A Winter Family Vacation to Stowe

One Destination for Three Generations

By Arielle Allen


The last time I went on a vacation with my parents I was 12. All I remember is being squished between my two brothers in the back of the station wagon. This time, I’m piloting our SUV rental and my husband, Steve, is riding shotgun. Mom and Dad are in the backseat, and behind them our kids are fighting over Steve’s iPhone. Normally, I would encourage them to put down the technology and take in the breathtaking scenery—this is Vermont in winter—but they’re on Go Stowe’s winter hub to preview what’s to come from their home for the weekend.

It’s a great reference for all things winter in Stowe, and we’ve loved using it to plan out a fun weekend. Regardless, I still have my doubts about this trip. In addition to it being our first getaway with my parents, Stowe is a world-class ski town—a plus for my fearless husband and kids—but a bit intimidating for my parents and me. We’re from the Southwest. Snow is a novelty.

And there is a lot of snow in Stowe. As we drive in to the village and up the Mountain Road, the snow-covered Green Mountains surround us. The church steeples and Colonial-style houses comprising the town’s charming skyline look straight out of the glossy pages of a children’s Christmas book. Like an impatient child, my husband fidgets in his seat—ready to click into his skis and chase powder.

Huge selection, small town vibes

“Who is this friendly fellow?” Dad asks. He’s the first one through the door at Pinnacle Ski & Sports, where we’re renting our gear, and he’s already been suckered into rubbing the belly of the store’s mascot, a golden retriever named Spencer. The kids join him in hovering over Spencer, but Steve heads straight for the colorful display of skis hanging from the ceiling. “Wow, Ski Magazine wasn’t exaggerating,” he observes. “This collection of demos is insane!”

He and the kids waste no time getting outfitted with the newest demo. Soon they are spouting off all sorts of questions and Pinnacle’s staff is always ready with an answer—even for questions they didn’t ask. The staff showed them how different lenses work under different conditions, how different helmets and goggles fit, the best way to layer for warmth and so much more. Even though I didn’t completely understand everything they discussed, I could tell Pinnacle’s staff knew what they were talking about, and I felt my kids were safer for it.

As my parents and I are content to standby and observe, I’m pleasantly surprised when we strike up an enlightening conversation with one of the friendly staff members, who seems to know just as much about the retail realm in Stowe as she does the runs on the mountain.

“Check out the denim wall at Green Envy,” she insists after giving us the lowdown on the best boutiques in town. I make a mental note of her recommendation and then turn my attention to Dad. It will probably take 20 minutes to tear him away from his new friend, so I better get started. If our staff—including Spencer—encounters are any inclination of what we can expect from the people in Stowe, we’re in for a warm welcome.

One-of-a-kind finds

The exposed beams of weathered wood tell me we’re in a barn, but there’s no sign of farm animals. Mom and I are trying on jeans in Green Envy, an old farmhouse barn-turned-boutique. Its impeccably curated denim wall, and contemporary selection of luxury handbags, shoes, jewelry and cashmere, screams New York City chic, but its serene setting reminds us we’re in the mountain village of Stowe.

Ten minutes up the road, Steve and the kids are on the slopes at Stowe Mountain Resort. We decided to separate on our first full day here, so Steve and the kids could shred without worry of my parents and I lagging behind. Initially, I was concerned my parents and I would be bored while they skied, but it’s quite the contrary. Dad appears beyond comfortable, feet up on a stool and nose buried in his find from a bookstore just down the block. It’s a memoir about the von Trapp family, the Sound of Music stars whose descendants are perhaps the most famous residents of Stowe.

“These are as soft as butter!” I proclaim, admiring my backside in the mirror. I give credit to the saleswoman who is not selling us jeans; she’s educating us on fits, washes, styles and fabrics. I was skeptical Mom and I would be able to shop in the same place, but between the 30 brands of premium denim Green Envy carries, we both manage to score two pairs.

While Mom is in the fitting room, Dad even gets up from the comfort of his couch and picks out a surprise purchase for her—part of his plan to get her to take a ski lesson with him the next day. “My son designed this base layer and Alp-N-Rock makes it exclusively for our store,” the store’s owner says proudly while folding the heather grey henley. I can already see mom wearing it on the slopes and then out on the town for an après ski beverage.

It’s not just a place, it’s a lifestyle

Only the promise of hot chocolate and freshly baked cookies gets the kids out of the outdoor heated pool and back into the resort. During Stoweflake Mountain Resort and Spa’s complimentary afternoon tea, Mom, Dad and I catch up with Steve and the kids around one of the many roaring fireplaces in the common areas. They rave about their favorite runs, and in turn, we describe the village, just a few minutes down the road, and show off our purchases—proof that Stowe lives up to its title of “best ski town for non-skiers.”

The next morning we wake up to a glorious, glittering blanket of snow outside our frost-covered windows. We are staying in one of Stoweflake’s three-bedroom townhomes. Steve and I share the upstairs master bedroom, and Mom and Dad have the master suite. The kids shared a room with two queen beds next to us on the second floor, and spent most of the evening chasing each other up and down the stairs.

Over French toast doused in real Vermont maple syrup—served at Stoweflake’s on-site restaurant Charlie B’s—it’s decided Mom and Dad will take the kids back up the mountain while Steve and I enjoy some alone time at Stoweflake. He’s made friends with a maintenance man who told him about the groomed snowshoe trails around the property, and I heard from a longtime employee—the resort has been owned by the same family for more than 50 years—that the spa’s hydrotherapy waterfalls and Hungarian mineral soaking pool are not to be missed. We thoroughly enjoyed all of it.

That night, Steve and I hop on the free shuttle that stops outside the resort’s entrance and meet our crew in the village for dinner. Somehow, the kids convince my parents to gift them with the demos they rented. Even more impressive, they pull up Pinnacle Ski & Sports’ vast online retail store, SkiEssentials.com, on Steve’s phone and help my digitally challenged parents make their first online purchase via smartphone.

Sitting at dinner in my new jeans, I feel like a million bucks. But it isn’t just because I know I look good. It’s because I know this family vacation experiment has been a success. Stowe isn’t just another ski town. It’s special. It’s a neighborly village that warms visitors with its friendly heart and outstanding service. It welcomes non-skiers with open arms and a variety of entertainment, from shopping to spas to culture. As a non-skier, I can vouch for its other assets for all of us—the caliber of which remind me I need to make a deposit to get our same townhouse for this time next year.

Discover all the different ways to play in Stowe.