Vermont offers visitors a ski vacation free of runaway development, big box stores and billboards, thanks to the state’s tough zoning and construction laws. Locally sourced food and drink have been a staple here long before the movement became popular elsewhere. Think Vermont maple syrup, award-winning cheddar cheeses, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters and Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, for starters.
“Forging the bonds between the ski and culinary industries in Vermont allows skiers to experience the combined pleasure of snowy slopes and delicious Vermont food—a great pairing,” says Sarah Neith, Ski Vermont’s public affairs director.
Quebec skiers are long-time fans of the northern Vermont peaks, an easy one-and-a-half to two-hour drive or bus ride from Montreal. Porter Airlines, in partnership with Ski Vermont, now offers skiers one-hour flights between Toronto and Burlington, eliminating an eight to ten-hour drive.
Only 35 minutes from the Burlington Airport, Smugglers’ Notch Resort (Smuggs)—named for a prohibition-era hideout—is a long-time family favourite, encompassing 78 trails topping out at 2,610 feet on three of Vermont’s Green Mountains.
Ski-out condos from studios to five-bedroom units feature gas fireplaces mounted above soaker tubs that act as a room divider from the master bedroom. A grocery store and several bars and restaurants are all located onsite. The Hearth & Candle features innovative dishes, including fresh seafood, lamb, roast duck and homemade desserts mostly prepared with local ingredients. A cozy, full-service bar with an extensive wine list completes the ambiance.
Kids as young as 30 months can enroll in the Little Rascals on Snow program, while older kids can après-ski at the Courtside Pool, FunZone and Teen Alley—no parents allowed. Ice skating and challenging Nordic skiing are free for those with their own equipment, while rentals, snowmobile tours and ziplining are available at extra cost.
Parents can take advantage of a chocolate tasting night featuring local Lake Champlain chocolate paired with wines on Wednesday evenings.
Smugglers’ Notch Distillery offers tastings of its warming whisky with strong hints of bourbon and award-winning vodka—voted best in the U.S. by Wine Enthusiast magazine. Their gin, made from the distilled vodka, at 88 proof, pulls more flavour from the six botanicals—well worth the $28 a bottle.
Stowe Mountain Resort
Stowe Mountain Resort, one of the newest and greenest ski resorts in the U.S., partnered with local farmers, cheese producers and the Vermont Fresh Network to supply its two innovative restaurants. Take the gondola 3,625 feet to the Cliff House for great mountain views and a cider-braised veal shank or wild mushroom flan. At Solstice in the main lodge, chef Josh Berry’s imaginative tasting menu is paired with notable local wines, beers and spirits.
Mount Mansfield (4,395 feet), served by a new high-speed quad ski lift, is connected via an inter-mountain transfer gondola with Spruce Peak’s high-speed lifts, serving the intermediate and advanced ski runs that comprise 85 percent of the terrain.
On site après-ski entertainment includes shows at the new state-of-the-art Performing Arts Center and an indoor/outdoor heated pool and sauna. Offsite, take in a Ben and Jerry’s tour or join in a Sound of Music singalong at the Trapp Family Lodge. In neighbouring Waterbury, stop by the Prohibition Pig, a popular barbeque and cocktail stop.
Nearby, Cold Hollow Cider Mill tempts with hot apple cider and dark and delicious cider donuts and preserves.
Sugarbush Ski Resort
Once known as Mascara Mountain for the glamorous New York set it attracted, Sugarbush sits in the Mad River Valley, an artists’ enclave. Today, the owner’s friendly Bernese Mountain dog, Rumble (named for the tricky, narrow ski run that defines the property), mingles with guests.
The founder of EZ Wider rolling papers and Green Mountain Coffee is one of Sugarbush’s biggest fans. Upon arrival, guests can enjoy his famous brew around the large fireplace with complimentary copies of the New York Times.
Named “Best Ski Town in the East” by Outside magazine, Sugarbush has six distinct peaks, two uncrowded mountains connected by a shuttle service, and 2,000 acres of backcountry skiing in the Slide Brook Basin. The resort now has its own app allowing groups and family members to keep track of each other and to record completed ski runs.
After an intense workout on the slopes, visitors and locals head to Timbers Restaurant for pints of Vermont’s favourite, Switchback, an unfiltered red-amber ale with hints of orange. Offsite, check out brunch at the local hostel.
Sitting in stark yellow fields set against frost-topped mountains, weathered red barns line the desolate road to Jay Peak, an hour and a half from Montreal. Famous for its backcountry skiing, Jay Peak is also home to 76 alpine runs with 20 percent of the terrain designated true beginner. The Nordic ski trails allow visitors to explore the stark landscape at a more leisurely pace.
After a day on the slopes combined with cross-country skiing, complete the triathlon with a swim against the strong current of the Action River, part of Jay Peak’s massive indoor water park. Here, daredevils brave the rushing waters of the waterskiing ride only to be tossed backward into the churning abyss. Or stay dry and enjoy the action from the comforts of the overhead bar with the friendly, fun-loving bartenders. It’s hot in here, so even if you’re no fan of water, wear your swimsuit.
Alice’s Table—Jay’s best restaurant—is named for a hospitable former employee. Dishes range from apple squash bisque to seafood chowder to maple bourbon pork. Next door, check out the Jay Peak memorabilia at the Tower Bar. Exiting the property, say goodbye to the locals at the venerable Belfry Pub.