Our mission: a winter vacation with something for
everyone in the family. Our destination: Woodstock, Vermont, an easy 180-mile
drive from Portland. Woodstock Vermont is among
the best ski towns in the East.
If you have driven Vermont’s swerving but scenic Route 4, along the Ottaquechee
River, you have passed through the charming town of Woodstock, lined with
historic mansions and anchored by The Woodstock Inn.
The Woodstock Inn’s roaring 20-foot stone fireplace provided instant warmth as
we entered the lobby, and gleaned a bit of the bold thinking of the 1969 hotel’s
founder, Laurence S. Rockefeller (yes, the name should sound familiar). Our room
was tastefully furnished, with a gleaming white marble bathroom and one of the
comfiest four-poster beds I have ever encountered.
The Woodstock Ski Weekend package for our family included lodging, breakfast,
ski tickets for Downhill skiing at Suicide Six and Nordic trail passes, plus use
of the Health and Fitness Center – all of which are owned and operated by the
Inn, originally amassed by Rockefeller and his wife, Mary Billings-French.
Woodstock Inn, and the expansive resort property, is just a fraction of the
Rockefellers’ area acquisitions, part of their national environmental
conservation. The Rockefeller legacy is easily witnessed in Woodstock from their
reforestation efforts (after “Wood-stock” had been stripped of trees in the
1800’s), to Billings Farm, the Rockefeller’s ancestral home, and 550-acres, all
preserved as Vermont’s first National park, the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller
National Historical Park.
I explained this significance to our kids over breakfast, while they devoured
fluffy waffles drenched in requisite Vermont maple syrup.
Then we drove four pastoral miles through the Vermont river valley, by aging
barns, grazing horses and cows, and a quirky Country Store, to the legendary
snow-covered slopes of Suicide Six. The local lore surrounding this ski area
stretches back to America’s first ski lift, a rope tow powered by a Model T in
1934. In 1936, Bunny Bertram moved his ski operation to adjacent topographical
Hill No. 6, which some said was too steep to ski – even “Suicidal” – hence the
today’s standards (and with today’s equipment), Suicide Six is not so
intimidating. In fact, the 23 trails served by two-double chairs and a
handle-tow are family-friendly and tame compared to nearby
Killington, Pico, and
Okemo Mountains. We found the skiing at “Six” to be refreshingly
fun. The fireplaced base lodge is cheery and neat, with a sunny slope-facing
restaurant. The ski club (the oldest in America) and the staff (Woodstock
Inn-managed) are like an extended ski family. The 650’ vertical hill offers a
decently pitched face, and some meandering cruisers around the sides - mostly
covered in well-groomed, man-made snow.
skiing was also on our family-fun list, so after carving a dozen or so “Suicide”
runs, we decided to try some cross-country sliding. Woodstock’s Country Club, a
half a mile behind the Inn, gives winter adventurers over 60-kilometers of
groomed trails on the Golf Course, and the hilly Mount Peg and Mount Tom - all
inclusive to Woodstock Inn package guests. Snowshoeing is recommended for
climbing to the scenic summit of Mount Tom, along the century old carriage
After all this snow fun, we were rosy cheeked and ready to soak in the
impressive Health Club and Fitness Center, a mile beyond the Country Club. This
41,000-square foot indoor center has an Olympic-size pool and hot tub, sauna and
steam room, fitness equipment with exercise classes, indoor tennis, racquetball,
squash, and a full-service spa.
returned to the Inn for freshly baked cookies served at traditional Tea Time.
Then teenage daughter and I strolled downtown Woodstock as the sun set over
the beautiful brick buildings. We browsed a dozen establishments, from cluttered
country stores to chic art boutiques. She made me promise to return to Woodstock
for prom dress shopping at the vintage dress shop – always thinking about her
next fashion gig. My son’s interest in architecture had him touring the historic
district with a more intellectual eye, while Greg took photos of the incredibly
quaint settlement that dates back to 1761.
That evening, our dinner in the Woodstock Inn’s elegant dining room was
exquisitely prepared and delicious. The pianist lightened our otherwise formal
fare; we played a friendly round of name that tune.
Later, Greg and I kicked back in wingbacks at the Inn’s Tavern where a lively
jazz trio entertained. This cozy Richardson’s Tavern is a replica of the first
watering hole and lodge of Woodstock that occupied this spot in 1793. It now
serves as an inviting alternative if you prefer pub fare.
Sunday morning we roused early, and meandered 20-minutes along Route 4 to
gondola for a few hours of more extensive skiing on the east’s most sprawling
ski resort. Returning through Woodstock later that day, we waved fond farewell
to The Woodstock Inn and Resort, the centerpiece of the charming namesake town.
It was mission accomplished for our family. Even our
hard-to-please princess, with her passion for shopping and sleeping in sumptuous
surroundings, was smiling. Our energizer son had his fill of outdoor adventure
in the Vermont winter landscape. Greg found Woodstock and the
surrounding hills and mountains to be photogenic gems. I loved the dose of
education on vacation, tracing the wealthy but well-intentioned Rockefellers.
But I am not all about philanthropy; my cravings for posh 4-star lodging and
entertainment were met too.