From mid-December through mid-April, Stowe is a winter wonderland. The ski area has expanded greatly in the past decade, opening up Spruce Peak with a new resort, base lodge, and expanded ski terrain. Yet it’s the legendary Front Four trails (all double black diamond) that precipitously drop down the face of Vermont’s tallest peak, 4,393-foot Mount Mansfield, that lure the most advanced skiers. With more than 400 kilometers of interconnected trails, the cross-country skiing at Stowe is the best in the East. Many of the top ski touring centers are linked together by thrilling backcountry trails that were created in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps. Another intriguing option is to take a guided snowshoe tour with Umiak Outdoor Outfitters through the mountainous pass called Smugglers Notch. In late January, the 12-day Stowe Winter Carnival features a round of snow golf at the Stowe Country Club, snow volleyball, super G races on Stowe Mountain, and a large village block party.
This being Vermont, autumn can also be considered high season thanks to fall foliage. One of the best leaf-peeping roads is Route 100 from Rochester to Stowe. North of I-89, you’ll pass the Ben & Jerry’s factory, worthy of a tour and a sample; the Cold Hollow Cider Mill, known for its cider, doughnuts, and large selection of maple syrup; and the Cabot Cheese shop and its wide selection of cheddar. The second week of October is usually when the leaves are at their peak. Make hotel reservations far in advance and check the road rage at the door: You won’t be the only ones out for some fall fun.
Shoulder season is actually during the summer in this part of Vermont, and it’s a peaceful time to be in the mountains. Those cross-country trails transform into mountain-bike trails. You can hike up to the top of Mount Mansfield on a variety of routes. Also, Stowe Mountain Resort features one of the top golf courses in Vermont, nestled within the peaks. If you’re around during the Fourth of July, head over to the neighboring village of Moscow for “the world’s shortest parade.”
Once the ski areas close down in late April, many locals take their vacations. May is the mud season. Avoid the town until early June, as trails are boggy, stores are closed, and the weather is unpredictable.