Road Trip: Stowe, Vt.
By Bob Karlovits
Published: Friday, January 4, 2013
Updated: Saturday, January 5, 2013
Chuck Baraw says “95 percent of all businesses in Stowe are owner-operated,” which creates a sense of responsibility to the community from the business leaders.
That concept has kept the town growing as a recreation site while keeping it an attractive place that “exemplifies the New England town.”
Baraw is the managing director of the Stoweflake Mountain Resort and Spa, a venue owned by his family for 50 years. He has been working at it for 40 years — returning to his home after working for an oxygen-supply firm in the Pittsburgh area.
“This is a great town, a real town,” he says.
Stowe might be best known as a ski site, but he says is has a true, three-season life. Fall leaf-watching comes second followed by swimming, biking and fishing as summer draws.
The slow season is short, he says. Skiing begins to melt as a business in April and, by May, destination weddings start to add life to the resorts and inns.
Cycling has begun to gain an important role in the area, he says. Mountain biking is big on the slopes of Mt. Mansfield and other nearby areas, while road bikers have taken to tree-lined routes nearby, he says.
“The great places for vacations are the ocean and the mountains, and here we are,” Baraw says.
Bob Karlovits is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-320-7852.
It is hard to talk about Stowe without discussing skiing.
The peak of Mt. Mansfield sits above the town, beckoning a trip downhill.
The Stowe Mountain Resort (802-253-3000 or www.stowe.com) is the dominant ski area, with a summit elevation of 4,395 feet, Vermont's highest peak. It has a vertical drop of 2,160 feet on 485 skiable acres and 116 trails.
The longest run is 3.7 miles long, but it offers routes for any degree of experience and lessons to help skiers get to the next level.
Resort staffers like to talk about “The Great 48,” pointing to trails that are so individual they defy comparison.
More than a place to stay
Some of the town's top inns and resorts make a stay in Stowe more than simply a few nights in a hotel.
The Top Notch Resort and Spa (800-451-8686 or www.topnotchresort.com) began as a family-owned village inn in 1959, but has expanded to include all sorts of activities, including a tennis academy started in 1977.
Meanwhile, the Stoweflake Mountain Resort and Spa (800-253-2232 or www.stoweflake.com) has claimed fame with its spa treatments, using custom wellness programs and natural, noninvasive applications. It has been named one of the top 10 “destination spas” by Fodor's travel guides.
Fiddler's Green Inn (802-253-8124 of www.fiddlersgreeninn.com) has a quiet, Bob-Newhart-like feeling, with cross-country skiing out the back door. The staff keeps a pitcher of iced tea handy in the main room.
Take the fun indoors
Stowe is best known for its outdoor activities, but there are times when going indoors beckons.
The village has a variety of places where you can enjoy an afternoon or evening with the arts — in a number of settings. The Spruce Peak Performing Arts Center (802-760-4634 or www.sprucepeakarts.org) presents a range of events from ballet to touring shows. Singer-songwriter Martin Sexton is scheduled to perform Jan. 18.
The Green Mountain Fine Art Gallery (802-253-1818 or www.greenmountainfineart.com) is dedicated to presenting a range of art, abstracts and landscapes inspired by the rugged outdoors.
Meanwhile, the Sleeper House Gallery (802-253-6945 or www.sleeperhousegallery.com) brings art to an at-home level. Amid displays of pastels, watercolors and photographs, the gallery features household goods, such as pillows, candlesticks and furniture.
Shop and stroll
A few days in Stowe might bring on the need to do a little shopping.
The town easily provides the chance to spend a day strolling through the business district with more than 70 shops that will let you get gear for your laptop or gaiters for a day in the snow.
For instance, if you need clothing to feel a little better about apres ski gatherings, you might want to stop at In Company Clothing (802-253-4595 or www.incompanyclothing,com). Because photography is large part of any location this attractive, a visit to Green Mountain Camera (802-244-0883 or www.gmcamera.com) might be in order.
And, it seems nearly impossible to stop in town without visiting the Trapp Family Lodge (802-253-8511 or www.trappfamily.com) for a few gifts to mark the stay. That shop was founded by members of the family depicted in “The Sound of Music.”
Sometimes, the triple-diamond slopes are a little too difficult for the whole family, and members need to find activities that can let them spend time together.
The Stowe area is home to places that let families do that in many ways.
The Apple Tree Learning Center (802-345-5728 or www.appletreelc.com), home of indoor and outdoor adventures that broaden knowledge about the outdoors. From llama rides to indoor climbing, Apple Tree gets to the core of learning and adventure.
Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream Factory (802-846-1500 or www.benjerry.com) is a trip into the place where they make those cool flavors. Visitors can see a history of the firm at the Cow Over the Moon Theater.
Once Upon a Time Toys (802-253-8319 or wwww.stowetoys.com) gives shoppers a way to encounter toys from all over the world, including ideas such as Tim the Flying Bird, whose propeller is driven by a crank.
The hills are alive
The terrain around Stowe offers nearly endless ways to experience the outdoors. In the warmer months, zip-lining is a speedy way to blaze through the woods. Streams and lakes offer broad opportunities for fishing and swimming.
But the winter offers dramatic opportunities.
Cross-country and downhill skiing are not the only ways to travel across the wilds in the winter. Snowshoeing is a rather simple, yet aerobically satisfying, way to cross miles of snow. The Green Mountain Club (802-244-7037 or www.greenmountainclub.org), the largest Vermont hiking club, has put together a map on nine diverse snowshoeing trips in the area. The routes are marked with distances, expected time and trailheads.
Edson Hill Manor (800-621-0284 or www.edsonhillmanor.com) is an inn that offers a nice place to stay, but it offers sleigh rides throughout the winter. Stable crews provide throw blankets to take away some of the chill.
Meanwhile, Umiak Outdoor Outfitters (802-244-7037 or www.umiak.com) offers activities where most of work is done by helpers: dogs. The company sponsors 20-minute dogsled rides in town and two-hour tours about 45 minutes away.
The chime of the dinner bell
A day on the slopes, trails or wandering through town can create an appetite that needs immediate attention or can be nursed along to a big dinner.
Business folk in the town and its resorts know that, and offer restaurants that try to fit all diners' needs.
For instance, Charlie B's Pub and Restaurant (802-253-7355 or www.stoweflake.com) has a complete menu and wine list of at least 50 selections, 10 beers on tap and a martini bar.
Meanwhile, the Cliff House Restaurant (802-253-3000 or www.stowe.com) offers the same breadth in selection, but sits on the shoulder of Mt. Mansfield, so is one of the many restaurants in the area with a spectacular view.
Taking a slightly humbler stance is McCarthy's Restaurant (802-253-8626 or www.mccarthysrestaurantstowe.com), which is best known for its breakfasts and lunches — and has the reputation among locals as a good place to hang.
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