January 04, 2017 2 Comments
Typically a $300 roundtrip Porter flight (this fight lands in Burlington, VT 45 mins from Stowe) or an 8.5 hour drive from our place in Toronto, we completed the drive to Stowe with two cars packed full of ski gear and a party of 9 in just under 12 hours including pit stops, freezing rain and black ice.
We arrived late at night and checked into our historic hotel, the Green Mountain Inn. It's halls lined with historic photos dating back to its establishment in 'downtown' Stowe in 1833. Each of the five rooms we rented was uniquely shaped and set up, and their own colonial time warp. Beds were plush and comfortable with old books lining the shelves; a couple of us got lucky with a mountain view and one of us got really lucky with a room in the Mansfield House... An old mansion with deluxe rooms just short walk behind the main hotel building. Oh, but probably the best of all was the townhouse we rented for the last two nights where we cooked and ate meals together- that was da!
We visited during peak season (Dec 26-Jan 2) so restaurants were understandably busy. Even the well known dinner restaurant, The Whip -in our own hotel (the Green Mountain Inn)- couldn't accommodate us any of the nights... despite the 5 rooms, townhouse and 7 nights were we're spending there. If you do wish to try it, be sure to reserve well in advance!
Keeping warm, and keeping the hair fresh2death while in the hotel hot tub in my B'eh Toque!
The town itself was from an old painting in your grandparents' house. Rolling hills, picturesque barns, cabins, painted wooden signs for fresh maple syrup and beautifully joyous people filled with pride for their town. Each person had such a deep wealth of knowledge about Stowe, it was like they'd been trained to deal with us tourists- especially us Canaliens. There were Canadian flags flying next to the stars and stripes at most local businesses, as well as signs in French! Of course being peak season, we weren't the only Canaliens running amuck. The whole town was pretty much booked. We found most restaurants didn't take reservations, so many nights consisted of arriving early to put our name on the wait list and heading to a near by bar for the 2 hour wait for our table and returning back to eat (and by that point, sober up). A tad annoying, but what can ya do as a party of 9 in peak szns. We made the most of it!
Here are some restaurants that took us in 👉
Now, something I've touched on but must delve into- the traffic :
We got up as early as possible each day and met in our hotel for what I will admit was a delicious breakfast. But no matter how early we woke up and got through the most important meal of the day we found ourselves in total gridlock traffic getting to the hill! Stowe Mountian Resort is just a 7.6 mile drive, but also just a one lane road. No matter what time we'd leave it seemed to be with the crowds- whether it was 8, 9, 10 or close to 11! The day we left close to 11 was the day we thought we could take the local shuttle- meant to run every 20-30 minutes. Ours didn't show for 45 when we had a guy walk by and tell us that according to his satellite shuttle tracker there was only one bus running and it was at least another 45 minutes out. The 9 of us immediately darted across traffic and rammed ourselves inside our family sized minivan, battled through the glacial traffic and finally arrived at Stowe Mountain Resort nearly an hour later- just in time for the Après! (kidding) (?)
Across all the days we were there #teamnodaysoff the conditions were awesome for both skiing and boarding. We had the most fun carving our way through the glades. All of the staff was helpful- particularly in sharing their secret hidden glade spots with us. We had lunch at all of the lodges mentioned to the right, but I've gotta say the Mansfield Lodge was my fav with Midway being a close second.
We stayed till close everyday, which meant Stowe rush hour traffic on the one lane road back to the hotel. It's a 7.6 mile drive, 16 minutes without traffic but was an hour each way for us.
Across the gang of us, we both rented and purchased equipment from AJ's rentals, walkable distance from our inn. The staff there was awesome and prices were even better- half of what you would pay renting at the hill! We also found some sweet coupons in a local magazine (during one of our long waits for a dinner table) where we received even more of a discount!
We enjoyed the little shops in the downtown area that were decked with local milks, cheeses, syrups, antiques, and kombuchas! We regret to inform you we did not make the Ben & Jerry's factory- but you should!
Harrison's: Back door, basement pub. Small seating, reservation needed. We tried booking over a week out from our arrival and they were full until the New Year. Lucky for us we showed up for a drink and a reservation cancelled right when we arrived! The ambience and food are awesome. Beer selection was good but I can't lie, the cocktails were two big thumbs down (like so >) .
Saensook Thai: We had some sake and noodles here during our 2 hour wait for The Bench. The staff was entertaining and friendly, and pretty overwhelmed with the volume of patrons. We posted up at the bar so we were able to order and joke with them whenever they'd come up to fill drink orders. It was a great place to pass the time. Food and drinks were deliciously generous!
The Bench: This place was great. The design and ambience were pretty standard, revised American pub with a respectable attempt at a cozy chalet feel. Food was good all around, all 9 of us were happy and the apps we shared were great. I ordered he Cubans pizza and I was probably my favourite dish of the whole trip!
Doc ponds: This was one of our stops for drinks while awaiting a table at another spot for dinner. It felt like a lesser version of The Bench. Similar vibe but just not quite as cool. There was good beer, the food looked alright, okay menu, nothing special.
Idletyme: This place -again- went for that American-cabin feel. Of all the spots who made this effort off the slopes, Idletyme was my favourite. We had flights of beer, great cocktails and an amazing assortment of food for the table. The decor and vibe of this place were awesome- giant cowhide couches to tucked away booths, vats of beer on display and a beer list to keep anyone satisfied. We liked Fiddlehead IPA, the Oatmeal Stout and I liked the Pink & Pale hehe. We made two stops here, it was so good! Truffle mac & cheese was .
Pie-casso: This place was recommended to us, but I wasn't that impressed. Again with the Americana restaurant feel, which I'd had enough of at this point. We shared more pizzas, more burgers. I ordered a pizza and the Carcass Meat Pie only to discover that the 'Meat Pie' items were also just pizzas.... but with meat. So I had two pizzas. Could be worse I guess.
Matterhorn: This was the most genuine Après-ski feeling place off the slopes. Jam packed, $3 cover, great servers (If you can get past the grouchy af bouncer/manager- even the staff complained to us about him!). After the hill it was nice to stop in here and wait as the traffic of people leaving the mountain subsided. We pre booked our $30 NYE party tickets here, weeks in advance. It was advertised as the wildest party in town going 'til 3am, but we arrived to find them letting in people without tickets or cover and the place was cleared out by 12:30am . We have fun anywhere we are so we didn't even notice this really 'til we reconvened in the morning! We loved the live band, had great drinks and played some pool. We're a group of Canaliens who are pretty nomadic so a chance to be together is all we could ask for *aw!* To end on a high note for this place, some of our party had actually eaten here in the spring and loved it. There's a Japanese restaurant on the back porch that overlooks a river.
And of course, food on the hill:
Mansfield Lodge: this place was awesomely fun. It's small so get their early, but it was the real deal- it felt like a locals only, anything goes kinda place. Delightfully, we found live music at every lodge on the hill- but my favourite duo played here at the Après. The chairlifts close at 4pm, we got here around 3:30. A representative of the group went to bring the van over for us to load around 4:30. Over an hour later they were still waiting in traffic to get us at this place! It was crazy, we ended up walking our gear over to the van and spending about hour and a half in traffic, missing a table we had waiting at the Trattoria Italian restaurant (which looked SO YUM! Hashtag #pissed). The traffic to the hill and back each day was definitely a killer. But staying on the hill means you miss out on the historic feels of downtown Stowe.
Midway Lodge: We had lunch here and really enjoyed it. It's located on the hill so you've got to ski to it and then ski down which is always fun. Great music, food and drinks. We left just before a Pub Quiz game was starting!
Spruce Lodge: We had a local judge us for going here, as it's apparently considered the ritzy tourist spot. And I can totally see it: food and drink were more expensive and it was filled with Moncler families. Ski school is held on this hill so it's pretty hectic. They served these taco bowls that were jus too good though, the bowl was made out of a deliciously edible shell! I also must note that the bathrooms were 10/10. Always a plus.
Octagon: This place is located at the top of the quad chair next to the gondola. It's small, octagon shaped and served some delicious wraps (at $16 USD a pop though). There was a big patio too that was too cold for us but would be pretty fun in the spring, I'd imagine.
Enjoying some local Von Trapp Beers; homage to the Sound of Music
Cliff House Restaurant: On a clear day this place would have a great view. It was a bit too white-tablecloth-esque for me, in between glade shreds and all, but I am sure it's delicious.
Waffle Houses: Don't forget to try the cute little waffle shacks! At he top of the gondola and near the bottom, just follow your nose!
I'd love to come back and visit in the spring. And if one day I come back en hiver, I would need to find a more efficient way to get from a decent hotel to the hill. The Green Mountain Inn was beautiful but the 2 hour daily drives make it hard to justify. I'd also want to ski Sugarbush and Smugglers, and would set a few nights aside in Killington (known as the party town woot woot)!
This is us waving goodbye in the driveway outside our townhouse at the Green Mountain Inn- One touristy af drone shot and a great finale to another awesome trip! #SpotTheCanalien