Stowe: A Little Vermont Ski Town


Challenging skiing leads way to posh accommodations. Add in some creature comforts and this Vermont ski town has something for everyone.

As you sit with your skis dangling over the slopes on your way up Stowe’s Spruce Peak, you may find yourself contemplating which you’d have a better chance at: winning the annual Sugar Slalom happening over to your left, or securing one of the posh homes beneath your feet, whose hot tubs are big enough for scuba gear.

It’s OK. This is Stowe, a fertile place for fantasies ever since the Civilian Conservation Corps cut the first trails on Mount Mansfield, in 1933. And thanks to a recent, $400 million overhaul, most of those fantasies can be indulged at the upscale Spruce Peak base area—including piles of chocolate, graham crackers and marshmallows for making s’mores around a fire after skiing. While Stowe Mountain Lodge anchors this side of the resort, you don’t have to be a guest there to catch a show at the new Spruce Peak Performing Arts Center or to have a drink at the lodge’s bar.

Granted, not everything around Stowe is cushy: The fabled Front Four trails still send plenty of bruised knees and egos away from this area, which has a 4,395-foot summit elevation and 116 trails. But it’s the combination of hard-core terrain, layers of tradition and mountain-inspired creativity that makes it such a winning ski town. An exploration actually begins about 7 miles from the resort, in the heart of the historic village. Housed in the 1818 Old Town Hall, the Vermont Ski & Snowboard Museum showcases some 10,000 cold-weather curiosities, from gondolas to 10th Mountain Division uniforms. Stowe Mercantile, just up the road, may have nearly as much stuff, but it’s all for sale: penny candy, sleigh bells, stoneware mugs. Chocoholics will want to head to Laughing Moon Chocolates for handmade treats.

Fuel up on either wood-fired pizzas at Piecasso or tacos at Frida’s Taqueria before venturing up the 5-mile Stowe Recreation Path. The multi-use trail begins at the white-steepled Community Church, winds past the Topnotch and Stoweflake resorts and is ideal for hikers and cross-country skiers. Every February, it’s also part of the Stowe Derby, a race that takes daring skiers from the top of Mount Mansfield to Stowe Village.

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Jeffersonville: A Little Vermont Ski Town


Schussing down the Green Mountains is sublime, but so is strolling the snow-covered streets filled with galleries, bakeries, brewpubs and more in this quaint ski town.

"It’s very sweet,” the no-nonsense waitress at Jeffersonville's Mix Café warns a mother and two preteens about their menu choice. They've taken a break from Facebooking on their iPad to debate ordering the crème brulée French toast with "drunken" blueberries. The trio nod and order it anyway—why not? The Mix's particular twist on French toast is said to be the best in Vermont, and almost everyone who gathers here, from Carhartt-clad farmers to snow bunnies in Bogner, has probably earned the calories.

Sweet but also surprising: sort of like many Green Mountain ski towns themselves. Jeffersonville is the home of Smugglers' Notch. At one point, there really were smugglers in Smugglers’ Notch. Early-19th-century outlaws ferried embargoed British goods and later, during Prohibition, booze from Canada through this narrow pass in the Green Mountains. Today Smuggs is best known as a family-friendly ski resort with 3 interconnected mountains and 1,000 acres of terrain, a 2,610-foot vertical drop and an average annual snowfall of 322 inches.

You won’t find high-speed quads or gondolas at Smuggs—and that’s just the way locals like it. Slower chairlift rides means fewer people on the hill at one time. The toughest trails, such as Black Hole (the only triple black diamond in the Northeast), Liftline and F.I.S. wriggle down from Madonna Mountain, while Morse Mountain is a gigantic playground dusted with snow. Smuggs even has its own mascot, Mogul Mouse, and Burton Riglet Park for very young snowboarders.

For a non-ski option, visit ArborTrek for a zip-line canopy tour. The 2-hour Wild Winter Ride takes thrill seekers on a high-flying adventure through snow-covered treetops.

Après-ski, it’s hard to beat a slope-side Long Trail Ale at Morse Mountain Grille or the moules frites at the Hearth & Candle; both are right in the resort’s village. Feel like a drop of vodka or rum? Duck into Smugglers’ Notch Distillery. The rest of Main Street, and pretty much the whole town, stretches east from there: At 158 Main Restaurant & Bakery, you’ll find such kid-friendly fare as grilled cheese and chicken fingers, while the Jeffersonville Country Store (sells Betty Boop lamps, wooden trains, Bove’s pasta sauce and Lake Champlain Chocolates.

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Berkshires Whiteout


Making the most of winter in Western Massachusetts

The swath of the Appalachian Mountains that runs north to south in western Massachusetts has served as an idyllic playground for weekenders from Boston and New York City for more than a century. The Berkshire Hills, as they’re called here, roll lazily southward from Mount Greylock, at the northern end, down through the towns of Pittsfield, Lenox and Great Barrington. It’s no wonder the business tycoons of the Gilded Age chose this area, with its hilltop views, to build grand summer cottages. But while those houses and the region’s many other weekend residences are geared toward summer use, visitors have started to take advantage of all that the area has to offer in winter, from snowshoeing and cross-country skiing to skating on frozen ponds.

BY SKI OR SHOE

The region’s gentle slopes might not provide the face-numbing downhill thrills found in nearby Vermont or New Hampshire, but there’s a surprising number of places to lay tracks on fresh powder. The most notable downhill skiing is at Jiminy Peak, in Hancock, where 9 lifts and 45 trails (including a handful of glade and mogul runs) cover a rather large chunk of mountain. After a morning on the slopes, take a ride on the Mountain Coaster, a 3,600-foot-long raised track through the snowy woods. Strapped into a seated, single-person sled, you can control your own speed, topping out around 25 mph. Finish the day with twilight skiing or wind down with a beer and burger at John Harvard’s Restaurant & Brewery.

Families will find easier runs—and an expansive kid’s program and ski school—at Butternut Basin, just east of Great Barrington. Gradual inclines and plenty of cruising trails provide soft cushioning for beginners; sign the kids up for a half- or full-day group lesson before taking off on your own leisurely run.

KID-APPROVED ADVENTURE

Across the heart of this bumpy range, high-elevation forests flatten into long meandering stretches where you’ll find family-run outdoor activity centers, including Canterbury Farm, which offers an alternative to the nearby corporate resorts. Up a gravelly road in Becket, Canterbury sprawls across 176 acres, with 12 miles of cross-country ski and snowshoe trails. Owners Linda and Dave Bacon run the wooded trails (hiking is popular in warmer months) as well as a B&B in a 220-year-old farmhouse. Their trail fee is $15 per day; for an additional $15, you can take a moonlight snowshoe tour. A pond at the foot of a hill behind the house serves as an ice skating rink, where they also offer lessons.

Several miles west of Lenox, right on the New York border, Hilltop Orchards is open during the growing season for tours of its winery and cider orchard. In winter, visitors come to glide along the cross-country ski trails or take guided moonlight snowshoe tours, heading out just after dusk for an exhilarating two-hour trek. Snowshoers return to the warmth of the winery for cider and tunes played by a duo of acoustic guitarists by the fireplace. (The tours take place only when the moon is full, so call ahead for details.)

If the winds are howling, you can still connect with nature in the small, state-of-the-art Hopkins Observatory at Williams College, in Williamstown. The country’s oldest observatory, it presents nighttime shows all winter. Get there earlier in the afternoon to visit the neighboring Williams College Museum of Art, where you’ll find rotating exhibitions of contemporary art, before the Observatory’s evening show.

 

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A Serendipitous Encounter in Vermont


Dan C. - Food and Travel Tips and InfoSix years ago, my then fiancé (now my wife) and I decided to take a road trip to Vermont. It was our first time to New England and we were looking forward to seeing the beautiful fall colors. We drove from New Jersey, up through the Catskills and Adirondacks of New York, and finally into Vermont. We stayed off the interstates and drove along Vermont’s local highways through many charming and quaint small towns.

 

We stayed at Smugglers’ Notch Resort, located on Vermont’s scenic highway VT 108 just north of Stowe, a popular ski town. As we drove into Stowe, we were enchanted by the beauty and serenity of the covered bridges, mountain views, and the small-town charm. As a foodie, I really appreciated the wide array of quality restaurants in Stowe. I also appreciated the farm-to-table food culture of Vermont’s residents – sourcing locally grown, sustainable, and organic produce and meats from local farms and purveyors.

 

My wife and I fell in love with Vermont on our first visit and we’ve been going back ever since. A few weeks ago, we celebrated our two year wedding anniversary, also our 4th  fall-foliage trip to Vermont. In a serendipitous moment, my wife and I bumped into fellow RCI subscribing members Larry and Mary Whitney. They are happy RCI members since the mid-90s. They saw my picture in the RCI Directory of Affiliated Resorts, along with my recommendation to visit Vermont during fall – and they recognized me! I was humbled that the Whitneys decided to plan their vacation based on my recommendation. It was a truly serendipitous encounter.

 

A Serendipitous Encounter in Vermont - The Whitneys and me

The Whitneys and me

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Smugglers' Notch, Vermont


My family visited Smugglers' Notch Resort in January 2007. Our ages ranged from 7-50 years old and there was something available for all to do! We all had a wonderful time. My husband, our 7 year old grandson, and I took the beginners ski lessons. It was about negative 5 degrees out and we had ice on our eyelashes but the really unbelievable thing was that we weren't cold at all! We did have on about 3 layers of clothes though! The resort had everything on site and there was always something to do for all ages. Needless to say that we all stayed entertained and were thoroughly exhausted by the end of each day. And the scenery was just breathtaking. I highly recommend "Smuggs" to all my winter loving friends.

- Donna P. from Washington, NC
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Any season is the right season to visit Vermont


Brad P. - RCI Sweepstakes and Social Media NewsI’ve been traveling to Vermont for almost 20 years now and I have so many fantastic memories of my times there.  I first started my relationship with the Green Mountain state as a teenager when I used to trek up North in an attempt to find the most rigorous and challenging ski trails. With more than 15 different mountains and resorts, Vermont offers a wide variety of options for all kinds of skiers and snowboarders, no matter what your skill level.

While the winter may be my favorite time to visit Vermont, I’ve also had the opportunity to experience it in the autumn and summer.  I can honestly say that New England during the height of fall foliage is something that everyone should experience at least once in their lifetime.  The views of the rolling mountains and hills, filled with different hues of yellow, orange and red, are quite breathtaking. Vermont is also a great place to visit in the summer.  One of my favorite memories was when I visited my sister in July and we spent the afternoon walking the streets of Burlington before ending the day relaxing in a park that overlooked Lake Champlain.

This week on the blog, we’ll be featuring stories and pictures about Vermont from RCI subscribing members.  Be sure to check back throughout the week to get some great ideas and information that can help you plan a trip to the Green Mountain state.

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Maine Trip 2009


Our trip Bethel Maine this past April in the mountain and lake area northwest of Portland was a real treat. We were also only 20 miles from New Hampsire and 1-1/2 hours from Vermont. While we were in the "mud season", between the skiing season and heavy tourist season, we had great weather and no crowds. We were able to use this location to visit not only Portland, but Kinnibuck and Kinnebuckport, Augustus (state capital), Auburn (cool falls) and the great county side and history.

On one of our days, we went into New Hampshire to visit Mt. Washington, highest mountail in the eastern US, and explore Northwester N.H. On another day, we went further West to Vermont, visiting the state capital, Montpelier, down to Barre to the Rock of Ages granite quarry and grave stone manufacturing plant (sounds strange, but truly amazing), on to the birthplace and home of Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream (saw their ice cream cemetery where all the discontinued flavors are buried...it was a hoot), and back to Maine, all in one day. On another long day, we went to the LL Bean home town and up to the Dessert Island (Bar Harbor & Cadillac Mountain). Our stay at the Grand Jordan Hotel and Ski Resort was wonderful and we highly recommend it.

- Alan W. from Paris, KY
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Vermont Trip


Our trip began with the expectations of skiing in Vermont and enjoying a wonderful New England ski vacation. Unfortunately the weather didn't cooperate and we were only able to ski for about an hour as there was no snow and Smugglers Notch couldn't make snow faster than the weather was melting it. But this didn't ruin the trip. The resort had other activities that we could utilize and the area was fascinating to explore. We were able to visit the Ben & Jerry's factory and the Vermont Teddy Bear factory. If we'd been skiing we would have missed these great spots. The night time events at Smugglers Notch resort were family oriented and fun to watch. As we'd never been to this part of the country we were able to explore more and even visited an alpaca farm. Beautiful country that we could imagine returning to to actually ski at a future date.

The condo amenities were wonderful, beyond our dreams. Our condo was right across from one of the ski runs and would have made it very nice to walk out the door and jump on a lift and ski down the mountain. The fireplace in the condo was used every night. This was a fabulous trip and we hope to return someday to actually ski.

- Joan V. from Waterford, MI
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Smugglers Notch


It was then last day of March on the East Coast, and we were aimed at going skiing up North in Vermont into the first week of April. We had snow and snow and more snow, resulting in powder throughout the week. Smuggler's Notch resort was a beautiful resort with all the amenities. Our friends went with us. We shared a corner unit with 2 bedrooms and the site could not have been any better. We had a great time!

- Doreen H. from Philadelphia, PA
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