Summit Elevation 4,395, Lift Served to 3,625', Vertical 2,360'
485 acres, 40 miles of skiing
12 Lifts, 116 Trails - the longest run 4.7 mile Toll Road
Since 1934 - Mt Mansfield Ski Club, home of the oldest Ski Patrol in the US
Stowe is a dichotomy for downhillers, a beauty queen with a beastly
side, glamorous with gritty steeps. Since Stowe’s 1930’s
Mansfield’s challenging terrain has called to core skiers, earning it the
moniker “Ski Capital of the East.” Meanwhile the swank Spruce Peak
Village, the church-steepled Main Street of
Stowe and the bustling Mountain Road of European inspired establishments lend a
sophistication and elegance to this Vermont vacation spot.
Lately, the classic
Stowe has become “classier” as the venerable Vermont ski area revealed
the swank new Stowe
Mountain Lodge and Spruce Base Camp. After 15 years of master planning, and
$400-million dollars, this massive mountainside
development adds a Deer Valley vibe and brings luxury lodging “slopeside,” something
Stowe previously lacked. Enter Vail Resorts, purchasing Stowe Mountain, the ski
terrain - not the village, for $50 million, Vail's first East Coast ski resort -
to be part of their Epic Pass.
For decades Stowe’s ski terrain was divided in two faces. Mansfield featured big
mountain skiing for big dogs, and Spruce Peak was Stowe’s sleepier side, with
learning terrain, anchored by a funky Austrian style base lodge. Now Spruce Peak
is stately and stylish, with outdoor fireplaces dotting the pedestrian village,
a massive 139-room hotel and spa, mountain “cabins” (rich people code for
monstrous $3-mill mansions) hugging the hillside, and a Performing Arts Center
with top music, entertainment and theatre.
New lifts have revitalized the Spruce Peak terrain (which abuts Smugglers’ Notch
Resort). Stowe even installed New England’s only 10-person gondola, Over Easy,
which travels over the notch road connecting Stowe’s two mountains. So skiers
staying or parking at Spruce are just moments from the base of the Fore Runner
Quad or the Gondola that access Mt Mansfield (skiing on Vermont’s highest
mountain at 4,395’). See our Stowe Ski
Gallery of Photos.
Traditionalists needn’t worry about all this transformation; because Stowe’s
legendary terrain remains. Original trails like Nose Dive and the famous Front
Four, dating back to the 1930’s when Perry Merrill and Charlie Lord cut the
first ski runs with the help of the CCC, have been altered and widened over the
years to accommodate snowmaking and grooming. But they are still 2,055’ of
butt-kicking vertical, just as steep and stunningly scenic. The rugged 1936
Stone Hut still stands at the summit as testament to early ski pioneers that
shaped this mountain.
Stowe’s local skiers line up for first quad at 7:30am on weekends, 8am
midweek. Stowe’s toughest trails, namely Starr and Goat,
haven’t gotten any tamer with age. But Stowe’s more forgiving runs – Lord and Sunrise remain scenic and serene.
Stowe’s bright red 8-passenger gondola lifts you 2,160’ vertical up another
flank of Mt Mansfield, which features classic runs like Gondolier and my
personal favorite Perry Merrill. If you have tackled your “10 by 10,” a Stowe
locals’ thing, you start craving lunch at The Cliff House, in the Tyrolean lodge
at 3,625’ atop the gondola. The fondue will melt away your morning fatigue.
Stowe’s clientele is as split as its two mountains, Spruce and Mansfield. The
separate social circles share quads and polite conversations, call them the rich
and the radical, tycoons and telemarkers, the elegant and the earthy. The
well-pitched terrain attracts the east coast’s best backcountry blazers (I have
been sworn to secrecy about Stowe’s awesome off piste skiing), but Stowe is
equally popular with Bogner wearing city folk who bomb the groomed boulevards of
Stowe on their ski holidays.
Now the powder-loving pedigree, Bostonians and New Yorkers, have luxury
on-mountain lodging to buy and call home, and an Alpine Concierge at their
beckon call to store their skis and boots, and fetch wine & cheese when they are
ready for après ski or a spa treatment. This Concierge service is very Four
Seasons – and included when you stay (and when you buy ownership) at Spruce
Peak’s posh hotel. The Stowe Mountain Lodge decor is rocky mountain regal
and the slope views are “reach out and touch” close.
If the tariff for Stowe’s supreme alpine accommodation is too steep, (prices are
$500-$1,500 a night), head down the Mountain Road. This Vermont ski town is soup
to nuts when it comes to colorful and varied lodging and dining, you have full
service resorts like Topnotch,
to European hillside chalets at Trapp Family Lodge, modern hotels on the
Mountain Road like Field Guide, or stay in Stowe village the
original Green Mountain Inn.
Save après ski time to tour the dreamy postcard village of Stowe, which dates
back to 1763. Along Main Street, you can find everything from penny candy and
Vermont-made wool pants at Shaw’s century-old General Store, to runway fashions
and designer downhill apparel. Stowe’s gallery and boutique scene will keep even
the most sophisticated shoppers amused. A visit to the Vermont Ski Museum in the
historic Town Hall gives a glimpse of Stowe’s skiing past.
The Green Mountain Inn offers
excellent après ski and Vermont cuisine at their cozy bar, The Whip.
If you still have outdoor energy, the 5.5-mile recreation path is perfect for
cross-country skiing or winter walks winding along the river. There’s even a
year-round “Swimming Hole,” an indoor pool and athletic facility funded largely
by local snowboard success Jake Burton.
If Nordic skiing is your knack, Stowe has an impressive network of touring
trails encompassing 150-kilometers of groomed tracks and 100-kilometers of
backcountry trails. The most famous Nordic facility is The Trapp Family Lodge -
the first touring center in North America, btw. This “Sound of Music” family’s
settlement is now a phenomenal resort perched on a gorgeous hillside, with
Stowe’s dining repertoire is a rainbow of 60 some-odd restaurants, from
elegant après at Stowe Mountain Lodge's Hourglass and fine dining at Solstice, to family-friendly pizzerias, organic cafés, and cozy pubs, to candlelit inns and
upscale bistros, Stowe’s diverse demographic inspires a culinary contest, like
“Top Chef in ski country,” and the diner wins. Then there is rocking nightlife at Rusty Nail or the
Matterhorn - a Stowe après ski classic.
Stowe proudly embraces tradition with mantras like “If you can ski Stowe, you
can ski anywhere” and “there’s always snow in Stowe you know.” At the same time,
this Vermont ski town continues to evolve with avant-garde restaurants, chic
shops, and a stylish slopeside village at Spruce Camp. As the two interconnected
ski mountains, Spruce and Mansfield, straddle the Notch Road, Stowe Mountain
Resort bridges the gap between old-school classic and trendsetter.