Stowe Before the Snow

 A romantic ‘ski-moon’ takes true form in what
may be the most magical time of the year in Stowe, Vermont

Words By Blakely Kneisley

Vows were exchanged, first dances were danced and champagne toasts were given. It was now time for my new husband and I to take a moment to ourselves on a romantic honeymoon to New England – Stowe, Vermont, the “Winter Sports Capital of the East.” Skiing was on the agenda, no doubt, but what we really needed was some rest, a place to rejuvenate and reminisce about our recent celebration. The memories of laughing and talking with our dear family and closest friends over a sparkling wedding reception were keeping us on a high, and the romance and beauty of Stowe was the perfect place to wind-down and have just a little more fun!

When we arrived at the Stowe Mountain Lodge, the northeast winter nights had already begun and it was peacefully dark and starry. The magic had begun.

The lodge sits at the base of Mt. Mansfield, Vermont’s highest peak at 4,395 feet, which offers some of the finest skiing in the northeast, bringing winter sports enthusiasts from around the country and world. We, however, had arrived on a year when the white of snow was a little fashionably late and man-made snow would have to make do until the rains decided to change to their winter clothes.

So, what to do? Yes, I enjoyed the magnificent spa at Stowe Lodge (the nicest I’d ever been to), we slept longer hours and read books by the fire, but the most important thing to be done was clear – let’s eat and drink!

One thing I found particularly fascinating about Stowe is the dedication that business owners, especially restauranteurs, have for featuring local products and ingredients.  It isn’t forced nor pretentious, nor filled with any agenda. It’s a complete support for local agriculture, local crafts and local families of the Green Mountain area. Pride in homegrown goods and a stewardship of their land was sincere and inspiring. Vermont cheeses and dairy products, fresh meats, craft beer, ciders and hot chocolate made to taste (with fresh whipped cream of course), were just some of the many indulgences we partook in.

A dinner at Swiss chef-owned ‘Michael’s on the Hill’ just south of Stowe, featured roasted lamb chops and lamb crepinette that were, as cliché as it sounds, to die for. Creamy polenta and house-preserved tomato ragout complimented perfectly, as well as the 2009 Barbaresco that we chose off a very nice wine list. Hubby described the spice-roasted venison loin as outstanding, and it was cooked to a perfect rare, just the way we like it! The table scape at Michael Kloeti’s hillside eatery required no falling snow outside to be spectacular and romantic.

There were others, like Trattoria la Festa, where one of the adorable owners gave us the best table in the house and played a “soundtrack for lovers” in our honor, including Nina Simone, Elvis and Diana Krall Christmas tunes. Candlelight and local art surrounded us as our extremely nice waiter served our veal porterhouse with mushrooms & house made manicotti. We splurged on a wine that may have held my husband’s attention more than I can– a 2010 Masi Amarone that he promised his heart to long ago while working in Italy. When we needed a change of flavor, we drove into Burlington and had Indian at Shalimar, a modest but delicious restaurant tucked into the University of Vermont campus.

If you need a break from imbibing and stuffing your face, kill an hour at the Vermont Ski & Snowboard Museum. They have a killer collection of historical memorabilia, including vintage ski lift equipment and an extremely educational exhibit on the “10th Mountain Division”, a division of the US Army specializing in training for fighting in mountainous and arctic conditions.

Since winters in Stowe are long, it has an abundance of very talented artists in resident and this art is displayed all over the walls of every shop and restaurant in town. Fabulous galleries, such as Green Mountain Fine Art, West Branch and Robert Paul, line the streets, and it isn’t hard to see why they find so much inspiration in this part of the country. Just outside of Stowe, a pastel sunset reflecting upon what is called the Little River, stopped me in my tracks. I think the early inhabitants that settled this town must have done so to get the best seat in the house for an ending to a winter day.

A unique honeymoon experience that we had was attending a lovely Sunday morning service at St. John’s of the Mountains Episcopal Church on the last day of our trip. We received a warm welcome from the local congregation and our very own bottle of Vermont maple syrup! Pray for Stowe, pray for snow! Our last stop before the airport was Little River HotGlass Studio. The owners, along with their terrier Arthur, gave us an up close and personal look at the craft of blowing glass. I may or may not have gone home with two of their beautiful perfume bottles…

Although we enjoyed our stay at Stowe Mountain Lodge, our next trip up will most definitely include a few nights in the heart of Stowe at one of the many intimate inn’s. We may not have gotten to experience snowmobiling and sleigh-rides, but we did get to experience the view of draft horses grazing in the still-green fields, roadside Christmas tree farms and holiday lights that won’t let you forget the season that is upon us.

Did I mention these scenes could all be set to French music playing from stations in Quebec? Don’t forget your passports. Canada’s border is only an hour and a half away.

Go+Do in Stowe

Michael’s on the Hill
Stowe Mountain Lodge
The Spa at Stowe Mountain Lodge
Green Mountain Fine Art
(We brought home a piece of Bonnie Acker)
West Branch Gallery
Robert Paul Gallery
Trattoria la Festa
Vermont Ski & Snowboard Museum
(Housed in beautiful historic church/town hall)
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