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The Best Ski Resorts, Explained Through Statistics

Adam Aleksic, Editor-in-Chief

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I know I’m not alone in wondering where the best skiing mountain is. Having skied almost every mountain in New York, Massachusetts, and Vermont, and still not being sure, I knew this called for drastic action. I decided to find out the truth by using statistics.

Thus began a monster Excel spreadsheet where I catalogued data about each mountain I had ever visited (basically covering all the significant peaks in those three states). I then created an arbitrary scale to measure what makes a good ski resort, and the results were quite interesting.

Many might disagree with how I interpreted the data, and even I don’t like it to some extent. However, this is what the facts (or at least this interpretation of them) show us. Skiing or snowboarding is a qualitative experience, and trying to translate that into something quantitative is difficult and ambiguous. That disclaimer being out there, my system placed an emphasis on user reviews, followed by pricing and amount of skiable terrain. Each mountain was graded on an 18-point scale I devised, with ten points averaging reviews from different sites online, four points placing each mountain into a specific pricing quartile (based on one adult, weekday, peak season, non-holiday price), and four points placing the amount of skiable terrain into a specific quartile. There is a method to my madness, trust me. The results are as follows:

 

  1. Mount Snow, VT

This came in at the highest, with a 14.9 on my scale. The average ticket costs $53, which falls into the cheapest quartile. User reviews are decent, coming in at 6.9 out of 10, and there are 589 skiable acres, a well-above-average number. Mount Snow is largely composed of “blue square” level trails, with special “black diamond”, “green circle”, and terrain park sections, which is good if you want to ski one type of trail at a time. So, not only are tickets cheap, but they access more terrain and better-reviewed terrain than most other mountains

  1. Smuggler’s Notch, VT

13.8 out of 18. Tending to be slightly on the cheaper side, with an average price of $76 a ticket, “Smuggs” boasts a thousand acres and an average user review of 6.8. It also has the only triple-black-diamond in the Northeast and a reputation for being both old school and challenging. The only problem for you denizens of Albany is that it is one of the hardest peaks to reach, what with closed passes and it being in northern Vermont. Better make it an overnight stay.

  1. Bolton Valley, VT

With the fourth-cheapest ticket prices of the lot and a great expanse of unexplored and willing wilderness, it’s no surprise that this checked in with a 13.5 on the list. A 7.5 average user rating easily places this among the best-reviewed resorts in the Northeast. 300 acres of skiable terrain is a bit subpar, but the majesty of the mountain makes up for that. This is also difficult to access in a day trip from Albany, however.

  1. Pico, VT

This was a bit of a dark horse, but Pico actually had the highest average skier rating of all 18 mountains analyzed, with a score of 7.9 out of 10. Better known as Killington’s little sister, Pico has some surprising plusses of its own, such as 460 acres of skiable terrain and a ticket cost of $80, a good $25 less than its owner. Pico is also home to Vermont Adaptive Skiing, a wonderful program aimed at helping people with disabilities ski. Easily accessible from Albany.

  1. Gore, NY

The only mountain from a state other than Vermont to make the top 10, I was actually surprised that Gore did not place higher. In fact, that was my main reason for disliking the results- Gore is actually my favorite. Owned by New York State and charging an average of $78 per ticket, Gore places a 7.8 in user reviews, the second highest of the lot. This perfectly covers a myriad of terrain, and there are so many options available in its glorious 428 acres. Plus, it’s very close to us, so that could be another helpful factor.

  1. Mad River Glen, VT

Sorry, snowboarders, you’ll have to sit this one out. MRG is a highly retro, highly hippie coop mountain that still uses rickety old single chairs. Its 120 acres of lush and changing terrain may be a small amount, but size doesn’t matter when you can buy a $65 ticket for a mountain with an average review of 7.7. If you’re ever skiing in northern Vermont, don’t fail to visit- you won’t regret the trip!

  1. Stratton, VT

I never liked this due to their terrible gondola, but that was recently replaced, and other improvements have made Stratton an up-and-coming resort. A normal weekday ticket is $80, which just barely falls into the slightly-cheaper second quartile. 625 acres of terrain and a review rating of 6.7 make this above average in all regards, but not superb. Stratton is easily accessible from Albany and has nice views of other resorts, like Bromley and Magic Mountain.

  1. Killington, VT

There’s only one word that comes to my mind when I think of Killington: Beast. That is, after all, its nickname. Open from November to May, this mountain is in operation far longer than any of its peers, and it outstrips all the rest in size, clocking in at an amazing 1,509 acres. It’s so easy to get lost on this mountain, or just ski one part of it. There’s a lot left for you to explore, and people love that, rating it 7.6 out of 10. There’s only one drawback which prevented it from reaching the top of the list: a $105 sticker price. Try not to buy tickets unless you have some kind of discount, but once you do, enjoyment is inevitable.

  1. Sugarbush, VT

Sugarbush has an average user rating of 7.4 out of 18 on 581 skiable acres of terrain, which, coupled with its $78 second-quartile cost, puts it at an overall score of 12.4 out of 18.  In northern Vermont, I’ve skied this one most frequently, perhaps, and there are many hidden gems to the resort. The best part is how it’s separated in two halves, Mount Ellen and Lincoln Peak. You can traverse between the two by venturing into the wild valley below them, by hiking a challenging “Long Trail” from peak to peak, or by taking a fourteen-minute chair ride, the longest in the Northeast. Great three-state views from the Mount Ellen region.

  1. Okemo, VT

Famous for their signature clock tower, Okemo spans 667 acres, with about evenly distributed trail types. $90 tickets for a 7.2/10 user rating is a bit iffy, but Okemo is a cult favorite for many, but others cannot understand the appeal, labeling it bland or normal. Being in south-central Vermont, it’s easy to check out to make your own verdict. This clocks in at 12.2/18 on the overall scale.

  1. Windham, NY

We return to the Empire State for a resort buried in the Catskills, dead average in the data. One problem with Windham is that it’s swarming with New Yorkers trying to get a quick weekend escape. Escaping the masses can be an issue, but a $75 ticket might fix that. 6.8 average rating and 285 acres. Reasons to visit this mountain include it being the closest major resort to Albany, at about half the distance, and if you prefer the South for some reason.

  1. Belleayre, NY

The Catskills appear to be pretty consistent. Slightly more south than Windham, Belleayre is similarly teeming with a plethora of city slickers, albeit at a lower price, a mere $54 (probably because it’s state-owned). User satisfaction is only slightly lower than that of its twin, with a 6.7 average rating, and it has a hundred acres less, at 171. With an 11.7 out of 18 total score, this is straddling a 65% threshold, if we can consider mountains below to be “failing”. A flat summit is very annoying, but this might be a good alternative to Windham.

  1. Bromley, VT

Tied with Belleayre and owned by Jiminy Peak, “Vermont’s Sun Mountain” indeed catches more rays than any other resort in the area. Small yet friendly, with a myriad of terrain types, Bromley exudes the appeal of Jiminy without the crass commercialization. Close to Albany, with a $74 ticket, a 6.7 rating, and 178 acres, it’s not too bad, though you can clearly do better. You should at least visit it a few times to get the experience of basking in warmth as you zoom downhill, though.

  1. Stowe, VT

A lot of people will be surprised, as I was, how low Stowe ranked on this list. A posh resort in northern Vermont trying to label itself as swanky and upper-class, and with an average review of 7.4, Stowe doesn’t seem too bad at all. What does it in, however,  is not its third-quartile 485-acre terrain, but its completely insane $124 ticket price for the cheapest kind of day there is. Stowe overcharges, plain and simple. If you can get a deal to come here, though, don’t miss the chance, because it’s highly rewarding, especially with all the trails in the gondola area. Stowe is also on Mount Mansfield, Vermont’s highest peak, and beautiful views are omnipresent.

  1. Jiminy Peak, MA

This is where the Albany High ski club goes for night skiing, and a lot of people are satisfied by it, if not overwhelmed. Going for an image of being “family friendly”, Jiminy often accomplishes this, but occasionally appears blatantly corporate. With a $74 ticket covering only 170 acres, you might feel a little ripped off (and for the same cost you can ski the better-ranked Bromley, its holding), but a 7/10 average user review hints at quality. Take time to check out the windmill on top. 11/18 overall score.

  1. West, NY

This is where the middle-school ski club went, and there seems to be a trend for lower-quality peaks in these location decisions. Though it is the cheapest mountain here, and the only resort below $50, reviews are also only 5.5, by far the lowest of the lost. This is underlined by their two lifts, only one black diamond trail, and a mere 126 acres. This is more of a beginner ski area. 10.5 overall score.

  1. Whiteface, NY

Lovingly and fearfully called “The Face”, it is odd that Whiteface would place so low on this list, as it is a mountain frequented happily by many. Indeed, a 7.2/10 user rating isn’t that bad at all. However, this suffers the same issue as Jay Peak: too expensive tickets ($94) for too little terrain (a second-quartile 282). Still, Whiteface’s placement this low really underscores the arbitrariness of this system; the fourth-highest mountain in NY and biggest of the lot here offers spectacular views, a factor not included in these rankings. Much of the terrain is challenging and interesting, and you should still pay it a visit.

  1. Jay Peak, VT

The mountain that is farthest north, the only mountain with a tram, and a fan favorite… but the lowest on this list. A combination of factors caused Jay to only make a 9.9 on this scale, including the offering of 385 acres for an $84 ticket (in the second and fourth quartiles, respectively). The average review is a 6.9, which honestly isn’t that bad, but not good enough to land it farther up. This might be for the better, since this is the hardest to reach from Albany, but if you’re ever in the area, feel free to disregard this scale and dive in anyway.

 

So there they are- the rankings of a bogus weighting system I scrapped together. The results are far from perfect; please take this with a grain of salt, or the entire shaker if that isn’t enough. If I didn’t weight skiable acres, Mad River Glen would’ve won, hands down, and if I didn’t weight cost, Killington could’ve swept. Ticket prices often vary, and you should never buy them at face value anyway. Perhaps the statistics can tell you something, perhaps they can’t. There is no true best mountain resort, for the best are subjective, and are what you believe they are. I only hope my advice and rankings can help you in some way. Go out there and make your own decisions. Happy skiing.

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The Best Ski Resorts, Explained Through Statistics