Creating the Playground
Wright’s instincts about Stratton Mountain were correct: the mountain’s north face holds a good mix of terrain, it lies in Vermont’s snow belt, and the natural bench about 1,750 vertical feet below the summit has proved perfect for a base area and parking lot. Wright split from the group just as it was about to begin building, but trail designer Gene Gillis followed Wright’s general vision and carved out the now-familiar trails.
Gillis was a skilled trail designer. He believed that “you never made a trail as straight and neat as you could,” recalls longtime employee Ralph Rawson, who was part of Gillis’ team. “You created little coves that wrapped in around, so you could stop and not be in the traffic. Gene didn’t want straight lines.” His trails created a sense of discovery and surprise.
“Trails were narrow at top to keep the wind from being even more of an issue than it is,” Ralph says. That bracing blast at the summit has been one of the enduring pieces of the Stratton experience. Off the summit, Gene’s trails became wider as they descended. Tamarack, Spruce, Black Bear and Slalom Glade all embody his spirit of adventure.