I just had a chance to spend a long weekend in Stowe, Vermont, and it was a great refresher on how much fun that small town can be. When people think of Stowe, they invariably think about Stowe Mountain Resort, that big ski resort on Mount Mansfield and winter sports. I like that too, but Stowe village itself is a winner.
Stoweflake, a cozy retreat with all the amenities
The center for our long weekend was the Stoweflake Resort on Route 108, just a short distance from downtown Stowe. A full-service resort with all the amenities, it still has the feel of a smaller, more intimate place. The arrangement of the rooms and facilities remind you of a European plaza, all buildings connected and surrounding a central garden area. This makes it possible to get from any room in the resort to any facility without going outdoors, a real plus during the winter. Just as impressive is the total quiet of the room, which were built with double walls like those between multi-movie theaters.
The inn also has some of the best exercise and training facilities we’ve seen in a resort. The Sports Club and the Sports Club Wing have a complete Cybex fitness center, a separate well-equipped workout room for women, another room for those who favor exercise bikes, and a stretch room. There is a big indoor pool and an even bigger heated outdoor pool that is open even during the winter. Adjacent to the spa and the locker rooms are men’s and women’s saunas and steam rooms and a co-ed thermal pool and therapeutic waterfall pool. After a day on the slopes at Stowe, cross country skiing or snowshoeing on trails just outside the door be sure to reserve a massage at the award winning Spa of Stoweflake. The Stoweflake Apres Ski Massage was perfect and the list of other options is long.
Exploring Stowe village
Although no more than a half mile long, downtown Stowe is a happy combination of small town traditional businesses and the smart galleries vacationers love to browse in. In a former church at the center, the Vermont Ski and Snowboard Museum is a fascinating place to spend an hour or more. Gondola cars and chairs from lifts around the state fly overhead, and examples from each stage in the sport’s history, from hickory boards to modern parabolic skis adorn the walls. An integral part of the exhibitions are devoted to Vermont’s role in Olympic competition and a special section on the founding and history of the famous World War II 10th Mountain Division.
Small downtown shops provide plenty of browsing. The largest is Stowe Mercantile, next to the Green Mountain Inn, where you can spend hours exploring its two floors of clothing, souvenirs, household accessories, maple candy, Vermont-made gifts and locally produced jams and condiments.
Stowe Craft and Design, by the bridge on Rte 108, collects the creative works of Vermont, New England and other US craftsmen and artists in a stunning gallery, but with affordable prices. Original jewelry in silver and other media, metal tree sculptures, brilliant collages by Betsy Silverman and Sabra Field prints are displayed alongside smile-inducing metal animals sized for yards or desktops, inlaid wooden boxes and magnificent kaleidoscopes that are works of art in inlayed woods and brass.
Indulging in a local brew
One of the amazing things about this little town is the extent of the micro-brewing and beverage enterprise in the area. There are at least a dozen places to taste and test before buying and to hit them all could be a mistake. A good way to get a good sampling without running afoul of the law is to visit them with Four Points Brewery Tours. Four Points picks up and returns at local hotels and inns. Visitors age 21 and older get a flight of beer samples at each of four or more breweries, and at a cidery and/or distillery. These may include Rock Art, Lost Nation and von Trapp breweries; Green Mountain Distillers for specialty local vodkas; and Stowe Cider for a sampling of hard cider varietals. While you can do tastings on your own, after the first round you’ll be glad you aren’t driving.
And of course, dining
There is no shortage of places to eat in the Stowe area. The Stoweflake Resort itself is a good place to start. Charlie B’s Pub, Restaurant and Wine Bar has everything from a bar menu to new American cuisine and tavern-style fare, and its wine collection has been recognized by Wine Spectator. For fine dining drive a short way down Route 100 to Michael’s On the Hill for locally sourced fine continental-style dining. For lunch, stop in at the 1950s-themed Depot Street Malt Shop for burgers, sandwiches, or steaming chili covered in melted cheddar, accompanied by ‘50s songs.