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Christmas Village

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By Pat Mestern

The Christmas season is special in many households where traditions hold firm. Family returns to the fold. Beautiful carols are sung. Gifts are exchanged and bountiful meals are served. Yet, there comes a time when the longing to experience an old-fashioned New England Christmas, surrounded by snow, mountains and white steepled churches becomes so great that it must be seriously addressed. Perhaps the feeling stems from all the lovely seasonal cards one receives. Possibly it is a childhood memory that stirs the consciousness; or the lyrics of a popular song extolling the beauty of a white Christmas hundreds of miles away. Whatever the cause for these longings, there is no better place to satiate the desire then Stowe, Vermont, nestled in its narrow valley at the foot of towering Mount Mansfield (4,393 ft).

Stowe, founded in 1794, is still one of the most beautiful villages in the Northeast Kingdom. Its old-fashioned charm is retained with winding roads, steepled churches, covered bridge and historic Main Street. This is a village that takes pride in its architectural heritage by allowing little modern development to intrude on its historic area. Due to its status as a world-class resort destination, development does embrace Mountain Road (Highway #108) as it winds up to Smuggler's Notch and beyond. To bring newer area development into perspective, it is usually tastefully done and not too intrusive on the landscape that surrounds the village and Mount Mansfield. Stowe Village, rooted in, and possessive of, its historic past, is also proud of the area's world class amenities that include more than sixty choices for accommodations. One can choose from full service resorts, charming country inns, bed & breakfast establishments and a variety of condominiums. The area receives an average yearly snowfall of 250 inches, making it a favorite destination for all winter recreational activities. Downhill skiers are treated to a vertical drop of 2,360 feet and 45 real trails with different levels of difficulty. Hiking, cross country skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing and skating are also popular activities for all visitors.

While on our honeymoon through Vermont, hubby and I promised that we would spend one winter holiday in Stowe. The village conjures up memories of a time long ago when Christmas was snow and real trees, a heartfelt church service, small village ambience, country charm and friendly folk. Thirty-seven years passed before we could fulfil that promise. Although we love having our family home to celebrate Christmas, we felt a break was needed from artificiality, canned music, malls and seasonal hype. We were desirous for quiet time to reassess values and plan for our future. Although our decision to be away over Christmas distressed several family members used to 'coming home for the holidays', it provided us with the most memorable and delightful of any of our trip experiences. Our son and his wife, needing a quiet retreat, opted to join us. We welcomed the opportunity to share Vermont with them and it proved a pleasure to see this beautiful area through the eyes of a younger generation.

If you are looking for total peace and quiet, it is advisable to spend more time in Stowe before December 25, then after. Known as the "Ski Capital of the East", the area is very popular between Christmas and the New Year. The vitality and joy of life exuded by these inter-generational visitors is fantastic, but lineups can be long at restaurants and ski lifts. Even with the influx of people after December 25, we did not find the hiking and cross country trails crowded. Their presence did increase the population along Mountain Road, but Stowe Village remained as pleasant, charming and peaceful as ever. As we were traveling with a younger couple, who valued an indoor pool and hot tub, along with easy access to hiking and cross country ski trails, we carefully perused all the information received from the Stowe Area Association, on accommodation and meal packages. The Golden Eagle Resort on Mountain Road was chosen as "home base". The car could be parked for the duration of the visit as this particular Resort is within walking distance of the Village, and many of the amenities on Mountain Road. Also, the resort is one stop along the free bus route that shuttles visitors, skiers and equipment from the village to various points accessed by Mountain Road.

During the winter, one approaches Stowe, languishing in its pretty river valley, from the south vie Route #100, as Route #108 in from Jefferson is closed over Smuggler's Notch. The drive is easy. Vermont highways are well maintained during the winter months. Of course, the usual precautions must be followed. During the winter one should travel with an emergency kit of candles, chocolate bars, blankets and extra clothing. Vermont vacation time is casually structured. After a hearty breakfast, everyone dresses appropriately and goes about enjoying their favorite pastimes. Main Street awaits down the hill and through the covered bridge. The heritage area is appropriately decorated with huge fresh evergreen wreaths and thousands of sparkling white lights. Everyone enjoys the impromptu carol sings and hot chocolate. Visitors browse, admire and buy Vermont crafts, cheeses, gourmet foods, flannelette clothing and other unique gift items for the folks back home. One favorite stop is Shaw's General Store that still values heritage after one hundred years of tradition and service. We opted for days full of physical activity and adventure. Evenings were reserved for quiet contemplation and relaxation. Late afternoons were spent in the swimming pool, before another leisurely foray up - or down - Mountain Road in search of supper.

With more than fifty restaurants to choose from, each supper was a different culinary experience. Some favorite, reasonably-priced establishments are Mr. Pickwick's Pub & Restaurant at Ye Olde England Inne, a great place for British style foods and imported beers; The Partridge Inn Seafood Restaurant, essential for seafood lovers and Miguel's Stowe Away with its excellent Mexican food, served with festive flair. For a magnificent view while dining, take the Gondola from Stowe Mountain Resort to The Cliff House, 4,300 feet above sea level. Trapp Family Lodge is ideal for a meal, a horse drawn sleigh ride and fantastic views of mountains and valleys. The Austrian Tea Room at the Trapp Family Lodge is a great place for lunch and comes highly recommended. Reservations are necessarily for their popular and elegant dining room.

Late Christmas Eve we walked to Main Street and the Stowe Community Church for their non-denominational service. Christmas came peacefully amid the smells and sounds of the season - appropriate prayers, candles, fragrant balsam wreathes, familiar carols, friendly people and church bells pealing over the quiet winter valley at midnight. Can it get any better? Christmas Day is reserved for hiking the 5.5 mile Stowe Recreation Path which follows Little River from the village to within one-half mile of the base of Mount Mansfield. This gradually inclined trail, crisscrossing the River, is ideal for all ages as it gently meanders up the valley. One never feels crowded in this relaxed setting. People call a greeting and stop to chat. Hands are shaken and strangers are drawn into the fold. It is traditional to finish the hike with a horse drawn sleigh ride, through eighty acres of lower meadow at Topnotch Resort. An exhilarating sleigh ride with horse harness jingling, through snow covered fields and along Little River, is nostalgic and memorable. Choosing to hike down by Mountain Road, our party was ready for a hearty lunch at The Shed, which serves up excellent food and marvelous ambience.

After Christmas lunch, our legs told us to take the shuttle bus back to home base. We dressed for dinner and walked down mountain to The Stowe Inn & Tavern, chosen specifically for its marvelous views of the covered bridge, Little River and historic Main Street. Having been forewarned about lineups at good restaurants for Christmas dinner, we made reservations for this meal shortly after arriving in Stowe. A traditional turkey dinner was complimented by great company and good cheer. The clear night sky with its pale winter moon and myriad of brilliant, sparkling stars provided the final salute to an unforgettable day. Interesting stories are told through the headstones in local cemeteries so an hour was spent at the old burial ground behind Main Street during our final day in Stowe. While our younger companions enjoyed one last afternoon on the trails, we drove to Smuggler's Notch and parked at the barricades. The weather was perfect for a walk on the Notch Road, 4,000 feet above sea level. After such a hike, one warms their hands with a mug of hot chocolate at the Mansfield Base Lodge while admiring the athletic dexterity of snowboarders and skiers. The hot tub at home base was a welcome treat after a day of strenuous physical activity. One last walk, to savor Main Street at night, rewarded us with the sight of a wedding party arriving by horse drawn sleighs, bells ajingling, for their reception at historic Green Mountain Inn. All holidays must end but there was great reluctance all round to leave Stowe. We consoled ourselves with a stop a few miles down the road at Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream Factory. We shall always have sweet and lasting memories of Christmas in Stowe Vermont. Of all the blessings we received, the one most cherished is a little "Stowe-away" born into the family of our young companions approximately nine months after our wonderful holiday.


  • For information on Stowe and area one must contact Stowe Area Association
    • P.O. Box 1320
      Stowe, Vermont 05672
      #1-800-24-STOWE (#1-800-247-8693)

  • You can reach The Golden Eagle Resort by writing
    • Box 1090
      Mountain Road
      Stowe, Vermont 05672

  • During the Christmas holidays, it is advisable to make supper reservations at the popular eating establishments. The information for those restaurants mentioned is as follows:
    • The Partridge Inn Seafood Restaurant
      Mountain Road

      Miguel's Stowe Away
      Mountain Road

      The Cliff House at 4,300 Feet
      Mountain Road

      Mr. Pickwick's Pub and Restaurant at Ye Olde England Inne
      433 Mountain Road

      Trapp Family Lodge and the Austrian Tea Room
      Trapp Hill Rd.

      Stowe Inn & Tavern at Little River
      123 Mountain Road

      The Shed
      Mountain Road

  • Of the many shopping opportunities in Stowe village and area, a stop at
    • Shaw's General Store
      Historic Main Street

      Ben & Jerry's Homemade Inc
      Route #100
      Waterbury, Vermont

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