is an option for non-skiers at Stowe Mountain
Vt. — The secret to happiness is perspective, and that’s
particularly true when skiing.
instance, should you be intimately familiar with the
mighty mountains of the American West, East Coast skiing
might seem tame, if not short, icy and gray.
if you’re from Manhattan, and your usual peaks are the
hills north of New York City, Vermont will seem like the
blue runs here are like the black ones back home,"
said Manhattanite Neal Cooper, 39, while we balanced on
skis amid Stowe Mountain Resort’s snowy peaks and pines.
"This is just more terrain and more challenging than
what we’re used to."
might be why we met at an intersection of blue runs.
and his wife, Hyla, in fact, have never skied the West.
want to go west, but we’re afraid we’ll never want to
come back here," Hyla Cooper, 31, said.
seemed like a fair concern after meeting Joe Bruno, who
owns an Italian restaurant in Norwalk, Conn. Sure, Stowe
is relatively close to home, less than a five-hour drive,
but he had just returned from two weeks at Wolf Creek, the
south-central Colorado ski area legendary for getting the
most snow in that snowy state.
used to do 30 days a year out here, but now it’s two or
three," said Bruno, a 66-year-old snowboarder (yes,
you read right). "Once I found out about the West, I
gave up on the East."
there was Bruno on a late February afternoon, wooshing
across Stowe’s slopes for a simple reason: There is
skiing to be had in the East, and it can be pretty good.
Eastern skiing might not be Colorado or Utah, but it is an
entire coast’s version of speeding downhill.
the most dramatic and challenging options is Stowe, 45
minutes east of Burlington, Vt., which is routinely ranked
among the best Eastern ski resorts by Ski Magazine. Long a
mountain with minimal ski-in-and-out accommodation, Stowe
added a 130-room boutique hotel in 2008. It has grown to
more than 300 comfortable rooms (most with gas
fireplaces), plus a spa, an outdoor heated pool, two hot
tubs, restaurants, bars and, most luxuriously, a ski valet
who manages a visitor’s gear between runs down the
then there is the mountain.
there is verticality — from my room, Stowe looked
awfully downhill at first glance — but it is manageable
verticality. Base elevation is 1,280 feet. The highest
point on the mountain that can be reached by ski lift is
3,640 feet, just below Mount Mansfield, which is Vermont’s
highest peak. Between Western skiing (grandly epic) and
Midwest skiing (sort of cute), Stowe fits snugly between.
their peaks stand at lower elevations, Easterners like to
brag that their skiing is more difficult than the Western
version. That’s mostly because of the ice, which usually
is less like skiing on a cloud of powder and more like
trying to stay alive on a sheet of ice. Easterners say
that if you can ski the East, you can ski anywhere.
three days at Stowe, I had never skied out East. But I had
been warned about it: the ice, the winds, the gray. And,
indeed, on my first day the top of Stowe was swallowed in
fog that one Bostonian said, in the customary accent, was
"like skiing through pea soup." Duly warned, I
still headed up to a long, twisting blue run called Upper
Sterling to investigate.
a long chairlift ride through a thin, breezy snow, I was
deposited at the top of the empty run, which was shrouded
in bright haze. The ride down was lovely: I couldn’t see
far, but every piney branch before me was frosted with
snow and ice. It was like a trip through an L.L. Bean
runs are split into two areas on two separate mountains,
separated by a road and connected by a gondola. The one
featuring Sterling is the shorter, which means the next
day I explored the other side, the taller one, the one I
had studied from the warmth of my room. And it was a
special day for East Coast skiing. In the words of one
snowboarder speaking to a fellow snowboarder: "Dude!
The sun is coming out! Sweet!"
began on the long, green run know as Toll Road, which
travels a meandering 3.7 miles, along the top and edge of
the mountain, with frequent diversions into blue runs
should you want to extend yourself a bit before
reconnecting with Toll Road’s leisurely beauty. And if
it’s 2 p.m. Sunday, you can pause at the Mountain
Chapel, a ski-in, ski-out nondenominational house of
worship, for its weekly service.
on the lift and heading for more challenging fare, I
ascended with a bearded gentleman in black ski pants and a
green windbreaker who said he lived north of Boston. He
had skied plenty of the West but swore by Stowe. He had
taken a three-hour bus ride early that morning to be at
Stowe for the night.
extreme skiing, this totally compares to the West,"
he said. "You can hike up to Mount Mansfield and get
back in there. It’s pretty extreme. If you need to get
rescued, you have to pay for it yourself."
nodded to our right. "See that yellowish ice?"
he said, pointing to a patch of nearly vertical black rock
and snow. "I was just over there."
we could exchange introductions, we were off the lift, and
the bearded gentleman was heading back to tempt fate
you can do that skiing out East too. And later that
afternoon, when a storm brought a few inches of fresh, wet
powder, I swore I could have even been in the West.
THERE: Stowe Mountain Lodge is about 3 1/2 hours by car
from Boston and 5 1/2 from New York. You can fly into
Burlington, rent a car and make the 45-minute drive to
Stowe. Burlington International Airport gets direct
service from Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, the major New
York airports, Philadelphia and Washington via United,
Delta, JetBlue and US Airways.
Solstice, in the lodge at the base of the mountain, offers
an upscale modern American breakfast and dinner. The Cliff
House, near the peak of Mount Mansfield, offers daily
lunch and occasional dinners throughout ski season.
Quality meals sit a short drive from the mountain,
including at Harrison’s (25 Main St., Stowe;
802-253-7773; harrisonsstowe.com); Crop Bistro &
Brewery (1859 Mountain Road, Stowe; 802-253-4765;
cropvt.com); Michael’s on the Hill (4182 Waterbury Stowe
Road, Waterbury Center; 802-244-7476;
michaelsonthehill.com); and Hen of the Wood (92 Stowe St.,
Waterbury; 802-244-7300; henofthewood.com).
Winter rates at Stowe Mountain Lodge (5781 Mountain Road,
888-253-4849, stowe.com) range from about $259 (a standard
room without a kitchen) to $2,500 (a four-bedroom suite).
Just down the mountain, toward the town of Stowe, are
other accommodations that offer shuttle service to the
mountain, including the Green Mountain Inn (18 Main St.,
Stowe Mountain slopes (116 runs, mostly intermediate) are
expected to open Nov. 23. One-day adult passes cost $98 at
the mountain or $84 online. See stowe.com/ski-ride/lift
for details and discounts.