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Founded in the 1960s, Stratton labored in its early days under the belief that Vermont ski areas needed to be Tyrolean to be successful -- hence the Swiss-chalet feel of the architecture. For awhile this mountain felt like Vail's poor country cousin. In recent years, though, Stratton has worked to shed its image as a haven of alpine quaintness. In a bid to attract a younger, edgier set, new owners spent more than $25 million in improvements, mostly in snowmaking. Now this mountain is consistently ranked among the nation's best-groomed by skiers, and also picks up big kudos for its lifts, dining choices, and customer service. The slopes here are especially popular with snowboarders; expert skiers should check out Upper Middlebrook, a twisting run off the summit.