The Four Seasoned Traveler
Winter-only getaways are so last season. The best resorts are extending après-ski into a 12-month-long affair.
The reason to visit Stowe, Vermont, in winter is obvious. In autumn, too, when the ski town pops with brilliant orange. But come that insufferably damp period New Englanders loosely call spring, Stowe’s charms turn elusive.
Which is why the new Stowe Mountain Lodge—opening during the height of this year’s Mud Season—plans to lure travelers during off-peak months with a carefully crafted roster of all-weather activities. “To build, staff, and launch a $110 million lodge for less than 12 months of business just doesn’t make sense,” says Jim Horsman, the resort’s vice president.
It’s a truth the rest of our area’s best resorts are also —finally—beginning to grasp. Years of mild winters have hit local lodges hard, and dwindling lift lines and frantic snowmaking have put many ski havens in the red. Destinations that were once all about winter now promote guided nature hikes and fly fishing.
Without a doubt, this all-season trend helps resorts. But it’s also a boon to travelers, who can find new ways to enjoy places they already know and love. Bottom line: Peak season is right now, no matter what it says on the calendar.
Stowe Mountain Lodge
Nature meets nurture at the area’s newest luxury oasis.
By Jane Black
It’s taken more than 15 years for the lodge to become a reality. Environmental groups had their say, as did locals skeptical of jetsetting weekenders spoiling the quiet community vibe.
But the 139-room resort already looks good for everyone. In exchange for its 35 acres, the owners donated 2,000 for conservation, and its golf course lake provides water for snowmaking. The Lodge elevates Stowe’s Dirty Dancing resort–style feel to a level of luxury on par with Aspen or Telluride. Nobody puts Baby in a corner here, unless it’s in an embossed-leather chair by the fire.
There’s black-diamond skiing on Mount Mansfield or the gentler slopes of Spruce Peak. (Either way, the Alpine Concierge will have your tuned skis and warmed boots waiting at the lift for your first run.) In warmer months there’s golf and hiking, including personalized nature tours.
And then there’s the Lodge itself, a soaring glass and stone construction with views from every private balcony. Guests who tear themselves out of their marble “relaxation” tubs can visit the 21,000-square-foot spa for a “non-surgical facial,” or shop the on-site Shackleton-Thomas pottery boutique. Indeed, there’s so much to do that it’s hard to imagine packing it all into a single trip. Which, of course, is exactly what the designers had in mind.
Stowe Mountain Lodge
7412 Mountain Rd., Stowe, VT, 802-253-3560, stowemountainlodge.com.
AMENITIES: Spa and wellness center, yoga and Pilates studio, 18-hole Bob Cupp golf course, indoor/outdoor swimming pool, restaurant, bar, takeout and poolside café, ski-in/ski-out access to Spruce Peak, gondola transfer to Mount Mansfield
ACTIVITIES: Skiing and snowboarding, snowshoe tours, golf, Orvis fly-fishing clinics, hiking, biking, nature tours, spa treatments, nutrition counseling, cooking classes, alpine slide, bungee trampoline
WHAT’S NEW: Everything!
NUMBER OF ROOMS: 139
COST PER NIGHT: $435–$3,780
The Balsams Grand Resort
A luxurious blast from a more civilized past.
By Francis Storrs
The Mellons and the DuPonts summered at the Balsams, and it isn’t hard to see why. Compared with the glitz of today’s corporate mega-resorts, this 140-year-old stalwart exudes a decidedly dignified air. Wandering the manicured grounds, we reveled in the preternatural absence of cell-phone chatter and laptop tapping. The snug (though well-appointed) guestrooms don’t even have TVs—not that it ever occurred to us to miss them.
In fact, a stay at the Balsams is not unlike a trip to the summer lodges of yesteryear, albeit with better manners and a tastier mess hall. Active guests can explore two golf courses, six tennis courts, and the rest of the resort’s 15,000 mountainside acres. Snowy weather means skiing on a private mountain; in more mild weather, there’s swimming and boating on Lake Gloriette. Of course, kicking back in an Adirondack chair on the porch and sipping a sidecar is activity enough for many (the kids can play in daycare).
Evenings are capped off by lavish five-course dinners featuring expertly prepared comfort food followed by ballroom dancing or classic movies. At breakfast, servers remember your name and how you take your coffee. A good thing, too: Such trivial details have a funny way of escaping relaxation-addled brains.
The Balsams Grand Resort
1000 Cold Spring Rd., Dixville Notch, NH, 877-225-7267, thebalsams.com.
AMENITIES: Five dining venues; 95-acre alpine ski area; 63 miles of cross-country ski, hiking, and biking paths; movie theater, game room, full-service hair salon and spa; two golf courses, heated outdoor pool, six tennis courts, lake
ACTIVITIES: Badminton, basketball, volleyball, horseshoes, croquet, bocce, shuffleboard, hiking, mountain biking, snowshoeing, ice skating, arcade games, billiards, fly-fishing, dancing, cooking demonstrations, swimming, kayaking, canoeing
WHAT’S NEW: Pet-friendly wing, renovated ballroom, Defining Touch Salon & Day Spa
NUMBER OF ROOMS: 185 (plus 18 suites)
COST PER NIGHT: $338–$598
Equinox Resort & Spa
Age-old pursuits meet a modern twist.
By Brigid Sweeney
Don’t be fooled by the white-pillared façade: At the ripe age of 239, the Equinox is neither staid nor stodgy. Even if it were, you’d be too out-of-breath to notice. Like most Vermont resorts, there’s great skiing (on Bromley Mountain’s 1,300-foot vertical drop), snoeshowing, biking, and canoeing. Unlike most Vermont resorts, the Equinox has a Country Pursuits program that teaches guests to off-road in souped-up Land Rovers, face off against realistic animal targets during archery, and mingle with a beady-eyed falcon.
Despite the outdoor offerings, it’s the Equinox’s interior that’s generating buzz.
By June, all 183 rooms at the resort will have shed their pine furniture in favor of modern décor by New York designer Geoffrey Bradfield.
The Colonnade restaurant serves up generous breakfasts, while the Marsh Tavern has entrées like fork-tender lamb osso buco. After dinner, cozy up to Vermont-quarried stone fireplaces and gather around a board game. When the living’s this easy, you may find yourself leaving the likes of falconry to the birds.
Equinox Resort & Spa
3567 Main St. (Rte. 7A), Manchester Village, VT, 800-362-4747, equinoxresort.com.
AMENITIES: 13,000-square-foot spa and fitness facility, 18-hole Rees Jones golf course, heated indoor pool, three tennis courts ACTIVITIES: Falconry, off-road driving, skeet-shooting, fly-fishing, archery, tennis, golf, hiking, canoeing, horseback riding, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, sleigh rides, yoga, Pilates
WHAT’S NEW: Complete interior renovation to be completed by June
NUMBER OF ROOMS: 183
COST PER NIGHT: $300–$800
Woodstock Inn & Resort
All that’s missing are actors in this movie-ready setting.
By Matthew Reed Baker
Among Vermont towns, Woodstock might go the furthest in perfecting the Green Mountain State’s cultivated image of rustic luxury. The town has the most idyllic village green, bordered on one side by the Woodstock Inn & Resort, which, thankfully, manages to skirt clichés of quaintness by providing modern accommodations, copious outdoor activities, and genuinely warm service.
Following backroads past apple orchards and old wooden barns, we drove into Woodstock, thinking we’d somehow stumbled onto a movie set. Old maples form canopies over streets lined with stately brick homes; a covered bridge leads to a series of storefronts proffering such New England curios as yarn, wooden toys, and homemade soap. At the center of it all is the resort—a five-minute walk from everything, and a five-minute drive from nearby Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park. Developed by Laurence Rockefeller, the resort has a Robert Trent Jones Sr. golf course, hiking trails up and around Mount Peg, and the Suicide Six ski area, where guests get free lift tickets on winter weekdays.
For all the inn’s luxe charms, our favorite amenities turned out to be the bikes rented to guests for $5 a day. On one mild afternoon, we pedaled to a pumpkin festival at a local church, along more covered bridges, and over to Billings Farm & Museum to pet baby cows and bear witness to the transformation of cream into butter. Later that afternoon, we repaired to the resort’s 42,000-square-foot fitness center for massages and a swim. Dinner in town and drinks at the inn’s cozy Richardson’s Tavern polished off the night. And when we finally retired, our newly refurbished room with its four-poster bed was calming, comforting, and—yes—delightfully quaint.
Woodstock Inn & Resort
14 The Green, Woodstock, VT, 800-448-7900, woodstockinn.com.
AMENITIES: Fitness center with four-lane pool, full gym, tennis courts, yoga classes, and spa services; Suicide Six ski area; 18-hole golf course; two restaurants
ACTIVITIES: Hiking, biking, skiing, golf,
leaf-peeping, shopping, Billings Farm
WHAT’S NEW: Renovated and redesigned restaurant and rooms, including handmade Shackleton furniture in many suites; 12,000-square-foot, full-service luxury spa to open in fall 2009
NUMBER OF ROOMS: 142
COST PER NIGHT: $235–$1,200
Mount Washington Resort
Running water is but one of the charms of this posh presidential retreat.
By Blythe Copeland
Photo by Scott Barrow
These days, indoor plumbing and electricity are the sort of basics you’d expect at any hotel. But when the Mount Washington was built in 1902, “modern” amenities like these made it an instant favorite among wealthy Bostonians looking for an escape.
A century later, the Mount Washington still impresses: The red-roofed structure rises proudly from the base of its namesake mountain. While the resort now boasts far more than working faucets, a stay at the hotel does feel like a step back in time. A recent $2 million restoration brought reproductions of the leather-and-wood chairs and a facelift for the hotel’s legendary 900-foot veranda.
For those with a yen to head outside during their stay, there’s a spate of outdoor activities for all seasons: 1,770 acres of cross-country ski trails; horseback riding and hiking during warmer months. History buffs can ogle the Thomas Edison–installed fuse box, sit in FDR’s seat for the 1944 International Monetary Fund conference, or keep an eye out for the rumored resident ghost.
Mount Washington Resort
Route 302, Bretton Woods, NH, 800-314-1752, brettonwoods.com.
AMENITIES: Massage therapy, indoor pool ACTIVITIES: Horseback riding, hiking,
cross-country skiing, biking, tennis,
downhill skiing, snowboarding
WHAT’S NEW: A $2 million renovation of the Great Hall, main dining room, and veranda; complete restoration of the circa-1915 golf course; 25,000-square-foot spa and 15,000 square feet of meeting space scheduled for early 2009
NUMBER OF ROOMS: 364
COST PER NIGHT: $109–$1,100
Euphoria comes standard at this Berkshires getaway.
By Julie Suratt
The number one reason to visit Cranwell is not its award-winning, par-70 golf course—although the linksters lining up outside at dawn might raise their clubs in protest. Nor is it the 10 kilometers of groomed cross-country ski trails. And although the 100-year-old Tudor mansion perpetually charms guests with its French wall tapestries, thickly woven Oriental rugs, overstuffed English sofas, and giant picture windows, we’d give it all up for one thing: an appointment with massage therapist Melissa Pieres.
Of course, we’d be hard-pressed to pick her out in a crowd—lying facedown on a massage table, you don’t see much—though we could wax poetic about the strength of her hands. We’ve sampled (endured?) hundreds of spa treatments over the last decade, but we’ve never experienced such complete tranquility as we did at Cranwell’s 35,000-square-foot spa.
Then again, the rest of this high-end experience is hardly an exercise in torture. While the area bustles—in the immediate vicinity, you’ll find the Norman Rockwell Museum and the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s summer home at Tanglewood—the property feels surprisingly secluded. There are several options for accommodations, but your best bet is to stay in the Mansion: It’s closest to the action (so to speak…), the rooms are cozy and romantic, and the views from the Rose Terrace at dusk once inspired the Rev. Henry Ward Beecher, who purchased the land in 1853, to proclaim, “From here I can see the very hills of heaven.” Amen.
55 Lee Rd., Lenox, MA, 800-272-6935, cranwell.com.
AMENITIES: 35,000-square-foot spa and
fitness facility; 18-hole par-70 golf course, including a 12-acre driving range and the Golf Digest School; 60-foot glass-enclosed pool and outdoor heated pool; three restaurants
ACTIVITIES: Cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, tennis, mountain biking, fitness classes, golf
WHAT’S NEW: Spa-Stay packages with a choice of 25 different treatments
NUMBER OF ROOMS: 114
COST PER NIGHT: $295–$1,150