36 Hours in Stowe, Vermont: A Perfect Winter Getaway for Outdoorsy Couples

As a native of the northeastern United States for more than twenty years, I’m a bit biased in saying that it is, without a doubt, the most charming region of the entire country. And, even though I’m a lifelong Rhode Islander, no state is more quintessentially “New England in winter” than Vermont. Soaring mountain peaks, quaint valley towns, covered bridges over icy crystalline rivers, and couples packing their requisite Subarus with skis, kids, copious amounts of hot chocolate, the family dog, and … everything necessary for a day on the mountain.

Which is how my girlfriend and I came to visit the town of Stowe for a romantic weekend getaway. Just an hour from the Canadian border, this tiny mountain town is best known as a year-round mecca for outdoor enthusiasts. Winters offer some of the best skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing and … well, you name it … in the whole of New England. And still, through decades of popularity amongst locals and tourists, it’s managed to maintain a picture-perfect small town feel.

Frankly, I’d recommend a visit anytime of year but here we provide a brief list of our favorite winter spots to visit in Stowe …

View from The Cliff House atop Mount Mansfield, Vermont
View from The Cliff House atop Mount Mansfield, Vermont © Mike Richard

Day 1

Stowe is easily accessible by car from almost anywhere in New England or by plane with a quick stopover in a regional hub such as Logan or Manchester. With that in mind, plan to arrive by noon to kick off your 36 hour stay.

Lunch @ Cliff House

Mapletini at The Cliff House, Mount Mansfield, Vermont
Mapletini at The Cliff House, Mount Mansfield, Vermont © Mike Richard

Start your long weekend with a breathtaking gondola ride up Vermont’s highest peak – Mount Mansfield. Situated at nearly 4,400 feet above sea level, The Cliff House offers stunning views of the surrounding peaks and the town of Stowe below.

As you might expect, lunch is a variety of hearty soups (the onion soup is fantastic), stews, and entrees with a solid mix of apres ski-inspired cocktails, like their unique Mapletini (no, I didn’t order this … but, yes, I stole a sip from my girlfriend and I’m not ashamed to admit that it was quite tasty!).

2p / Snowshoeing @ Wiessner Woods

If you’re looking for outdoor kit, you need only make one stop in Stowe: Umiak Outdoor Outfitters. This small, unassuming shop is a hub for winter sports enthusiasts, offering virtually any type of rental including snowshoes (rentals around $20/day), skis, extreme sleds ($5-20/day), snowmobiles, and more. And if you don’t know how to use it, the staff is more than happy to provide a primer so you don’t kill yourself!

Snowshoeing Wiessner Woods, Stowe, Vermont
Snowshoeing Wiessner Woods, Stowe, Vermont © Mike Richard

There’s of course no shortage of outdoor options in Stowe. I’d recommend grabbing a pair of snowshoes and a trail map from Umiak. Nearby Wiessner Woods is an excellent option for your first outdoor fix in town, with a small network of relatively short paths perfect for a quick, “we’re only here for the weekend” jaunt.

Wipeout on Marshall Hill, Stowe, Vermont
Wipeout on Marshall Hill, Stowe, Vermont © The Boston Globe

From there, head to Marshall Hill at Stowe Elementary School for some extreme sledding. Once a beginner’s ski slope, it has since been converted into a pretty badass sledding hill with a nearly 100-foot drop. Beware: this slope is not for the timid! Bonus: the nearby playground at the school is a nice spot for the kids (or childlike grown-ups) to relax between sled runs.

6p / Sleigh Ride @ Stowehof Inn

Sleigh Ride at Stowehof Inn, Stowe, Vermont
Sleigh Ride at Stowehof Inn, Stowe, Vermont © Mike Richard

Nearby Stowehof Inn takes pride in being one of the last remaining alpine ski inns in the country. The decor, landscape, staff, and restaurant bear an uncanny resemblance to any classic Swiss ski lodge. Toward that end, the inn offers romantic horse-drawn sleigh rides in the winter which start out at:

… the entrance to the Stowehof with the backdrop of the two full sized preserved maples surrounded by lights. The sleigh then makes it’s way up onto the trail and out through stone walls into the wide open meadow. After the meadow the sleigh heads along the front of the inn showing off the grand views of Mount Mansfield. Heading back the sleigh passes through old stone walls and light forest returning to it’s start.

Bundle up with the provided blankets and enjoy the cold – it’s a perfectly romantic and New England thing to do!

Dinner @ Emily's Fine Dining

Emily's Fine Dining at Stowehof Inn, Stowe, Vermont
Emily's Fine Dining at Stowehof Inn, Stowe, Vermont © Stowehof Inn

After a rather chilly outdoor ride, head inside for a drink at Coslin’s Pub. Once you’re feeling relatively warm, check in for dinner at Emily’s Fine Dining. While the menu features an array of hearty, alpine-inspired entrees (of which the Duck Two Ways is quite tasty), I recommend skipping right to their fondue selections. If you’re unsure how/what to order, ask the waitstaff or check out the fondue glossary for a few pointers. They take it very seriously here, so you know you’re in good hands. Don’t forget to pair your meal with one (or three) of the more than 400 wines from their extensive cellar.

Overnight @ Stone Hill Inn

I’m hesitant to tout raw numbers but in 2012, Stone Hill Inn was ranked #16 among more than 21,000 (!) B&Bs by TripAdvisor readers. It’s a boutique property designed specifically for couples – perfect for a romantic winter getaway.

While I’m typically more a fan of budget/boutique hotels, I fell in love with Stone Hill. With relatively few rooms, it offers all of the charm and intimacy of a traditional B&B but with plenty of space in-between ensuring complete privacy.

Guest Room at Stone Hill Inn, Stowe, Vermont
Guest Room at Stone Hill Inn, Stowe, Vermont © Stone Hill Inn

Our West Branch guest room was a corner suite with plenty of room to relax and spread out. A double-side fireplace warms both the bedroom and bathroom simultaneously – a luxurious feature that we quickly grew to appreciate, particularly after coming in from the biting Vermont cold. The adjacent, ensuite bathroom was nearly larger than the bedroom itself with a large spa tub, walk-in shower, and dual vanities.

Guest Lounge at Stone Hill Inn, Stowe, Vermont
Guest Lounge at Stone Hill Inn, Stowe, Vermont © Stone Hill Inn

Owners George & Linda get to know each guest personally – an hour after we checked in, they knew us and every other guest by name. It’s the perfect atmosphere for their daily wine hour where guests can relax and chat about their day.

Amenities available to all guests include an outdoor hot tub, free snowshoe use (with onsite trails), unlimited use of their large DVD library, and a common area where guests can gather and relax around the fireplace.

Day 2

Breakfast @ Stone Hill Inn

Breakfast at Stone Hill Inn, Stowe, Vermont
Breakfast at Stone Hill Inn, Stowe, Vermont © Stone Hill Inn

Wake up early for breakfast at the hotel where it’s prepared fresh daily by George & Linda. In addition to a selection of fresh fruits, yogurt, cereals, granola, and muffins, hot a la carte dishes inspired by locally sourced ingredients are cooked to order. We were fortunate enough to visit over St. Patrick’s Day weekend when fresh homemade corned beef hash and eggs were on offer.

9a / Zipline @ ArborTrek Canopy Adventures

ArborTrek Zipling Canopy Tour at Smugglers' Notch, Vermont
ArborTrek Zipling Canopy Tour at Smugglers' Notch, Vermont © ArborTrek

It’s no surprise that, with so much varying terrain, Vermont offers some of the best ziplining in the country and ArborTrek Canopy Adventures is the best in the state. At their Smugglers’ Notch location, you’ll spend upwards of 3 hours in the Green Mountains traversing up to 4,500 feet of zip lines, crossing sky bridges high above the forest floor, and rappelling from trees. It’s an ambitious trip for sure, but no experience is necessary making it perfect for kids or first-timers. (Note: due to road closures during the winter season, allow at least an hour to travel from the hotel to ArborTrek).

Noon / Wine Tasting @ Boyden Valley

Wine in Vermont?! Wait … what?? It’s true. And perhaps more surprising is that it’s pretty damn good. There’s a shorter growing season to be sure, but that just means the wineries must be that much more clever and work that much harder at making great wine.

Boyden Valley Winery, Vermont
Boyden Valley Winery, Vermont

Stop at Boyden Valley Winery for a tour and tasting with wine room manager Bridget Jones. Her endless energy, bubbly personality, and encyclopedic knowledge of all things wine make for an educational and fun tour. Don’t miss their Ice Ciders and Glogg (mulled wine served hot with a variety of added spices)! There’s also plenty of take-home bottles on offer, with the Big Red being their best seller.

2p / Lunch @ Crop

Beer Taps @ Crop, Stowe, Vermont
Beer Taps @ Crop, Stowe, Vermont © Crop Bistro & Brewery

Like much of Vermont, the gourmet/locavore moment has taken hold in Stowe. Crop Bistro & Brewery, located right “downtown”, is no different. Lunch here is a low-key, unpretentious affair so come as you are, belly up to the bar, and be sure to sample a few things from their ever-changing beer and dinner menus. The Squeak & Squeal is a particularly interesting choice with a mix of mac & cheese meets pulled pork with a mustard demi-glace. But honestly you can’t go wrong with just about anything from the menu.

4p / Massage + Relaxing @ Top Notch Spa

Indoor Pool at Topnotch Resort & Spa, Stowe, Vermont
Indoor Pool at Topnotch Resort & Spa, Stowe, Vermont © Topnotch Resort & Spa

After a hearty meal, it’s time to completely unwind at Topnotch Resort & Spa. The award-winning spa at this five-star resort is routinely ranked among the best in the country. And with good reason: the changing rooms alone are the largest and swankiest of any spa I’ve ever visited, complete with large seating areas, flat screen televisions, fireplace, and comfy couches. It’s a perfectly relaxed atmosphere akin to hanging out in your rich friend’s living room.

Opt for the uber-romantic, 90-minute side-by-side couples massage. You’ll enjoy a treatment room larger than some apartments I’ve lived in, complete with fireplace, couch and chairs. And if you really love the person you’re with, splurge on an even longer treatment with optional accoutrements such as sparkling wine and chocolate covered strawberries.

Treatments here include access to the spa’s other numerous amenities including a sauna, steam room, indoor and outdoor pools and a hot tub with a waterfall (this last bit alone is worth the price of admission). Spend the rest of your afternoon by the pool, where you can order light snacks and adult beverages while relaxing in your robe and slippers.

Dinner + Overnight @ Stone Hill Inn

Once you’ve had your fill of several hours of relaxation, head back to Stone Hill Inn. I recommend planning a night in – order a pizza from nearby Piecasso (the “Carcass” is among the best meat lover’s pizzas I’ve had anywhere in the States), play a bit of pool in the hotel billiard room, and kick back in your room where you can enjoy a movie (from the hotel’s extensive DVD collection) and one last soak in your private hot tub.

It’s the perfect end to a busy weekend of outdoor fun, gourmet food and wine tasting, and a perfect trip to one of the most quintessential New England towns in the northeast.

(Tip: Check out the Stowe mobile app for the best travel tips, news and advice on planning your next trip!)

Disclosure: Portions of our trip to Vermont were sponsored by GoStowe and the properties and businesses mentioned in the above post. All opinions are our own.

3 Responses

  1. George and Linda

    Mike,

    Thanks for the wonderful comments! Wonderful that you had such a terrific 36 hours! Welcome back any time!

    George & Linda
    Stone Hill Inn

    Reply
  2. glenn

    great artcile but you should mention it takes an hour to get to Boyden from stowe in the winter time.

    Reply

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