Peak Experience: Stowe Mountain Lodge

Stowe Mountain Lodge

Chic but not flashy; affluent but affordable, Stowe, Vermont charms as the quintessential New England town. The  Stowe Mountain Lodge, set in the beautiful backcountry, nestles between two spectacular mountains—Mount Mansfield and Spruce Peak. Sheltered in a sunny bowl high above the historic 200-year-old village, this lofty lodge commands sweeping views of Vermont’s tallest steeple backed by New England’s highest peak. It’s a delightful off-piste heaven and refuge from the designer duds crowd with ski resorts suitable for both nervous newbies and preening powder hounds.

Stowe Mountain LodgeThanks to its whopping annual snowfall of over 300 inches of precious powder and some of the most varied ski terrain in the country, the profile of this secluded resort is expanding, but it shuns the consumerist crowds of most U.S. winter destinations. It feels timeless and tranquil with no hotels, high-rises or high-octane nightlife. In its place are contemporary, utilitarian apartments, rustic-style spa residences and, above all, beguiling chalets. Think cowbells, pitched snow stacked roofs and piping hot wood-stoves.

With an architectural nod to turn-of-the century summer camps, Stowe Mountain Lodge also brings the luxury of some of Europe’s most popular resorts stateside to Vermont. Posh rooms with comfy fireplaces and fully equipped mini kitchens sit at the base of the ski slopes in the rustic wood-beam and stone lodge. The spa’s behemoth plunge tub soothes sore muscles if you don’t have time for one of the spa’s hot-stone massages. The lodge also offers an Alpine Concierge to stock your room with food and drink or customize your itinerary; plus there’s a ski valet who sends out for your Salomons, heats your boots and carries everything but you to the gondola. Beat that Deer Valley.

For luxury dining the Winter Cottage reigns.  This charming post-and-beam cottage features the rustic winter alpine cooking of Chef Jamie Nelson, a seventh-generation Vermonter. Nelson, whose idea of “creative” includes foraging the forests of Stowe in search of wild mushrooms and herbs, also chooses from the freshest, finest cheeses in the world —  from natural rind goat’s milk to raw blue cheese — for his signature fondues and the out-of-this-world mac and cheese. But before the clichés become as gooey as the local fromage, fine farm-to-table dining prevailed here with an ideology packed in every menu item. Skiers savor seared New England cod, housemade pancetta and cauliflower puree before planning their daredevil days slopeside.

But the lure of boutique chalets and low-key Vermont hospitality would mean nothing without superb skiing on the heart-stopping steeps and 39 miles of snowboarding and ski trails. Thanks to the uncrowded slopes and exciting terrain served by seven lifts, the resort is an alpine paradise, where powder lasts for days thanks to the north-facing slopes. Serious skiers lap up the off-piste run to Vermont’s highest mountain, the legendary Mount Mansfield, while Spruce Peak lies at a lower altitude, perfect for the beginner to intermediate skiers. The famed “Front Four” trails are considered the most difficult at Stowe: Goat, Lift Line, National and Star. Black runs are groomed only for moguls.

Given the backcountry’s popularity with alpha-males and brave boarders, others are free to luxuriate in the emptiness of the pistes, with sweeping green runs through the trees. If exhilarating descents aren’t enough for the adrenaline seekers, there’s bobsledding just over the hill, with timeless views of the farms, which supply the Lodge with their fresh local produce and products. And there’s also glorious cross country skiing through the pristine silent woods.

The quaint resort itself feels rather remote but is within easy reach of Burlington or Boston for  delightful New England-style skiing.

Average temperatures in November and December are in the teens through the mid-30 °F range. In January and February average temperatures drop into the teens and twenties, but begin approaching the 30-degree mark again in March and April.

Mount Mansfield:
* Summit elevation: 4395 feet
* Base elevation: 2035 feet
* Top of lifts elevation: 3719 feet
* Longest vertical drop: 2160 feet
* Average annual snowfall: 333 inches
* Number of trails: 116 (16% beginner, 59% intermediate, 25% expert)
* Skiable acres: 485
* Snowmaking coverage: 80%
* Total number of lifts: 13
* Lift information: 1 inter-mountain transfer gondola (Mansfield to Spruce), 1 high-speed summit gondola, 3 high-speed quads, 2 triples, 4 doubles, and 2 surface lifts
* Lift capacity: 15,516 skiers per hour
* Freestyle terrain parks, half pipe

Getting There
Stowe is just 46 miles from Burlington where you can fly in and out of Burlington International Airport; the drive time is approximately 45 minutes from Burlington to Stowe. You can make the drive to Stowe from New York City (336 miles) in 5 hours and 30 minutes; visitors from Manchester, NH can make the 163-mile trip by car in about 3 hours. The 200-mile trip from Boston to Stowe takes between 3.5 and 4 hours.

Photos courtesy of Robert Ellsworth and Stowe Mountain Resort.

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