Skiing can be an integral part of a student’s experience while attending the University of Edinburgh. For one thing, the inevitable photo album titled ‘Apres Ski’ keeps your entire social network in the loop with regard to your activities on and off the slopes, and it is a great way to make new friends and try a sport a little different to your usual morning jog.
While the Alps may be the obvious destination for European students looking to dominate the slopes, the north-eastern United States is the silent underdog that winter sports fanatics so often forget. The perfect option for when you are visiting American friends in the States, or living it up on your year abroad, the mountains of New England will not only make for a much needed change in scenery, but will also be friendly on your limited American dollars.
The Green Mountains of Vermont are no Colorado, but what it lacks in international prestige it more than makes up for in its welcoming environment, reasonable student rates, and short distance from major cities such as New York and Boston. A day trip to the slopes is just as feasible as a week-long holiday hopping between resorts.
Whilst only being a novice skier at best, I am not one to bandwagon on Edinburgh University’s wildest trip of the year, and finally made the leap of faith into discovering my sporty side this winter at Stratton Mountain Resort in Vermont. My memories of skiing as a child consist of oversized snowsuits, falling on the icy inclines and spending most of the day sipping hot chocolate in the lodge. But this time, about seven years since my last day on the slopes, I was determined to stay upright on my skis and spend more time speeding down the mountain than sitting in the lodge.
At first glance, Stratton and the mountains surrounding it encompass New England’s quintessential sense of natural beauty – from the soft peaks and tree-lined slopes to the red barns and covered bridges situated just down the winding, unpaved road. But if you pay close attention to the unique details of the resort, you will notice somewhat of a tribute to the traditional European elements of ski culture. A more modern version of a charming chalet serves as the base for the resort’s quaint ski village with shops, restaurants, and bars that sit in the shadow of a towering steeple.
There is no shortage of seasoned skiers at Stratton – you can tell from the long queue for the gondolas up to the black diamonds at the peak of the mountain. But for a novice skier like myself, Stratton did not intimidate in the slightest. Friendly staff members were on hand to pull me by my ski poles and help me up the slight incline to the lifts, and shared in the satisfaction of improving my skills as they saw me racing back down the mountain and coming to a smooth stop.
The restaurant facilities provided a much needed break from the action – and the bitter cold. As a native New Englander, clam chowder is an automatic choice whenever I see it listed on a menu, and so a bowl of the creamy soup was the perfect way to warm myself up again prior to hitting the slopes one last time before daylight faded.
While I may have taken a few tumbles (and a couple of crashes, if I am honest) during my day of skiing, it is safe to say that I came out of it a better skier. And Stratton was the perfect setting for me to start my career as a social – albeit amateur – skier.
Forget the Alps – Vermont is officially where it is at for newbie and advanced skiers alike.
Image: [Hubert Schriebl]