Ski season tends to split New England into two distinct camps. Snowboarders and skiers sing the praises of a long season and myriad outstanding slopes to choose from, while the winter-wary shudder at the recalled dread of the ski lift and the memory of painful lessons on bunny slopes. As ski towns throughout the region start to fill up with snow-sport enthusiasts, everyone else makes a beeline for either the fireside or Florida.
However, in the mountain paradise of Stowe, Vermont—which proudly bills itself as "The Ski Capital of the East"—a state of harmony between the pro-snow faction and the anti-slopers is taken for granted. Beneath the superficial allure of its glistening runs lies a multi-faceted wonderland whose appeal reaches beyond the peaks.
In Stowe, you don’t have to clip in to a pair of skis in order to experience the thrill of gliding elegantly down a mountain or through a snow-dusted forest. ArborTrek Canopy Adventures just over Smuggler’s Notch—a winding road cutting between Mount Mansfield and Spruce Peak—organizes a zip-lining tour even in the snow-covered months. Be sure to dress warm because you’ll be reaching speeds upwards of 20 mph as you cut through the crisp air. No special skill is required, just a lack of acrophobia. Guides are friendly, funny and well versed in local ecology. Plus, the views from the treetops certainly beat the ground level, and more than 4,000 feet of zip lines and two sky bridges give you plenty of time to take it all in.
If high-speed action is not your cup of tea, fear not: outdoor pursuits in Stowe are not all about the adrenaline. You can meander through woodlands and past frozen waterfalls with a snowshoeing hike, or experience the still of Stowe’s snow-covered land like a local and hop on the “Rec Path,” a trail weaving its way through natural surroundings, from Main Street to the mountains. Stowe also has you covered if you’d rather skip the open air altogether and head straight for the fireside. Toasty warm shops lining Main Street sell regional artisan goods, and farm-to-table eateries can be found around every corner.
Books & Brews
A stop at Bear Pond Books means finding local authors as well as bestsellers tucked into a maze of wooden shelving. Stowe Craft Gallery lets you take home a piece of Green Mountain State craftsmanship with handmade pieces from Vermont natives. However, nothing gets you feeling cozy quicker than a libation or two, and Vermont has the highest per-capita concentration of craft breweries in the nation.
One of the most coveted brews in New England is made at The Alchemist Brewery, which expanded from Waterbury, Vt., to Stowe in 2016. Heady Topper, a double IPA with a smooth taste and subtle bursts of citrus, is their crown jewel of suds and can be found at the brewery as well as many local restaurants. This treasured beer even appears in a specialty confection at Main Street’s Laughing Moon Chocolates—purveyor of hand-dipped truffles and made-to-order hot cocoa.
Pies & Cows
Locals will tell you the best place to pair beer with pizza is Piecasso Pizzeria & Lounge. This joint serves slices with thin, chewy dough, crispy crust and toppings that are fresh, local and full of flavor. More savory bites can be found at Doc Ponds, where the burgers are made with local beef and the housemade hot sauce pairs well with everything. Just up the road, The Bench restaurant has a cozy, rustic vibe highlighted by a copper wall of beers on tap and serves up poutine (a Canadian comfort dish made from fries, cheese and gravy), fish tacos and wood-fired pizzas.
One of the most charming and convenient aspects of Stowe is the fact that all these incredible eateries, shops and things to do are just a short drive or walk apart and can be found along two intersecting roads, Route 108 and Main Street. When it comes to accommodation, Stowe Mountain Lodge is ideally located at the heart of the action. Its picturesque locale—nestled among the rising and falling mountains—and all-inclusive offerings make it a great choice whether you plan to ski or not.
Upon arrival, you’ll be greeted by a grand lobby with marble floors, high ceilings and a raised seating area complete with oversize fireplace, and the same chic-yet-inviting aesthetic is echoed in all rooms. The resort’s spa offers a selection of unique treatments including the Stowe Cider Uber Scrub—a cider-infused body scrub and luxurious massage along with a can of Stowe Cider to take with you. The ever-changing artisanal menu at on-site Solstice restaurant is as likely to include buttery, flaky fish sitting atop a bed of root vegetables and creamy sauce as a portion of perfectly cooked elk.
The hotel also boasts a skating rink and a small village of shops and cafes just outside its back doors. Excursions—from ice climbing to sleigh rides—can easily be arranged from the resort’s adventure hub making this ski-in, ski-out lodge surprisingly accommodating to all manner of winter visitors.
From top to bottom, Stowe is a destination worth its weight in fresh powder for non-skiers, and brings to life the magic of the season in a way only a small New England town can.