I’m driven to stay active all year and love a variety of outdoor activities. That said, skiing is near the top of my list of favorites. As someone who learned to ski at a young age in the mountains of Washington State, I was dubious of the skiing potential of the East Coast when I moved here for college. Expecting the East Coast to live up to its unflattering “Ice Coast” moniker, I was surprised to discover good skiing in the Northeast and have grown to love a number of mountains across New England.

Riding the chairlift at Wachusett Mountain
Credit: Wachusett Mountain

Why I Love New England Skiing

When I first moved to New England my geographical knowledge of the area was limited, but I quickly came to realize that fantastic turns and fresh powder are found in the region’s hills and mountains, even if they lack the massive elevations found on the West Coast. A great aspect of New England is the diversity of ski areas, ranging from destination resorts to small-but-mighty local mountains perfect for sneaking in some skiing without needing to travel a long distance.

Below are some of my favorite New England ski areas.

Smaller Southern England Ski Areas

Southern New England states like Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut generally have warmer temperatures and receive less natural snow than their northern counterparts. However, thanks to excellent snowmaking and their proximity to New England’s major cities, they’re a great option for getting in some runs without a long drive or sneaking in a few lift laps after a long day of work.

Snowmaking at Ski Sundown
Credit: Ski Sundown

Ski Sundown

Ski Sundown is a small mountain in East Hartford, Connecticut, that’s relatively central to most of Connecticut, approximately an hour from central/western Massachusetts, and less than two hours from Providence. The top of Ski Sundown stands at 1,075 feet and the ski area features a vertical drop of 625 feet. Gracing Ski Sundown’s slopes are 16 trails, 15 of which are lighted for night skiing. It’s undeniable the mountain is smaller than mega resorts, but it has a lot to offer skiers.

Ski Sundown is home to a solid selection of trails, with a nice mix of green circles, blue squares, and black diamonds. There is even a double-black diamond, Satan’s Way, whose narrow, steep slopes are a favorite of technical skiers and those with a need for speed. Although the terrain isn’t huge at Ski Sundown, neither is the cost of a lift ticket. An eight-hour pass costs under $70(!)—a price I never experienced on the West Coast.

Ski Sundown is a fantastic place to warm up for the season and a great value compared to larger ski areas. I love it as a weeknight option, it’s perfect for getting some turns in.

Skiing at Mount Wachusett
Credit: Mount Wachusett

Wachusett Mountain

Wachusett Mountain is a mid-sized mountain in Princeton, Massachusetts, located 30 minutes north of Worcester. The beauty of Wachusett is its central location—it’s roughly an hour from Boston and Providence, and approximately an hour and a half from Hartford.

Wachusett Mountain rises to 2,006 feet and the ski area features a 1,006-foot vertical drop. Wachusett is home to 27 trails and caters to skiers of all ability levels. The black diamond 10th MTN Trail is a can’t-miss run and honors the fabled army unit that trained at Mount Wachusett.

Wachusett is a bit pricier than Ski Sundown, but still an excellent value—especially when you consider the variety and challenge of its trails, its cooler, more snow-making-friendly temperatures, and the more natural snow it receives.

The downside of Wachusett is that it can get skied off and icy, but pick your days correctly and time the snow blowing right and you’re sure to have a good time. 

Larger Northern England Ski Areas 

The mountains of northern New England are the cream of the crop for skiing in the region. Even better, many of the mountains found in northern New England are included on passes like the Epic, Ikon, and Indy, which allow you to ski several different mountains on a single pass.

Mount Sunapee

Mount Sunapee is located in Newbury, New Hampshire. The mountain isn’t massive—particularly when compared to some of the giants found further north—but it’s relatively convenient at just a little over an hour and a half from Boston.

Mount Sunapee features a summit elevation of 2,743 feet and a vertical drop of 1,510 feet. Its slopes are adorned by 67 trails offering a wide variety of runs for skiers and riders at every level—it has everything from long runs to short trails to terrain parks. One of the great characteristics of Mount Sunapee is how easy it is to go out with groups of disparate levels of skiers. The mountain’s more difficult trails have forgiving sections providing a reprieve to newer and more moderate skiers while many of its easier trails have challenging sections to keep more advanced skiers engaged.

I’ve never had a bad day at Mount Sunapee and count it among my yearly weekend destinations. Arrive early and you can commonly find fresh powder, the snow-making is always good, its grooming is great, and you can follow the sun throughout the day—helping you avoid areas that ice up over the course of the day. Another thing to love about Mount Sunapee is the incredible view from the summit of Lake Sunapee below.

Skiing the Ice Coast


So far, Okemo is my favorite mountain in the Northeast. It’s located in Ludlow, Vermont, which makes it a bit of a longer drive than the aforementioned ski areas, but the time in the car is well worth it.

Compared to the mountains mentioned above, Okemo is huge. The summit elevation is 3,344 feet and it has a 2,000-foot vertical drop. There are 121 well-maintained trails at Okemo and they offer some of the best variety in New England. The ski area is spread across two peaks—Okemo Mountain and Jackson Gore Peak—and it features numerous areas, each of which can take an entire day to fully explore.

The trails at Okemo are progressive and designed to do everything from building confidence in beginners to testing experts. Okemo is also home to a host of glades—some marked and some unmarked—which are sure to challenge even the best skiers.

Thanks to Okemo’s high elevation and home in the heart of the Green Mountains, it routinely receives fresh snow. That in combination with the mountain’s large, multi-area layout gives it the feel of a West Coast ski area.

Snowboarding Mount Wachusett and the Ice Coast
Credit: Mount Wachusett

Is the East Coast Really the “Ice Coast?”

There are numerous differences between skiing on the West Coast and skiing on the East Coast, but from my experience, the mountains of the Northeast offer plenty of vertical, an abundance of variety, and much more than its “Ice Coast” reputation suggests.

One of the aspects that I appreciate most about skiing in New England is its smaller mountains which are ideal for impromptu trips and making some turns on weeknights. When I lived on the West Coast, a ski trip meant traveling upwards of two hours to ski for a day or even just a couple of hours.

The mountains mentioned above only scratch the surface of potential ski exploration in New England. There are other mountains in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont that I also enjoy, but I can always fall back on Ski Sundown, Wachusett Mountain, Mount Sunapee, and Okemo to dispel the myth of the East Coast as the “Ice Coast.”