Bolton Valley might be characterized as among the least flashy of Vermont's major resorts - but if it isn't quintessential family, nothing is. President Ralph DesLauriers helped his father Roland start the ski center in 1966, and has gradually integrated his own family into the operation.
Ralph's second son Rob does the marketing, his wife Lynda manages the Trailside Condominiums, his eldest son Eric handles one of the slopeside shops, and several other family members are involved, as well.
The result? The family feeling pervades the place. Even the three-mile access road resembles a country cousin's long, long driveway. Conspicuously bereft of access road clutter, it's as if you're being invited to enter another, more tranquil world. The base area is compact and without pretension. Hotel guests need not leave the rambling, horse shoe building to reach most of the essentials. Neatly tucked alongside the mountain stand a sports center, a handful of modern condos, and Vermont's only slopeside country inn.
But, there's more here than a family operating a ski resort. You see, sons Rob and Eric are world class extreme skiers - they're the guys in ski movies who jump cliffs and cornices. That adds an important element to the mix: these guys are skiers first, and they have a skier's perspective. They understand what delights and frustrates skiers. They know how to manage the terrain to both invite and challenge, how to keep operations simple and prevent overcrowding, and how to devise programs that get to the core of the skiing experience - the joy.
It was this last element that most recently brought us to Bolton Valley. Dan, 12, and I participated in the Northface Extreme Team Clinic for advanced skiers - three days of pure excitement bashing bumps, cruising, catching big air and generally going all-out. In a long weekend, you learn to build the fundamentals into hot skiing that's truly fluid.
The Bolton ski instruction program inspires that feeling right from the beginner level. Rob DesLauriers and ski school director "Gootz" Getzinger have developed "ETC" - the Effortless Turning Concept. ETC takes the basic principle used by those ski movie hot shots - that skiing is a balanced continuous motion, not jerking one turn after another - and applies it to all skiing. The bottom line: if you let it flow, you'll get it!
Twenty-five years ago Roland DesLauriers literally sold the family farm to start this ski area. In the shadow of glamorous resorts like Stowe and Sugarbush, the family's still here. The resort's still first class, and you and your family enjoy that special family feeling you only find at a family-run resort.
Bolton Valley Resort
Bolton Valley, VT 05477
Rates vary wildly with full day, half day, twilight, super night and night weekend and midweek prices for adults and
juniors 14 and under. Packages can mean family savings.