Stowe is an outstanding destination for cross-country skiers, offering several groomed ski areas with a combined total of more than 100 miles of trails traversing everything from gentle valley floors to challenging mountain peaks.
The Trapp Family Lodge Nordic Ski Center, on Luce Hill Road about 2 miles from Mountain Road (tel. 800/826-7000 or 802/253-8511; www.trappfamily.com), was the nation's first cross-country ski center. It remains one of the most gloriously situated in the Northeast, set atop a ridge with views across the broad valley and into the folds of mountains flanking Mount Mansfield. The center maintains about 30 miles of groomed trails (plus some 60 miles of ungroomed backcountry trails) on its 2,700 acres of rolling forestland; basically, for the cross-country ski nut, this is heaven. Rates are $20 per adult for a full-day trail pass (less for kids and half-days), and $20 for equipment rental.
The Edson Hill Manor maintains a Ski Touring Center (tel. 800/621-0284 or 802/253-7371) with 15 miles of wooded trails just off Mountain Road; it cost about $10 for a day pass in past years. Good ski touring is also enjoyed at the Stowe Mountain Resort Cross-Country Touring Center (tel. 800/253-4754 or 802/253-3000), with 20 miles of groomed trails and 25 miles of backcountry trails at the base of Mount Mansfield; full-day passes cost $17 to $19 for adults, about half that much for ages 6 to 12. Private and group lessons are also available here.
Summer Outdoor Pursuits
Stowe's history is linked to winter recreation, but it's also a great fair-weather destination, surrounded by lush, rolling green hills and open farmlands and towered over by craggy Mount Mansfield, Vermont's top peak at 4,393 feet.
There are several ways to get to the top of Mansfield. Part of Stowe Mountain Resort, the auto toll road (tel. 802/253-3500) traces its lineage back to the 19th century, when it served horse-drawn vehicles bringing passengers to a former hotel near the mountain's crown. (That hotel was demolished in the 1960s.) Drivers now twist their way up the road and park, still below the summit; a 2-hour hike along well-marked trails is required to get to the very top, which offers unforgettable views. The toll road is open 9am to 4pm from late May to mid-October. The fare is $21 per car with up to six passengers, $6 per additional person. Ascending on foot is free, but bicycles and motorcycles are prohibited for some reason.
Another option is the Stowe gondola (tel. 802/253-3500), which whisks visitors to the summit at the Cliff House Restaurant. Hikers can explore the rugged, open ridgeline, and then descend on the gondola before twilight. The gondola runs from mid-June to mid-October. The full round-trip costs $20 for adults, $16 for seniors, and $12 for children ages 6 to 12. There are family discounts. The lift is open for summer sightseeing 10am to 5pm daily from late June through mid-October. The restaurant, by the way, is no snack bar -- this is a fine-dining experience, with lunches daily from summer to early fall, plus Saturday-night candlelit five-course dinners (at the top of the state) featuring wine and cheese, Vermont meats, and the like.
The budget route up Mount Mansfield -- the most rewarding, but of course the most physically demanding -- is entirely on foot, with at least nine options for an ascent. This requires a good map. Ask for information from the tourism office or knowledgeable locals (your inn may be able to help), or stop by Green Mountain Club headquarters, on Route 100, 4 miles south of Stowe; it's open Monday through Friday. GMC also offers advice on other area trails.
One of the most understated local attractions is the Stowe Recreation Path, winding 5.3 miles from behind Stowe Community Church up the valley toward the mountain, ending behind the Topnotch Tennis Center. This exceptionally appealing pathway, completed in 1989, is heavily used by locals in summer; in winter it serves as a cross-country ski trail. Connect to the pathway at either end, or at points where it crosses side roads leading to Mountain Road. No motorized vehicles or skateboards are allowed.
All manner of recreational paraphernalia is available for rent at the bike & ski shop (tel. 802/253-7919) on the Rec Path, including full-suspension demo bikes, baby joggers, and bike trailers. The shop is on Mountain Road (across from the Golden Eagle Resort), open from 9am to 6pm daily in summer.
AJ's Ski & Sports, at 350 Mountain Rd. (tel. 800/226-6257; www.ajssports.com), rents bikes for $8 per hour or $27 per day, less for kids.
Fans of paddle sports should seek out Umiak Outdoor Outfitters, at 849 S. Main St. in downtown Stowe (tel. 802/253-2317; www.umiak.com). The folks here provide a slew of guided river trips (flat water or light rapids) and instruction (learn how to roll that kayak). Also available are canoe, kayak, and raft rentals. The same outfit runs outstanding snowshoeing tours by moonlight in winter, some culminating in gourmet dinners.
Anglers should allow ample time to peruse The Fly Rod Shop (tel. 802/253-7346), located on Route 100 about 2 miles south of the village. This well-stocked shop has fly and spin tackle, along with camping gear, antique fly rods, and rentals of canoes and fishing videos.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.