Here’s a surefire conversation starter for skiers and snowboarders: Name your favorite downhill trail in New England.
It’s up there with asking about the best concerts you’ve been to, or great movies you’ve seen.
There is an endless supply of talking points.
Some like long slow trails that wind their way down from the summit to the base and offer fun, natural beauty, and a sense of exhilaration. Others want the thrills of a steep and challenging slope that leaves your legs sore and your heart racing.
“The best trails in my opinion have a little bit of everything — steeps, flats, some interesting terrain, maybe a little side hill,” said World Cup overall champion Mikaela Shiffrin, who trained at Burke Academy in Vermont. “A trail where you have to really push yourself and make speed at every section, but you also have to be smart and tactical. Those are my favorite trails.”
Jack Edwards, the play-by-play voice of the Bruins on NESN and an avid skier, takes a spiritual approach.
“A great ski trail is one that cleanses the mind by making the skier so aware, so tuned in, that the whole world is the next three turns. Steepness helps, but twisting fall lines, natural obstacles, prominent features, and good light all contribute; a trail whose crux is never easy no matter how deep the snow,” Edwards said.
The Globe surveyed some prominent skiers and snowboarders with New England connections to find out which New England trails are their favorites. Here is a selection of responses.
Jake Burton, founder and chairman of Vermont-based Burton snowboards
Sterling on Spruce Peak at Stowe Mountain Resort.
“It’s an easy hike up, the natural light is beautiful, and my dogs love it.”
Julie Parisien of Maine, former US ski team member
Narrow Gauge at Sugarloaf
“I haven’t skied there in quite a while, but my memories of ripping down the headwall and making it to Kangaroos Hill are epic memories. I feel those memories in my legs and body! It was all those reps on Narrow Gauge that made me the racer I was and the skier I still am today. There are sidehills, and sweeping turns you can take at high speed, and transitions that make your heart and belly flutter, ending with the perfection of the fall line on Kangaroo Hill and the long flats at the bottom. It’s truly got everything in one run. Thrills and grace both.”
Bernie Weichsel, organizer of the BEWI Ski & Snowboard Expo
Jester at Sugarbush
“Good cruising within a traditional New England trail that has plenty of curves, with banked sides, that you can power your way down the mountain, but not too steep so you can also take in the great views of the heart of the Green Mountains all the way from the top of Mt. Lincoln.”
Chris James and Geoff McDonald, founders of the Vermont-based Ski The East apparel and media company
Chin Clip at Stowe
“You’re on a different beast of a trail that dishes up everything you could ask for. It’s a total leg burner if you take it top to bottom since it has long steep pitches, undulation, and has around 10 S-turns throughout the entire trail. The trail stays a relatively tight and consistent width pretty much the whole way down, but has plenty of variety with large mogul fields and pockets of powder in certain zones. You can dive in and out of the glades on either side pretty much the whole way down, and there are tons of hidden gems right beyond the treeline if you know where to look.”
Mikaela Shiffrin, US ski team member and World Cup overall champion who trained at Vermont’s Burke Academy
Undecided, but . . .
“I don’t think I can pick a single trail that is my favorite – one of the wonderful things about skiing is that no two trails are the same, and the conditions always vary, so every time you go on the slopes it’s a new and exciting experience! One of my favorites was the training hill at Burke Mountain where I went to high school – I don’t even remember the name of the trail, but I spent so much time there taking lap after lap on the poma lift and I have such amazing memories training and racing there. One of my other favorite trails is Superstar at Killington, hugely because we have had the World Cup there for the past few years and the atmosphere is SO incredible.”
Tiger Shaw, Vermont native and president of US Ski and Snowboard
Narrow Gauge at Sugarloaf
“Great downhill trails are challenging and safe at the same time. Big terrain changes, off camber turns, jumps!”
Wendy Clinch, Vermont writer and producer of The Ski Diva website
Jester at Sugarbush
“First of all, you can see Lake Champlain. You kind of have to go uphill a little to get to it – I hate that – and then it kind of corkscrews around. It’s just fun.”
Ryan Cochran-Siegle, US ski team member from Vermont
I-89, Cochran’s Ski Area
“It is the trail that I grew up on and learned how to ski from the very beginning. It doesn’t have headwall steeps, swerving bends left and right, or cambered flowing terrain like a lot of the other really fun trails have. What it might lack in certain areas, it makes up for in others with well-groomed, compact east-coast corduroy, subtle rolls and a wide open moderate to flat pitch that you can ski lap, over lap, over lap, all day and night long on (thanks to state-of-the-art lights now, too!), all without feeling it in your knees or back at the end of the day.”
Pam Fletcher, former US ski team member whose family owns Nashoba Valley Ski Area
Spring Fling at Sugarbush
“Snowball to Spring Fling is such a go-to, no matter what the day is like, no matter what the conditions are like. It always seems to have reliable snow, and it’s not too challenging. I really appreciate an awesome trail like that where I can have multiple levels of people join me to ski down.”
Jack Edwards, Bruins broadcaster on NESN
Paradise at Mad River Glen
“I think it is in a force field that suspends the time/space continuum. A little waterfall, stumps, fallen trees, changing contours, buried boulders, and very sparse downhill traffic because it is served only by the (cue the choir) Holy Single Chair. Every run is its own story, timeless and epic.”
Kelly Clark, Olympic snowboarder from Vermont
Long John at Mount Snow
“It kind of traverses back-and-forth across the mountain, and has all these side hits to play on, which is fun for snowboarders.”
John Egan, extreme skier, ski movie talent, and Sugarbush guide
Castle Rock Liftline at Sugarbush
“It’s what I believe to be part of some of the last of the old school New England ski trail systems. The trail was cut but the stumps, rocks, terrain drops and fall line differences were not manipulated or changed. To ski on natural terrain is true skiing for me. The snow is different as no grooming equipment can handle this terrain. Snow consistency changes with every angle and pitch and did I mention there are drop-offs, rocks and stumps that are Mother Nature’s finest terrain park!”
Follow Matt Pepin on Twitter at @mattpep15.