Stowe, VermontPhoto Credit : Mark Fleming
Tucked between the Green Mountains — including Vermont’s highest peak, Mount Mansfield — and the Worcester Range, the town of Stowe, Vermont, is surrounded by the kinds of vistas that are downright cinematic. If you get a strong The Sound of Music vibe, don’t be surprised: This is where the Von Trapp family chose to settle in the 1940s, finding an echo of their beloved Austria in its mix of mountains, rolling farmland and forest, and picturesque village center.
Stowe is known as the “Ski Capital of the East,” and not just for its terrain. This is the birthplace of alpine skiing in Vermont, with trails cut on Mount Mansfield in 1933, and also home to the nation’s oldest ski patrol. In 1940, Stowe Mountain Resort debuted what was then the world’s longest and highest chairlift, and today it continues to rank among the most popular ski destinations in New England. But there’s more to life here than just the slopes, and Stowe’s appeal extends far beyond the months of November to April. This is a four-season playground, one well worth visiting. You could easily spend a week or more exploring this welcoming mountain town and its environs, but if you have just a day or two, here are the five best things to do in Stowe, Vermont.
Some of Stowe’s most popular year-round attractions can be found at considerably lower elevations than the 4,393-foot peak that dominates the local landscape. The 5.3-mile Stowe Recreation Path crisscrosses the scenic West Branch of Little River as it winds from the village center to Topnotch Resort. In the summer it lures bikers and pedestrians; in the winter it’s a favorite for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Like to mountain-bike? The Stowe Trails Partnership manages more than 30 miles of area trails perfect for pedaling, and some of them are also open to fat bikes in the winter. Finally, the Trapp Family Lodge has over 60 miles of hiking and mountain biking trails on its 2,500-acre property, which transforms when the snow falls into a winter-sports mecca with 100 kilometers of cross-country, snowshoe, and back-country skiing trails.
Forty miles of ski trails on two mountains, Mount Mansfield and Spruce Peak, are just the beginning of the fun at Stowe Mountain Resort. Winter sports nuts will also appreciate the four terrain parks and the cross-country ski center, offering 45 kilometers of groomed trails and 30 kilometers of backcountry terrain. In warmer months, resort visitors can explore beautiful hiking and walking trails. And don’t miss a chance to experience the Gondola Skyride, which offers eye-popping views as it whisks passengers to the top of Mansfield.
Simply put, Stowe is heaven for beer nerds. People come from far and wide to get their hands on brews from The Alchemist, whose offerings include Heady Topper, the now-legendary IPA that caused a sensation when first released by founders John and Jen Kimmich. At Idletyme Brewing Company, an après-ski brewpub housed in a former blacksmith shop, brewmaster Will Gilson brings 20 years of expertise to bear in crafting double IPAs, Belgian-influenced ales, limited seasonal experiments, and his own New England specialty, classic Bavarian weizens. Von Trapp Brewing, a brewery inspired by Johannes von Trapp’s trips to Austria, produces “crisp, clean Austrian lagers,” served up in the bierhall with schnitzel. If hard cider is more your thing, stop by Stowe Cider, which transforms Vermont apples into heady options ranging from a classic dry cider to a seasonal hazy cider with cranberry and orange.
You don’t have to be a schusser to enjoy this one-of-a-kind look at Vermont’s rich history in winter sports. Located right on Main Street in downtown Stowe, the Vermont Ski and Snowboard Museum is filled with old-fashioned lift chairs, retro ski gear, and vintage Burton snowboards — more than 15,000 individual catalogued items in all. It’s also home to the Vermont Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame, and has a nifty little gift shop, to boot.
OK, here’s the one thing you can’t do in winter, but we couldn’t resist putting it on the list (there are three other seasons, after all!). Driving north from Stowe to Jeffersonville on 108 brings you through fabled Smugglers’ Notch, a steep and winding mountain pass that’s especially thrilling in autumn, when the slopes are ablaze with color. Just before the notch, you can stop at the Barnes Camp Boardwalk and stretch your legs on a short, ADA-accessible walk that offers more terrific views. Another drive for those who like to hit the heights is Stowe Mountain Resort’s auto toll road, which takes you on a zigzag 4.5-mile drive up to the summit ridge of Mount Mansfield, where views of Lake Champlain, the White Mountains, the Green Mountains, and the Adirondacks await.
What did we miss? Let us know your picks for the best things to do in Stowe, Vermont, in the comments below.
This post was first published in 2020 and has been updated.