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Monday, January 28, 2019

Winter Weekend in Stowe

The Grandview Barn on Stowe Hollow Road

Mountains or Oceans.... the oh-so-important question asked of many outdoor enthusiasts and single folk swiping on dating profiles.  For a long time, I was a die-hard no questions asked ocean person.   But as time goes by, I can't deny that there's this magnetic pull to the mountains.  And this attraction?  It's pulling me a little harder into the woods than into the water these days.   

The more time I spent on mountains, the more I started to crave the way my calves burned on a hike, the bittersweet feeling of setting up your tent in the dark, and the absolute quiet that comes with being alone on a far away trail.  

These days, I want to be on a peak with my dog, I want to steal sweaty kisses from someone on a summit,  I want to sit on a rock and eat my smooshed sandwich and warming craft beer - items that taste so much better at elevation.   I want to see the view above the treeline and find the nearest brewery once the bags and the dog have been loaded back into the car.  

The more time I spend in the mountains, the more these scales start to shift.  Jagged peaks and densely wooded trails have become just as important to my happiness as a rugged coastline.  

Stowe Gondola, Stowe Mountain Resort

To be fair, I don't need the Rocky Mountains or 14,000 footers to find my footing -  our mountains here in New England are always beautiful, can certainly be challenging, and are often underrated.   Let me camp in the Berkshires, wander in the Whites or hike in the Greens - that always does the trick.

Stowe is one of my favorite mountain escapes here in New England.  It's a mountain town that shows off it's perfect fall foliage when the mountainsides are on fire with golden hues.  It's a promise of fresh snowfall, coating the town in a crisp shade of white, best enjoyed on skis or from a big bay window with a crackling fire to keep you warm.  It's the quaint covered bridges and winding walking trails.  It's the mountain town variety of dingy ski bars and new age breweries, delicious restaurants and quaint coffee shops (beer sales included).  It's everything you love about Vermont and the Green Mountains in this nearly perfect little town.  

When I travel, I always do the "Could I Live Here" test and Stowe passes that test for a few reasons: 

Seasons - fall foliage, summer swimming holes, spring flowers, winter skiing - there is something to do every season of the year
Food - so many great restaurants and just about everything you could want (bagels to sushi) - only the good restaurants survive in this town and the mediocre spots are replaced quickly
Booze - great breweries and bars - craft beer and crafty cocktails - home to famous breweries like von Trapp and The Alchemist
Recreation - you name it, it's here: mountain biking, hiking, skiing, snowshoeing, walking paths (refer to seasons)
Charm  - the cutest coffee shops and beer stores, old-timey New England general stores, beautiful boutiques, rental shops for anything you could need

Spruce Lodge Area 

And then there's the Epic Pass.  A season pass and free lodging really motivates you to leave the shoreline and get into the mountain, destination Stowe.  This recent trip was perfectly timed with an epic snowstorm and a three day weekend.  It involved two days of skiing, restaurants, a trip to a few breweries, cross country skiing, and time spent with friends, new and old.  So let's recap another Stowe weekend.

Pat and I left Connecticut after work Friday and battled a bit of rush hour traffic in an attempt to leave when the rest of the world did - and on a holiday weekend.   It was smooth sailing after Springfield and we settled into a game of "guess the artist" .... 90's edition as we made the 4 ish-hour drive to Stowe.  We arrived just in time to unwind by the fire, gearing up for a Saturday on the slopes before the big storm.

Mornings in Stowe 
Deep powder back in the woods

Stowe Mountain Resort 

Stowe Mountain Resort 

After a lazy and slow start Saturday morning, we loaded our gear into the car around ten and headed to the mountain where we were met with large crowds, long lines and high ticket prices - the trifecta of a late start on a stormy holiday weekend.  

Having the Epic Pass gets you away from the high ticket prices and long lines at the ticket window - creativity and patience will help with the crowds.  The snow was decent and we did a few runs on the groomed trails before meeting up with Liz and company for a drink.  After skiing a handful of runs for a slow Saturday on the mountain, we took the Gondola to Spruce Lodge where we had drinks and watched people skate in the rink outside.  On our way back to the house, we stopped at Tap 25 for a late lunch of chicken nachos at a nearly empty bar, happy to be away from the crowds at last. 

The rest of the night was spent sipping wine by the fire and enjoying the calm before the storm.  Stowe was forecasted to get 18 to 24" overnight and more snow throughout the day.  To take full advantage, plans were made to be at the mountain at 7:15, just in time for the first lift on the mountain. 

Lots of fresh snow 

Sunday was everything the weatherman had promised.  Nearly a foot of fresh powder fell on the mountain overnight with a steady 2-3 inches per hour throughout the day.  I drove to the mountain in the dark and walked to the lift line just as first light filled the stormy sky.  An early start meant I was able to enjoy some of the best powder skiing I have experienced, getting first tracks on some of Stowe's runs.  I spent the day skiing with some Stowe locals who knew the mountain like the back of their hand and had a great day dipping in and out of glade runs and double blacks with my tour guides.  By 1:30 pm we were exhausted and headed to the bar for a beer and a pretzel before heading back to the house.  The night ended with dinner at Zen Bar and ramen before heading to Pat's aunt and uncles house for a relaxing evening by the wood stove. 

The Alchemist 

High wind, closed lifts, sore legs, and negative single-digit temperatures sealed the deal on a day OFF the mountain, swapping my Volks for some skinnier skis.   I grabbed some rentals from AJs and we headed to the start of the recreation path where we cross country skied along the trail.   Bundled up and motivated by promises of beer, we followed the path all the way to Stowe Cider (one wipeout included) where we warmed up and enjoyed a pint before heading back (for a total of three wipeouts in the group).  

Post ski and cider, we stopped at Doc Ponds for a beer and a burger (good and gooood) before our last yet very important stop at The Alchemist to stock up on Focal Banger and Heady Topper.  We eventually loaded up the car around 3:30 and began the journey back to the Connecticut shoreline.   The drive home included the Three C's: coffee, chocolate, and cheese and soon enough, we were back in Connecticut where the temperatures were slightly warmer in the single digits and the snow was nothing but a pain in the ass. 

Stowe Ciders 

To wrap it all up, it was another glorious weekend in the mountain - chock full of skiing, friends, good food, better beer, warm crackling fires, and some good R&R.  Another Stowe weekend in the books and thanks to this Epic Pass and good company, many more to come.

View from the Gondola 

Trip Recap
Tap 25
Zen Bar
Doc Ponds

The Alchemist
Stowe Cider
The WhistlePig Pavilion (Spruce)
Bar at the Main Lodge (Stowe)

Ski Stowe (one of the best powder days of my life)
XC Ski the Recreation Path

More Stowe - The Stowe Series

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