February 18, 2022

What is skiing without the fierce debates as to which hill has the best terrain?! For diehard northeastern skiers, this debate often centers on Sugarbush vs. Stowe. These two iconic Vermont resorts share the spine of the Green Mountains and are separated by only 37 miles of the winding, frost heaved Route 100. But rare is the eastern skier that rates them equally. While these types of debates typically encompass the totality of the resorts in question, this particular argument is usually pretty basic – Castlerock at Sugarbush vs. The Front Four at Stowe.

Stowe’s Front Four

Before you read another word of this fascinating article plug into Google “The Front Four.” Go ahead. We will wait.

Pretty cool eh? One of the top entries is The Front Four at Stowe Mountain Resort in northern Vermont showing how famous The Front Four are. (BTW – if you look up “Castlerock” you unfortunately only find out about a psychological horror anthology. So you can either stay home and go down that rabbit hole or go ski some of the toughest trails in North America.)

The Front Four consist of Starr, National, Liftline and Goat. National and Liftline occupy center stage. They are both relatively straight shots down the fall line with endless moguls and little respite offered the skier. Interestingly they cross over each other allowing one to mix and match – top of National finishing with Liftline or vice versa. And there is no place to hide since riders on the FourRunner Quad can witness every caught edge

Starr and Goat (apparently named after a hiker commented only a mountain goat would be able to climb this trail) are quite the opposite. “Straight” is not in their repertoire, and instead, both trails are defined by double fall lines, boulders and stream beds, the later two often scantily clad with snow. And the mountainous tight moguls, having been shaped by the unforgiving topography and panicked skiers, know no rhyme or reason. Perhaps the only saving grace for a flailing skier is both these trails live in a world of their own being delightfully hidden from spectators.

Stowe’s Front Four

Sugarbush’s Castlerock

Mention “The Rock” to an expert northeast skier, and she knows you don’t mean Alcatraz or Dwayne Johnson. You mean Castlerock, the unique jewel of Stowe’s southern neighbor, Sugarbush. Whoever first looked at this hidden corner on Lincoln Peak and voiced it would be an ideal place to situate a ski lift was either drunk and/or quickly taken away by the men in white coats.

In many ways Castlerock (presumably named for the granite faces surrounding the area) is what The Front Four is not. While The Front Four dominate Stowe’s terrain, the four trails composing Castlerock – Castlerock Run; Liftline; Rumble; and Middle Earth – are tucked into a deep corner of the resort. And unlike the highspeed quad that slices through The Front Four, Castlerock is served only by its own incredibly slow double with chairs purposely spaced acres apart.

However, in many ways Castlerock and The Front Four speak the same language. The four runs on the Rock defy logic. While the namesake run – Castlerock Run – offers the intermediate skier a fighting chance with few steeps and a predictable fall line, the other three befuddle even the best. Both Liftline and Middle Earth rival Starr and Goat with double fall lines, boulders, and stream beds, and both have steep, narrow mogul ridden pitches. And then there is Rumble. By any definition, this is not a ski trail. It cuts aggressively across the mountain defying the fall line; in many spots is one turn wide; and suspicions that the moguls are just damn big rocks are well founded. (We respect Rumble so much we have named our hunting dog in its honor.)

The View Down Middle Earth

So which do we at conSKIerge treasure more? Tough call. The older co-founder of conSKIerge spent a ski bum year on Starr and Goat and those memories are incredibly fresh. But the remoteness and wildness of Castlerock appeal most. In this age of high speed quads resulting in jammed slopes we cherish the slow Castlerock double and the resultant empty trails. And, yes, the craziness of Rumble speaks to us.

conSKIerge co-founder

Kevin Dennis is a life long ski bum with a 34 year legal career on the side. Now retired, he skis 80+ days a year. While he lives in Alta UT in the winters, he has traveled extensively through skiing and has skied almost every major resort in North America (and many you have never heard of). He continues to hit the road often throughout the western United States and Canada and trips over the last several years have included ventures in British Columbia, Montana and Colorado. Whether you want to know about the behemoths like Aspen or Squaw or are interested in the road less travelled (Lost Trail Powder Mountain in Montana or Whitewater in BC anyone?), Kevin has been there, has an opinion and you will most likely have to tell him to shut up after a half hour!