A WEEKEND AT STOWE

by Paul Maraschiello

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I decided to fly up to Stowe for the weekend just before Christmas. I caught a plane Friday evening and rented a car at the airport. I had booked a reservation at Ye Olde England Inne and arrived late that evening. I thought it would be an excellent place for this Olde Ski Bume to rest his weary head after a hard day on the slopes.

THE INNE



Ye Olde England Inne is located just up the Stowe access road about 1/4 mile from the stoplight in the heart of this picturesque New England town. This inn is one of the nicest places I have had the pleasure to visit in all my ski trips to Vermont. The building started out as an old farmhouse and has been expanded over the years and had acquired charm and an elegant ambiance. It now looks like a sprawling Tudor mansion tucked into the mountainside.



I was given a suite in the Bluff House addition to the establishment. I liked the sitting room with its fireplace and the large four-poster bed in the bedroom but the most impressive thing about the suite was the whirlpool tub built for two in the bathroom. This is just the ticket for soaking away those minor aches and pains that you discover after a heard day on the slopes. Too bad I was alone on this trip. The candles that were on the whirlpool could have turned a soak in the tub into a romantic interlude. This place thinks of everything! In addition to the romantic ambiance, and the soaps, lotions and other amenities you find at most hotels, they even provided a little sewing kit that came in handy when I did some stitchery on my old gloves.



I had breakfast and dinner there but I missed the afternoon tea. The menus are sumptuous and there is plenty to choose from. The Granola and fruit I had for breakfast was delicious and lower in cholesterol than the Bangers & Eggs, Welsh Rarebit, Smoked Turkey Hash, Eggs Florentine, Strawberry Bismarck Crepes, omelettes and other breakfast delights that appear on the menu. As you may have guesses, I'm trying to eat heart-healthy these days.



THE SKIING

I arrived at the slopes early and got a parking spot right near the lodge. I picked up my tickets and hopped on the chair and warmed up on a run right under that chairlift called Liftline. After my warm-up run, I took the double black diamond Goat trail to Lower National and Crossover to the gondola, where the liftline was almost nonexistent. No liftline, a warm gondola, and pleasant people to chat with on the way up the mountain convinced me to stay a while on this side of the mountain.



I spent the day skiing all the trails serviced by the gondola and enjoyed the nice snow that they had. Perry Merrill was in good shape and groomed, as was Gondolier. I took a lot of runs down both of these slopes because they are each almost two miles long and give you great top-to-bottom skiing.



I took a run on Chinclip and it was bumped-up and icy in a few spots. It was a real challenge. I stopped at one point on top of a mogul and was surveying the mountain. It looked like 100 miles of bad road to me and I was questioning my good sense in taking an icy mogul run when another guy stopped on a mogul above me. We were both thinking the same thing, "what the heck have I gotten myself into?" I laughed and called up to him. "I guess I'm not as young as I use to be," I said. "My legs aren't like they were when I was 25," he said. I smiled. If this guy, who was at least 20 years younger than I was, is having trouble in the icy bums, then I'm doing OK. We both made it through the toughest part of that mogul field and I decided to give up skiing icy moguls for the rest of that day.



I did a couple of runs on Switchback and explored Clifftrail to Rimrock where I got in a little cross-country skiing and a lot of poling. The snow was so good on the trails serviced by the gondola and the warm gondola is so nice to ride, that I never made it back to the other part of mountain that day and I never made it to Spruce Peak at all. In fact, I often forget that Spruce Peak exists. It's all blue and green trails that hold little interest for me but would greatly appeal to someone who is a beginner.



Stowe has a lot to offer skiers of every ability. They have a 2,360' vertical with 47 trails and 480 skiable acres. They have snowmaking on most of the trails (73%) and receive an average of 260" inches of snow every year. This is a "classic" New England Ski area with many narrow, undulating trails of varying degrees of difficulty and many beautiful vistas.



After skiing, I enjoyed the live blues band that was playing in the base lodge. The singer was belting out the songs and it reminded me that Stowe always has fine entertainment on the weekend at happy-hour, especially on the holidays.





I had a great time skiing and went back to my accommodations and soaked in the whirlpool bath. AH, IT'S GOOD TO BE A SKI JOURNALIST!



FINE DINING

I had eaten at Pickwick's Restaurant when I was in Stowe for a British car show and I was looking forward to dining there again. I highly recommend this restaurant to anyone who is interested in a really fine dining experience. This time, I enjoyed one of the best spinach salads I have ever eaten, followed by venison ribs that were tasty. This place has an interesting menu that includes: English Fish and Chips, Steak & Kidney Pie, and Grilled Tofu & Portabella Napoleon, and Surf-n-Turf. Venison, Ostrich Tenderloin, Vermont Pheasant Breast and Mixed Grill are all low cholesterol items that one can find on this gourmet menu.



The food at Pickwick's isn't the only thing to recommend it. The wine cellar and beer lists are extensive. They have 21 beers on-tap including: Double Diamond, John Courage, Old Speckled Hen, Bass Ale, Harp, Newcastle Brown, Fosters, Boddington's, Otter Creek, Ruddles County Ale, Magic Hat #9, Caffrey's Irish Amber, Abbot Ale, Guiness Stout, and Long Trail, just to name a few. They have a really well stocked wine cellar and have received The Wine Spectator Magazine's "Award of Excellence" for one of the "World's Finest Wine Lists".



In the whiskey department, they have the widest assortment of single malt whiskies I have ever seen on a menu. This pub has 30 whiskies from all parts of Scotland and two from Ireland. The menu describes them in great detail for those of us that are not too familiar with the nuances of high-class booze. They even have a martini bar for those that like to have "tee many martoonis" (they have 9 flavors).



This is the kind of place that has an outstanding ambiance, exceptional decor and a menu of food and drink that is unusual at ski areas. Mr. Pickwick's in the "upscale" category of Stowe's restaurants and the quality of the food and drink justifies the slightly higher prices at this establishment.



MORE SKIING

The next day, I got a parking spot just below the gondola base. It was only a short walk up to the gondola and I could ski all the way back to my car at the end of the day. I had another really great day of skiing. The snow was in excellent condition, the weather wasn't too cold and the sun was out again. I took a few runs down Perry Merrill and Gondolier and then headed over to the legendary trails behind the main lodge. I did Nosedive and skied it well. Goat and National were in pretty good shape and so was Liftline and Starr. Lookout was in good shape too. There was a little ice here and there and these trails were very steep with some big bumps. I got going a little faster on Liftline than I really wanted to and began to appreciate what Stowe enthusiasts love about the "Front Four". It was exhilarating! I took a run down Hayride and picked up Crossover to get back to my car. I had that great tired feeling that comes from a good day out on the slopes. I was a happy camper!



Stowe is a delightful place to ski and has many trails to please every kind of skier. It still has many narrow "classic" New England trails and some really challenging slopes. The snow was in good shape on almost every trail and skiing Mt. Mansfield is a "must" for anyone who really wants to experience all Vermont has to offer. There are challenging slopes for the experts and many easier trails for the intermediate and beginner skier. They have cross-country trails and a town that looks like it came off the front of a Christmas card. A 2-day lift ticket is $87 ($100 on holidays) and they have day tickets where you can ski from noon - 4 p.m. and they even have night skiing Thursday - Saturday until 10.



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