Nestled in the valley of Spruce Peak and Mt. Mansfield, Vermont’s tallest peak, is a resort community that both indulges and invites you to connect with nature. Stowe Mountain Lodge offers incredible mountain adventure, 300 luxury rooms, an outdoor heated pool, an award-winning spa and dining. Guests geared up with boards, skis, Nordic equipment, snowshoes and even the occasional dog, give the resort a decidedly high-energy, get-outside buzz. The “Vermont-Alpine” décor —a stunning play of stone and wood—offers a sturdy backdrop and a hushed welcome to all the hustle and bustle.
Stowe is rated as a top ski resort for families by Forbes and frequents “best of the East” lists. And it’s no wonder, it offers 39 miles of skiing and more than 20 miles of trails for exploring. There is also a well-oiled—dare we say parent-friendly—efficiency here with curbside valet service, free ski and gear storage and transport, an easy gondola ride between the two peaks and an all-access resort card that you preload using a credit card. It becomes both your lift ticket and your lunch pass. Parents of independent teens and tweens love this option.
Despite its warmth and beauty, there is still some room for improvement; the hotel has surprisingly few family dining options. But scenic Stowe village, loaded with restaurants and boutique shopping, readily fills that gap.
For those who are more inclined to use “muscles not motors” there is lots to do. About half-mile down the road is the Cross-Country Ski Center with about 22 miles of groomed Nordic trails and rentals. There is also an estimated 25 miles of family-friendly and backcountry snowshoe trails. Some of these adventures begin right at the resort’s back door. All are booked through the spa, nicely linking outdoor adventure and rejuvenation.
Stowe is somewhat of a snowshoers destination with at least 10 places to rent snowshoes, join guided tours or set out on your own on miles of groomed and recreational trails. The Long Trail, built by the Green Mountain Club in the early 1900s and inspiration for the Appalachian Mountain Trail, passes through here. And locals love scenic Bingham Falls, which is part of Mt. Mansfield State Forest.
André Blais, recreation manager, says there is awesome snowshoeing right at the Lodge. “We are at the crossroads of a fantastic network of trails with endless snowshoeing options right out the door,” he says. The Spruce Peak trail network covers 5km and is surrounded by 2,000 acres of conservation land that is also prime black bear habitat. Here are his picks for four great adventures that begin at Stow Mountain Lodge.
1) For the Uninitiated
Around 90 percent of their guided trips are with first-time snowshoers Blais says. For that reason they offer about four outings per day geared to new snowshoers. These tours are highly customized to the group’s needs and offer tips from how to strap on shoes to simple techniques for getting up and down hills. There’s a nice easy loop that with a few bridge crossings that is fun for kids.
2) For the Environmentalist
There is much to tell about Stowe’s environmental efforts. The centerpiece is a 110-million gallon, manmade lake that is a source for Stowe’s snowmaking and conservation efforts. Around the lake are manmade wetlands that support native wildlife. Their efforts haven been recognized by Audubon International through a Sustainable Community award. Add to that a “Just Leave Tracks” program that encourages thoughtful use and stewardship of trails. Snowshoers get a guided, first-hand look at these efforts.
3) For the Adventurous Family
A winding road runs along Smuggler’s Notch between the two peaks in warmer months. But in the winter there is no hum of car motors, only the crunch of a snowshoe. The Smugglers Notch tour offers great views of the cliffs of Mt. Mansfield and takes about 90 minutes. Blais estimates that two active adults will get up to about 1,000 feet. Most kids don’t make it that far he says, but it is a family-friendly trip because the trail is easy and wide open. It’s also a great starting point for the more adventurous. “From there you can go up the Notch and connect to other trials,” Blais says. He recommends Sterling Pond and Hell Brook Trails, both of which are part of the Vermont State Parks Trail System.
4) For the Early Riser
A favorite trip of Blais’ is the sunrise tour. The tour itself is about 60 minutes with a climb to an elevation of about 500-800 feet. But when the weather and sun are just right, the tour can catch sight of the lovely alpenglow. “When the sunrises, it comes across the horizon at an angle and it bounces off the mountain. The mountain turns pink and purple,” Blais says. “It’s one of my top three natural experiences; no words can describe it.”
Stowe Mountain Resort was named No. 3 on our list of top snowshoe-friendly ski resorts: https://archive.snowshoemag.com/2012/10/23/no-3-snowshoe-friendly-ski-resort-stowe-mountain-resort-vermont/.
For more information on Stowe Mountain Lodge, visit http://www.stowemountainlodge.com.