By Tamsin Venn, originally published in North Shore Magazine, Jan.-Feb. 2017
A Stowe getaway is a chance to unwind in grand style.
If you are looking to recharge in the New Year, load up your skis and head north up I-89 to Vermont. From the North Shore you can arrive in about three and a half hours at Stowe Mountain Resort.
You will be forgiven if you think you took a wrong turn and ended up in Aspen. Stowe Mountain Resort has just finished putting the final touches on the new Spruce Peak Village Center. It is here the unwinding will begin.
Grand-scale rustic architecture, heated snow-free walkways, outdoor fire pits, Adirondack chairs, spacious ski racks, and the Easy Over gondola from the Mansfield parking area have totally transformed what was once a forgotten satellite into a glitzy pedestrian village, thanks to owner AIG Insurance.
The Spruce Camp Base Lodge is a soaring timbered space with comfy benches for changing into boots and combination lockers to stash gear. Ride the elevator to the airy Great Room Grill for freshly prepared lunches and nibbles.
The swank Stowe Mountain Lodge condo hotel rolls out your skis, heats your boots, and is just steps away from the lifts. The lobby on a late afternoon resembles an extended family with everyone gathered in the birch décor sipping hot drinks by several gas fireplaces.
The village complex also offers a lit ice rink with music, the Performing Arts Center that hosts live performances all winter, the exclusive Stowe Mountain Club with underground parking, several sports and lifestyle shops, artisanal eateries, and the newly opened Adventure Center with a climbing wall.
But all this is secondary to the legendary skiing at Stowe. Start at the Mount Mansfield side and slide onto the Forerunner Quad (lift opens at 7:30 a.m. on weekends) for a swift ride to the top just below the summit, Vermont’s highest at 4,395 feet. You have already bought your Evolution Stowe Card that provides hands-free lift access and lets you reload your daily lift ticket online, so you gain altitude in this wintry wonderland with ease.
Casting off from the summit are the legendary front four, the Goat, Starr, National, and Liftline—all double black diamonds.
The Lord and Ridgeview offer internediate slopes for smooth sailing all the way down. You can even feel confident on the seven-turn Nose Dive. The average 2,200 vertical feet allows top-to-bottom cruising.
The management has gotten much better at taking care of trails and making snow, says Peter Law-
ler, 83, a volunteer Stowe host from Shelburne, Vermont. He should know. He has been skiing Stowe for nearly 70 years. Take advantage of one of the free Stowe host-guided mountain tours that meet at
10:30 a.m. on weekends and holidays in Spruce Plaza outside Spruce Camp Base Lodge. It will help you get oriented to the 116 trails and 13 lifts and remove that age-old couples’ thing of whether to read the map or just go for it.
Next, hop over to the eight-person gondola and you’ve got more friendly cruisers on Perry Merrill and Gondolier, and, if it’s cold, a welcome covered ride plus friendly dining in the Cliff House summit restaurant. After lunch, move to the sunny slopes at Spruce Peak. The Sensation Quad lands you at the top of Spruce Peak for a fast run down Sterling or Main Street; or stick to the wide-open short cruisers at the bottom.
Just about 4 p.m. is quitting time. At the Stowe Mountain Lodge, the Hourglass Lounge has a lively après-ski scene serving Hourglass ale alongside craft cocktails. The fabulous Solstice restaurant has a foodie’s dream tasting menu of such items as Duxbury oysters with caviar and pomegranate mignonette and oven poached rack of lamb with onion fennel soubise and hen-of-the-woods mushrooms, all the inspirations of executive chef Ronnie Sanchez.
The Lodge’s Spa and Wellness Center has a full-service fitness center, indoor/outdoor heated pool, salon, water therapy, and offers treatments from Tibetan massage to a Stowe Cider Uber Rub to ease aching ski muscles.
On the romantic side, you might want to consider a guided hike, moonlight snowshoeing, or dogsledding tour. Stowe village, six miles down the mountain road, is a town of real substance, which itself has been revitalized in the past decade. Stowe is probably the only New England ski resort town that’s actually busier in summer, so there is a greater depth and range of places to stay. A good mid-price resort is the Golden Eagle Resort. There’s also the Topnotch Resort & Spa.
In town eat at Harrison’s, a casual upscale place—try the Harrison’s Burger and a Vermont craft beer on tap. The lively Whip Bar & Grill is a historic tavern with an extensive menu. Shop at Shaw’s General Store, established in 1895, and still in the same family. The Matterhorn Bar and Rusty Nail, famous—or infamous—for après-ski activity, are still alive and well.
Stowe also has one of the best cross-country ski networks of any Alpine resort. For a taste of that, head up to Trapp Family Lodge, with 100 kilometers of trails on more than 2,500 wooded acres, where trail grooming is impeccable and snowshoeing and backcountry skiing are also popular. It’s just one more way to charge your New Year battery.