Among the Vermont cognoscenti, it’s pretty universally acknowledged that Stowe has the best, biggest and most interesting terrain—2,360 vertical feet, descending from Vermont’s highest peak, Mt. Mansfield. No. 6 rankings for Challenge and Terrain Variety seem, if anything, a little low. One reader gets it: “Front Four, endless glades and hike-to Chin provide tons of challenging terrain.” Now, finally, Stowe has slopeside amenities worthy of that terrain. At the base of the sunnier, gentler Spruce Peak slopes, the grand Stowe Mountain Lodge nears completion, with its lavish spa, elegant guest rooms, splendid dining and arresting views of Mansfield. “Fabulous lodge and hotel,” says one reader, referring also to the adjacent Spruce Camp day lodge, which sets a new standard for base amenities. Combined, the two raise Stowe to No. 2 in both Lodging and On-Mountain Dining
(behind only Tremblant, which had better watch its back). What hasn’t changed is the natural beauty of Mansfield and environs (No. 6 for Scenery), and the enduring charm of Stowe village, a white-clapboard Vermont original dating to the 18th century and dripping with ski heritage dating back to the 1930s. Bars, restaurants and boutiques crowd its streets and much of the Mountain Road, which connects village and mountain, six miles apart. Readers, who know there’s no shortage of fine food, rowdy après and fun distractions, rank it No. 3 for Dining and Off-Hill Activities and No. 4 for Après. As for the snob factor? Maybe that’s to be expected. And readers chafe at the prices. (No. 29 in Value.) But Stowe’s “a classic,” getting classier each year.—J.C.
What’s New: The new wing of Stowe Mountain Lodge opens in time for the holidays, bringing the total number of premium slopeside rooms to 312. The 420-seat Spruce Peak Performing Arts Center debuts Dec. 27. And in March, Stowe hosts the NCAA nationals.
Mandatory Run: So many classics. Last year we recommended gnarly Goat and gentle Toll Road. This year we’ll throw in double-black Starr. Should keep you busy.
Local Secret: The FourRunner Quad opens at 7:30 a.m. on weekends and holidays. You snooze you lose: On powder days, the regulars, with their fatties, will have the Front Four tracked out by 9.