Less than Stoweked – A Stowe Mountain Ski Area Review

Alternative title: In which I bite the hand that skis with me.

I spent the winter riding up, down, all over Stowe Mountain Resort. Bombing trails, bumping moguls, ducking in and out of trees, and sometimes avoiding cliffs and ice flows. (But only sometimes.)

Stowe is a great area.

A true Stowe powder day
Two words: powder day.

But I’m not going back next year. And I’m not bummed out about it.

I got my season pass at a steep discount. A lucky break for me, really, as I’m poor. My very impressive Helly Hansen jacket is a hand-me-down. My new skis were bought on sale. The rest of my equipment is either ancient, a hand-me-down, or a Christmas present.

I love skiing on Mt. Mansfield. It’s an awesome, gnarly mountain with the steep pitches and tight chutes that make my heart go rat-a-tat-tat. If Stowe was the only resort on this mountain, I would seriously consider sleeping in my car to afford to ride there. But it’s not. Smuggler’s Notch is just on the other side of the slope. You can even ski between them.

View of Stowe from Smuggler's Notch
Oh hey there, Stowe. You’re looking pretty today.

That about sums up why I like Stowe, but don’t love it.

There’s also this: I’m sure they put a lot of money into their facilities, ski programs, and whatever else. None of which I use. They have fast, efficient chairlifts that carry more than two people. That’s nice, but I don’t really care.

Then again, that 4.7 million dollars they spent on a new snow making system… that is awesome. Their man-made snow is just as fun to play in as the real thing and the investment meant my first day of skiing was November 10th. Nowhere else comes close in snow making ability and quality, and in the temperamental winters of New England, that counts for a lot.

And the locals. Stowe locals are amazing. While I’ve probably pissed them all off by writing this, I must say that they are the best damn riders in New England. I’m a much better skier having spent a winter chasing them down the mountain, and when I go back (because I will. This winter and in winters to come), it’s because of them.

But I won’t miss snide comments overheard in the lift line that were so stereotypically moneyed American that I wanted to reach across the ropes and smack them. I also won’t miss the poorly concealed “Oh, you’re one of those,” when I tell people where I ride.

I love Mt. Mansfield. But I don’t love Stowe. The positives (of which there are many, many) are still outweighed by an overarching sense of disquiet. I belong somewhere quite a bit weirder.

Get out to Stowe and form your own opinion. Let me know what you think. And Stowe-folk, please don’t hate me.


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