Growing Up in Stratton Mountain's Ski Resort
The family that shreds together stays together
By Dana Freeman
Not a time most vacationers want to already be up and at ’em. But for us, it’s the golden hour. The air is crisp, the snow is fluffy powder and the runs are calling us to make first tracks.
It’s these moments of anticipation for a day of adventure that keep my family eager for winter year after year. Skiing has become one of the few sports that all four of us are able to enjoy together, and one of our favorite places to go is Stratton Mountain Resort. This Vermont resort—this town, even—is a winter wonderland. Skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, dog sledding—these activities are a lifestyle. It’s simply easy to come back to.
To snow we go
I’m pulled from my thoughts at the sight of multiple Stratton staff in red jackets on the hill by the Junior Ski School, getting the day’s students prepped. My husband, Andrew, and I had signed our daughter, Callahan, up for a snowboard lesson. Despite growing up as a skier, leaning forward on her skis to zoom faster down each slope, Callahan was eager to learn to shred like her dad. Who knows, maybe she’d learn to slow down during her half-day lesson.
When we checked in, I was glad I booked Callahan’s lesson online in advance. It saved time because we were able to stop into the Experience Snowboard Center on our first night at Stratton Mountain Ski Resort to have her fitted with rental equipment, which was included with the lesson. When morning came, she was ready to go.
There are several learning hills for all ages and abilities at this mountain resort. Callahan’s group started off using the Cub Lift, an enclosed magic carpet carrying Callahan and others up to slide back down. This hill also has a few mini terrain features for beginner learners, like small boxes and short rails to slide across.
As I watched her navigate the terrain, it was a pleasure to see how quickly—of course—she caught on. Callahan started participating in weekly ski programs at an early age, and her experience was coming through. She was taking laps up and down, carving out some turns and quickly catching on to her coaches’ instructions. She ended up being one of the more advanced students, so her two coaches tailored their instructions to help her get the most out of her lesson. I appreciated their attention to her improvement, and I was excited to see how she did when we picked her up after Andrew and I answered the call of the slopes.
Stay to play
Every time we come to Stratton, the shared experiences we have bring us together, whether it be on the slopes, in our condo watching movies after a long ski day or drinking Aztec hot cocoa at Stratton Mountain Deli.
The deli is located in the Village, right across the street from the condo we usually rent in the Long Trail House. With shops, restaurants and a spa, it’s the epicenter of the resort and the convenience factor is high. It’s easy to walk back and forth to our condo, which is great if one of the kids forgets something like their ski poles or goggles, and that always seems to happen when you travel with kids. Ease is one of several reasons we look to Stratton when temps lower, unpacking our brightly colored goggles, masks, thick socks and ski outfits that swish with each motion.
We also unpack our skates and bring them along so that we can take a spin under the stars in the nearby ice skating pond. Watching my family glide around the ice pond surrounded by lit trees, wooden fences and snowy hills is always like watching a classic movie come to life. Afterward, we typically grab a seat by the crackling bonfire nearby to warm up, talk snow with other skiers and continue living in the magical evening.
That is until the day’s activities catch up with our appetites then we head back to our condo and prep dinner that warms from the inside—savory stews and thick soups made using ingredients we picked up in the Village. Those are the best dinners. I was excited to sit down for more during our vacation here.
Navigating the mountain
Though we had left Callahan to her snowboard lesson, she was still in the back of my mind while Andrew and I jumped on the six-passenger lift out of the base area for a few runs by ourselves. We hopped off the lift, sliding down and navigating to the first run of the day: Yodeler, a blue to start off. As we planted poles and carved down the trail, it felt great to re-familiarize myself with skiing, getting used to the motions again. Pine trees covered in white blankets of snow lined the run, guiding us back to the base where we’d instantly curve to take another lift ride up.
We managed to fit in five more runs, working our way up to a black diamond (the re-familiarization as quick as Callahan on skis), before it was time to pick her up. And my, what a difference a few hours can make.
“One more run before lunch to show off your skills?” Andrew suggested. Reunited, the three of us headed to a fun green combo: Hemlock to Flukey’s Run, where Callahan carved the mountain on her board like a pro.
As we had lunch at The Food Court (located right in the Main Base Lodge), Callahan excitedly told us about the new tricks she learned. I was excited to see her improve further during our next few days on the slopes, this time with Andrew offering tips.
Although our ski muscles were feeling a little tender, we weren’t ready to call it a day. So, we made the most of the daylight we had left by racing each other down the hill in the Tubing Park at the Sun Bowl Base Lodge. The winner got the first cup of steaming hot chocolate back at the condo.
Noses pink and skills acquired, or remembered, it felt so good to once again peel off our wool ski socks and snuggle together by the fire in our condo—wanting nothing more than to play games, watch TV and just be.