Learning to ski or snowboard at an early age is the perfect way to help young children instill a love for winter. Exploring the slopes helps kids build self-confidence, meet new friends and develop a lifelong affinity for the outdoors.
As I inhaled deeply and stretched my arms overhead in the dim room I marveled that I could feel both alert and revived and relaxed at the same time. I’ll admit that I almost never take the time to warm up my muscles before I ski, often to the detriment of my legs, back and arms. Why hadn’t I ever tried taking a pre-skiing private yoga class before? Oh, right, the children and their need for oatmeal.
Our teacher Cordelia had a low husky voice and the most flexible back I’d every seen. She led fellow Mama Gina and I through a series of gentle but deep postures that were easily adaptable for each of us.
As Cordelia slipped a little scented oil onto my fingers and encouraged us to inhale its spicy fragrance I thought about the normal ski morning routine of getting the kids up, making lunches, making breakfasts and assembling everyone’s gear. The Hermitage Club, which so graciously hosted Gina and me, was definitely putting a much more relaxing spin on my girlfriend-getaway ski-weekend experience. That’s because this private ski club is the perfect place to enjoy a little luxury, even without all the benefits of membership.
Stay in an Authentic Country Inn
I was already feeling pretty Zen before I got to yoga class. The night before Gina and I had arrived at the Hermitage Inn, a restored 1840s farmhouse perched on the top of small hill.
It was a cold February Friday and we had been skiing all day so it was lovely to be shown to our spacious and utterly comfortable rooms in the inn’s so-called “Wine Wing” just to the side of the main entrance.
My room was called The Birches, and I’ll let you guess why.
Large, but comfortable and unpretentious, small luxuries abounded in this room that felt like a real retreat. I had a refrigerator with chilled water, a pair of soft robes in the closet, a canister of granola, a light-up magnifying mirror on the vanity table and a well-stocked bathroom.
But by far my favorite feature was that the decor included charming paintings by the French artist Michel Delacroix. A former owner of the inn amassed an extensive collection of his art, which now hangs through out private and public spaces there.
A dial on the wall worked the gas fireplace and each morning of my stay I turned it on, scooted back into bed and got up a half hour later to a deliciously warm room and floor.
Gina stayed right next door in The Pines, equally comfy and cute with large windows.
It’s possible I’ve never stayed at a ski resort where the temptation to cocoon was greater. I was glad to for both the siren call of a yoga class and a lift up to the main mountain right behind the Hermitage Inn, or I might not have ever left.
The Only Lines on Haystack Mountain Are the Ones in the Corduroy
Feeling completely stretched and energized after our hour with Cordelia, Gina and I headed for the slopes, which lay right outside the door of the Cubhouse. Haystack Mountain is small and pristine, with a vertical drop of 1400 feet. The new Barnstormer six-person, high-speed, heated bubble lift whisks guests up to the summit.
The mountain is beautifully groomed, and the fact that there aren’t too many people on the trails keeps the snow pristine, even on a busy weekend. In fact, true to the club’s promise, we neither stood in line nor encountered too many other people while we were skiing. I definitely felt a little like the queen of my own mountain and I enjoyed picking up speed on some of the cruiser trails.
If you’re a fan of 1970s or 80s music, another fun activity in addition to skiing is to try and figure out which musical acts have performed at the mountain – a number of trails are named after their songs. I skied I’m Alright, Maneater and Rocking Down the Highway. But my favorite in terms of both terrain – it’s a longish run with lots of fun whales and jumps – and the tune it put into my head was Ventura Highway.
Gina and I quickly discovered a triple chair that’s skier’s right of the summit called The Witches, which accesses the steep, groomed terrain. Trails like Push and Smooth live up to their names, offering Gina the chance to practice the swooping turns she favors while I pointed my skis down the hill and pretended (just a little bit) that I was racing.
To keep the number of people on the mountain down, inn guests are permitted only one downhill ski trip per season (that is, you’re welcome to ski as many days as you are staying, but only on your first visit). Although if you’re lucky enough to know someone who is a member, they may have a guest pass to share, as one of the perks of membership is a large number of these.
This Club Puts the “Ah” in Spa
Our après-ski plans were another visit to the spa, this time to enjoy a bit of pampering in the form of customized facials and massages. Placed into the excellent and qualified hands of an amazing facialist, my deeply dehydrated skin and painful chapped lips emerged glowing and soft.
I would have been happy to stop there, but before I knew it, a masseuse was giving me a really delicious Swedish massage. I appreciated the fact that she took the time to talk to me beforehand. I have numerous issues with my neck and upper back and she checked in with me repeatedly during the massage to make sure that she was being gentle enough.
In between and after treatments, Gina and I were ushered into the secluded Serenity Room. Cameras are off-limits there, but allow me to paint you a picture. Imagine circular room with a fountain in the center. The only sound is moving water and the air is warm and soft. Chaises with soft cushions surround the fountain. And yes, I’m getting sleepy all over again just describing it for you.
What I really loved about the spa at the Hermitage Club was that everyone who worked there was professional but also so caring and kind. It felt as though they truly wanted the best for the guests, not just because it was their job but because it was their calling.
The spa has a generous menu of services. Booking them ahead is a good idea, especially during busy weekends. Inn guests should do so 48 hours in advance.
There’s Fun and Food for All Ages at the Hermitage
The Hermitage Club offers many dining options at the various inns it owns. All of them are managed by executive chef Chris Bonnivier who is omnipresent in his kitchens and dining rooms (we saw him at no fewer than four locations over the course of the weekend) and who may be the hardest working man in the business. There’s a nice variety to the choices.
Gina and I enjoyed traditional Italian food at Piacenza in the Inn at Sawmill Farm. We started with Negronis, and sampled, among other dishes, delicious boar meatballs, gnocchi with lamb cheek, and pork saltimbocca.
Guests at the Hermitage Inn can eat in either the more casual, cozy tavern area or the larger dining room – we were lucky enough to snag a table in front of the fireplace there after enjoying an après-ski cocktail by the bar. The menu here is French inspired and extensive including more casual food like flatbreads, wings and burgers and made-to-order mac and cheese and fine dining options. We sampled house-made pork pâté from the former and perfectly tender beet cured Scottish salmon from the latter.
But the best came last off of the impressive dessert menu – be sure to save room for the Deconstructed Maple Crème Brulee, which comes with a house-made doughnut hole on the side.
Another dining option that we didn’t try were the burgers, sushi and farm-to-table comfort food at the White House Inn. All of the restaurants are busy on weekends and holidays, so it’s a good idea to make a reservation.
Of course, you’ll need to get active outside a lot to burn off all those calories. Happily there are plenty of nearby options. Downhill skiing isn’t the only choice – Nordic skiers and snowshoe enthusiasts will be in heaven at the Hermitage Club. Not only does the club maintain a 9-mile trail network, but there are multiple other cross-country ski areas and touring outfits in the region as well as a long list of un-groomed ski and snowshoe trails in state parks and other recreational areas as well.
And while I really enjoyed my hedonistic weekend without children, families are very welcome at the Hermitage Club. When I saw the charming skating pond and tubing hill that is adjacent to the Hermitage Inn, I almost wished I had my kids with me. Other winter family activities include snowmobile tours and sleigh rides.
I love skiing with my family, and I know they would enjoy a weekend at the Hermitage Club as much as I did. But I may just have to keep the club – or at least Cordelia and the Serenity Room – a secret from them.
More information about the Hermitage Club
- I absolutely loved the Hermitage Inn but the Hermitage Club owns five additional nearby properties, all of them offering similar access to the club’s amenities. The Hermitage Inn is closest to the mountain, ice skating, tubing hill, and Nordic Center but none of the others is all that far away.
- Although Gina and I only had time to do the one yoga class, the fitness center at the Hermitage Club is full-service with spin, weight and steam rooms; elliptical machines; a lap pool and a jacuzzi. Classes of all varieties from pilates to yoga to aqua fitness are offered on weekends and holidays. Inn guests pay a day-use and per-class fee to use these facilities.
- The dining facilities in the gorgeous Clubhouse are available only to members and their guests, but if you’re skiing you can sample everything from gourmet waffles to poutine to cocktails at the Summit or Mid-Mountain Cabins.
- The club and its inns would make a great destination in the summer or fall as well. In addition to hiking, kayaking, mountain biking and swimming in either a lake or one of several pools the club offers an 18-hole golf course (open to non-members during the week) with very reasonable greens fees. The club also offers day camps for kids in the summer.
- The club is located in Southern Vermont, close to the Massachusetts border. It’s a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Boston, four from New York City, and five from Philadelphia, making it one of the closest Vermont resorts to these metro areas.
- If you’re interested in membership, Gina’s Hermitage Club post offers all the ins and outs of what that entails.