I have been skiing Vermont for many years, as well as Europe and the Western US. And I can attest that Stowe is the queen of Eastern resorts. There is a multiplicity of factors that make a good resort; the ambiance, the range of accommodations, the food, the entertainment, the terrain, and the adventure factor. Stowe rates high in all of these. Yes, the New England weather tends to be fickle and sometimes the signature runs are oftentimes closed. But on a good year, it's unbeatable.
The elegance: It's Vermont's signature resort. Going to Stowe is to step inside a post card. The village is steps away from the skirts of Mt Mansfield, the tallest peak in Vermont, and offers spectacular vistas. The steeples, old houses and manicured hiking and cross-country ski trails lend a relaxed yet cultivated ambiance. The sense of history prevails everywhere at Stowe. Smugglers' Notch, a key site for the smuggling of weaponry to the American forces during the War of Independence, as well as a major site for the Underground Railroad, is steps away from the resort. The Trapp Family Lodge evokes the times of the Sound of Music fame. The Inns are by and large, luxurious and well appointed. From the Trapp Family Lodge, to the Stoweflake and Green Mountain Inn, down to the Commodore and even the State Bunk Lodge, there is space for everyone in an atmosphere of quiet dignity. The brand new Stowe Mountain Lodge offers the most discriminating luxury. Stowe also has innumerable luxury Bead and Breakfast locations for the most discriminating taste. Even dog sitters are available for those who wish to travel with Fido. That is Vermont. There are none of the lack of courtesies prevalent in Europe, where people don't seem to be able to make a queue, and instead crowd around the entrance to the lifts, stepping on and scratching each other's skis and using their poles as weapons of mass destruction. There are few Western yahoos screaming and yelling. The night life, although varied, tends to be much more sedate than its Southern Vermont cousin, Killington. It is quintessentially New England.
The clientele that frequents Stowe generally is made up of a segment of the population representative of the upper income brackets. Yes, there are also numerous college students and wanderers. Terrain wise, the area offers plenty. The Toll Road is a monumental green run that was cut in the 1800's. The signature Black Diamond runs, Goat, Nosedive, Starr and National, are totally New England - when they're open. Narrow, ungroomed, steep, and windy seems to be the preferred way. Of course, the long groomers such as Perry Merrill are both challenging and fun. For the beginner and intermediate, Sterling Mountain offers a varied if limited terrain before tackling. The main lift at Stowe, overlooking the Gondola terrain, has incredible views as well as challenging terrain. With 2,300 vertical, Stowe is quite respectable in the ski department.
The new Village, with its cross-highway gondola, is the epitome of an upscale ski resort. Grandiose mansions wrap around the base of Sterling Mountain, while the new state-of-the-art facilities that include concierge service, welcome the visitor.
Unlike a previous report citing the need for a vehicle, Stowe has an efficient and reliable bus shuttle service that stops at numerous hotels and links Stowe with the Mad River Valley to the South, including Mad River Glen and Sugarbush. To the North, it covers most of the county. So the need for a car is certainly diminished. The shuttle bus services extend throughout the winter and until late at night.
Food-wise, one of the most spectacular ski views is at the Cliff House Restaurant that shares the building with the Gondola. Expect to pay for the view; lunch for two with wine will easily top $50 per person. Down at the Village, the fine dining experiences at Michael's on the Hill offers European infusion faire at par with some of the best restaurants in New York. The Trattoria La Festa has been called the best Italian restaurant in Vermont. For the budget traveler, the Piecasso Pizzeria serves succulent New York-style pizza. There are also too many other restaurants, coffee shops, bagel places and eateries to mention. Numerous pubs dot the scenery. However, as in the rest of the town, if one is looking for a rowdy, crass, and loud environment, Stowe may not be the place for you. It simply doesn't cater to that clientele.
I love Stowe. It is everything a ski town should be.