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A Trip To Stowe Vermont in the Winter
Stowe Vermont - A fun winter destination for the whole family
When I was packing the car for our one and half hour trip north to Stowe Vermont, I could not believe the amount of stuff we were packing. Granted winter trips require more layers of clothing plus we were bringing equipment for at least three different types of winter sports - alpine and nordic skiing and snowshoeing plus a sled just in case. And we were bringing the dog so we need all of his toys and snacks. Then there was our supply of cocktail mixers that we'd surely need after a long day on the trails plus board games, books and some food staples for the cabin we rented.
We rented a little one bedroom, plus loft (and pull out couch for when Unc met us) cabin that was cute as could be. It must have been 100 years old but it was decorated down to the custom bars of soap in the shower. The cabin was a bit closer to the road then we thought it would be but it had every convenience - mud room, laundry, wood stove, cable TV, spotty but usable WIFI, full kitchen with everything you'd imagine using etc. And the closeness to the road issue didn't seem to bother us on the day we left when six inches of snow threatened our departure.
After breakfast in the cabin and a long dog walk, we headed over to the Trapp Family Resort for some cross country skiing. Or at least we hoped. All the way up from central New Hampshire the ground was nearly bare. We were hoping that the higher elevation at the Trapp's plus their snowmaking would allow us to skiing in this nearly snowless winter and we were not disappointed. There wasn't tons of snow compared to other times we'd visited the Trapp's but there was enough to ski on and it was groomed. We headed out for the long climb to the warming cabin for lunch and the long down hill return. Soon back at our home base we'd have the wood stove goin' and the cocktails flowing.
After two days in a row of skiing our bodies were crying out for a break on day three but NO! Unc arrived late the night before and the weather was going change so we headed back to Stowe so Unc could get some snowboarding in.
Since Unc had to rent equipment it took a while longer to get going. They only rent snowboards out of the Spruce Peak area so we took a gondola ride over there and decided to check out the new base lodge and the newer Spruce Peak area. This area has four lifts serving a smaller mountain peak and is the domain of the ski lessons. Its a very wide open area with greens and blues but there are a lot of human obstacles to avoid. We took the lift up to the top of Spruce peak and tried one of the blues which was ok but difficult to get back to the life. Then we tried the other blue and almost had a heart attack when we reached something they call "The Head Wall". Cliff was more like it. For a non-expert skier I'm surprised they didn't figure out how to get a blue around this cliff. Most of the skiiers stopped at the top, to gain courage and then slid half way down the cliff until they figured it was now or never and took the plunge the rest of the way. We muscles burning from the days before we headed back over to the Mount Mansfield side, took in a few runs, had lunch and took it easy on the Toll House green area in the afternoon.
Day two we got up early, took the dog for a long walk, and switched over from nordic skis to alpine skis. Stowe was a short 15 minute drive from the cabin and we arrived early enough to beat most of the skiers and parked close to the base of the gondola. Stowe has a new system where you buy a RFID card once and then you can recharge it online so you never have to wait in line for a ticket. This was everyone's first visits so we all got our cards and off we went to the gondola. The ski conditions were fantastic and we found the terrain to have a nice variety of trails. The parents in the group ski mainly blues and cruisers and we found a lot of great trails to explore.
Stowe has a reputation for being expensive and I'd have to agree. The first day lift ticket was just under $100 and the restaurants can go from $12 for a sandwich at the base to $14 at the top of the quad to $20 at the top of the mountain. At least midweek recharges of our passes were less expensive at $69 a day. We ended up skiing at Stowe three times that week and surprisingly the lift lines were rather non-existent. I suppose people expected the conditions to be bad because back in Boston or New York the tulips were starting to poke through.
We hit Piecasso Pizza for dinner. We went early but this place was already mobbed. We barely got a parking spot and had to wait in the small cramped waiting area for nearly an hour after they made a mistake and crossed our name off the waiting list. This place is very busy with take out orders, I saw many mothers picking up stacks of pizzas, no doubt for the kids back at the townhouse. I suspect a lot of families staying at the Stowe resort, resort to take out pizza as a cost cutting maneuver if the base lodge restaurants are too pricey.
The pizza was fine but nothing to go crazy over. I thought the draft beer prices were crazy. Some of the beer "specials" were $7.50 for a pint! Most local beers were $5 which is more of what one might expect.
Ahh a day of rest and relaxation. Where is that hot tub when you need it? Unfortunately we didn't have a hot tub but we did have a little dog who was going cabin crazy so we headed out for a hike on the Pinnacle trail. A locals favorite this trail head up to a vista with and incredible view across to Mount Mansfield. A few of us donned snowshoes but there wasn't enough snow for them to make a difference. By the time we reach to the top it was snowing and there was no view but it was fun anyway. So much for relaxing. At least the dog was tired out.
For dinner we made 5:30 reservations (didn't appear that we needed to) at the Lagniappe at the Ten Acres Lodge. Lagniappe means "a little something extra" in creole and this unique cajun restaurant in the heart of Vermont does not disappoint. This place has a funky, comfy feel to it, relaxed, layed back and fun. The food is great and something out of the ordinary. We had some fantastic grilled oysters for a starter followed by Seafood Etouffee and Shrimp Jambalaya. They have a great kids menu and my twelve year old tried catfish for the first time and loved it. The waitress was a bit screwy but that was all part of the fun. We talked to the owner on the way out and discovered that she was born and bred in New Orleans so you know the place is authentic not someone trying to create a New Orleans place just because they think is cool.
The weather warmed up and everything started getting slushy. We took a morning walk on the Stowe recreation trail with the dog and planned out our day. We decided that a day of artisans arts was the order of the day so we headed towards Waterbury Center. We stopped at a glass blower and watched him work, we took the tour of the Ben and Jerry's factory and sampled their ice cream, we stopped for a sample of Cabot cheese and Lake Champlain chocolates, we sampled fresh apple cider at Cider Hollow, shopped for antiques and even did a wine tasting.
Later we walked around the historic Stowe downtown, did a little shopping and stopped in at the excellent Frida's Taqueria and Grill for dinner. Frida's makes fresh Guacamole at the table using a traditional lava stone mortar and pastel which is a treat for the eyes as well as the stomach. They have a wide selection of gourmet type taco to choose from which is a lot of fun. We had some with oysters and one with beef tongue as well as more traditional ingredients. It was fun to pick and choose three tacos and each one had unique sauces and tastes.
Unc had to go home, but six inches of fresh power on Stowe took the rest of us back to the mountain for one last day of skiing. The conditions were fantastic and the crowds still were not large. We didn't think our legs would last all day but with the snow still falling in the afternoon and the pure joy of smooth skiing without the chatter of ice kept our spirits high and we just kept going. Luckily we made it back to the car before the lifts closed because we were having so much fun we forgot to keep an eye on the clock.
For dinner pizza was on our mind again. This time we went to Pie In The Sky for some wood fired pizza, my son's favorite. The place has bright, funky, causal atmosphere and we got a seat right away. We were starving and start out with some salads. They were huge, nice and cold and very fresh tasting. Excellent. This was followed by the pizzas which were devoured.
Sadly it was time to pack up, toss the towels in the washer for the caretaker, shovel out the car and head home. All in all it was a fantastic trip to the winter wonderland of Stowe, Vermont.