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Mt. Snow Has Everyone Seeing Blue

The new lift brings the resort full-circle.

The cliche was really unavoidable.

Last Sunday certainly was a bluebird day for Mount Snow's Bluebird Express.

The high-speed, smooth-riding, six-passenger bubble chair was unveiled this season to a lot of hype. But one ride up reveals one thing: It is all that was advertised and it is one of those things that seeing brings a lot more justice to.

Why? Because the Bluebird Express brings Mount Snow full-circle from its storied past into its big-time future.

To really understand it all, we have to go back to 1949, when Walter Schoenknecht, the father of snowmaking who gained fame at Mohawk Mountain in Connecticut, had a vision to develop a resort in southern Vermont, just two hours — tops — from Hartford.

Walter wound up making Mount Snow the Sun Valley of the East with glitzy guests, an indoor skating rink and outdoor swimming pool and a gondola that looked like a bunch of giant bugs zipping their way up the hill.

The pool is now a courtyard and the rink has been absorbed into the lodge and the bug chair had been a distant memory, squished by high-speed quad chairs. Mount Snow never really lost a step, but one look at the Bluebird just makes one stop in his or her tracks.

It reminds you of the old days.

There is, of course, a huge difference, namely comfort and a seven-minute ride to the summit. The lift is about as automatic as it gets and the bubble even lifts itself when it is time to get off.

A trip to the summit has always brought skiers and snowboarders to one of the true cruising paradises in the snow sports industry. Of the 80 trails, 70 percent are designated blue and they are wide and covered with a lot of of snow, thanks to a fan-driven snowmaking system that can blow out 6,500 gallons a minute at full capacity.

The snowmaking system even gets the steeps over at North Face open earlier than ever.

The other key player in Mount Snow's evolution is the Carinthia area — one big freeride venue. For years after Mount Snow acquired it, Carinthia was just kind of there, with average meandering trails beefed up by a decently pitched bump run with music blasting from the lift stanchions.

But Mount Snow has turned it into one of the more solid freeride arenas anywhere. Last Sunday, six parks and a halfpipe were operating.

Mount Snow has also found the right niche for its once problem-child base restaurant. It has been just about everything over the years, but now, 1,900' Burger (named after the base area elevation) breaks down the culinary experience into its simplest form — relatively cheap food that is very good. It's not the glitz of the Walter days, but it certainly was putting smiles on everyone's faces. The burgers are that good.

So no, Mount Snow is not what it was when Walter was around. But somewhere, he has stopped in the middle of a run in the clouds. He is looking down and nodding his approval.

It's a good evolution, one that brings a bluebird day to every day during the winter.

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