STOWE, VT.—The only thing missing in our unseasonably warm winter is snow. Granted many are elated about this global warming turn of events but I must admit to a certain yearning for the white stuff.
Desperate for a snowy long-weekend escape, I cast my travel gaze about and happened upon a getaway that even the doctor would order: Stowe, Vermont. Ahem, you say, that’s a long drive. You were right until two months ago when Porter started flying to Burlington, a scant 45-minutes from postcard-perfect villages, innovative restaurants and a feeling of being far, far away. And yes, the adage is true: there’s always snow in Stowe.
Huffing and puffing my way up a challenging cross-country incline with Kristina von Trapp, who was gracious enough to slow her pace, I glanced up to see a rustic log structure surrounded by spindly birches, a plume of grey smoke circling from the stone chimney.
After a six-kilometer climb, we'd arrived at Slayton Pasture Cabin, situated at the confluence of several cross-country ski trails that crisscross a vast acreage owned by Trapp Family Lodge.
“I’ll bet Mike has some homemade soup ready,” Kristina says, her crystal-blue eyes sparkling. “He takes care of the place for us in the winter and is a pretty good cook.”
It was all so storybook: Me with a third generation of von Trapps (her grandmother, Maria and her grandfather, the Baron, were immortalized in The Sound of Music) staring at a hand-hewn abode worthy of Hansel and Gretel. But it was Kristina’s hospitality and down-home humour that confirmed the von Trapps were bestowed with a gemütlichkeit gene.
Since they first arrived in Vermont in the 1940s after fleeing Nazi Europe, Kristina’s singing ancestors have been welcoming visitors to the farm that the family laboriously repaired and transformed into a 27-room home and lodge. Although the first one burned to the ground in 1980, breaking Maria’s heart, the more recent 96-room cedar-shingled incarnation decorated with carved-wood balconies and paned windows, oozes with ambience.
With an eye to all things local, the von Trapps have created a microbrewery on the premises as well as a bakery, maple-sugar bush and enormous vegetable garden. A herd of their grass-fed Scottish Highlander cattle factor into the delicious Johannes burgers, named for Kristina’s gregarious father, the youngest of the original songster clan who lives on the 2500-acre property and regularly drops by to chat with guests.
Breakfast is a huge Austrian buffet piled high with eggs, cheese, cold cuts, smoked salmon, Bircher muesli, fresh fruit, croissants, homemade jams — which kept me full until dinner. That meal is its own pièce de résistance, in a dining room as cosy as your own den with wait staff outfitted in stylish dirndls or tailored vests.
There’s little question the hills are alive but, for me, the country quiet was music to my ears. Or, as Kristina says, it’s a little bit of Austria, a lot of Vermont.
I allocated the other half of my long weekend to three-year-old Stowe Mountain Lodge where the first sentient being to greet me was a gleeful golden retriever. More deliberately chi-chi than the Trapps’, the hotel’s big draw is its location at the base of the mighty Stowe Mountain. Nowhere else in the state do the lifts run so quickly, are the trails tended so perfectly or the snow-making as extensive. No wonder the resort attracts skiers from around the world. And, in keeping with Vermonter’s priorities, the food at the top of the mountain is as delectable as the food at the bottom.
Solstice restaurant, situated in the lodge, is renowned for dishes such as butternut squash soup garnished with a house-made marshmallow and pumpkin-seed oil, as well as the medley of Vermont artisan cheeses with Maine lobster, orecchiette pasta and truffle sauce. But it is pastry chef Chelsea Whittemore’s Maple Cheddar Apple Pie that has reached mythical status. Hailing from “over the notch” as she describes the other side of the mountain, Whittemore has originated mouth-watering recipes rooted in her grandmother’s home cooking.
Sated with farm-fresh food, there was no better way to end a day on the slopes than with a visit to the lodge’s full-service spa manned by born-and-bred locals who have memorized every pressure point in the body. Wrapped in warm towels, my luxurious foot treatment with Cheryl had me forgetting hours spent in cramped ski boots and, after a sauna, steam room and outdoor hot tub, I slipped into the adjacent Tranquility Lounge where a soft slumber had me dreaming of snow, snow and more snow.
JUST THE FACTS
ARRIVING Fly to and from Burlington, Vermont, via Toronto by booking online at: www.flyporter.com
SLEEPING Trapp Family Lodge rates start at $195; Stowe Mountain Lodge is $199. Packages that include skiing are available for both.
DINING At the Trapp Family Lodge, the Johannes burger is $16, Black Forest cake or apple strudel $9, Slayton Cabin Potato Corn chowder $7. At Stowe Mountain’s Solstice, the butternut-squash soup was $8; the Maine Lobster Mac & Cheese $33; slice of apple pie $9 or $18 for an entire pie. Hip bar/resto Matterhorn has sushi nights with 3 rolls for the cost of 2 starting at $20.
SKIING Lift tickets start at $88 for adults, $66 children, $77 seniors. Multi-day passes reduce costs. Book seven days in advance and get 15 per cent off. www.stowe.com/ski-ride/lift/