Stowe: Old School Meets Modern in Vermont’s Most Famous Ski Town

Stowe-DVT-Fall-2014-2WORDS // Chea Waters Evans

With the cool vibe of a ski town, restaurants and nightlife that rival any big city, and the inexplicable yet undeniable character that only Vermont can offer, Stowe is New England’s hottest spot for vacationers, winter sports enthusiasts, and foodies alike. They may call Stowe the Aspen of the Northeast, but one day, they just might call Aspen the Stowe of the West.

People always have and always will come here for the skiing. Locals began hitting the slopes a century ago, and since then, skiers and riders from all over the world have come to Vermont to experience the trails that accommodate everyone from a wobbly 2-year-old to Olympic athletes. If skiing isn’t your thing, for some old-school scary fun, sledding on Marshall Hill behind the town’s elementary school provides an actual cheap thrill. Speeding downhill isn’t the only way to enjoy that fluffy white stuff, though. The Stowe Recreation Path and the adjacent Quiet Path are perfect places to snowshoe, and Trapp Family Lodge and Stowe Mountain resort both offer extensive cross-country ski trails and rentals. For those who prefer to sit and take in the natural beauty and crisp air without breaking a sweat, there are several options for horse-drawn sleigh rides, including Gentle Giants, which operates out of the Topnotch Resort.

The most taxing part of a Stowe visit is choosing what to do before and after all that activity. By carb-loading at the Dutch Pancake Café start the day out right. A stop at the Bear Pond bookstore on Main Street for some fireside reading material is a must; a skier must be prepared to be snowed in. Shopping can work up an appetite, and if lunch at the lodge isn’t your style, the Café on Main is a great stop for soup, sandwiches, and decadent baked goods. Right next door, The Stowe Mercantile is a perfect spot for souvenir shopping, Vermont art and craft items, and a wide selection of regional gourmet delights. The Vermont Ski and Snowbaord Museum next door exhibits everything from early pairs of Nordic skis to one of famed snowboarder Jeff Brushie’s dreadlocks.

Chain stores are off the map in Stowe; shopping on your day off from sporting is an adventure. Green Envy and Well Heeled, both on Mountain Road, offer chic clothing brands and luxury shoes and accessories that rival any Manhattan boutique. AJ’s Ski and Sports has rentals, equipment, and stylish ski wear, in case a little extra is needed for an après outfit. The Nordic Barn has gear for Nordic skiers, backcountry skiers, and telemarkers, and also has ski trails right out back. The Stowe Craft Gallery features work from Vermont artists, jewelers, and craftspeople.

Stowe-DVT-Fall-2014-5A little shopping, a little lunching, a lot of skiing, and then what? Better think about it over a cocktail. The Matterhorn is the quintessential après ski watering hole in Stowe, a place where locals and tourists happily co-exist. Downstairs is an upscale martini bar, and upstairs is a traditional bar with great food, lots of beer, and live music. The Rusty Nail is also a hot après and nightlife venue; city folks meld with ski patrollers in this big barn that features an all-seasons outdoor bar area, live music, and happy crowds.

Choosing a dinner spot can be even more daunting than choosing a pair of ski boots; every option seems better than the last. Plate, a new eatery on Main Street, is inspired by California cuisine but adds some local flavor. The popular—and delicious—authentic Italian offered by the charming Trattoria La Festa is a must-try. Piecasso is the go-to pizza spot in town, and just off Mountain Road, but worth the trip, is The Bistro at Ten Acres which has an eclectic menu, including Vietnamese grilled shrimp, steak frites, and everything in between, as well as an extensive selection of scotch and inventive cocktails.

Stowe will never lose its charm or its easy, quirky Vermont style—New York chefs come to visit and never leave; skiers pop up from the city for a weekend and end up with a condo; Vermonters reconnect with their roots and move back with their kids. This blend of old and new, traditional and modern, is what has made this ski town such a draw for so many years, and will continue to do so for the century to come.