The Escape Artist
Family ski trips reach their apotheosis at Stowe Mountain Lodge.
On a road trip with kids, after exhausting the diversions of the potato chip, the sing-along, the word game and the sobbing plea, a parent’s burning wish is to finally answer affirmatively to, “Are we there yet?” There, in the case of Stowe Mountain Lodge, is worth every anarchic, motion-sick minute of the three-and-a-half-hour drive from Boston. The palatial, neo-Alpine hotel is a promised land of long corridors suitable for tag, gingerbread houses made for gawking and a staff that’s mastered the Byzantine stratagems of the family ski trip. What sets Stowe apart from other mountain getaways is that every logistic has been planned, every transition anticipated. This is a resort built for the single-minded purpose of giving mom and dad a chance to ski 116 trails in peace.
Pulling up the driveway, you’re struck by the oversized beauty of the architecture and by the speed of the bellhops, who whisk your luggage and groceries up to your room before the kids have had a chance to trampoline on the furniture. A two-bedroom suite amply houses a family of six, given a living-room sofa bed that the staff will make up before lights out. There’re storage closets for ski gear, fireplaces for story time, ample kitchen space for dinners and multiple flat-screens for Sponge Bob. Ask for a suite with a wraparound porch, ideal for gazing in quiet wonderment at Mt. Mansfield or for bouts of manic sprinting. Two large bathrooms will save you a fortune in therapy sessions. And don’t miss ordering milk and homemade cookies from room service.
Start the morning by stepping out the hotel’s back door and crossing the plaza to the Spruce Camp Base Lodge, a hall seemingly designed for frost giants who like exposed wood beams, upscale burgers and Obermeyer labels. Get fitted for gear by employees patient to the point of sanctity, then immediately check the children into the adjacent Adventure Center, a full-day ski school program. The magic of this is hard to overstate. Responsible, appealing instructors remove your floundering children at 8 am and return them at 3:30 pm, now capable of tearing up a Green slope while shouting, “French fries, pizza pie!” They also feed them lunch, as well as streams of hot chocolate glopped with marshmallows. For toddlers, a separate Cubs Daycare program is designed with an emphasis on playtime and the goal of acclimatizing a three-year-old to the concept that skis are a source of joy. The caregivers deliver a detailed report at pickup, so you know precisely how Junior’s been progressing with his balancing skills and his relations with Flopsy the bunny puppet. They even cart tykes up Mt. Mansfield on the gondola for leisurely jollies.
The purpose behind all the sign-in sheets, ID tags and manpower, of course, is to free your day for the slopes and a deserved après-ski moment in front of the fireplace at the Spruce Camp Bar. Considering the 39 miles of trails, it’s a full itinerary, and if you need a refresher, the patient, relaxed instructors will have you steady on your feet within an hour. Then bask in the exaggerated geology, the rush of gravity and, mostly, the freedom.
After leaving all your gear with the lodge’s ski valet for easy access the next morning, tromp the kids downstairs to the heated, outdoor pool, where they can expend any remaining energy playing Marco Polo while your muscles tenderize in the hot tub. Then it’s a quick bathtime before your sitter arrives, which you can book through the meticulous (and insured) Babies to Boomers service.
If time permits, now is the moment to take a steam in the spa before showering for dinner at Solstice, the farm-to-table restaurant. Chef Josh Berry has the good fortune of running a kitchen that’s in the heart of a mountain idyll instead of within the concrete borders of I-495, so his local sourcing means exquisite cheeses, neighborhood game and livestock raised in Vermont’s immaculate pastures. Hence the heightened flavor of the local goat cheese croquettes with watercress, or the truffled beef pot roast. Savored along with the sight of Spruce Peak, it’s a refined capstone to a day of sublime vistas, winter sports and very exhausted offspring.
-Sitters from Babies to Boomers often work as ski instructors at Stowe, so your kids may develop a bond with them on and off the slopes.
-Full kitchens in the suites save money and hassle, so pick up groceries at the Shaw’s near the highway exit. For gourmet sandwiches, pastries and produce, try Harvest Market on Route 108.
Stowe Mountain Lodge
7412 Mountain Road, Stowe, Vt. | 802-253-3560 | stowe.com
Babies to Boomers
802-540-0433 | babiestoboomersvt.com