A reader writes, "I had not skied Stowe in 20 years. All that changed is that the lift-ticket price doubled and they replaced a single with a detachable quad." Some would hear this as a complaint, others as the highest praise. Everyone agrees that Stowe needs a face lift. Managers continue to struggle with Vermont's Environmental Commission over the resort's proposed $220 million expansion. In the meantime, the many fans who descend on the nostalgic New England village, infamous steeps, glades and what a reader calls "seriously undulating trails," relish Mt. Mansfield's enduring classic look and feel. Cold weather and sometimes unyielding snow create a stoic skier type. Few Bogner suits here. Look for cutting-edge gear, then for faded hi-tech skiwear, patched with duct tape, topped with a neck gaiter and a wool hat. Such characters exhibit a get-out-of-my-way manner-on the slopes and in liftlines. They can be pushy, even "snobby" as a reader complains. To counteract this aggressive stereotype, Stowe has instituted an Awareness, Attitude and Accountability etiquette campaign. In its third year, the program is having an impact; those on-mountain point to a higher level of civility. Stowe may be, as a reader says, "a throwback to what I remember skiing to be in the Sixties." But its retro-mystique, relentless fall-line runs, Currier-and-Ives landscape and fabulous après and dining continue to set standards that will never be compromised-even if that multi-million-dollar expansion is approved.
WHAT'S NEW Stowe Toys Demo Center at the Four Runner quad. The demo fleet is doubled and a ski instructor will help you with the new gear.
A GOOD DEAL Stay-and-Play package at the slopeside Inn at the Mountain. Includes free demos, lifts, lessons and even one day at Smuggler's Notch. Starts at $99 per person per day; 800-253-4754.
MEDALS GOLD Terrain, Challenge, Dining, Après-Ski, Off-Hill Activities; SILVER Snow, Lodging, Family Programs.
HIGH/LOW RANK Off-Hill Activities (9), Dining (11), Après-Ski (12); Value (60), Lifts (60), Grooming (62).
DON'T MISS The Blue Moon Café, rated five-star by many, offers creative cuisine, attentive service and small-town New England ambience.
READER REMARKS (+) "The mountain and terrain at Stowe make some Western resorts look dull." "One of the best in the East."
(-) "Ice! Cost!" "Harsh weather and lack of accessibility can put a strain on the experience."