Skiing has a way of making your day awesome. I'll take a crappy day on the mountain (if they even exist) over a good day at work any day of the week. The only thing that is really in question is just how awesome your ski day will be. Of course there are varying degrees of awesomeness and they are based on a variety of factors. That was exactly the case when I visited Sugarbush Resort in Vermont this spring. While there, everything fell into place like the perfect storm. Thanks to some really amazing spring ski conditions, surprise visits with friends and après-ski on the Castlerock Pub patio our visit to Sugarbush was one of the best days of the season.
A Scenic Ride Up Vermont's Route 100
Driving up for the day, along Vermont's scenic Route 100 you could just see it was going to be a good one. If you have never driven on this road you must. With mountain and river views coming at you from all angles, it's absolutely stunning. The sun began to peak over the mountain tops and there wasn't a cloud in the sky. Bring on the bluebird. Combine this with the early April date and the temperatures slowly crept up along the ride to where they were in the mid-fifties by the time we pulled into the base parking lot. What a score!
I've never been to Sugarbush before. I'd like to go back when the snow is deep and there is more terrain available but I'll take spring skiing on a day like this any day. There is something about skiing in warmer weather that really brings out the best of any situation. Smiles abound, we were raring to go and my family and I hopped on the Super Bravo Quad and began our ascent.
Right around the time my butt hit the chair I heard my phone ding. I opened the screen to a message that read, " Are you at Sugarbush? I swear I just saw you and your family just get on the lift." Turns out my friend Mike and his family were there as well and neither of us knew until then. I already had plans to meet and ski with my friend John Bleh, Sugarbush's Director of Marketing but a chance encounter with a friend from home was just an added bonus. In between runs, we made plans to meet for lunch by the Castlerock Pub.
Heaven's Gate Leads to Fun Terrain
A few warmup runs under Super Bravo and we were ready to take on the rest of the mountain. One of Sugarbush's friendly guides, whose name escapes me, suggested we take the Heaven's Gate lift up to the top of Lincoln Peak. The views there are spectacular he said and he had heard that Ripcord was skiing beautifully. He also mentioned that the trail next to it, Organ Grinder, had not been groomed all season. Both were double diamonds which is a box that my young daughters had not check off yet. There was also a blue run called Jester from up there that they could take if they decided it was too much.
My man did not lie. The views were spectacular, Ripcord did ski beautifully and Organ Grinder was not groomed and very true to its name. We skied Ripcord together, effortlessly slicing through the soft spring conditions. It was perfection! Watching my daughters ski Ripcord, their first double diamond, was a phenomenal proud dad moment. Their excitement when we reached the bottom was electric and something I'll never forget.
The next ride up Heaven's Gate, I decided to give Organ Grinder a whirl. Figuring the bumps would be soft due to the warmer temps was a mistake that my bad back still hasn't forgiven me for. Organ Grinder was true to it's name. The hard, almost bullet proof and extremely large moguls made it tough to get into any sort of rhythm until over half the way down. There they finally seemed to have softened and made for a smoother trek to the bottom. Overall, I liked challenge and it solidified my need for a beer or two. A few more spring cruisers and it was time to eat.
Lawson's Finest Liquid Lunch Leads to an Incredible Afternoon
We couldn't have timed things any better. Our friends from home had just picked up their kids from ski school and we scored two table in the middle of the village for lunch. Sunny and warm, it was the perfect spring day to dine outdoors. While our kids chowed down on Chicken fingers and fries, it was Bloody Mary's and beers for the adults. My Castlerock IPA brewed by Lawson's Finest for Sugarbush was well earned and very thirst quenching on this warm day. Unexpectedly hanging with friends at a ski resort was also a great experience. This doesn't happen often but when it does, it never disappoints. However, this chance meeting was only the beginning.
John had texted me that he was booting up and making his way towards me. As he approached from the other side of the Lincoln Peak Village, I could see that he was not alone. He clearly rolls deep because with him was Adam White formerly of Ski Vermont (now with Vail Resorts), Alicia O'Gorman from Ski Vermont, Mike Chaite formerly from Smuggler's Notch and his wife.
This was nuts! I haven't seen any of my media friends in so long due to the pandemic. Now, here they all were at once converging on the Sugarbush Village and ready to ski and snowboard together. My wife, recognizing my excitement and always happy to extend her après-ski smiled and said, "Just go." I threw my jacket back on, downed the rest of my beer and headed back out onto the mountain.
Carving a Path Right Into Spring Après-Ski
What an afternoon. John gave me a good tour of what was open while pointing out other trails that I hope to get back and ski during the height of the season. We made our way straight back to Heaven's Gate. Ripcord was super springy now. The soft snow had been pushed around enough to leaving it a bit "mogully" and very playful. We hung around there for a bit then headed to Stein's (another one of Sugarbush's signature double diamonds) for a few soft bump runs there. All the while, it was nice to catch up on the lift rides and enjoy a fun spring session with friends I haven't seen in so long.
As fun as the skiing was, no day is complete without a little après-ski. Après-ski in the spring just might be the best thing ever created. When I came in, my wife and daughters had secured a few tables outside at The Castlerock Pub and had a Castlerock IPA ready and waiting. They are pros!
As I sat down, my friend, Mike from home, joined us. A Sugarbush regular, he filled us in on the finer points of the resort and the restaurants and bars surrounding area. Let's just say, I have a new list of places to try the next time I'm up near Warren, Vermont.
As he and I continued to chat, the rest of the group filtered off the mountain and joined us. The conversations flowed. Alicia gave my wife a tutorial on the Burton click in binding system. Adam and I talked Vermont craft beer. Mike and his wife were telling us about the work that they had done to their new house (a conversation that was way above my HGTV watching pay grade). John's wife and kids even joined us for a visit. It was a great afternoon that had I not had a two and a half hour ride back, would have kept going for hours. That's the beauty of après-ski. People share their stories. Everyone gets along. And when it's enhanced by a 60 degree sunny day, it just doesn't get better.
Ultimately, this was a fitting end to my first visit to Sugarbush. I loved the place. The skiing, although late in the season, was really fun. The village is pristine and the Castlerock Pub made for an excellent après-ski scene. I really can't wait to visit again and explore more of the terrain and hit up a few more of their on-mountain bars. Until then, my day at Sugarbush ranks right up there with my favorite ski days of the season if not all time.
Were You Raised On Après?
Do you have a favorite ski day from this winter? Let us know where it was and why it was so special in the comments section below. Hopefully there are a few amazing spring ski days like this left on the calendar. If so, you can catch me skiing in one of our signature shirts, like the Raised on Après Tee. Soft, comfy and straight facts, it's an excellent choice for beers on the patio.
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