By Renée S. Gordon
Archeological evidence points to a Native American presence in Vermont around 10,000-years ago after a 2-mile high glacier carved out the area. These Paleoindians, ancestors of the modern Abenaki, migrated into the region in search of large game, eventually settled in small hunting, gathering and fishing communities and were caretakers of the land. These “People of the Dawn” were eventually decimated by European disease, merged with other tribes or moved north to Canada. A small number remained scattered throughout New England and their legacy is most noted in the numerous locations bearing native names. The Abenaki considered the Green Mountains spiritual and the site of many of their sacred places.
The Green Mountains run 250-miles, south to north through Vermont, from the border of Massachusetts to Quebec. They are considered the oldest range in New England with the highest mountain being the 4,393-ft. Mt. Mansfield. Mansfield, when observed from the east, resembles a face with the chin being the highest peak. In 1647 Champlain noted on a map a topographical feature he called, “mont vert,” or Green Mountains. The state entered the union as Vermont, the 14th state, in 1791.
Champlain and two companions, in 1609, were the first Europeans to explore the region, after Cartier sighted it in 1535. They and their native guides were seeking a passage to the Orient but found instead the riches of Vermont. Forte Ste. Anne (1666) was the first fort and it and other forts were soon centers for colonization and trade. In 1759, the French ceded their Vermont holdings to the British. A number of French Canadians sided with the American colonists during the Revolutionary War and their legacy is also found in place names throughout the state.
The 180-sq. foot Fort Dummer was built in 1724. It was the site of the first British settlement in the state. www.vtstateparks.com/htm/fortdummer
Prior to the American Revolution the land was claimed by both New York and New Hampshire and in 1775 the Green Mountain Boys, led by four men including Ethan Allen, were founded to defend the land between Lake Champlain and the Connecticut River against the New York land grants. In 1775, they joined the American Revolutionary cause. www.ethanallenhomestead.org
A 1777 convention was held at which Vermonters declared themselves an independent nation and created a state constitution based on Pennsylvania’s. They added clauses that made their constitution the first to ban slavery, grant all men the right to vote regardless of financial status and create public schools. Vermont was already firmly rooted in the tradition of freedom and independence that it retains to this day. www.vermont.org
Vermont offers myriad experiences for travelers from historic sites and museums to exhilarating ski trails and novel winter activities. Additionally, the state is renowned for its eclectic dining venues, world-class resorts, craft beer scene and both romantic and family getaways. Billboards are not allowed and designated scenic byways connect the destinations and in many cases are destinations in themselves. www.vermont-byways.us
Route 100, the Skiers’ Highway, is one of the most picturesque drives in New England. The village of Stowe represents all the best the state has to offer and the byway fulfills all your winter wishes. The 14.5-miles of Route 100 that travels from Waterbury through Stowe is recognized as the Green Mountain Byway. www.scenicroute100byway.com
For many miles the route is adjacent to the 273-mile Long Trail, a hiking trail that was created from 1910-30. The Long Trail joins the younger, 2185-mile, Appalachian Trail in the southern part of the state. Smuggler’s Notch is a 9-mile section of the trail that dates from the War of 1812. It is believed that illegal British goods were smuggled into the US along this rural route and during Prohibition to smuggle liquor across the border.
Historic Stowe, chartered in 1763, originally thrived on farming and forestry. By the early 1800s it had become a popular summer resort town because of its scenery, climate and accessibility by electric rail. It was not until a trio of Swedish families moved to Stowe in 1913 and began to be seen moving about the area on wooden slats with curved ends on their feet that the sport of skiing arrived in the village. By 1921 winter sports were so prevalent that they held a Winter Carnival to showcase them. In the 1930s the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) began creating ski trails. In the early years skiers were pulled uphill by a rope tow but in 1940 a single chairlift, the first on the East Coast, began operating. From that single chairlift Stowe has grown into one of the premiere international ski destinations with more than 100 trails. www.gostowe.com
There are almost as many lodging options as there are activity selections and making a choice can be as much fun as deciding how to spend your time. Your selection should be based on your travel goals and activity level.
Topnotch Resort and Spa exudes luxury, charm and intimacy and provides unparalleled views of Mt. Mansfield. The 120-acre resort began as a privately owned inn in 1959 and has grown steadily since that time. The Tennis Academy, one of the nation’s top five as well as the first, opened in 1977 and in 1987 it was joined by one of the Top 10 spas in the country.
This newly renovated and expanded all-season resort is a member of the Preferred Boutique Collection. Rooms are spacious, well appointed and provide all the amenities one could wish for including custom-made beds, deluxe organic linens and Gilchrist & Soames bath products. Flannel, the resort’s restaurant, has a menu created from locally sourced ingredients and guests can sit at the Chef’s Table and watch as dishes are prepared. Topnotch is pet friendly. www.topnotchresort.com
Stowe Mountain Lodge is an opulent destination resort distinctive enough to have been designated the “#1 Resort in the Eastern US” by Ski Magazine. The six story hotel is designed in an Alpinesque-style particular to Vermont, incorporating sustainable elements, warm tones, wood, stone and open floor plans with outstanding views. The 312-guestrooms continue the theme with environmentally responsible bedding and bath products, gas fireplaces and balconies. Solstice Restaurant, just off the man lobby, has a menu that is rife with artisanal ingredients crafted to create healthy, delicious, farm-to-table cuisine.
An 18-hole environmentally responsible Robert Cuff golf course is the state’s first to receive Audubon International’s Signature Sanctuary certification. The 6400-yard course with stunning vistas has also been listed by Condé Nast Traveler as the “#1 Golf Resort in the Northern US.”
The exterior has heated sidewalks, making travel between on-site facilities easy and trips along Spruce Peak Plaza mandatory. The plaza provides access to designer shopping, a casual café that serves made to order meals, Spruce Camp Base Lodge, Over Easy Gondola and 420-seat Spruce Peak Performing Arts Center.
Over Easy Gondola departs from Spruce Hill and takes guests 1,483 feet to Mt. Mansfield. At a station located there skiers can ascend even higher in the Fourunner Express Quad chairlift or the Stowe 8 Passenger Gondola. The lifts at Stowe can accommodate over 15,000 people every 60 minutes. The rides provide panoramic views and you can dine at the Cliff House on the mountain’s summit.
The 21,000-sq. ft. Stowe Mountain Club Spa and Wellness Center is an ideal place to rejuvenate from skiing the mountain or everyday life. Designed in soothing colors with oversized comfy furniture one can easily luxuriate the day away. All products are natural and specially selected to enhance your treatment. The fitness center is inclusive of an outdoor, year round, heated pool and Jacuzzi. www.stowemountainlodge.com
Trapp Family Lodge is a 2,500-acre Austrian-inspired luxurious mountain resort that, among its many distinctions, was the first commercial cross-country ski center in the hemisphere. The resort continues to be family owned and their personal attention to detail creates a familial ambiance and enhances the guests’ experience.
We all believe we know the story, and the family, based on The Sound of Music. Guided history tours and daily presentation of a wonderful 30-minute documentary filmed in 1983, “The Real Maria,’ clarifies misconceptions and introduces guests to the real and really remarkable, Trapp Family.
Captain Georg von Trapp was a decorated hero in the Austro-Hungarian Navy and during WWI commanded two submarines. As a result of the Versailles Treaty Austria lost its access to the sea and the Baron was without an occupation. He, his wife and seven children moved to a home near Vienna in 1921. His wife died of scarlet fever in 1922 and he was left to care for his children. The family relocated to the Villa Trapp in Salzburg in 1925 and it was there that he became concerned about the health of his daughter Maria. He hired a 21-year old novice nun, Maria Kutschera, to tutor her at home. On November 26, 1927 the Baron wed Maria.
The family was always surrounded by music and under the guidance of Franz Wasner they gained renown as the Salzburg Trapp Singers. As they gained fame Hitler was rising to power. They were at one point asked to sing for his birthday celebration but they were politically opposed. Once Austria was occupied and after run-ins with the Nazis they came to the realization that they should leave Europe and in 1938 they walked to the train station and began their journey to America. They were scheduled to tour, but they had no intention of returning. They had a total of $4.
Their first concert in the country was held in Easton, Pennsylvania and for a time the family settled in Merion, Pennsylvania between concert tours. In 1942, they were offered a rental property in Vermont and found Stowe’s landscape reminiscent of their beloved Austrian Alps. The family purchased 660-acres to farm and because of their schedule they rented rooms when they were on tour. They also established a Music Camp that operated from 1944 to1956. In 1950, the hotel opened to guests year-round.
The Trapp Family Lodge burned down in 1980, was rebuilt and reopened in 1983. Maria von Trapp was a regular visitor, greeting guests and signing autographs, until her death in 1987. The Trapps continue family traditions including a Christmas concert.
The resort offers a plethora of trails ranging from beginner to skilled, snowshoe, backcountry and wilderness and Morton’s Maze Race Course contains International Ski Federation-certified Homologated Race Loops. Lodge activities are family oriented and pay homage to the family’s love of music both instrumental and vocal. A daily schedule of activities includes classes, movies, sleigh rides, tours and hikes.
Entering your accommodations is like stepping into a room in an Austrian chalet. Goose down comforters, hand-carved furniture, some European vintage and family pieces and balconies with panoramic views make the experience extraordinary. Guestrooms are fully equipped with modern amenities that manage to not break the spell. Austrian delicacies and American cuisine with a European flair are served in the main dining room. The resort engages in sustainable farming and raises grass-fed cattle, pigs, turkeys, sheep and chickens. Every dish is made from only the freshest ingredients.
The Fitness Center is housed in a separate structure and features an indoor pool, hot tub, climbing wall, spa and Mountain Kids Club. Additionally there are two outdoor pools.
A new brewery and beer garden are scheduled to open in March. They will expand from their current production of 15 barrels to 50. A beer garden will showcase an authentic European experience year round serving the most authentic Austrian beer available in the country made to original 15th-century standards. www.trappfamily.com
The Vermont Ski and Snowboard Museum interprets the history of skiing in the state through displays, films, artifacts and memorabilia. The current exhibit, “Slope Style: Fashion on Snow,” traces the evolution of snow sports fashion and how they reflect the era. Individual sports are highlighted and explained. www.vtssm.com
The Vermont Historical Society is located adjacent to the 1828 restored Bloody Brook Schoolhouse. The society outlines the history of Stowe creatively featuring important institutions and engaging stories about its citizens. The earliest artifact on display is the sled Oliver Luce used to carry his belongings into the area to establish his as the first family. Another significant artifact is a photograph of Ned Dallas, the first African American resident. During the Civil War his mother gave him to a Union soldier with the promise that he would carry him to freedom in the North. He lived his life in Stowe and is buried in the cemetery. www.stowehistoricalsociety.org
Crop Bistro and Brewery is the perfect stop when you are in town. Recently renovated this state-of-the-art German brewery offers one of the most informative tours I have ever taken. The décor is warm, inviting and cozy. The menu is classic American creatively prepared with local ingredients. Do not miss the Crop experience. www.cropvt.com
This is definitely the time to make plans to ski and frolic in Stowe. Amtrak offers service to Waterbury and the train ride is picturesque. All the information you need for the experience of a lifetime is available online. www.skivermont.com
I wish you smooth travels!