When Vail Resorts announced the purchase of Vermont’s Stowe Mountain Resort in 2017, the reaction was predictable.
Some people were happy. Some people were not. Everyone wondered what it would mean for the resort.
Stowe Mountain Resort is unique in that before 2016, it was independently owned and unaffiliated with any other ski resorts.
The previous owners of Stowe had only recently completed a 10-year, $500 million investment, including expanded high-efficiency snowmaking, high-speed lifts, and a small, pedestrian-friendly village complete with all resort services and the Stowe Mountain Lodge.
Stowe wasn’t suffering from a lack of investment, a backlog of deferred maintenance or underutilization.
And unlike recent Vail Resorts acquisitions in the midwest, Stowe is a destination resort, not a local ski area.
Get to Know Stowe
In early January, my husband, one of our sons and I arrived at Stowe Mountain Resort two days after the “bomb cyclone” that dropped and drifted snow across New England, while ushering in frigid temperatures.
Our timing was perfect. The holidays were over, kids were back in school, the temperatures were warming and the snow was soft and creamy.
Discouraged by the slow start to the Colorado ski season, we packed up to visit family, take advantage of the abundant Vermont snow and “ski the East.”
Predictably, many people scratched their heads (after removing their ski helmets) and asked, “Why?”
The answer was simple: “We have Epic Passes. We’re going to Stowe.”
Ski the Front Four
When you mention skiing at Stowe, often the first question asked is “Did you ski the Front Four?”
While the mountain has 40 miles of trails, with a whopping 55% of them rated intermediate, 29% are rated expert, among them the Front Four rising up above the historic Mansfield Lodge.
The Front Four are:
Liftline – directly underneath the Forerunner Quad high speed lift;
National – a run that cuts diagonally from skier’s right to skier’s left across the front face of the mountain;
Starr – found off of Upper Lord on skier’s right of the lift; and
Goat – a narrow run that begins at the top of the lift on skier’s left.
As you’ll see in this video, while these runs are steep and the skiing is challenging, it’s not insurmountable.
And the Front Four aren’t the only great runs on Mount Mansfield.
Looking at a Stowe trail map, you’ll see lots of intersections and opportunities for variations, including glade skiing.
A Wealth of Intermediate Terrain
In addition to the Front Four, the Mount Mansfield portion of the resort has plenty of fun, rolling intermediate terrain, but no beginner runs aside from the Crossover cat track.
From the top of the Fourrunner quad check out Ridgeview, Lord and Sunrise, following them to single black-to-blue runs like Hayride or further across the mountain to numerous blue runs and glades served by the Mountain Triple chairlift.
It’s here that you’ll also find Stowe’s three terrain parks.
Intermediates also have good options off of the Stowe gondola.
Rising to the resort’s highest point at 3,625’, the gondola accesses a wealth of what I picture as quintessential New England terrain — narrow, tree-lined runs winding down the mountain.
These runs, including Switchback and Perry Merrill, named for the Depression-era Vermont state forester who cut the first ski trails at Stowe, are a delight.
Progression on Spruce Peak
While all of the terrain mentioned above is on Mount Mansfield (Vermont’s highest peak at 4,395’), Stowe has additional terrain of all levels on Spruce Peak. Adjacent to the new base village, Spruce Peak is home to the Adventure Center.
Spruce Peak has three high-speed quads. The longest of these, the Sensation Quad, terminates at the top of the mountain and offers a combination of intermediate and advanced runs, as well as racing terrain where you can watch the University of Vermont ski team as they train.
The other two quad lifts on Spruce Peak serve easier terrain, with Meadows being a good starting point for beginners and Sunny Spruce Quad featuring rolling intermediate terrain.
With all resort services nearby, skiing and riding on Spruce Peak is an excellent option for families who aren’t yet ready for the longer, steeper terrain on Mount Mansfield.
The other option for beginners is the Toll House area, removed from the rest of the resort, with its own parking lot and ski-in/ski-out lodging on Route 108.
Taken together, skiing at Stowe has a clear progression, which keeps skiers and snowboarders of diverse abilities mostly apart from one another.
Ski and Ride Midweek
Skiing on a Monday and Tuesday, we had Stowe to ourselves, sharing the resort’s 485 skiable acres with mostly local skiers and snowboarders.
Stowe is a popular New England resort and an easy drive from Boston and other large cities. While we have no idea how crowded Stowe gets on weekends, midweek is sure to be more quiet.
For nonstop laps, relaxed family skiing, small lesson groups and plenty of freedom to enjoy the center village ice rink and the Stowe Rocks indoor climbing facility, you can’t beat Monday – Thursday skiing.
When You Go…
Stowe isn’t very large, but it’s big enough, and the terrain is interesting enough, to warrant a three or four-day visit, especially if you’re coming from afar.
We had just two days at Stowe and it wasn’t enough. I, for one, did not get nearly enough laps on the Front Four, nor an opportunity to really experience Spruce Peak.
So while I’ve tried to cover our impressions of the mountain, I welcome your suggestions and corrections in the comments.
As for lodging, it’s hard to get beyond the convenience and comfort of the Stowe Mountain Lodge in the base village.
Located just steps from the Over Easy gondola connecting Spruce Peak with Mount Mansfield, the Stowe Mountain Lodge has inviting, spacious condo units, ski storage, an outdoor pool and hot tubs and a beautiful spa.
If you can’t choose between an après drink or spa treatment, you don’t have to. Unique to the Spa at Stowe Mountain Lodge, you’ll find services that combine local cider and mead with treatments like scrubs, wraps and massages. Plan to arrive early or stay late at the Spa to enjoy the whirlpools, steam rooms and saunas, as well.
As for dining, enjoy a memorable meal at Solstice in the Stowe Mountain Lodge. Offering unexpected and unique combinations and riffs on traditional dining, I’m still in awe of the Thai-infused whole roasted cauliflower appetizer. Other excellent choices include the sweet potato gnocchi with mushrooms and swiss chard appetizer and the elk, daily catch and day boat scallop entrees.
Finally, while we didn’t have time to explore, I hear the town of Stowe has many excellent lodging and dining options at all price points.
Stowe is on the Epic pass, but for the current 2017-2018 season only, Epic Pass passholders must present their pass at a ticket window to get a Stowe RFID card.
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