White all around, visibility nil, my cheeks flapping wildly from the wind and air—this was the Vermont I knew well, after 20-plus years of heading here to tackle the ski slopes of Mount Mansfield, the state’s tallest peek.
But this time no warmers were tucked into my boots and mittens…nor was I wearing boots and mittens. And the white wasn’t snow but the fog that often balaclavas the top of the mountain, and transforms the zipline that now slithers down it into a thrill ride as potent as any Six Flags’ creation. To be honest, I don’t like roller coasters but the sensation of flying through dense clouds and then, with a mental whoosh, out over the green valley (surrounded by waves of mountains, extending to the horizon) was a pleasure rush like few I’ve experienced. (The outfitters claim this is the world’s fastest zipline, at 60 miles per hour, something I can’t verify, but if sure did feel that way).
Photo by Mahlon Stewart
The new zipline isn’t the only reason to come to Stowe, Vermont in the summer or fall, of course, but it will give adrenaline junkies a motive to head here in the warmer months. So, too, will what’s called “hiking” in this part of the world, but in reality are tough rock scrambles over jagged boulders. The Cliff Trail, in particular, is a devilish challenge up a boulder strewn non-path (it looks like the glaciers barreled through just yesterday) to the “chin” of Mount Mansfield, that requires climbers to squeeze through tight rock tunnels, jump like a billygoat from uneven ledge to ledge, and, at one point, use metal handles, helpfully bored into the rock, to pull oneself up a steep mini-cliff. At the end of the 2.5 hour ordeal, er, course, my legs felt like they were rubberbanding to the sides as much as striding forward.
For those into gentler pleasures, summer and autumn Stowe also appeals with its verdant golf courses, its cushy spas and its bucolic recreation path, where bikers and runners can get up to speed without the hassle of cars. The streets in the village of Stowe, icy and windswept in peak ski season, are covered with art works, which one can learn more about via a cellphone tour. Poems by Vermont’s poet laureate are posted in the windows of Main Street businesses, part of the same arts initiative.
And foodies are particularly well taken care of in this cushy resort town, year round. At the woodsy, rustic-looking Harrison’s on Main Street Vermont cheeses seem to make their way into most every course—excellent news for all but the lactose intolerant. A particular favorite here is the apple cider chicken, which comes on a bed of luscious cheddar sauce. Nearby Plate is serving up fare that wouldn’t be out of place in San Francisco or New York City, using cutting edge techniques (a sous vide egg yolk balanced atop a traditional Italian stale-bread-and-mushroom salad) to elevate excellent local produce, meats and yes, cheeses. And I’d be remiss to ignore The Bistro at 10 Acres Lodge which serves caveman-size portions (like the entire ham hock slathered in a tangy BBQ sauce or the masterful, but huge, “appetizer” of locally foraged chanterelle mushrooms with linguini alfredo) in a setting that’s classic, gracious New England.
Seems like my once yearly trip to Vermont to see family needs to be doubled. And that, I have to say, is a darn good thing.
If you go:
Stowe Mountain Resort Zip Tour: Located at the Stowe Mountain Resort, 5781 Mountain Road (www.stowe.com/activities/summer/ziptour). Open 10am - 4:30pm Daily, through October 18, 2015, weather permitting. ZipTour: $109 per person.
Cliff Trail: Located to the right of gondola exit on Mount Mansfield. You can either walk to the trailhead for free or take the gondola up ($25 round-trip).
Harrison’s Restaurant and Bar: Located at 25 Main Street. Open daily, 4:30—9:30 pm (until 10pm on Fridays and Saturdays; 802/253-7773; www.harrisonsstowe.com). Main dishes $12—$22 on average.
Plate: Located at 91 Main Street. Open Wednesday through Sunday from 5:30—10pm (805/253-2691; www.platestowe.com). Main dishes $16—$28 on average.
The Bistro at Ten Acres Lodge: Located at 14 Barrows Road. Open Wednesday through Sunday 5—10pm. Main dishes $17—$32 on average.