Stowe, Vermont -- More Than Just Skiing
Stowe, Vermont, nestled in the Green Mountains and tucked into the western shadow of Mount Mansfield, the state’s highest peak, serves up color and excitement in abundance year-round. The town of 4,300 is renowned for its quaint shops and bistros, many lodges and inns. Stowe offers wide-ranging outdoors activities, including superb mountain biking and hiking, and fishing in pristine waters. Multiple ski resorts are within a couple miles.
Make Stoweflake Mountain Resort & Spa your operations base. This AAA Four Diamond Award resort has been a favored Vermont destination for more than 50 years. American military members can save 10 percent over the posted best available rate when making reservations. Valid military and photo IDs are required. While family friendly, it’s also the quintessential “romantic getaway.” That includes the fireplaces in some rooms, the cozy restaurants, and the incredible spa, which offers more than 100 different treatments, plus great soaking pools with waterfalls and mineral baths. The deep tissue massage along with some reflexology work I received from expert therapist Wendy after a couple days of fishing was amazing. They also offer an intriguing “Mountain Man Mud Massage,” for the more adventurous.
Vermont, reportedly, has more craft breweries per capita than any other state in America and several are near Stowe. Rick Sokoloff, owner of 4 Points Mountain Bike School & Guide Service, creatively blends biking and brewpubs during a full-day adventure that includes picking you up at your hotel, three hours of mountain biking, lunch and then a multi-stop brewpub tour that includes beer tastings. Breweries such as Rock Art, Lost Nation, Von Trapp (what a view from the deck!) and more are on the tour. The Alchemist, home to the famous “Heady Topper” ale, is walking distance from the resort. Stowe Cider, maker of tasty hard ciders (“Tips Up” was my favorite) is just across the street. The biking/brewpub tour is also offered as a special package when booking a room at Stoweflake.
If fly fishing is your game, work with Stoweflake staff to arrange an outing with the pros at The Fly Rod Shop. Vermont fly fishing is legendary and shop owner Bob Shannon patiently taught and retaught me more about fly fishing in three hours on a section of the Lamoille River than I’d learned in my entire life. Shannon and his team offer a variety of guided wading and drift boat trips, gear and instruction. Shannon said my face lit up like a kid’s on Christmas morning when a rainbow trout took my dry fly as it drifted by. Catching wild trout with fly fishing gear does that to you.
Climbing Mount Mansfield, Vermont’s highest mountain is hiker bucket-list stuff. Several popular trails take you to various points along the summit ridge (www.summitpost.org/mount-mansfield/150938). The fastest, easiest way to the summit is taking the Toll Road www.summer.stowe.com/activities/summer/auto-toll-road). It gets you to a 1.3-mile portion of the Long Trail that leads to the mountain’s chin, its highest point at 4,393 feet. Incredible views!
Growing up in the outdoors playground that is Vermont, I realize I took the Vermont countryside and places like Stowe for granted. Today, though, the scenic vistas, beautiful farms, the forested hillsides, and the clear rivers and lakes are something to marvel at with each return. Some places, especially when hauling along the kids, become mini-pilgrimages.
Among them is Vermont's top tourist attraction: Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream plant, just down the road from Stowe in Waterbury. You can tour the facility and watch ice cream being made. A well-stuffed cone at the end is pricey, but you’ll never get fresher, tastier ice cream. A couple miles closer is the Cold Hollow Cider Mill, a longtime producer of fresh apple cider. The fresh, free cider tastings near the cider press are delicious. Vermont’s Cabot Creamery cheese, especially the cheddar, is a nationwide favorite. The creamery also has an annex in Waterbury that offers of cheese samples. Both shops also offer all kinds of different jams and treats made from local products.
Other touring options: A couple venues near Stowe offer zipline adventures. Drive through scenic Smugglers Notch, a smuggling route during prohibition. Canoe on Waterbury Reservoir or the Winooski Rivers (www.umiak.com), or ride a gondola to the heights of Mount Mansfield. The concierge at Stoweflake has a long list of activities to try. Three golfing options are also nearby.