Vermont Skiing and Inns
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.
Other Vermont inns may have greenhouses, but none like this one. Those aren’t herbs and field greens out there; the glass walls cocoon Bob Aldrich’s collection of some 1,000 orchids, representing half as many species and hybrids, which he’s been cultivating for two decades. He moved them, gingerly, from New Jersey when he and Linda bought the inn seven years ago. “Probably 90 percent of our guests ask to see them,” says Bob, who graciously obliges with tours of the coziest little rain forest in the Green Mountains.
Way up in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, there’s a ski area big enough to have trained American Olympians, yet cozy enough to draw families. They know that Burke Mountain has the terrain and the variety to challenge skiers and snowboarders at every skill level.
Part of Burke’s allure is its two-tiered layout. A high-speed quad chairlift on the lower, gentler portion of the mountain delivers novices to a quartet of long, loping cruisers; ski here, and you’ll feel as though you’ve found a learner’s haven tucked away in a world of its own. But just a short slide from the top of that lower lift is a second quad that lofts the more advanced crowd to a summit with views of the entire Kingdom and beyond, into Quebec and New Hampshire’s White Mountains — and to a slew of zigzagging intermediate trails, daunting black-diamond runs, and some harrowing glades (Throbulator, anyone?).
If you can’t calculate the coziness factor of a 440-acre farm, you haven’t stayed at The Inn at Mountain View Farm, which occupies the core of hotel magnate Elmer Darling’s model dairy operation from the early 20th century. Although the original inhabitants are long gone, Darling’s imposing barns remain. (One houses a thriving nonprofit farm-animal sanctuary.) The present-day inn hosts guests in a rambling farmhouse and a tidy brick creamery that stand on a lofty byway scarcely 10 minutes from the slopes at Burke Mountain, and just steps from the 50-kilometer Kingdom Trails cross-country network.
The upstairs rooms in the creamery once housed workers who made butter and cheese, and who wouldn’t recognize today’s plush beds and cheerful colors. Lodgings here are the last word in quiet and seclusion. There are no phones or TVs in guest rooms, and the whole blissfully empty Northeast Kingdom seems to serve as insulation. The setting is so private and otherworldly that it’s a surprise to head downstairs in the morning and find that someone’s been making muffins, waffles, or omelets for your breakfast.
And that’s what cozy is all about.