The first snowfall of the year is an official sign that winter weather is upon us and reminds us that it’s finally time to winterize the car. But for many Northeasterners, that first blanket of snowfall means only one thing: the start of skiing season.
Fortunately for local outdoor enthusiasts, the Northeast is teeming with exceptional ski retreats. When you take a look at the idyllic locations of the area’s top skiing destinations, however, it becomes crystal clear that just getting to the mountain is at least half the fun.
Killington Ski Resort
The famed Killington resort may be the most well-known ski destination on the East Coast, and for good reason. Nicknamed the “Beast of the East,” the mountain features more than 1,500 skiable acres, the most of any resort this side of the Mississippi. Boasting over 150 trails, there’s fun to be had for skiers of all abilities.
There’s no bad way to get to Killington, but we recommend traveling along the Scenic Route 100 Byway. Nicknamed “Vermont’s Main Street,” the corridor not only boasts eye-catching scenery, it’s lined with ample historic, recreational, cultural and (everyone’s favorite) culinary attractions. If you want to extend your road trip, try driving along the Crossroad of Vermont Byway. This 40-mile highway runs east-west across Vermont, starting in the artsy town of Rutland, passing through Killington, and ending in Quechee, home of the visually stunning Quechee Gorge.
Carrabassett Valley, Maine
Coming in right behind Killington on the list of largest East Coast ski resorts is Sugarloaf Mountain. With 1,240 skiable acres (more than half of which are suitable for beginners and intermediates), the resort accommodates any and all outdoor enthusiasts. It is particularly enticing to those who love the elements – Sugarloaf gets an average annual snowfall of 200 inches.
That weather is thanks, in part, to Sugarloaf’s far north location. The mountain is less than an hour’s drive from the Canadian border, situated almost directly between Boston and Quebec. In addition to its wintry weather, the remote location also makes for a breathtakingly beautiful drive. Start by traveling along the coast of southern Maine for an opportunity to visit the ever-popular city of Portland. From there, it’s about a 2.5-hour drive north into the rugged, picturesque terrain.
Cannon Mountain Ski Resort
Cannon might not be the biggest resort in the Northeast, but it packs everything a skier could ask for into its smaller frame. The mountain, located within New Hampshire’s Franconia Notch State Park, features 25 miles of trails plus backcountry skiing on the adjacent Mittersill peak. A ride on the 70-passenger aerial tramway, which climbs more than 5,100 feet to Cannon’s summit, might alone be worth the price of a lift ticket. The resort is also home to the New England Ski Museum, a popular itinerary stop for skiing enthusiasts.
Cannon Mountain sits on the edge of the White Mountain National Forest, one of the most visually stunning areas in the Northeast. The best way to see the forest is on a ride along the Kancamagus Highway. This 34.5-mile road winds upward to a height of nearly 3,000 feet. At the top, visitors are gifted with unparalleled views of the surrounding natural beauty.
Looking for a challenge? Head to the Adirondacks to take on Whiteface. The mountain, which played host to the 1980 Winter Olympics’ alpine skiing events, features a nearly 3,500-foot vertical drop, the most of any East Coast ski resort. Whiteface isn’t exclusively for experts, though. The resort’s 2.1-mile Wilmington Trail is the longest single intermediate run in the Northeast.
The resort’s most attractive feature, however, might just be its location. At the base of the mountain is the charming city of Lake Placid (and the eponymous lake). Those looking for more waterfront views can get to Whiteface Mountain via New York State Route 9N, which runs alongside Lake George and Lake Champlain. The roadway passes through several quaint New York towns boasting storied histories, including Crown Point, Essex, Port Henry and, most notably, Ticonderoga.
Wachusett Mountain Ski Area
Just an hour-and-a-half outside of Boston you’ll find some of the best family-friendly skiing in the Northeast. The park offers skiing lessons for kids of all ages and puts on a variety of events catering to the youngest members of your party. When everyone is ready to hit the slopes, you can choose from 27 trails that cover the 2,000-foot mountain. Not to be missed are the on-mountain treats served up at the Bullock Lodge Cider House and the aptly named Waffle Cabin.
Wachusett Mountain’s location in Central Massachusetts makes it easily accessible to skiers throughout the Northeast (and provides ample opportunity for unique road trips across the region). As you get closer to the destination, a scenic drive through Wachusett Mountain State Reservation or Leominster State Forest could be a perfect way to welcome yourself to the great outdoors.
You can’t cross-country ski to any of these destinations – you’ll need to drive. Hertz has the perfect vehicles to get you, your traveling party and all that gear right to ski lift. Plus, AAA members can save up to 20% on rentals.