My first time at the mountain was 2014 and it was great… 8 inches of fluffy snow every morning in March! It was awesome!
But there a few things that surprised me at this new-t0-me mountain.
First, leaving in the afternoon from New York after finishing work left me on the dark and windy back roads of Vermont at night, which I do not care for.
Second, I could not find reasonably priced lodging. My choice was to spend over $100 (pricy as a solo traveler) or stay at a hostel.
I chose the hostel, which was fine, but I didn’t get very good sleep any of the nights because of the noise in the shared room and my hostel mates who stumbled in drunk every night from the loud bar downstairs.
The hostel is only 5 minutes from Sugarbush, but I decided this year that I would have to come up with a different plan.
And that’s exactly what I did!
I decided to look for lodging in cities that are on the (few) major highways in Vermont.
This lead me to Barre, Vermont, which is about an hour from Sugarbush.
OMG! AN HOUR?
I can already hear you groan…
“AN HOUR?! THAT SUCKS? WHO WANTS TO GET UP EARLY TO DRIVE AN HOUR TO THE MOUNTAIN?”
Well, let’s break it down and you’ll understand what I think the advantages are:
1. Drive Time to Lodging in Vermont: Sugarbush vs. Barre
Google Maps says it is a 5.5 hour drive from New York City to Sugarbush Resort. Leaving late in the afternoon leaves you at Sugarbush at 9pm, the earliest. But the 5.5 hour drive time estimate is based on daytime hours. Even if there is no traffic, you will be driving slower (hopefully because safety matters to you) at night on the winding, unlit roads of Vermont at night. For me, driving cautiously added another hour to the trip. It was March and the potholes were cavernous on Rt. 100 and other minor VT roads that year, so I drove slow to protect my car.
At the same, Google says the drive time to Barre, Vermont from New York City is only 5 hours. Again, this is daytime driving, so you have to add a bit of time on to that if you slow down at night, but you will be on well-lit superhighways most of the way, so there is much better visibility.
The first year, I made it to Sugarbush around 11pm. The second year I made it to Barre by 10pm. I left at approximately the same time.
2. Generic Quality Inn in Barre VT offers a Better Choice than the Hotels Near Sugarbush
I arrived at the Quality Inn in Barre around 10pm (getting a little bit of a late start), but my room was right next to my car, which was greatly appreciated on the frigid Vermont night. I brought my gear into the room, washed my face, and was in bed by 11pm.
Oh, and I got a full buffet breakfast in the morning which means I got on the road faster (which means I got on the mountain faster). I can just grab some coffee and a couple of hard boiled eggs and go.
Or I can just bring breakfast from home and leave it in the refrigerator in the room until I am ready to eat it.
When I get back to Barre from the mountain, I can swim in the pool or the hot tub.
This level of accommodations would have cost a bundle (probably at least 2-3 times the price I paid) in the Sugarbush Resort area.
Or you can go the budget route and skip the comfort.
Juxtapose my Quality Inn experience to the year before when stayed at the hostel near Sugarbush. After taking two trips to lug my bags to my dorm room (up a flight of stairs) and making sure I took off my shoes each time (no shoes upstairs in the dorms) and making sure there was not food in my bags (no food in the dorms), and then sorting out my belongings so that I could jump into my ski gear as easy as possible so as to not disturb the other hostelers (who did not have the same courtesy), I was finally able to carry all of my toiletries to the bathroom so that I may wash my face and go to bed around 1am (because I also arrived around 11pm and took 20 minutes to check in to the hostel).
I went to bed at 1am but didn’t fall asleep until 3am, if you can call being drowsy with my eyes closed sleeping. 3am is when all the snoring drunks in my room stumbled up from the bar downstairs after the loud band stopped playing and last call.
Of course I had to wake up early to go for breakfast at a cafe 8 miles down the road, because there was no kitchen in this hostel and the only offering the hostel had was an outrageously expensive full service meal (which takes too long, anyway).
One morning I just ate the frozen trail mix I left in my car in order to get on the mountain at a respectable time.
No hot tub or pool to relax in after a long ski day. A line for the co-ed shower. Bleh.
(Editing Note: Haha, but you don’t have to, ya know, shower with the other gender. You just share the facilities with the other gender.)
3. The Drive from Barre to Sugarbush is Usually Not That Bad
50 minutes from Barre to Sugarbush may seem like a lot, but it is daytime driving with minimal traffic. A super-fast ride on 89A to the well maintained Rt. 100.
I know what you are thinking.
“What if there is a storm?”
I can see that would make the drive much less pleasant and in some cases impossible. It is certainly something to consider.
There were a few storms last year in Vermont when not even the locals were skiing because even they could not make it to the mountain (In one case, I was staying on the mountain, so I basically had the whole mountain to myself because I didn’t have to drive.)
So, if there is a storm the Barre option might not work. Or might be rather treacherous and time consuming.
Most likely, though, you might just have to wait for them to clear the roads, which Vermont will likely do very quickly and early because these are major roads you would be taking.
In my comparison, I left Barre at 8am and arrived at Sugarbush at 9am, stopping for a coffee along the way.
The year before I left from the hostel at 8:30am (reasons: wait for the bathroom and I was tired from lack of sleep and no coffee yet so moving a bit slower and, again, had to reorganize my dorm stuff to make sure I wasn’t leaving valuables), but had to go for breakfast down the road, so by the time I got to the mountain it was 9:30am.
So Barre Vermont wins again!
Here’s some bonus awesomeness about the drive from Sugarbush to Barre. You will go past Montpelier and stop for groceries at Hunger Mountain Co-Op, if you’re into healthy food and clean eating.
Milage-wise, it might seem like staying in Barre when planning to ski or ride at Sugarbush is like crossing the Canadian boarder in Alberta when you need to get to Toronto, but I strongly advise you to consider this not-so-obvious option as a value-added choice.
If your intention is to have a great day skiing and be well rested, well fed and comfortable, Barre Vermont is a good choice, especially if you are a solo traveler.
PS: I stayed at the Quality Inn in Barre, but there are a number of similar chain motels where the quality is moderate and predictable and will support you and your needs during your ski/ride vacation at Sugarbush.