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Stowe Away

Stowe, Vermont

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Winter vacations needn’t cost the earth. There’s a popular idea that taking a skiing break, or just generally hanging out in snowy regions, is a vacation option only for those with money to burn. But that’s not true: it’s possible to enjoy a great winter holiday close to home for a reasonable price.

One of the hotels that have been most successful at providing this sort of vacation in recent years is the Mountaineer Inn in Stowe, Vermont. Stowe is one of the most beautiful skiing villages in the United States – friendly and homely, it doesn’t have the feel of an industrial-level vacation spot that larger resorts such as Aspen sometimes do. Sitting on the lower slopes of the 1339m Mount Mansfield, the highest peak in Vermont, it’s a great center for skiing, snowboarding, hiking and all kinds of outdoor sports. Because of its relatively low elevation and relative closeness to the sea, it doesn’t have the same virtually all-year snow coverage of ski resorts in the Rockies. So if you’re intent on hitting the slopes, you need to visit during the winter or early spring. That said, there’s plenty to do in the summer and fall, too: the area surround Mt. Mansfield is a hiker’s paradise, containing such classic routes as the Long Trail, which stretches northwards to the Canadian border and southwards to meet up with the Appalachian trail as it winds its way up the eastern flank of the continent.

A break at the Mountaineer Inn will allow you to enjoy all these natural wonders and fantastic activities in comfortable, good-value surroundings. The hotel offers a choice between basic, standard and family rooms, all of which are comfortably furnished and more than adequate as a base from which to explore the surrounding area. The hotel’s restaurant serves excellent, freshly prepared local food in a pleasant atmosphere.

But maybe the best thing about the Mountaineer Inn is its proximity to the village of Stowe which is just a few minutes away by trolleybus. As well as being a great center for outdoor activities, Stowe is also one of the towns at the center of the Vermont antiques trade – a form of commerce for which the state has become famous in the past few years. The pastime of ‘antiquing’ (as it’s known) maybe a little less intense and physically draining as an afternoon on the piste, but it can be very rewarding to hunt for great pieces in the cozy atmosphere of Stowe. Be warned, however, that you’re very unlikely to pick up anything remotely approaching a bargain – all the dealers around here know their business inside out, so although you can be assured of the quality of the antiques on offer, you won’t find many of them going for a song!

One of the most popular times to visit Stowe is the fall. Guests at the Mountaineer Inn are in a particularly good position to appreciate this time of year, as the hotel is set in several acres of wooded grounds, bordered on one side by a trout stream. The colors of the autumnal foliage are as stunning here as anywhere else in New England, and simply have to be seen to be believed. Fall is also the time of year when a number of events of distinctly European flavor take place in Stowe. First, every September, there’s the ‘British Invasion’ – an annual motor show of UK marques such as Jaguar and Aston Martin that’s been voted one of the top ten events within an easy drive of the Boston metropolitan area. A little later, in October, there’s a German-style Oktoberfest when the beer flow freely and men in leather shorts roam the streets. This is a village that seems to have something different going on for every season!

If you want to indulge in some non-winter sports, fishing, riding, golf and tennis are all available within easy reach of the Mountaineer Inn, and the friendly hotel staff will do their best to help you locate the pastime you’re most interested in. If you’d like to get out and explore nature by yourself, but you’re not an experienced outdoors person, there are several guiding and excursion companies in Stowe village that will happily organize a day in the wild backwoods or on the hills for you.

The Stowe are has a very great deal going for it as a vacation destination. Within easy reach of the major eastern cities, it’s a year-round destination that has something to offer young and old alike. For many families it’s within easy driving distance, so there’s no stressful messing around in airports with kids. Best of all, Stowe is full of great hotels like the Mountaineer Inn where fantastic Vermont hospitality is on offer at great prices.

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