Stratton was the only mountain in New England with a 2,000 foot drop that I had not skied. I felt obligated to ski Stratton to round out my knowledge. So out of morbid curiosity, I put Stratton on my List. I was spoiling for a fight and prepared myself for another shit show. But instead of a shit show, I found a slush show.
Of all the heirs to New England’s ski resort throne, Stratton is of a higher and uncontested pedigree (and I mean that in the most derogatory way possible). On occasion, I have used the word gaudy to describe recent resort developments such as Claybrook at Sugarbush and Spruce Peak at Stowe. But the level of distastefulness I experienced at Stratton’s was supremely offensive.
How does the target demographic not revolt due to shameless patronizing? Why do the richy rich respond most favorably to homogenization without substance? I don’t disrespect wealthy individuals for wanting a well furnished upper class second home. But I do disrespect lack of taste and originality. The human desire to want what the other has is what keeps Stratton in business.
There is only one thing I hate more than homogenized faux villages and that is parking lots that require a bus. And Stratton doesn’t screw around in this department. If you aren’t a VIP guest or paying for parking, you can take the bus. I got sent down to Lot 2, three quarters of a mile away from the ticket window.
Stratton’s trails caught me of guard. I was surprised to read that the mountain was originally designed by none other than Sel Hannah. And it still shows. Many of Stratton’s trails have a significant number of curves and bends.
Nothing is old school or narrow but the trails have integrity (i.e. few cut offs and intersections) and rarely go straight. The mountain has acceptable pitch despite its derogatory nick name of “Flatton” but there are no steeps. I enjoyed the trails for what they are.
On a busy weekend, I can only assume that Stratton is a nightmare. The summit is serviced by four lifts including one fixed grip quad, two high speed six packs, a so called twelve person gondola (an uncomfortable nightmare — all show and no go). Only Mount Snow can rival Stratton for having a higher volume of skiers unloading at its summit (at least in New England).
Rumors of good gladed terrain at Stratton are legit. The elevation lends itself to a perfect mix of softwoods and hardwoods at a moderate pitch. Not knowing Stratton doesn’t open or close its glades, I saw the opening for Moon Dance and dropped in to experience some deliciously thin coverage.
The glade wrapped around the trail nicely and even sported some terrain features such as a horrifically covered rock drop. I only sampled one glade which is unfortunate because I probably will never return. Even the allure of respectable glades at a powderhound-free resort is not enough to overcome my negative impression of the Stratton experience.
I came away from Stratton wanting to like the mountain for its trails but utterly despising the faux village and massive homogenized resort build up. The resort is excessive. The faux village attempts to assume a personality diametrically opposed to its internal workings. It is a false pretense and I find it offensive.
Enough opinion. Conditions were a sloppy slushy mess, especially around the base area where you could post hole a foot deep in slush. Base area travel was best done on foot as skiing resembled water skiing without a boat. A cool undercast soon yielded to hot sunshine. My first run sent me inside for a jacket change and the temperature only continued to rise as the cloud cover cleared.
The snow hadn’t frozen overnight (nor for several days, I would estimate) so there was no corn, only mashed potato. Snow was getting removed by skier traffic exposing a frozen base. As expected, flat sections and traverses (such as the trail linking the six packs) deteriorated quickest exposing dangerous thin cover on main routes of travel.
Trails with the least traffic skied the best. Since the Snow Bowl Quad was off line, this was where I found the best snow despite having to deal with a unpleasant run out via Old Log Road. Bumps were extremely limited despite the spring skiing temperatures. Stratton seems content to groom their snow into oblivion with daily grooming despite not having a nightly freeze.
Thin spots were everywhere and I don’t expect Stratton to ski past this coming weekend, especially with their dwindling base area supply. Despite dismantling the park for extra snow, there is no way Stratton will make April.