One Destination for Three Generations
Stowe, Vermont is for skiers, non-skiers, families and more
By Arielle Allen
The last time I went on a vacation with my parents I was 12. All I remember is being squished between my two brothers in the back of the station wagon. This time, I’m piloting our SUV rental and my husband, Steve, is riding shotgun. Mom and Dad are in the backseat, and behind them our kids are fighting over Steve’s iPhone. Normally, I would encourage them to put down the technology and take in the breathtaking scenery—this is Vermont in winter—but they’re on Go Stowe’s winter hub to preview what’s to come from their home for the weekend.
It’s a great reference for all things winter in Stowe, and we’ve loved using it to plan out a fun weekend. Regardless, I still have my doubts about this trip. In addition to it being our first getaway with my parents, Stowe is a world-class ski town—a plus for my fearless husband and kids—but a bit intimidating for my parents and me. We’re from the Southwest. Snow is a novelty.
And there is a lot of snow in Stowe. As we drive in to the village and up the Mountain Road, the snow-covered Green Mountains surround us. The church steeples and Colonial-style houses comprising the town’s charming skyline look straight out of the glossy pages of a children’s Christmas book. Like an impatient child, my husband fidgets in his seat—ready to click into his skis and chase powder.
Huge selection, small town vibes
“Who is this friendly fellow?” Dad asks. He’s the first one through the door at Pinnacle Ski & Sports, where we’re renting our gear, and he’s already been suckered into rubbing the belly of the store’s mascot, a golden retriever named Spencer. The kids join him in hovering over Spencer, but Steve heads straight for the colorful display of skis hanging from the ceiling. “Wow, Ski Magazine wasn’t exaggerating,” he observes. “This collection of demos is insane!”
He and the kids waste no time getting outfitted with the newest demo. Soon they are spouting off all sorts of questions and Pinnacle’s staff is always ready with an answer—even for questions they didn’t ask. The staff showed them how different lenses work under different conditions, how different helmets and goggles fit, the best way to layer for warmth and so much more. Even though I didn’t completely understand everything they discussed, I could tell Pinnacle’s staff knew what they were talking about, and I felt my kids were safer for it.
As my parents and I are content to standby and observe, I’m pleasantly surprised when we strike up an enlightening conversation with one of the friendly staff members, who seems to know just as much about the retail realm in Stowe as she does the runs on the mountain.
“Check out the denim wall at Green Envy,” she insists after giving us the lowdown on the best boutiques in town. I make a mental note of her recommendation and then turn my attention to Dad. It will probably take 20 minutes to tear him away from his new friend, so I better get started. If our staff—including Spencer—encounters are any inclination of what we can expect from the people in Stowe, we’re in for a warm welcome.
The exposed beams of weathered wood tell me we’re in a barn, but there’s no sign of farm animals. Mom and I are trying on jeans in Green Envy, an old farmhouse barn-turned-boutique. Its impeccably curated denim wall, and contemporary selection of luxury handbags, shoes, jewelry and cashmere, screams New York City chic, but its serene setting reminds us we’re in the mountain village of Stowe.
Ten minutes up the road, Steve and the kids are on the slopes at Stowe Mountain Resort. We decided to separate on our first full day here, so Steve and the kids could shred without worry of my parents and I lagging behind. Initially, I was concerned my parents and I would be bored while they skied, but it’s quite the contrary. Dad appears beyond comfortable, feet up on a stool and nose buried in his find from a bookstore just down the block. It’s a memoir about the von Trapp family, the Sound of Music stars whose descendants are perhaps the most famous residents of Stowe.
“These are as soft as butter!” I proclaim, admiring my backside in the mirror. I give credit to the saleswoman who is not selling us jeans; she’s educating us on fits, washes, styles and fabrics. I was skeptical Mom and I would be able to shop in the same place, but between the 30 brands of premium denim Green Envy carries, we both manage to score two pairs.
While Mom is in the fitting room, Dad even gets up from the comfort of his couch and picks out a surprise purchase for her—part of his plan to get her to take a ski lesson with him the next day. “My son designed this base layer and Alp-N-Rock makes it exclusively for our store,” the store’s owner says proudly while folding the heather grey henley. I can already see mom wearing it on the slopes and then out on the town for an après ski beverage.
It’s not just a place, it’s a lifestyle
Only the promise of hot chocolate and freshly baked cookies gets the kids out of the outdoor heated pool and back into the resort. During Stoweflake Mountain Resort and Spa’s complimentary afternoon tea, Mom, Dad and I catch up with Steve and the kids around one of the many roaring fireplaces in the common areas. They rave about their favorite runs, and in turn, we describe the village, just a few minutes down the road, and show off our purchases—proof that Stowe lives up to its title of “best ski town for non-skiers.”
The next morning we wake up to a glorious, glittering blanket of snow outside our frost-covered windows. We are staying in one of Stoweflake’s three-bedroom townhomes. Steve and I share the upstairs master bedroom, and Mom and Dad have the master suite. The kids shared a room with two queen beds next to us on the second floor, and spent most of the evening chasing each other up and down the stairs.
Over French toast doused in real Vermont maple syrup—served at Stoweflake’s on-site restaurant Charlie B’s—it’s decided Mom and Dad will take the kids back up the mountain while Steve and I enjoy some alone time at Stoweflake. He’s made friends with a maintenance man who told him about the groomed snowshoe trails around the property, and I heard from a longtime employee—the resort has been owned by the same family for more than 50 years—that the spa’s hydrotherapy waterfalls and Hungarian mineral soaking pool are not to be missed. We thoroughly enjoyed all of it.
That night, Steve and I hop on the free shuttle that stops outside the resort’s entrance and meet our crew in the village for dinner. Somehow, the kids convince my parents to gift them with the demos they rented. Even more impressive, they pull up Pinnacle Ski & Sports’ vast online retail store, SkiEssentials.com, on Steve’s phone and help my digitally challenged parents make their first online purchase via smartphone.
Sitting at dinner in my new jeans, I feel like a million bucks. But it isn’t just because I know I look good. It’s because I know this family vacation experiment has been a success. Stowe isn’t just another ski town. It’s special. It’s a neighborly village that warms visitors with its friendly heart and outstanding service. It welcomes non-skiers with open arms and a variety of entertainment, from shopping to spas to culture. As a non-skier, I can vouch for its other assets for all of us—the caliber of which remind me I need to make a deposit to get our same townhouse for this time next year.
Winter Escape, Couples Retreat
A couple’s getaway reveals Stowe, Vermont’s warm side in wintertime
By Bob Audette
Google search a picture of Stowe, Vermont. I’ll wait. A steepled church surrounded by dots of cardinal-red buildings; rolling mountains in the background. In winter, snow blankets each building like a puffy duvet comforter draped across each roof.
The scene is one reason my wife and I come here for just-the-two-of-us getaways; skiing another. Each visit reveals more to love, and as we pulled up to the Green Mountain Inn, I was excited to continue discovering this charming town.
It was late in the afternoon when we checked in and my wife, Becky, had dinner on the brain. She asked our innkeeper, Patti Clark, what restaurant we should go to later in the evening. Patti recommended the Whip Bar & Grill, conveniently located at the Green Mountain Inn. Its menu is full of dishes made with Vermont-grown ingredients, along with homemade soups, breads and desserts. We were happy to not have to get back in the car, but Patti wanted to make sure we were set for the following night as well.
“I’ll get you a reservation for tomorrow night at The Bistro at Ten Acres. It’s a great, cozy, chic place for a romantic dinner. And trust me, you won’t be disappointed,” Patti said. We nodded in agreement and then she offered to show us around the inn.
The inn is the perfect mix of modern and historic—red brick and a front porch overlooking Stowe’s Main Street. Originally built in 1833, the renovations have kept classic charm intact (wainscoting, brick fireplaces, etc.) while adding resort-quality amenities, such as a recently renovated, year-round outdoor heated pool with in-ground Jacuzzi, a sauna in the health club, a game room and massages available at Stowe Village Massage. Since 1833, the Green Mountain Inn has grown to a complex of eight buildings, including guest rooms, apartments and townhouses. The original buildings (Main Inn, Old Depot buildings and Sanborn House) still stand to tell their tales and are on the National Register of Historic Places.
“We are a four-season resort,” said Patti. “And we have guests who return year after year for their own romantic getaways.” Becky and I stood as an example of that.
When we got to our room, we were greeted with a bottle of champagne and chocolate dipped strawberries. As if that wasn’t enough, when we saw the in-room Jacuzzi, plush terry robes and gas fireplace, we knew we would be spending this night in luxury. But first, dinner! I couldn’t wait for a bowl of the Whip’s signature New England Corn Chowder—perfect for snowy Stowe.
Just the right fit
The next morning, light shone through the windows of our room at the Green Mountain Inn, sparkling off the fresh snow that had fallen during the night. Perfect for the day of skiing we had planned, a day that would no doubt be improved after a visit with Benny Wax, the local boot-fitting legend at Inner Bootworks.
Our appointment with Benny was, for me, one of the most anticipated parts of our trip to Stowe (on top of spending time with my wife, of course). I absolutely love to ski, but getting the right boots to fit and feel good throughout the day has always been a trial. I often had to cut my days short because my feet just got too uncomfortable. If what everyone said about Benny was true, this was about to change.
When we opened the door, Inner Bootworks already had a bench full of people waiting for assistance with trying on the right ski boot. While Benny and the staff bustled around, strangers chatted with each other, told stories and laughed.
“If your boots don’t fit well, you’re not going to like skiing. And if you don’t like skiing, then why are you spending all this money to freeze?” Benny asked me when I sat down.
“Aren’t your feet supposed to hurt while skiing?” I asked, and he looked at me askance, but in a good-natured way.
Benny told me that boots come in different shapes and sizes, just like feet. Some are wider and some are narrower; some have a tighter heel pocket and while some have a more upright stance, others are more aggressive.
All the other customers and I sat rapt as he explained the magic of finding the right boot. While he was talking, he measured my feet, palpated my arches, flexed my ankles and, probably for asking an insolent question, playfully twisted one of my toes. Everyone at the bench laughed when I yelped. I must admit, it was pretty funny.
He also asked me about my skill level, which I characterized as advanced intermediate. He said an intermediate skier or a beginner in a high-end boot was a recipe for disaster because higher performance boots are more responsive to body language.
"An intermediate skier needs a more forgiving boot, so that their technical skiing mistakes won’t transmit to the skis as precisely, and cause problems,” he said.
When I slipped on the boots he had chosen for me, I couldn’t believe how good they felt, and he wasn’t even done yet. Once he had found the right boot for me, he picked out the perfect inserts and made adjustments to hug my feet just right. Then, he had me walk around in them for a while to make sure they felt good. By the time I was ready to take those babies to the slopes, an hour had passed and it only felt like I had been working with Benny for a fraction of that. My new ski boot nirvana must have been evident on my face, because Becky walked up to me, touched my hand and gave me a sweet peck on the cheek.
“There is a voodoo art to fitting ski boots,” said Benny, winking at Becky. “And if everyone skied, the world would be a better place.”
We spent nearly eight hours skiing that day, and even on the chairlift, where I usually experienced my pain while waiting for another run, I forgot I was wearing ski boots.
Linda Hunter, who, with her husband, Mark Fucile, owns and operates The Bistro at Ten Acres, wasn’t surprised to hear that Patti had sent us. “This is a community of 4,000 people, where everyone knows each other,” Linda said. Becky and I had just polished off our plates when she stopped by to check in on us.
We learned that Linda and Mark decided, almost on a whim, to purchase the old farmhouse and renovate it. “We were completely bored and unchallenged with our careers. The thought of doing something entirely different was suddenly less frightening than doing the same thing for the next ten years,” said Linda. A smart impulse, in my opinion, after sampling their eclectic bistro menu, which is all about making dishes from scratch.
I chose the pan-seared lobster with a delicious creamy polenta. Who knew lobster in Vermont could be so memorable? Becky enjoyed the half roasted duck with apples and red cabbage, and would talk about it repeatedly in the days that followed. We also imbibed in a bottle of wine Mark had recommended when we were having a cocktail at the bar before our reservation.
We poured the last glasses of wine and ate Chef Gary’s caramel flan on a couch in front of the fireplace. Looking around, we saw a restaurant full of locals and people from far away places—all chatting, eating and laughing. It was like we were in a friend’s living room, but better.
On our final day, we had booked a full couple’s package at the Spa at Stoweflake. Now, I'm not normally the kind of guy that likes to be pampered. But Becky insisted and cajoled, reassuring me that I would feel 100-percent better after being taken care of by professionals.
“We have more than 150 spa treatments—facials, full body treatments, manicures and pedicures for men and women, apres ski packages and heat therapy, just to name a few,” said Brooke, who helped us schedule our pampering.
The Stoweflake has been owned and operated by the same family for more than 50 years, and it shows in the faces and attitudes of everyone who works there, especially at the Spa. Brooke was more than happy to go over their spa menu with us and introduce the spa facilities themselves. The spa has separate sanctuaries for men and women that include saunas, a steam room, Jacuzzis and a lounge area. They even have an indoor Hungarian soaking mineral pool with a gorgeous view of Mt. Mansfield. I was particularly intrigued by the Bingham Falls Hydro Therapy Waterfall, and was looking forward to loosening my perpetually tight shoulders under the spa’s re-creation of Stowe’s real waterfall.
After we spent an hour spa-ing in the co-ed facilities, we went our separate ways to get ourselves looking sharp for our last night out in Stowe. Becky convinced me to get the Gentleman’s Custom Facial, after which I actually felt like a gentleman—suave and debonair. It was like living another life.
Becky opted for the Full Body Tuning session, which includes sound waves from tuning forks. Her therapist worked one-on-one with her to identify areas of her body that were “out of tune,” feeling painful or full of tension and anxiety. When we met in the lobby her body seemed to be humming and she had a glow on her face that was radiant.
Becky and I drove in content silence back to the Green Mountain Inn, where we’d get ready for another evening out in Stowe. With Becky behind the wheel, I gazed out the window at a scene that never gets old—historic buildings, tall pine trees with an icing of snow, plumes of smoke from rooftop chimneys.
Prettier than a picture.
155 Dugar Road Extension
Worcester, VT 05682
Phone: (802) 223-8600
Mountainsong Expeditions offers workshops in skills for living close to the land and guided wilderness trips in northern New England. Our home base is in central Vermont, on the banks of the North Branch river and under the shadow of Worcester Mountain.
If the path of the archer has been calling to you, this is your chance to take up the bow and learn what it has to teach you.
- Learn Instinctive Archery with a traditional recurve bow
- Emphasis on safe, accurate, and ergonomic shooting
- All equipment is provided, no experience necessary
- Taught by Murphy Robinson, certified Level Two Archery Instructor
Our lessons are outdoors in the Stowe area. Our home archery range is at Good Heart Farmstead in Worcester Village, a 40 minute drive from Stowe (a beautiful rural drive on Route 100 and Route 12, two of the best roads for viewing the mountains in fall foliage). We may have other shooting areas closer to Stowe depending on the season, so let's chat about the best location for you.
Aside from archery, Mountainsong Expeditions offers an array of other classes and workshops. Our trips and classes not only teach you all the skills you need to enter the wilderness with confidence, but also honor the spiritual renewal of the experience through song, ceremony, and community-building. Our skill-based classes include the Village Medic Training, the Huntress Intensive, a Hide Tanning Weekend, and much more.
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THERE'S MORE TO DO IN STOWE!
Things to do in and around Stowe, Vermont!
Dining Article Count: 1
In New England, only Boston and Providence boast more award-winning dining establishments than our quaint town of 4,300 residents.
Shopping Article Count: 1
Shopping is fun in Stowe, Vermont, like it once was all over America. Today in Stowe, local, knowledgeable staff greet you.
Sports & the Outdoors Article Count: 38
At 4,395 feet, Stowe's Mt. Mansfield is "literally" the high point of Vermont. This spectacular mountain forms the centerpiece of a region that is legitimately world famous for its outdoor activities and adventures.
Auto Toll Road Article Count: 1
Bowling Article Count: 1
Climbing Article Count: 2
Dogsledding & Dogcarting Article Count: 4
Golf Article Count: 3
Gondola Article Count: 1
Hot Air Ballooning Article Count: 2
Mini-Golf Article Count: 1
Running Article Count: 2
Soaring Article Count: 1
Zip Line Article Count: 2
Culture & the Arts Article Count: 5
Stowe is a wonderfully eclectic village that is home to a thriving arts community and exciting cultural happenings.
Performance Arts Article Count: 4
Seasonal Activites Article Count: 20
The seasons in Stowe are pure magic, thanks to a spellbinding pair of attractions no other Eastern destination can match: our matchless village and majestic Mt. Mansfield. #1 vermont ski resort!