Here at Airstream Supply Company HQ, we're big fans of the Swedish phrase that begins: "There's no such thing as bad weather..." The ending can be adapted for your particular purpose or situation, but "bad gear" or "bad clothes" are usually the first two conclusions that spring to mind (though we might also add "bad activities" to the list. If you've ever chopped wood, you know it doesn't matter how cold it is, you'll soon end up taking off your jacket and wiping sweat from your brow).
We were constantly reminded of our favorite outdoor axiom when we traveled up to Stowe, Vermont during a chilly, snow-filled winter to discover for ourselves the magic of the Green Mountain State. Despite the cold and snow, everywhere we went, people were outside – farmers unloading hay for the horses in the field, cheese makers working the open-air stalls in the barn, and the folks who just won't admit that summer passed into fall, and fall gave way to winter. They bundle up their canvas jackets and they get to work, whether that work is for a paycheck or simple gratification.
"The summer here is stunning, but people think of Vermont and think of snow," says Jesse Stacy, one of the general managers at Edson Hill in Stowe where we went to experience the best in Nordic skiing. "The mentality is that you come here to be outside – to be part of nature and the landscape."
Just as the landscape changes, so too do the people and the outdoor activities they pursue. The trails around Edson Hill – first established in the 1950s – are frequented by hikers in the summer, but in the winter folks come to Edson Hill to lace up their ski boots and head out for some epic cross-country skiing. The flourishing mountain biking community here trades their regular summer rides for fat bikes like the ones you can rent at Ranch Camp with their almost comically large, under-inflated tires that grip the snow.
We had a blast skidding and hopping through the snow-dusted trees on the fat bikes we rented at Ranch Camp. It was impossible not to smile as soon as the knobby tires started kicking up snow and we careened down trails and slid through the turns.
"It's kind of goofy, kind of silly, a little awkward – and also really fun and giggly," Ranch Camp's Evan Chismark told us as we loaded our fat bikes into the back of an Airstream Basecamp X. "Sometimes you're falling, sometimes you're slipping – but it's a great way to get some exercise."
From the lift lines at Stowe Mountain and the scenic trails powdered with snow to the warm wood stoves we came back to in the lodge, Vermont delivered as advertised. Reports of a world-renowned beer scene proved accurate, the local music venues were bumping, and the food was incredible – from hand-made cheese to craft kombucha to beet-red vegan burgers. No matter where we went, Vermont proved to be a place that lets you make of it what you will.
Like the people who call this beautiful place home, Vermont is the land of the go-getter and the self-starter – a place where hustle and ambition are paired equally with humility and a wry sense of humor. It's a place where you can start a cheese company on a whim, make CBD dog treats in a coffee shop kitchen, or start a business importing rare furniture from southeast Asia. Up there, tucked away in our nation's northern extremity, you'll never accidentally wander into Vermont. So this is our imperative to you: Make a point to visit and you won't regret it.
Note: Our Round Trip: Stowe, Vermont guide was accurate as of the time of publication. Always check ahead to ensure locations are open for business.
Where to Eat and Drink in Stowe
Ten Acres Bistro
A quintessential Vermont eatery, Ten Acres Bistro is perfectly situated at the top of a hill overlooking a Vermont postcard. As cows graze the pasture across the street, you’ll dine on local delicacies that are sourced from farms a stones throw away. Request the anniversary table for the best seat in the house and start with the oysters on a half shell with house-made cocktail sauce. Be sure to also order the tuna poke appetizer, with housemade wontons and topped generously with fresh ahi tuna, radish and avocado mouse. For a main course, don’t miss the chicken pot pie or the squash risotto. Top off your meal with chef’s family recipe for Bananas Johnson (Bananas Foster) and the bacon creme brulee.
A craft beer bar located right downtown on Maine Street serving New England (and beyond) IPAs and speciality beers. With over 25 beers to choose from, you’re bound to leave with a new love for New England brews. They don’t serve up food other than bar snacks, so don’t come hungry.
Possibly one of the cooler bars in town, this pub restaurant caters to all different tastes. They are the casual cousin to the famous Hen of the Wood located in Waterbury and their culinary expertise certainly carries over. Order the calamari, delicious grilled squid floating in a broth of white wine and butter.
Half butchery and half sandwich shop, this local delicatessen serves Stowe with fresh local fish and meats all sustainably sourced. Their daily lunch menu is complete with 5-6 sandwiches and a special offered. Opt for the lamb shwarma sandwich, a grilled pita with Moroccan spiced lamb.
This funky barn was renovated into a killer music venue and restaurant that serves up authentic local eats. The space is huge and the bar inviting, with stools hand-carved with vermont scenery. Don’t miss the ramen (pork or miso mushroom) and the crispy cauliflower. The brisket is an absolute must-order, as it is served as a hunk of meat on a metal tray, reminiscent of an old-style BBQ joint.
Cold Hollow Cider
This charming cidery is located in Waterbury Center, between the highway and Stowe. Not only do they sell cider, but they are famous for their cider donuts, fresh off the fryer daily. They also have a lunch spot on site with local ingredient sandwiches and salads.
This coffee shop feels like it was plucked out of NYC with a Vermont flare. The design is clean and minimalist, with a focus on quality coffee and baked goods. It has really become a gathering location for entrepreneurs and local coffee enthusiasts alike.
Where to Stay in Stowe
Gold Brook Campground
Ideally located just south of Lower Village and about 15 minutes from the highway, this campground is the perfect jumping-off point for anyone looking to visit Stowe or Waterbury. The spots are well-maintained and the staff is friendly. They do book out during peak summer and foliage season, so be sure to plan ahead. Not open during the winter.
Things to Do in Stowe
Fat Biking at Ranch Camp (Winter)
Hit the snowy trails on a bike fitted with absurdly large, knobby tires for an experience unlike anything you've ever done before. When the day is done, hang around Ranch Camp for a burrito and beer (maybe two) that are guaranteed to fill you up after an active day.
Smugglers Notch State Park (Summer)
Smugglers Notch is home to dozens of hiking and walking trails, as it carves its way through the Green Mountains. Some notable hikes include Hellbrook (extremely difficult, up to the Chin of Mt. Mansfield), Hazelton, Cliff Trail, and Sterling Pond. Top of the notch is also a great spot for rock climbing and bouldering.
Nordic Cross-Country Skiing at Edson Hill
Strap on the cross-country skis and hit the trails on some of the oldest Nordic skiing tracks on the east coast. You'll burn calories while taking in some of the most majestic winter scenery your eyes have ever seen.
Stowe Rec Path
This paved path runs 5.3 miles across the town, weaving through bars and restaurants. It provides a great way to see the town by bike, as all the restaurants have bike parking!
River Tubing (Summer)
Cool off in the summer by floating the river in Stowe! Put in at Moscow fields and float down to the reservoir. Be careful not to float down too far and be sure to leave one car at each entrance. Water levels are best when it rains.
Stowe Mountain Resort (Winter)
Stowe Mountain Resort is the largest ski resort on the East Coast and home to some great skiing and riding. There is also Nordic skiing for those who do not like downhill and a quaint village to shop around at the base. Being owned by Vail Resorts has provided Stowe with the ability to be part of the Epic Pass.
Located right along the IPA Highway, Stowe is home to some of the best beers in the world, most notably, Heady Topper. You can visit breweries such as: The Alchemist (pictured below), Ten Bends, Prohibition Pig, Idletyme, and many others. Be sure to grab a designated driver, though, as beers in these parts are upwards of 7-8% ABV.
Where to Take the Pets in Stowe
Waterbury Dog Park
Roughly 20 minutes from Stowe by Highway 89 is a fenced-in dog park back by the ice skating rink. Catch it on a Saturday afternoon and there should be plenty of pups.
Stowe Land Trust
All of the town hiking trails (Wiessner Woods, Kirchner Woods) that Stowe Land Trust protects are dog-friendly. Most locals hike their pups off-leash, so if your dog isn’t good with other dogs or people, we’d recommend steering clear. Venture off to the Quiet Path for an opportunity to run your dog around without any bikes, but beware as some parts of this path do get close to the road.