If you’re looking for snow with a history, it doesn’t get much more storied than Stowe, which was one of the United States’ first two ski resorts. In the early 1930s, there was Sun Valley in the west, and Stowe in the east. That was it. The town of Stowe and neighboring Mount Mansfield were originally a summer resort community that sprouted in the 1880s. Wealthy vacationers traveled to Stowe by train and stagecoach, escaping the heat of New York City and Boston.
The posh Summit House Hotel sat on top of Mount Mansfield, towering over the valley, and a 4.5-mile road carried stagecoaches from the base to the top. The hotel burned at the turn of the 20th century, and today that stagecoach road is Stowe Mountain Resort’s legendary cruiser: the Toll Road.
Stowe consists of 485 patrolled acres, covering two distinct peaks, Mount Mansfield (at 4,395 feet, the highest mountain in Vermont) and the tamer Spruce Peak. Both sit inside the 6,000-acre Green Mountain State Forest, where hundreds of miles of snowshoeing trails and legendary backcountry lines can be bagged by intrepid adventurers. The variety of on-piste terrain at Stowe is dizzying, stretching across 40 miles of trails, including some of the steepest cut trails in the Northeast.
Beginners will be most comfortable on Spruce Peak, where a magic carpet and three small lifts service ideal beginner terrain. When you’re ready to spread your wings, head to the top of Mount Mansfield for unparalleled views and the family-friendly Toll Road, which cruises the edge of Stowe’s boundary against the state forest for 4.5 miles from the summit to the Toll House area.
Stowe also has a host of great, mile-long cruisers that drop 2,000 vertical feet, perfect for intermediate skiers looking to carve big turns until their legs turn to jelly. Perry Merrill, off the high-speed quad, is a blue named after the Vermont forester who originally helped cut Stowe’s ski trails.
For advanced skiers looking for bragging rights, take the Fourrunner Quad up to Mount Mansfield’s summit and ski the "Front Four," four of the toughest trails on the East Coast, each with sustained 36-degree pitches. When people say Stowe "skis like a big mountain," this is what they’re talking about.
The never-groomed National is one of the most notorious bump runs in the region. Bring your A-game to Liftline, where you’ll ski tight, technical lines beneath the ski lift. And Goat and Starr are both narrow, steep, winding trails with ledges and boulder drops. All four are rated double black by National Ski Patrol standards.
Bonus: the resort is now part of the Epic Pass program, one of the few resorts included on the East Coast.
You won’t find anything more plush than Stowe Mountain Lodge, which has worked its way onto perennial Best Ski Lodge lists. You’ll bunk slopeside, have views of Mount Mansfield out your oversized window, and have the area’s best spa at your fingertips.
Balanced on the shoulder of Mount Mansfield, the Cliff House Restaurant layers in fine dining in a truly striking high-elevation alpine setting, with an open kitchen churning out regional American cuisine crafted from seasonal, artisanal ingredients. It typically opens each winter in early December, and the hours can be weather-dependent.
Fingers crossed you can attend one of the Summit Series Dinners, which teak place select Saturday evenings year-round, and include a gondola ride to the restaurant.