Ready to explore a new winter vacation destination? Tired of Whistler rain and interminable border-crossing delays? Bored by Sun Valley’s predictably good weather? Then perhaps you should
branch out, skip the western half of the country and give Vermont a try. Unexplored by most West Coast travelers, Vermont is full of surprises for anyone with a love of snow and an interest in trying a new vacation destination. The major resorts offer all that you would expect in a winter package: alpine and cross-country skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, sleigh rides and ice skating. Seeking a slower tempo? Smaller inns offer cross-country and snowshoeing opportunities far from the bustle of the big-name resorts. And, everywhere in the region, visitors are exposed to the natural beauty, country charm and rich history of the state.
While not one of the 13 original colonies, Vermont was first settled in 1724 and joined the union as the 14th state in 1791. For the skier, that historic charm is very much in evidence in the 100-year-old village of Stowe, just a short drive from the 75-year-old Stowe Resort. The modern ski area draws energy from the well preserved Stowe Village with its many shops, restaurants and lodging choices. And don’t be put off by the age of the
village and resort. This Northern
Vermont resort is modern beneath the surface, offers a range of winter
activities and has recently spent more
than 50 million dollars on new lifts
to whisk skiers up the mountain. While all the major areas cater to alpine and cross-country skiers, and snowboarders, Stratton Resort holds the title as the home of the first serious snowboard. Jake Carpenter, the founder of Burton Snowboards, reportedly snuck onto the Stratton slopes at night, when he wouldn’t be observed by competitors, to test his new metal-edged designs. Stratton now offers four terrain parks for all levels of boarding enthusiasts while still presenting a first-class ski experience.
Not a downhill skier? You are not forgotten. All the major resorts offer a choice of winter activities. The woods around the mountains are laced with trails for more sublime cross-country or snowshoeing activities. Sleigh rides, ice skating and even snowmobile opportunities are available in or near most resorts. More than 20 areas focus entirely on people-powered trail sports, with no downhill facilities at all. For example, central Vermont’s Three Stallion Inn offers 30 miles of trails in an environment so quiet you can almost hear the sap flow from the sugar maples. While there, be sure to sample Vermont’s cuisine. There’s more to Vermont than Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream. To support the local farm scene, restaurants make a point of offering locally grown foods with a focus on their strong dairy industry. Vermont cheddar, which is white, not yellow, is one of the most popular, though many varieties are produced by artisan cheesemakers
across the state. Woodstock Water Buffalo offers both yogurt and a mozzarella made from the milk of their water buffalos. The yogurt has a rich, sensuous feel, quite different from traditional styles. No visit would be complete without savoring something “maple.” In addition to syrup you can find candy, pancake mix, bacon, ham and sausage all flavored with maple drawn from their ubiquitous trees. In Vermont it seems there is little that can be eaten that can’t be flavored with maple.
While Vermont seems far from Bellevue, connections to Burlington, the state’s largest city, or Boston, place you within three hours of all the major areas. Burlington is less than one hour from Stowe, one of the more northerly resorts. The promise of a lot of snow mixed with the charm and beauty of the state justifies a few more hours in the air. Vermont doesn’t offer Rocky Mountain powder but new grooming and snowmaking technology allow the resorts to make the most of the abundant snow and overcome its old
reputation for icy slopes. With a lot of snow and good grooming you will find enough good corduroy to satisfy your need for speed. As for the weather, temperatures in the teens are common during the ski season so pack your warmest gear. You may not need it but it’s good insurance.
Visitors can choose from a range of lodging types; from rustic B&Bs and inns to four-star hotels. Resort condos and mid-range hotels are also available. Vermont visitors can select as much “charm and quaintness” as they wish. Stowe, for example, is all New England in feel and appearance. Other resorts present a more contemporary European or Rocky Mountain atmosphere. If your idea of a winter vacation encompasses the entire package—atmosphere, history, food, lodging, time spent in front of the fireplace, weather and snow quality, then Vermont has a lot to offer. Skip the west this winter and book your trip to Vermont. The northeast corner of the country has a lot to offer when the snow flies.
Many online resources are available to help you design your winter vacation.
The Vermont Chamber of Commerce provides extensive information on activities, lodging and dining choices in the Green Mountain State. Request their Winter Vacation Guide at the site. They will send it along with a state highway map. www.vtchamber.com
A quick link to all the alpine and cross-country ski areas and other
useful winter activity information can be found at the site of the Vermont Ski Association. Links to specific areas and inns are provided at the site. www.skivermont.com
Remember the “Sound of Music”? Vermont is the home of the famous Trapp family and their inviting lodge near Stowe. Don’t expect Julie Andrews, but the lodge is wonderful and you could pick up an Edelweiss mug at the extensive gift shop. www.trappfamily.com