearty food. Pizza at Village Pie—order early, as they are popular—was one of our favorites, and Stratton Mountain Deli was great for salad fixings and some local Vermont brews for Mom and Dad.
The hours we spent together on the mountain felt a lot like a quintessential snow day ought to feel—full of uninterrupted play in winter’s wonderland. Our hyper-scheduled, plugged-in lives mean this kind of family time is at a premium, but the slopes had delivered it in spades. On our last day, with everyone’s fingers and toes respectably frozen and the fireplace calling our names, it was time to call it a weekend. We made our way home as the streetlamps cast their shimmering glow across the icy streets.