The state of Vermont has a distinctive charm, and the town of Stowe is the perfect example of this, with its boutiques, galleries, and tempting gourmet treats
By Nathalie De Grandmont
While the airport in Burlington, Vermont, is named Burlington International, no Canadian planes land there, so for most Canadians, a trip to Vermont means a drive south from Montreal—and it’s a lovely drive. You have only to cross into the state on US Interstate 89 to feel the mighty presence of the Green Mountains, from which the state got its name.
You can easily spend a day exploring Vermont’s largest city, Burlington, on foot. There’s the beautiful waterfront park and its views of Lake Champlain and New York State on the lake’s western shore. And, of course, you can wander, shop, dine, and people-watch on the city’s famous Church Street Marketplace, a four-block pedestrian mall in the heart of the downtown area with more than 80 shops and restaurants. But there’s a lot to see and do farther afield, and you can always come back to Burlington on your way back to Canada.
The Ski Capital of the East
Once you get off the interstate at Waterbury, the friendly cows (and ice cream!) of Ben & Jerry’s welcome you to an area with landscapes as green as its values. At the foot of the state’s highest peak, Mount Mansfield, is the town of Stowe, with the Little River snaking through it. The distinctive spire of Stowe Community Church stands tall in a picture-postcard setting filled with the town’s many congenial hotels and restaurants.
You should start by visiting the mountain, the summit of which is 4,395 feet above sea level. People have long remarked that the mountain’s outline reminds them of the profile of a sleeping giant’s face. For over a century, Mansfield has provided pleasure to hikers throughout the summer and fall and to skiers from the end of November to the beginning of April. (The area is known as The Ski Capital of the East.) Shuttle buses link the town to Stowe Mountain Resort, where lifts and a gondola take both skiers and sightseers to the top.
One of the largest ski resorts in the eastern United States and managed by Vail Resorts, it has more than a hundred runs for skiers of all levels— 16 per cent are for beginners, 55 per cent for intermediate skiers, and 29 per cent for experts. Between runs, you can enjoy a delicious cheese fondue at the rustically decorated and comforting Cliff House Restaurant, which is perched atop the summit.
Cross-country skiers can hit the trails at the Nordic Center or at the Trapp Family Lodge. In the 1950s, the singing family whose story inspired The Sound of Music settled in these hills, which reminded them of Austria. The von Trapps opened a lodge and ski resort and then, in 2010, a craft brewery, which you can visit on weekends (trappfamily.com). It’s the perfect spot for a snack, such as Austrian sausages or pretzels accompanied by one of the brewery’s lager beers.
In the afternoon and evening, why not indulge a little more? If you’re travelling with children, it’s hard to resist a guided tour of the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream factory, especially since it ends with a tasting (benjerry.com). In Waterbury, stop and try a few cheddars from Cabot dairy or ciders (and cider doughnuts!) from Cold Hollow Cider Mill. Another must is checking out the daily demonstrations and tastings at Laughing Moon Chocolates (laughingmoonchocolates.com). In the heart of the village, the irresistible Mercantile Store also awaits you. This century-old general store sells clothing and a range of accessories and antiques, but it also has a huge selection of old-fashioned candy sold by the pound.
Art at the Heart of the Town
The next day, it’s time to get to know Stowe. You can explore the Recreation Path on foot, by bicycle, or on snowshoes, depending on the season. This beautiful multi-purpose trail stretches over nine kilometres (five and a half miles) along the Little River and across several covered bridges and offers superb panoramas of Mount Mansfield and Spruce Peak in the distance.
Although the town is small, with fewer than 5,000 residents, it’s a perfect example of the colonial style typical of New England, as is Stowe Community Church, which is home to several congregations. Besides its pretty houses, Stowe features lots of one-of-a-kind boutiques and art galleries. As you stroll along Mountain Road, you will come across paintings and ceramics by outstanding US and international artists at Robert Paul Galleries. Not far away, the Remarkable Things boutique sells jewellery, photographs, original paintings, and decorative items made by more than a hundred artists and artisans, most of whom are from Vermont.
Back on the main street, you can browse at The Country Store, which offers kitchen and decor accessories, and at Northwood Gallery, which also features the work of many local artisans such as wood sculptors, potters, glass-makers, and painters; on weekends, a number of them offer workshops for the public. Then, for amazing glass-blowing demonstrations, make your next stop Little River Hot Glass Studio. An American by birth, Michael Trimpol grew up in Montreal and established himself as a glass-blower in Toronto. He and his wife, Monique LaJeunesse, who’s from Ontario, settled in Stowe, where he produces colourful vases and a variety of beautiful decorative pieces, often as you watch. He also gives personalized workshops (upon request) so you can make something under his supervision as he generously shares his passion (littleriverhotglass.com).
At cocktail hour, you’re spoiled for choice—the area has so many cider houses and microbreweries that you’d need a week to try them all. Stowe Cider blends tastings with live music every Saturday afternoon, and Idletyme Brewing Company hosts musical evenings on Fridays—you can sit in one of the cowhide chairs made by local artists as you sample some excellent craft beers and typical pub food.
From food to art to the great outdoors, Stowe never fails to charm, in any season.
If you go
• How to get there:
Take Interstate 89 South (exit 10) and then Route 100 to Stowe. In summer, Route 108 between Stowe and Smuggler’s Notch offers beautiful panoramas.
• Where to stay:
Sun & Ski Inn and Suites (1-800-448- 5223 or sunandskiinn.com) is a family-owned hotel that offers comfortable rooms (including some with kitchenettes), a pool, a minigolf course, a bowling alley, and an adjoining restaurant. If you’re travelling as a family, Smuggler’s Notch Resort (smuggs.com), with its water park and many activities, is a good option.
• For more info: