Into the Belly of the Best

In Stowe, Vermont's quintessential New England ski town, you'll find serious slopes, tree-bashing trails, in-town après attractions, genteel locals, and a good example of Mother Nature's competing personalities.
ski stowe
The Beast of the East: Stowe in its downy-white extreme (Landwehrle Studio/courtesy, Stowe Mountain Resort)

Want to know how to make 30 degrees feel downright balmy? Try weathering negative 20 degrees on a night where a low-hanging harvest moon mocks your frigidity with its orange-hearth glow.

"Welcome to Siberia," said the Thrifty car rental shuttle driver when he picked me up at Burlington International. I'd been waiting for only five minutes, but that had been long enough to illustrate his point. It was cold. Inventives and imprecations were pointless. It was just...plain...cold.

But—as I soon discovered from that five-minute shuttle ride—Vermonters are far removed from the gruff, fur-laden Russians of your mind. They're an easy-going bunch, free of pretense, easy to approach, easier to talk to. Beard growing is an art and smiles bloom without provocation. Spend a day there and you'll understand why: the state is an orgy of the senses. Name a season and it thrives, from the arboreal splendor of its maples and spruce to its snow-covered mountains and valleys to the profusion of spring flowers lining the hiking trails and singletrack.… Almost every place you eat, sleep, or lounge has huge windows looking out at the state's expansive landscape, a steady, quiet reminder that you're nestled in the cradle of quintessential New England.

I'd come to Burlington that frigid night to spend the next three days relishing Vermont's world—renowned steep piste and tree skiing. And where better to experience such a humbling attempt at alpine mastery than the aptly dubbed King of East Coast Skiing, Stowe Mountain Resort?

Lying 40 miles west of Burlington, Stowe—both the town and the mountain—inspires a profusion of adjectives: quaint, charming, old world, picturesque…. Yet for a place that seems secure in its own postcard-hued universe—steeple-crowned churches, covered bridges laden with snow, the early dawn illuminating the hunchback ridge of the Green Mountains—Stowe resides within shouting distance of most major eastern U.S. cities. Leave your office by noon and you'll be sipping a fireside cocktail before dinner, your bliss shadowed by only one decision: How early are you gonna wake up and hit the slopes?

For me, the answer was simple. Temperatures be damned, I aimed to be on that mountain the moment the lifts opened.

Nathan Borchelt is the lead editor for

Published: 3 Mar 2005 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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