Like Tolstoy’s happy families, ski resort communities are alike. They all have art galleries, expensive sandwich shops and an astonishing number of Subarus. Stowe, Vermont, embodies this rule to a tee, but its Topnotch Resort stands out for a standard of service usually associated with Edwardian manors, except with more smiling. It’s also got a spa good enough to merit the drive from Boston, if Vermont’s most picturesque ski area wasn’t reason enough.
The town of Stowe has plentiful countrified distractions: dog-friendly inns, white spired churches and something called a “House of Jerky.” Hang a left on the road that winds up Mount Mansfield, and the family restaurants and ski rental stores crowd thick until you feel the elevation in your ear canals. Topnotch roosts on a slope about a 10-minute drive from the base of the ski lifts. From the modern chalet architecture of the main hotel, it unfolds into banks of condominiums that command views and seasonal rental rates best described as arresting. For smaller groups, book a room in the hotel and check your gear with the ski valets at the bottom of the driveway. They’ll keep your boots warm and dry—and even supply you with Pop Tarts for a caloric boost after a day on the piste.
Rooms here are ski resort luxe, meaning they’re warm and outfitted for good storage, with pale wood and simple lines. An executive king on the third floor will sport vaulted cathedral ceilings for airiness. But the real attraction of the hotel is the spa area, which boasts an indoor lap pool and a whirlpool with a hydrotherapy waterfall. Sit under it for a vigorous shoulder and neck massage without the spa pricing. An outdoor pool area is open year-round, with heated swimming and a scalding hot tub ideal for winter nights or crisp mornings with a view of the mountains. Fire bowls dot the property, inflecting the rawest night with a balmy flicker.
Complimentary shuttles are on call at all hours, so you can be first in line for the lifts and last down the slopes at sunset. Stowe justifiably calls itself the ski capital of the East, and Topnotch’s concierge will arrange for discounted lift tickets. Rentals are available on property at the resort’s Nordic Barn, which also offers sleigh rides through the wooded trails across the Mountain Road. And there’s an expansive tennis center with world-class pros on staff and indoor facilities for winter play. The hotel’s fitness schedule is expansive, too, ranging from gentle yoga to Pilates for skiers.
Topnotch’s diversions aren’t all so high-energy—the après bar, the Roost, has mountain views, fireplaces and excellent local drafts like Switchback. Every bar in Vermont seems to serve a medley of outstanding cheeses, but the Roost broadens its snack menu with fun concoctions like short rib poutine and beer and cheddar soup with bacon. A shuffleboard table keeps kids entertained while their parents study the cocktail list, and there’s frequent live music and karaoke—the staff may even take a turn on the microphone. The hotel’s main restaurant, Flannel, is a bistro with an open kitchen and an emphasis on Vermont flavors with a creative edge. The lacquered pork belly, for example, is touched with spiced maple syrup and smoked butternut squash. Solid mains like rib-eye with thyme marsala sauce or chipotle orange-glazed duck breast get a boost from knockout sides like crispy Brussels sprouts with Sriracha aioli or french fries with powdered Gruyere. Be sure to book the breakfast plan with your room; bracing dishes like corned beef hash with runny eggs or challah French toast with Grand Marnier custard can be delivered to your bedside.
After so much gastronomic exertion, you’ll be ready for another day on the mountain. The beauty of Topnotch is that the staff packs your skis, delivers you to the slopes and brings you back to the hydrotherapy waterfall afterward. They eliminate the logistical trauma of a ski vacation, making it effortless. The only worry is what to order on the après menu.
-In town, Crop is a first-rate brewpub and bistro with hearty beer-paired fare like pork shank and jagerschnitzel.
-The resort’s equestrian center offers riding lessons, as well as draft horses for carriage and sleigh rides.
Topnotch Resort 4000 Mountain Road, Stowe, Vermont (800-451-8686) topnotchresort.com