The town of Stowe, Vermont, is a natural charmer. On Main Street in the 19th-century village, the Vermont Ski and Snowboard Museum takes history buffs back to the days of wooden skis and single chairlifts. Red barns, Swiss-style chalets, and old-school après ski bars dot fields blanketed with snow along Mountain Road. And up on Mount Mansfield, the state’s highest peak, the famous “Front Four” double black diamond runs beckon the most intrepid powder hounds.
Vail Resorts felt the allure and added Stowe Mountain Resort to its roster of big-name mountains in 2017. Now Stowe is rubbing elbows with its Epic Pass counterparts like Breckenridge and Park City, while New Englanders are benefiting from a better season rate to “The Ski Capital of the East.”
The History of Stowe Mountain
The nickname is well deserved since Stowe is where alpine skiing began in the Green Mountain State. While wooden skis were first introduced as a mode of winter transportation, the town’s turning point took place during the Great Depression. Under President Roosevelt’s New Deal, young men in the Civilian Conservation Corps cleared trails on Mount Mansfield. By 1937, the Mount Mansfield Ski Club opened a rope tow, and in 1940 the single chairlift made its debut.
Stowe Mountain Resort has definitely come a long way since this lonely ride made its first ascent up the mountain. Twelve lifts now access 116 trails—that’s 485 skiable acres on the gondola-connected Mountain Mansfield and Spruce Peak. The terrain offers something for everyone, with 16 percent of the runs rated as beginner, 55 percent intermediate, and 29 percent expert. Here are a few of the best runs of each level.
Lower Spruce Peak, home of the ski school, is the place for newbie skiers trying out their snowplow turns. The Meadow Quad accesses the gentle bunny hill trails Meadows and Easy Street, while the Adventure Triple lift leads to Inspiration. Beginners looking to take their game up a notch can head up the FourRunner Quad on Mount Mansfield to navigate Toll Road, the long, well-known green circle that winds through the woods.
What gear you are using can make a huge difference when hitting the greens as a beginner. You want shorter stable skis or a board that makes it easier to turn, but still able to respond quickly even if you are moving at a slower speed. Epic Mountain Rentals offers a Sport Package specifically for first-timers and beginners that addresses all of this. You can get boards and bindings or a full ski set up with poles. Helmets and boots are also available for rental.
The best bet for lower-intermediate skiers is to start with the easier blue runs at Spruce Peak. More confident intermediates who like to cruise the blues should veer towards groomed runs off the Gondola like Gondolier or Perry Merrill—named after the resort pioneer. With a nod to Charlie Lord, another resort pioneer, a run called Lord at the Mansfield base side, is another favorite blue, as is the scenic, self-described Ridgeview. Both are accessed via the FourRunner Quad.
Another option off the FourRunner Quad is Nosedive, an iconic black diamond trail cut by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1934. After loosening up on its twist and turns, expert skiers can choose their own adventure among the adjacent “Front Four”—Starr, Liftline, National, and Goat—the famous double blacks on Mount Mansfield’s face. Conquering bumps on the narrow and steep Goat with its double fall line always earns bragging rights at the bar.
The Après Ski Scene
Since the 1950s, skiers have been shedding a few layers and regaling their day on the mountain in the cozy glow of The Matterhorn. Amid old-school wood paneling, the scene is lively at this riverside throwback where sushi rolls add modern flair to a classic pub menu also featuring wood-fired pizzas and burgers. For the crowd not worried about waking up for first tracks, late-night pints are poured to the tunes of local bands.
Farther down the road at Piecasso, playful thin-crust pizzas, such as the Tree Hugger or The Big Kahuna, are whipped up with locally sourced ingredients. With art-lined walls, Piecasso features a vibe that’s cool and contemporary, as is the selection of local microbrews on taps, like the Alchemist’s Heady Topper. On Thursday nights, ski and snowboard movies set the mood for the weekend.
Closer to the village, Doc Ponds offers a chill après-ski as vinyl records spin on two turntables. Along with thousands of records to choose from, the hip hangout with retro appeal boasts 24 rotating taps, with a selection that includes pours from the nearby von Trapp Brewery and Stowe Cider. Creative bar bites also keep everyone smiling, along with “Adventureman,” the whimsical, pom-pom hat-wearing character on the chimney of the barn-red building.
Stowe is home to charm, adventure, nostalgia, and the natural beauty of Vermont. When it comes to skiing in New England, you won’t find a better place to enjoy an incredible winter getaway.