Generations of ski film fans know John Egan as a hard-charging skier who chases big lines. He’s appeared in 17 Warren Miller movies, is an original member of the North Face Extreme Team, and has skied all over the world. In 1976, two years before his movie debut, the teenaged Egan moved to Vermont’s famed Mad River Valley. Forty years later, and as passionate about skiing as ever, he’s still here and has earned the official title of Chief Recreation Officer at Sugarbush.
What is it about Sugarbush that has kept you there for 40 years?
I firmly believe it’s one of the best training grounds around; the East Coast in general, but the Green Mountains are a great place. Sugarbush is just where I landed and where I learned. It was such a diverse group that ran the ski school here when I arrived, and everybody here shared their knowledge.
Describe your perfect ski day at Sugarbush.
When there’s new snow and an early morning Lincoln Limo scheduled. That’s our 12-person snow cat. It leaves the base at 6:30. Sometimes just seeing the sunrise in the East is way better than coffee. I’d ski until the lifts open, then cut into Paradise Woods.
What about when the conditions are more hardpack than powder?
We like to say that the mountain is in coaching mode then. The die-hard will ski anything and get better at it. There was no off-piste last year, but we have a really robust snowmaking system, so there was still good terrain. I’m still doing laps those days, because the training is so good. It’s about learning that day. I think it’s a sport that you can always keep learning.
Best place for a tune to help carve the hardpack?
Right at the base of our access road is Vermont North Shop. It’s been there for two generations. These guys have been doing my skis for years and do world class tuning.
Best place to grab a coffee and a bagel on the way to the lift?
Paradise Deli is on the way to the mountain if you’re driving. If you’re at the mountain, the Skinny Pancake is right at the base. On weekends there’s quite often a brunch at Timbers. It’s a really nice restaurant.
Sugarbush has two base areas. Is it best to start at Mount Ellen or Mount Lincoln?
Mount Ellen is kind of quiet, and you can get some nice runs over there. Or start at Lincoln Peak and go into Slide Brook, then take the bus the rest of the way. There’s a chairlift between the two areas; it takes about 15 minutes, and it’s a really, really cool ride through the woods.
Other favorite places to ski on the mountain?
The Slide Brook Basin is really pretty special: 2,000 acres of wilderness between our two base areas. You can go in there on a really crowded day and it’s like a different place. It’s so peaceful in there. You can see where the bears have climbed beech trees. There’s porcupines moving around. Of course Egan’s Woods is probably my favorite, off the Reverse Traverse on Mount Lincoln.
What about lunch?
At the mountain, I like to eat at Allyn’s Lodge (midway up Mount Lincoln). They have a great chili dog. If you’re down in the village, run over to Mutha Stuffers for a sandwich.
What’s your go-to place for après?
Castlerock Pub right at base of the mountain is just rocking. If you’re looking for a romantic dinner, Chez Henri has been on the mountain over 50 years. Henri himself is turning 90 this year. He’s at the restaurant every night, and he skis every day.
What’s the best way to get local backcountry intel?
Check out RASTA (Rochester Area Sports Trail Alliance) and Vermont Backcountry Alliance. These groups are a bunch of people looking to develop legal backcountry skiing trails. You’d be amazed at the skiing that is out there in Vermont. No matter where you ski, the locals know the best spots. If you don’t know anybody, hire a guide or hook up with a local posse.