I have wanted to learn to ski for as long as I can remember. Growing up in a beach-loving, cold-eschewing family, skiing was not high on our list of recreational activities. In elementary school, many of my classmates would line up once a week during the winter months to board the after-school ski club bus that took them to nearby Mount Southington. I didn’t join them. In high school my friend Dave, who spent every weekend on the slopes in Quechee, did his best to convince me that snow was way better than sand and surf. After college, I married a man who spent his youth skiing Mount Mansfield’s famed front four at Stowe and had plenty of stories to share. But it wasn’t until last winter that I got out there myself, finally learning to ski alongside my three daughters during a surprise trip to Stowe for my husband’s birthday.
I’d booked a stay at the Trapp Family Lodge and had planned on spending our time there, exploring their network of trails on snowshoes and cross-country skis. When I told my husband about the trip his first reaction was, “We can’t go to Stowe and not go to Mansfield.”
We had been talking a lot about getting our girls onto skis. At 11, 9 and 7, the time was ripe for them to learn. “They should learn at Stowe,” my husband said. “They’ll learn and they’ll love it. Stowe’s ski school is the best in the east and the conditions will be awesome.”
And he was right. Our experience was amazingly positive and none of us could wait to return. Happily, just last week we took part in Stowe’s world-class ski school for a second time and had an equally fantastic time. Whether you’re looking to get yourself or your kids onto skis for the first time or are a proficient skier wanting to sharpen your skills, Stowe Mountain Resort is the ideal place for skiers and riders of every level.
Loads of Beginner Terrain
First off, let’s take a look at the mountain. Stowe Mountain Resort is comprised of two areas, Spruce Peak and Mount Mansfield, and offers a bounty of beginner and intermediate trails. While Spruce is an excellent starter mountain, there is plenty of challenging terrain and untouched powder at Upper Spruce off the Sensation Quad. Lower Spruce is the learning area with two magic carpets towing newbies up to the beginner slopes while the Adventure triple and the brand new Meadows quad service some beautiful easy, green runs. The Sunny Spruce lift delivers some intermediate trails when you’re ready to take on some narrower runs with a bit more pitch.
You could easily spend an entire weekend at Spruce, but if you want to explore a bit more, it’s a breeze to hop over to Mount Mansfield on the Over Easy gondola. When you get there, take the Fourrunner Quad to the summit and ski the beautiful, tree lined Toll Road trail that leads to the easy greens at the Toll House area. You could also try some of the less challenging blues off the quad or the Mountain Triple like Sunrise and Standard, both of which hook up with the Toll Road when you’re ready for a breather.
The Best in the East
In a word, Ski School here rocks. Stowe features learn-to-ski offerings for everyone from age three to adult with their Kids’ Adventure programs, Stowked Teen Camps, and group and private lessons. We’ve had the good fortune of participating in many of these during our two visits to Stowe.
Our girls have taken part in Stowe’s full-day Adventure program and after one day last year and twice this season, all three are zipping down intermediate terrain with aplomb, making nice, parallel turns with confidence. Our middle daughter is more of a daredevil, taking her first black diamond run and scooting up into the trees whenever she has the chance. Our girls had a blast each day, and we never heard one word from them about the cold despite the fact that it was 2-degrees all weekend. They loved their teachers, especially D.J. who was so amazing that we requested him again for the next day. And the teachers are totally engaged with the kids—they eat lunch with them, joke around, and really get to know their personalities. I can’t praise them highly enough.
As for myself, I couldn’t believe that I was actually skiing by the end of my first ever 90-minute group lesson. I had joined Stowe for Starters, a program designed especially for folks who have never skied. Once you’ve mastered the basics you can move on to a Mountain Clinic, a 2 ½ hour that offers groups of varying levels instruction that is pinpointed to different abilities. Private lessons offer students the opportunity for one-on-one time with one of Stowe’s amazing instructors. I was paired up with Madeline recently and by the end of my two-hour lesson I was transitioning smoothly into parallel turns and gliding securely down more challenging terrain.
Gear Up and Go!
Spruce Peak’s base area, Spruce Camp, is chock full of everything you might want or need for a great day on the slopes—and it’s all right there, making it a breeze for families to get geared up and on their way. The base lodge features equipment rentals, crafts in the lobby on weekends, a huge bag storage room with a spacious, comfortable area to get ready, and a fantastic store with absolutely everything you might need. During our recent visit we saw some frigid temps and people were lined up shopping for hand warmers and balaclavas.
The Great Room Grill is a gorgeous space for lunch featuring soaring, wood-beamed ceiling, enormous windows and fantastic, hearty food. The atmosphere is convivial and you’ll leave well fueled for the afternoon. The Spruce Bar is a great après ski hangout with great local brews on tap and live music on weekends, as well.
With so much to applaud, it’s hard to imagine that Stowe Mountain is going to be even better next winter, but it’s true. The Resort is hard at work creating its new slope side village at Spruce Peak featuring an elaborate adventure center that will be the home base for ski school, an outdoor skating rink that will double as a community green in the warm weather months, and a vibrant pedestrian area with shops, restaurants and food markets.
Don’t wait as long as I did to learn to ski. At Stowe Mountain Resort you’ll be cruising the powder in no time!
Gina Vercesi is an award-winning freelance writer with an adventurous spirit and unwavering wanderlust. In 2009 Gina founded Kids Unplugged, leading weekly hikes for families near her home in New York’s Hudson Valley. Kids Unplugged has since evolved into a vibrant site featuring unique, off-the-grid travel experiences for families.
Despite growing up in New England, Gina didn’t don a pair of skis until February 2014—the result of being raised by a beach-loving dad who eschewed everything having to do with snow and cold. When she finally took her first lessons and hit the slopes at Stowe Mountain Resort, she became an instant convert. As an All Mountain Mama, Gina loves sharing the joys of Vermont skiing with powder-lovers and novices alike.
Gina’s work has appeared numerous print and digital publications including the Boston Globe, Yankee Magazine, and Lonely Planet. She is passionate about helping families (including her own!) unplug from electronics and the frenetic pace of modern life and believes that travel and adventure are the best ways reconnect to one another and the world around us. Gina lives in a friendly village on the Hudson River with her husband, three daughters, and a good dog.