The last race of our winter season brought us back to Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont for the Sugar Slalom. History and tradition come alive at the festive weekend event, a 70-plus annual event that pits serious athletes side-by-side revelers dressed in tutus and banana costumes. And because it’s Vermont, this rite of spring features long wooden troughs where sticky fingers make short work of warm maple syrup ladled upon a bed of snow. Although it was my second Sugar Slalom, vastly improved snow conditions gave me a chance to truly appreciate just how well Stowe lives up to its reputation as the “Ski Capital of the East.”
Thanks to Mother Nature (and 90% snowmaking coverage) all trails were open on the last weekend in March. With three peaks, 485 skiable acres, and 39 miles of skiing, that was more terrain than we could cover in two days. But we tried.
My daughter spent most of the weekend on the race course and nearby trails. My husband and son took off on challenging black diamond trails and glades in “In-Bounds Wooded Areas.” Not being as technically proficient (or foolhardy) as the menfolk, I stuck to mostly intermediate trails, which still allowed me to ski from one end of the resort to the other. My favorite trail, however, was one of the easiest – the 3.7 mile Toll Road, a gentle meandering run with a surprise tucked in the woods–a Mountain Chapel whose winter services(Sundays at 2pm) are only accessible to skiers.
Multiple chair lifts, some faster than others, and a high-speed 8-person gondola to the top of Mount Mansfield ensured that even on a busy event weekend there was virtually no wait in lift lines. And that I skied more runs than my muscles could comfortably handle.
Ski School at Stowe
Over 77 years of teaching on Mt. Mansfield and Spruce Peak, Stowe has earned a well-deserved reputation as a leader in ski instruction. Smart planning went into placing the Children’s Adventure Center next to the Child Care Center, both immediately accessible from the parking lot drop off zone and adjacent to the slopes and lifts used to instruct beginners. More than 300 instructors are on hand to teach anything from beginner basics to advanced skills covering both alpine and nordic skiing, as well as freestyle and snowboarding to children as young as three-years-old, teens, and adults.
First timers can start off with The Big Easy – a two hour semi-private introductory lesson which includes a beginner lift ticket. Planning to return often? Consider the Season Long Mountain Adventure Pass–avoid the registration line and head right to the Adventure Corrall all season long.
Brilliant idea: The youngest learners are outfitted with a neon bib, making them clearly visible to instructors and passing skiers.
In recent years, Stowe has invested a lot of money and real estate into terrain parks. And yet, the resort retains a relaxed, family-friendly vibe. Maybe it’s because there are so many terrain parks, including a couple that go from top to bottom, but I never felt like I had to watch out for showboaters. Instead, as I traversed Stowe’s slopes, I got such a kick out of observing kids tackling the terrain parks–from the smallest, bibbed skiers jumping over a foot-high plastic barrel to freestyle jumps into a big airbag.
Tip: Green Mountain Freestyle Center in nearby Williston, Vermont provides freestyle trampoline training for snowboarders, skiers, skateboarders and anyone who wants to learn body control and air awareness while flipping and spinning in a “low risk environment.”
Dining at Stowe
No trip to Stowe with kids would be complete without a chocolate-drizzled Belgium waffle from the Waffle Cabin at the top of the gondola ride, and there’s lots to like at other mountainside eateries. For those of us on a budget, however, there are less pricey restaurants in town including a couple of pizza joints with inventive menus. I’m partial to the “Blond Vermonter” (Vermont Cheddar, apples and ham on a thin curst) at Pie In The Sky but I’m also torn between a number of creative combinations at Pie-casso.
What Else Is There To Do at Stowe?
Although we were plenty busy just skiing, Stowe offers a number of fun winter activities including: nordic skiing and snowshoe hiking at the nordic skiing, dog sledding, snowshoe tours, and sleigh rides. Good thing that with all this strenuous activity, there’s also a number of spas for unwinding and relaxing. And even kids as young as six-year-old can benefit from treatments such as the “Chillax Session” at The Spa at Stowe Mountain Resort.
Where To Stay
The most convenient accommodations are at the luxurious Stowe Mountain Lodge; best amenity: Ski Valet stores your equipment upon arrival, bringing it out for easy access to the slopes when you’re ready. Almost as close are Stowe Mountain Resort’s numerous lodging options, from condo and townhouse rentals to the country inn by Toll Road.
As we were traveling with members of the Jiminy Peak Race Team, we opted for the group rate at the very affordable Golden Eagle Resort, only minutes away in Stowe, VT. Our room was spacious and very clean, with two double beds and a pull-out couch. Best of all, the bathroom featured an oversized soaking tub–a much appreciated amenity after a long day of skiing. Breakfast at the Colonial Cafe was included at no additional cost. Other family-friendly amenities–including an indoor pool, hot tub, fitness center, nature trails, and skating pond–were also available.
Getting To Stowe
Located in north-central Vermont, Stowe Mountain Resort is 40 minutes from Vermont’s largest airport, 15 minutes from Interstate 89, and 15 minutes from the Amtrak train station. By car, Stowe is 183 miles from Albany, NY (3:45 hours); 204 miles from Boston, MA (3:19 hours); and 351 miles from New York City (5:40 hours.)