Freeriding lets me play snowboard artist on the mountain landscape. With my board as my brush, I paint lines big and small, carving, slashing, and boosting my way down the hill. It combines spontaneity and expression as I explore and play in the winter environment.
I’m truly free.
Central to my freeride experience is the mountain that serves as my canvas: Stowe Mountain Resort in Northern Vermont. Set amongst the state’s highest peak — 4,393 ft. Mt. Mansfield is a place as beautiful as it is fun. While the resort’s stats pale in comparison to big mountain behemoths like Vail or Palisades Tahoe, riding at Stowe is more about the experience than vertical drop or total acreage. It’s a place that’s all about soul, from its natural wonders to its diverse terrain. Here’s why Stowe Mountain Resort is a freerider’s dream.
Like a never-ending skatepark, Stowe serves up terrain to suit your every whim. Ranging from pleasant, wide-open groomers to legit big-mountain steeps, Mt. Mansfield’s offerings let you race, pop, and slash to your heart’s content. Here are the highlights.
Wide-open, rolling groomers
Ripping carves is one of my favorite things to do on a snowboard. Rolling the board on edge, steering into the fall line, and feeling the acceleration lets me play racecar driver on the snow. Stowe’s perfectly manicured groomers make it even better.
On a bluebird morning, I’ll ride the FourRunner Quad 2,000+ vertical feet to the top. After exiting, an idyllic panorama greets me, with the sun, Green Mountains, and sky blending into a perfect picture. Then I point it.
I have two favorite groomers at Stowe: Upper Lord and Jake’s Ride. Upper Lord begins right off the lift, with an easy pitch encouraging long, wide turns. The perfect corduroy lets my edges grip harder and harder, and I feel the Gs as speed increases. All around, there’s a spirited energy as everyone soaks in those first turns.
From there, I take Lower Lord’s varying steep and mellow pitches to Jake’s Ride. Named in commemoration of Jake Burton Carpenter, the picturesque cruiser lets me tap into my snowboard soul. With trees towering above both sides, a gentle pitch lets me weave back and forth, ride switch, carve hard, or just glide. Early on, the sun pokes just above the tree line, and I just let go and ride. That’s what it’s all about.
Tree-run powder stashes
Stowe’s tree runs are pure Vermont magic. Offering untouched powder and a unique challenge, these silent swaths let you float and explore. With the trees creating an obstacle course, no run is the same, and you can always pick a new line. Like a dog taken off the leash, you’re free to run and play.
Stowe’s snow is unique. The consistency is a cross between powdered sugar and soft-serve ice cream. It has a satisfying weight yet a flickable lightness. As my board planes above and through it, there’s a soft, absorbing feeling. Yet, when it’s time to turn on a dime, I can slash and spray like I’m on a surfboard.
On a powder morning — and in the days following — Stowe’s tree runs to hold onto the powder. With most people skiing open runs, the glades become a “secret spot” for powder hunters. There’s almost always a stash to find.
I like to flow and weave between trees, taking in the forest sights, the only sound the swish of my turns through the powder. On a steep section, I can feel the speed, make a heel turn, and snow cascades over me. Or, on mellow pitches, I can just roll along and appreciate the beauty.
Thigh-burning steeps for the expert rider
While it’s nice to kick back and cruise, I also like to challenge myself. Part of snowboarding’s thrill is growing as a rider, and steep terrain provides an ideal setting. Stowe’s noted “Front Four” trails offer that and more.
Stowe’s “Front Four” trails — Liftline, Starr, Goat, and National — are steep, mogul-lined trails that test me every time. Lumpy bumps and icy snow demand constant focus, and by the end, I’m spent from the hair-raising ride.
My personal favorite is Liftline, which runs below the FourRunner Quad chairlift. As skiers and riders pass overhead, I negotiate the abrupt initial pitch, my board straining for grip. After that, there’s a mellower section, about 50 yards wide, where I pick my line through the bumps. It’s a constant test.
On a powder day, Liftline is magnificent. Moguls momentarily covered, there’s a vast powder field laid out like a down blanket. I feel like I’m driving a lunar rover across the moon, my board planing and turning through the crystals. It’s magical.
Toward the end of Liftline, there’s one last hurdle. Behind a rise, there’s a harrowing final section with an abrupt pitch and wall-to-wall moguls. It requires quick turns and suspension-like absorption, without a second to spare for indecision.
A run like that not only improves skill in steeps but also all over the mountain. The ability to manage grip, work with the bumps, and ride with intensity improves performance on groomers, glades, and even parks. It’s an ideal training ground.
Stowe’s sidecountry serves up true big-mountain terrain
Stowe Mountain Resort is interesting. While it’s primarily a smaller east-coast resort, it also has legit big-mountain terrain. Once I reach the top of Mt. Mansfield, it feels like I’m in another world, with an ancient alpine tundra and a narrow chute to drop into.
As I drive up Rt. 108 — or Mountain Road — to Stowe Mountain Resort, Mt. Mansfield’s profile looms above. It resembles a face staring at the sky. From left to right, there’s the Forehead, Nose, Chin, and Adam’s Apple. While each has its highlights, it’s the Chin that steals the show.
At 4,393 ft, The Chin is Vermont’s highest point. To get there, I ride up the gondola, exit right, and start the arduous hike. On the way, the landscape transforms into a wild, natural panorama, with rock outcroppings and tiny trees lining the slopes. Near the peak, one of the last alpine tundras from the Ice Age looks otherworldly, with rocks and plants from another time.
Once at the top, I drop into Profanity Chute, with a pitch that stacks up well against noted big mountain venues. I make hop turns and swish back and forth for about 50 yards before entering the forest, harvesting leftover powder, and turning like a go-kart. Between the hike and the out-of-bounds feel, it’s an exciting adventure.
The scenery at Stowe is among the finest I’ve experienced. There’s a charming, untouched quality to everything — whether the snow-covered Green Mountains or the sun atop Mt. Mansfield — and it gets me every time. It makes snowboarding more than just recreation.
I usually ride early and load the FourRunner Quad around 8:00 a.m. At the top, tree branches weighed down with snow look out of a painting. The sun radiates energy, and the open blue sky pops all around. That fills me with stoke.
On occasion, a sun dog occurs. This phenomenon — also called a parhelion — happens when a halo forms around the sun. It’s caused by light refracting off ice crystals in the atmosphere and makes me stop and stare every time. It’s the winter vibe distilled.
On the FourRunner Quad, there’s a prime view of The Chin off to the right. Especially on the first chair or as the sun sets, the peak basks in all its glory, looking every bit the ancient icon it is. Sun dances off snow-covered trees and rock outcroppings show their weathered imperfections.
Besides that, you can always find natural wonders at Stowe, whether the peaceful glades or snow-globe-like squalls.
Stowe Mountain Resort is small, yet large. Its 485 skiable acres pale in comparison to Vail’s 5,317. But its legit sidecountry, 2,360’ vertical drop, and 314” average snowfall give it a big-mountain personality. But beyond that, Stowe gives me a feeling like no other mountain. Let me explain.
Do you remember what it was like to experience a snow day as a kid? You’d wake up, see the surroundings covered in white, and know it was a day of freedom. It was time to play.
That’s what it feels like to ride at Stowe. Waiting for the first chair on the FourRunner Quad, regulars greet each other with excited banter. Typically, there are around 50 people, and we can’t wait to get going. It’s reminiscent of horses at the starting gate.
At the top, like birds released from a cage, skiers and riders spread out and race in all directions. During that time, with snow quality at its peak, I squeeze every ounce of fun out of my turns, feeling my board grip and rip. My fresh legs just want to turn, slash, and jump.
Stowe’s is also easy to navigate, unlike larger resorts where I can feel lost. I like to lap the FourRunner Quad, picking and choosing runs depending on mood. I have more than 2,000 vertical feet to explore, more than enough for a satisfying run. Cruise, charge, or play — I can pick from the mountain’s solid variety.
I like small places. Whether a town, store, or resort, I enjoy the personality of compact settings. Stowe Mountain Resort echoes the surrounding town’s quiet New England charm and makes me feel as if inside a snow globe. The way the snow falls and floats like coconut flakes. The enthusiasm of East Coast skiers and riders eager to get after it. Or the unique local businesses and eateries lining Mountain Road on the way up.
Stowe Mountain Resort is a special place. Even more so for the devoted freerider. Abundant terrain suits every whim, and natural wonders dazzle the senses. It’s snowboarding bliss. While Stowe is small, that’s what makes it good. It’s easier to master the layout, and the small-town charm makes for a quaint feel. For the soulful freerider, Stowe is the perfect playground.
- Travel tips: 5 easy ways to pack more efficiently for your skiing or snowboarding trip
- This terrifying viral video shows how one skier narrowly escapes an avalanche
- We love this handsome van-life wood paneling, and it’s sustainable too
- How being stinky when hiking in the deep woods might actually save your life
- The 6 best hotels for IKON pass holders this ski and snowboarding season