Vermont Skiing and Inns
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.
The touch that puts this bright and sunny inn high on the coziness scale is breakfast in bed. It’s not an optional service here; it’s the only way to start your day. Just tell the innkeeper what time you’d like to have your tray delivered, and it will arrive laden with fresh-from-the-oven treats from Middlebury’s Otter Creek Bakery.
The past few decades have seen too many small, intimate Vermont ski areas disappear, but at least one has come back to life. Although Magic Mountain was so christened by founder Hans Thorner after the Thomas Mann novel, the successful revival of this Londonderry area adds more meaning to the name. Closed in 1991 following 30 years of operation, Magic reopened for the 1997-98 season after trails were recut and cleared of brush.
Magic’s strong suit is the challenging pitch of its slopes on Glebe Mountain, and what skiers call the “classic New England character” of its generally winding, narrow trails. But Magic isn’t all tough terrain. Although it has its share of double black diamonds, its popularity with families stems largely from the web of novice and intermediate cruisers on the mountain’s easterly flank.
Magic Mountain is amply served by lodgings on Route 11 and along its access road, but if cozy is what you’re looking for, head five miles north to The Inn at Weston. Long an icon among classic Vermont villages, Weston is home to craft shops, art galleries, and the Vermont Country Store. Its snug, compact character — a single street leading to a jewel of a town green — is reflected in the inn’s homey 1848 main building, carriage house, and Coleman House annex.
Homey … but with a luxe accent. Ample whirlpool tubs and gas fireplaces complement several of the handsome guest rooms, the pub is stocked with single-malt Scotches, and innkeeper Linda Aldrich might sauté shiitake mushrooms to top off a breakfast frittata made with Vermont cheddar. In the evening, she turns the kitchen over to chef Cassidy Warren, whose creations pair well with an award-winnng cellar list.