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When it comes to snow sports, West Coast resorts arent necessarily king of the hill. How about a Maine incline that lets you ski and see the ocean?

If you rely on the standard lists that appear in travel magazines this time of year for best places to ski, you might assume that the West has won the battle for destination skiing. Some best-of lists ignore the East entirely; others grudgingly give a spot to one or two places in New England on a list of 10 or 20 ski resorts nationwide.

But if you live in the Northeast and you love to ski, you probably have a favorite place to hit the slopes without first getting on an airplane. Maybe you grew up skiing in Maine or Vermont, or perhaps you have a soft spot for a New England resort that you discovered with friends from college. Or maybe it's just cheaper and easier to load your family in the car and drive a couple of hours to go skiing than it is to negotiate airports and time-zone changes.

Here's an unscientific list of what some ski areas around Maine and Vermont are known for, from expert terrain in Vermont, to a place in Maine where you can get a view of the ocean while you ski. The list does not pretend to be definitive, but draws on reputation, recommendations, personal experiences and other sources.


BEST APRES SKI: Stowe Mountain Resort. Nothing beats Stowe. Nightclubs, pizza joints, restaurants, inns, beds and breakfasts, and shopping line the Mountain Road between the quaint New England village of Stowe and the recently redeveloped ski resort at the base of Mount Mansfield, Vermont's tallest mountain.

BEST EXPERT TERRAIN: Killington Resort. Hit the double-black diamonds on Bear Mountain early in the day, before the crowds join you, your legs fail you, or gravity overtakes you. Head for Devil's Fiddle and Outer Limits for bump runs or Growler and Devil's Den for runs through the trees.

BEST CROSS-COUNTRY: Catamount Trail, America's longest cross-country ski trail, runs the length of Vermont, stretching 300 miles between the Canadian border and the Massachusetts state line. It traverses some of the state's most spectacular back-country terrain, including several remote spots in the Green Mountain National Forest. It also connects with side trails taking skiers to commercial cross-country ski centers, inns and beds and breakfasts.

BEST SNOWBOARDING: Stratton Mountain Resort, home to Olympic gold medalist Ross Powers and other leading boarders. It's also the place where Jake Burton, creator of Burton Snowboards, created the boards in the late 1970s that would transform the industry.

BEST SNOWBOARD-FREE MOUNTAIN: Mad River Glen clings tenaciously to its old-fashioned roots, which includes none of those newfangled 'boards. Mad River's "Basebox" base lodge hasn't changed in years and it still proudly sports a single chairlift to the peak.

BEST WOODS SKIING: Jay Peak boasts some of the oldest and best "off-piste" options24 gladed trails, which drop exhilaratingly down the fall line through beech, maple and spruce stands.

BEST FAMILY SKIING: Smugglers' Notch gives parents a chance to ski or enjoy a night out with a variety of events and programs for the younger set, ranging from toddlers to teens, from Teen Alley Teen Center to its Little Rascals on Snow ski instruction for 2- and 3-year-olds.


BEST VIEW: Ski and see the sea at the same time. From the trails of Camden Snow Bowl along Maine's coast, skiers get a breathtaking view of the island-dotted Maine coast while heading downhill. Features wooden toboggan chute that's home to National Toboggan Championships.

GROWING UP: Saddleback in Rangeley is maturing from a small operation to a more complete resort, with a new lodge featuring a floor-to-ceiling stone fireplace. Still in the family price range.

DOWNHILL AND CROSS-COUNTRY: If you go to Black Mountain in Rumford, bring nordic as well as alpine skis. Black's well-groomed loops of nordic trails ribbon the woods at the base of the alpine hill. Night skiing. New lodge a real plus too.

BEST SNOW MACHINE: Shawnee Peak in Bridgton puts the snow back almost as fast as you ski it off. Where else can you get a $12 lift ticket? Monday Night Madness 4-9 p.m.

FRIENDLY AND INFORMAL: Titcomb Mountain in Farmington. Good destination for beginners and families, and 15 miles of X-C trails on site. Check out the old ski collection in the homey little lodge.

MOST CHALLENGING TERRAIN: Olympic snowboardcross champion Seth Wescott calls trails on Maine's tallest ski mountain home. Sugarloaf USA in Carrabassett Valley has some of East's most challenging terrain, full-service lodge and alpine village at the base.

BIG AND BROAD: Sunday River in Newry has eight interconnected mountain peaks featuring 128 trails. Convenient from Boston area. More than 1,750 snow guns ready to fire.

SNUG AND COMPACT: Former alpine Olympian Julie Parisien cut her teeth on this little gem. Lost Valley in Auburn reminds her of hidden little ski areas that dot Europe. Fully lighted for night skiing; lots to offer junior skiers.

MOST NORTHERLY: Big Rock in Mars Hill backs up to Canadian border in northern Maine; also neighbors the region's largest wind farm. Night skiing and new tubing park this season. Another of Maine's family-friendly ski areas.


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