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Vermont Skiing and Inns

Vermont Skiing and Inns
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Read more: New England’s Small Slopes and Inns

We don’t have to remember wooden skis and cable bindings to feel nostalgic for the days before skiing became a Big Production — before terms like “mega” and “beast” started turning up in guidebook descriptions of ski areas. What we’re conjuring is an era when a ski trip was as cozy as a cup of cocoa, with small, familiar hills patronized by congenial crowds and warm inns to nestle into at night.

Fortunately, we don’t have to pull on a reindeer sweater, buckle into a pair of seven-foot hickories, and ski into the past to recapture the days before destination resorts crowded out the small operations. In Vermont alone, we’ve found areas ranging from boutique-size hills to low-key major players — all of them welcome throwbacks to the days when skiing in America was young. And none of them is more than a few miles from an inviting guest house, inn, or B&B, all of them among the coziest accommodations in the Green Mountain State.

The Woodstock Region is one of the cradles of skiing in North America, and two small, friendly areas stay true to the leather-boot era, when you could step away from the fireplace, look out the lodge windows, and pick your next run from a complete panorama of your mountain’s trails.

Dating back to the 1930s, Suicide Six — named for South Pomfret’s wild “Hill No. 6,” though it probably never lived up to its more fearsome moniker — must have once boasted only half a dozen slopes. Today it has almost four times as many and sprawls across a 1,200-foot hillside, not far from where a group of weekend ski pals set up the East’s first rope tow. It was purchased by Laurance Rockefeller in 1962 and is now part of the Woodstock Inn resort complex. Inn guests ski here as part of their package.

But the rest of us are welcome, too — welcome to tear down The Face, a minute’s worth of hell-for-leather schussbooming, or to meander the aptly named Easy Mile, a looping novice run. Head over to an intermediate cruiser called The Gully early enough after an overnight snowfall, and you’ll likely get first tracks. At the bottom, the big, open fireplace in the glassy lodge burns four-foot lengths of hardwood.

Even dedicated connoisseurs of the cozier Vermont ski areas may never have heard of Quechee Ski Hill — much less know that on weekends it welcomes folks who aren’t even remotely connected to the upscale Quechee Lakes development and its private Quechee Club. As for the way it welcomes them, Quechee is the only ski area in Vermont where you’ll ride from the parking area or lodge to the foot of the slopes in an open sleigh pulled by a pair of handsome draft horses.

Like the horses, Quechee’s trails are gentle and handsomely groomed. The lower reaches are wonderful learning areas for kids, but even a reasonably advanced skier or snowboarder can have a good time here. The Quechee Express, beneath the chairlift, has a good pitch, and you can veer off onto several broad, undulating chutes.

The Quechee Inn at Marshland Farm is the snuggery of choice in these parts. Its original section dates to 1793, and its talkative, wide-board pine floors are part of the pedigree every cozy old inn ought to have. Just as important is a big, antiques-filled common room with a crackling wood fire; here, each afternoon, you’ll find a plate of fresh cookies and complimentary coffee, tea, and cocoa. You can also curl up by the fire and order a drink from the bar before dinner, which chef Edward Kroes prepares with local ingredients, creating unique and flavorful dishes such as maple stout-braised short ribs.

The Quechee Inn stands at the head of the Wilderness Trails cross-country ski center, and it’s just a five-minute drive from Quechee Ski Hill. Inn guests pay a discounted fee at the Hill and can ski there even during holiday periods blacked out to the public.

At Middlebury Snow Bowl in hancock, the atmosphere is not only congenial but collegiate. That’s because the Snow Bowl belongs to Middlebury College — it’s the home terrain of its acclaimed Panthers ski team — though the area has been open to the general public since its first trails were cut by students and Civilian Conservation Corps workers in the 1930s.

The grooming is first-rate, giving the slopes a clean-cut, Ivy League-style corduroy look, and the terrain is remarkably varied for a small area. There aren’t too many intermediate trails, but the black diamonds aren’t all that scary — they’re divided between mogul runs and broad steeps. For novices, Wissler and Voter offer gentle cruising terrain.

The summit views are among Vermont skiing’s finest, with the peaks of the central Green Mountains rising to the north, south, and east. The ski chow in the big, sunny lodge is just about the most reasonably priced in the state: Plow into a tub of under-$3 chili, and you’ll feel as though you’re on a particularly generous college meal plan … maybe the one for champion skiers.

There are several decent inns along Route 125, the Middlebury Gap Scenic Road that passes the Snow Bowl, but our preference would be to stay some 20 minutes away in Middlebury, a lovely town for après-ski strolling and dining. A cozy place to put up is The Inn on the Green, an 1803 mansion with carriage house, adjacent to Middlebury’s town common.

Please Note: This information was accurate at the time of publication. When planning a trip, please confirm details by directly contacting any company or establishment you intend to visit.

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One Response to Vermont Skiing and Inns

  1. K G November 18, 2008 at 11:22 pm #

    Another great place to look is http://www.Activolo.com

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