Dirt-Cheap Travel: Stowe, VT

Ski two days, stay two night, and feed yourself at Stowe....all for just $240.

I knew I could coerce my friend Dirk into picking up the tab for pizza and beers on my first evening and save myself a good $20. When you’re in Stowe for a weekend, you need every Jackson, Hamilton, and Lincoln you can scam—even in April. Turns out I didn’t need to dip into my karmic credit line at all: I rolled through three days of primo corn and two nights of not-so-cheap beer and decent chow on a little more than two Franklins.

And I mean “rolled” in the most literal sense. A year prior, I’d scored a sweet deal on a 1999 three-quarter-ton Dodge work van, the sort of rig that’s typically found in the driveways of plumbing contractors and bearded old men with questionable histories and lots of candy. I’d ostensibly purchased it for a family road trip, but the truth is, I coveted both its total lack of panache and its sheer capacity. I built a bedlike platform in the Dodge, making it a mobile hotel. There are many advantages of such a vehicle. Chief among them is the ability to sleep slopeside for nothing. When I awoke at Stowe in the middle of the night to relieve myself, I could see the lights of the cats buffing the next morning’s corn. I could turn my head to the sky and watch the stars smile down upon me as I peed out some beer. Life was good.
It only got better. The day before, I’d dropped $125 for a three-day pass and Dirk and I had skied ourselves silly in bright, 50-degree sunshine, on a nearly record-setting base gone to creamed corn. The next two days weren’t much different.

I developed a simple and satisfying rhythm. After crashing for nine solid hours in my “room,” I’d motor into town and relax with a coffee and a bagel while I waited for the sun to do its transformative work on the hill. Around 10 o’clock, I’d point the Dodge uphill, park in the near-empty lot, and hammer out lap after lap on Stowe classics like Goat, Starr, and Lookout. Toward the end of the day, with my legs as mushy as the snow beneath my skis, I’d run ’em fast and loose down twisty cruisers like Perry Merrill and Nosedive.

My three cheap days came to a coda on a sunny Tuesday. I’d connected with a small clutch of local rippers, and we skied the mountain as if each turn might be our last, as if the season might end without a moment’s notice. The sun was high and my wallet—while not exactly heavy with cash—wasn’t nearly as light as a three-day stay in Stowe might have rendered it. I had over $60 left before my $300 limit. I tried to think of how I might spend it. But then I spied a long sliver of perfect, unblemished corn. And I knew nothing I bought could be worth more than this.

Adult Full-Day Lift Ticket Price: $89
Vertical Drop: 2,360 feet
Price Per Vertical Foot: 3.8 cents
Cost of Burger: $7.95
Vermont’s Minimum Hourly Wage: $7.68
Min.-Wage Hours Needed to Buy Lift Ticket: 10.68
For More Info:http://stowe.com, http://usedvan4sale.com



Stowe Derby

Stowe Derby: Skinny Skis and Knocking Knees

The Stowe Derby—the Northeast’s oldest and perhaps craziest downhill cross-country ski race—turns 65. The race is taking place Sunday, February 28. Here's why you should sign up, from someone who's competed in it.