Wintertime Stowe has two distinct cultures. One begins as early as 7:30 am on powder days, when elite collegiate racers, instructors, factory riders from nearby Burton Snowboards and hot locals come out to play in the fluff or rocket on the corduroy. Even portions of Mt. Mansfield's precipitous "front four"-National, Starr, Lift Line and Goat-are buffed at this hour. The pace is fast as members of the informal Ten-by-Ten Club try to make 10 runs on the Forerunner Quad before 10 am-prior to heading off to work in what one reader calls "Stowe's traditional New England postcard village." A second community of skiers sleeps in after a late evening, perhaps at The Rusty Nail or the Matterhorn. They down a breakfast at one of several first-rate inns or restaurants, and grab a shuttle together with many of the cheerful Brits who have recently discovered Stowe. They arrive for lessons at family-friendly Spruce Peak, enjoy the gentler confines of the Mansfield Gondola or savor the remnants of good snow on the natural playground that is Mt. Mansfield proper. Lunch at the Octagon or Cliff House precedes a leisurely afternoon. There are some drawbacks to Paradise. "Stowe is a great mountain desperately in need of capital improvements," a reader laments. They are coming. Negotiations between the resort and 27 environmental organizations have resulted in a consensus 2000 Community Plan and a $150 million development blueprint that was scaled back to protect bear habitat, improve stream flow and reduce traffic and sprawl. Who says parties for and against ski area development can't agree?
WHAT'S NEW Burton's Learn to Ride Program ensures that "the first day no longer has to be filled with face plants."
A GOOD DEAL A full selection of 2001 SKI-tested gold medal skis are available for demo at Pinnacle Ski and Sports, located just below the ski area.
MEDALS Gold Terrain, Challenge, Dining, Après-Ski, Off-Hill Activities; Silver Lodging, Family Programs, Scenery.
HIGH/LOW RANK Dining (9), Off-Hill Activities (9), Après-Ski (12); Snow (51), Weather (53), Value (75).
DON'T MISS The Chelsea Grill on Mountain Road. It seems contradictory, but chef Matt Delos features a hearty California-style bistro.
READER REMARKS (+) "Awesome terrain." "Starr and Goat rival most expert runs in the West, and Perry Merrill is the best cruiser anywhere." (-) "Very cold and some staffers display a Yankee attitude."