- The Washington Times - Friday, December 10, 2004

WEST DOVER, Vt. — A four-generation ski trip to a pastoral Vermont village sounded like the ideal family vacation. It had something for everyone: sports, shopping, great restaurants — many of them with children’s menus, ambient fireplaces and plenty of baby sitters, which to the mother of a 6-week-old baby might have been the most tempting of all.

What we didn’t realize until we packed for the two-week vacation at Mount Snow was that a vacation that had something for everyone meant bringing something for everyone — about 10 times over.

In addition to ski gear for six — it was decided ahead of time that 91-year-old Great-grandma and Baby probably were better suited for lodge life — there were oatmeal, peanut butter, books, board games, Barbies, laptop computers, diapers, videos, art supplies, medicine, sleds, shampoo and econo-size bottles of laundry detergent to sustain us for two weeks.

That’s not including the three large dogs and their supplies.

Needless to say, we didn’t take one car to the cozy (read:”small) rented house just two miles from the slopes; we needed two sport utility vehicles and two cars, all filled to the point that the rearview mirrors were unusable.

Our family has been going to Mount Snow for years. My parents, married 36 years, met there, and we had a second home in nearby Wilmington when I was growing up, so the much-unchanged landscape is like a comfortable parka that provides warmth and comfort. Seeing that restaurants such as Poncho’s Wreck, the Silo, the Hermitage Inn and the Cup n’ Saucer diner were still in business was a bonus.

The Mount Snow Valley, which spreads mostly over West Dover, Wilmington and Wardsboro, also has attractions for nonskiers — or skiers on bad-weather days. The Mountain Park Plaza has a “multiplex,” better described as a movie house with a few small viewing rooms and even smaller screens.

There are many art galleries and craft shops; an indoor petting zoo at Adams Farm, which also offers sleigh rides and nature walks; and the designer outlets in Manchester, less than an hour away.

The focus, though, is on skiing, with most stores and restaurants posting ski reports in their entryways and old skis and poles in an “X” above the door.

Mount Snow offers terrain for all abilities and personalities, and my family runs the gamut.

Despite skiing for more than three decades, my mom sticks to the bunny trails — her favorite green-dot slope is the long, gently winding Deer Run. Because it starts at the summit, a 3,600-foot elevation, she can do the run twice and then call it a day. I think she skis only because the rest of us do and because she likes the apres-ski life, eating sharp Vermont cheddar and grilled kielbasa in front of the roaring fire with a glass of red wine in her hand.

My father is a strong skier who can get down just about any trail, even Mount Snow’s steep North Face, but because he still adores my mother after all these years, he’s usually on the easiest trails, maybe taking his last run of the day with my sister and me, who are middle-of-the-road skiers.

We’re neither fast nor slow, neither hot-doggers nor scaredy-cats. You’ll find us on intermediate trails such as the broad Snowdance and the narrow Upper Canyon, which is more challenging but less crowded. These Main Mountain trails bordering the North Face represent Northeastern skiing at its best.

The snow-covered evergreens are tall, creating a barrier to the outside world. These runs are quiet; peaceful; and, because they don’t face the sun, quite cold in the late afternoon.

My husband is more daring, and when he has a friend skiing with him, he’ll go down any black diamond that’s in front of him. (He agrees that it’s generally not a good idea to go alone on the most difficult trails, which often are the most deserted.)

Mount Snow’s learn-to-ski program has grown considerably over the years, and there are a full-time day care center, a playground and a mini-skier-only slope. My then-3-year-old daughter was enrolled in the Bears Den program, which divided her day into ski lessons, snack breaks and indoor playtime in the pretend beauty salon.

Several times an hour, messages are broadcast over the public-address system, which can be heard in and around the main lodges and in the main lift lines. My guess is only parents with children at the child care center pay attention to the announcements, because this is how they’ll find out if their little skier took a spill — on the slopes or with a cup of very hot chocolate.

The problem is that you’re out of range for the public-address system if you are on a lift or actually skiing, thus requiring yet another piece of gear: two-way radios. This way, even if you are out of earshot, a friend or relative who is nearby can contact you. Whether you’re at the summit, at the bar or in the restroom in the lodge, those radios are ringing.

The radios also are helpful if you want to meet up with friends and family while at the mountain, though with the limited reception, you might find yourself finishing lunch in a designated spot as the rest of the group arrives.

You might be better served starting a family tradition that will last for years: Start the day doing your own thing — ski, eat, shop, watch passers-by (that’s what Great-grandma and Baby were doing most of the time) — but come together at sundown in front of the giant fireplace at the Main Base Lodge to warm your toes and your hearts.

It’s what we do.

Mount Snow is on Vermont Route 100, West Dover, Vt.; www.mountsnow.com or 800/245-SNOW. A weekend day lift ticket for adults costs $67.

Mount Snow can be reached by taking Interstate 91 to Exit 2 in Vermont. From there, take Vermont Route 9 to Wilmington and Route 100 north nine miles to Mount Snow. Mount Snow is about four hours from New York; 21/2 hours from Boston; 51/2 hours from Montreal; just more than two hours from Hartford, Conn.; and 90 minutes from Albany, N.Y.

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