Travel _ Stow Vermont

Snow Ball

Richard Burnett
Richard Burnett
Ski 2
  • Richard Burnett
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Some years ago when I last spoke with LGBT icon Alison Bechdel, one of Vermont’s best-known residents, the New York Times bestseller and author of the groundbreaking comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For, we discussed gay marriage, which Vermont happily legalized in 2009 without being required to by any court decision. It was the right thing to do, and Vermonters knew it. So they did it.

“Vermont is the U.S. state most like the Great White North,” I said. “It’s progressive, it’s snowy and gay people are fully equal under the law.”“To be compared to Canada is a great honour,” replied Alison who, when we were done blabbing on the phone, stepped outside to shovel out of another huge Vermont snowfall – something both Vermonters and Canadians have never much enjoyed.But that snow, of course, is what ski bunny dreams are made of. I wanted to find that out for myself first-hand last month when my partner-in-crime Bicente and I drove from Montreal to the Stowe Mountain Resort with our 20-year-old sonny boy Skye. 
Skye is an avid snowboarder, but I like to ski. When I was Skye’s age I used to bomb down the hills. 
“I’m the ‘thrill of victory and agony of defeat’ guy who had the skiing accident during the intro to The Wide World of Sports,” I still like to joke, but then seriously add, “I broke three pairs of skis in three different accidents, but thankfully I never broke a bone in my body!”
Needless to say, I’m somewhat slower on the slopes today.
At the Stowe Mountain Resort we had the best of all worlds: the resort receives an average of 300+ inches of natural snow on Vermont’s highest peak each ski season. Stowe boasts they have one of the most productive natural snow environments east of the Rockies, and it’s true: The snow surfaces are uniformly excellent and the lifts are modern. 
In fact, as global warming threatens to melt away the New England ski industry – which contributes billions every year to the region’s economy and employs over 46,000 people – Stowe is currently investing more in snowmaking than any other resort in the region. The core of the ongoing mountain improvements over the past decade is Stowe’s half-billion dollar snowmaking master plan, beginning with the formation of a 116-million gallon water storage area named Peregrine Lake and New England’s first and only fully-automated snowmaking system on Spruce Peak. 
In other words, snowmaking at Stowe Mountain Resort has become a new benchmark for the ski industry.
There are plenty of motels and lodges in Stowe, but located at the base of Stowe Mountain Resort is hands-down the finest in town, the Stowe Mountain Lodge, where Bicente, Skye and I spent a long January weekend in our Timberline Studio. We had our own private outdoor terrace with views of the ski slopes, a bedroom, walk-in kitchen, custom marble-finished bathroom with separate relaxation tub and a livingroom area with a fully-functioning fireplace. The place smelled and looked wonderful.Stowe Mountain Lodge has also just been ranked #22 in Condé Nast Traveler magazine’s latest “Top 25 Resort Spas in the United States.”
So after one half-day of skiing, I schlepped my aching body over to their 21,000 square-foot Spa and Wellness Center for a much-deserved massage. The spa also features 18 private treatment rooms; men and women Healing Lodges that include a steam room, rain shower, sauna and soaking pool; a relaxation sanctuary; a full-service salon; and best of all, a four-season heated indoor/outdoor pool and hot tubs.
Swimming in that pool in wintertime, with the snowy mountains all around you, is quite breathtaking. So bring a bathing suit – or be prepared to pay a fortune for one in their gift shop.
Another weekend highlight was Stowe’s 30th annual Winter Rendezvous, the largest and longest-running Gay Ski Week in the Northeast. The ski week attracts roughly 300 skiers (mostly gay men) each year for a week of fun – including name DJs at a couple of parties, a concert at the state-of-the-art Spruce Peak Performing Arts Center (just a stone’s throw away from Stowe Mountain Lodge, and where this  year we saw NYC dragapella comedy quartet The Kinsey Sicks perform). 
Winter rendezvous also hosts a must-see Sound of Music sing-a-long at the neighboring Von Trapp Family Lodge (you will never see so much freaking lederhosen in your life!), not to mention a drag-queen Downhill Costume Competition. But like they say, you just haven’t lived if you haven’t skied in drag.
Stowe Mountain Lodge is New England’s pre-emminent mountain lodge, with ski-in/ski-out, golf-in/golf-out access. The six-story, 300-room lodge features rustic, grand architecture, luxuriously appointed guest rooms, a luxury spa, award-winning-dining and a two story lobby complete with piano bar. You can book Stowe Mountain Resort lift tickets and rent ski and snowboarding equipemt on-site.
Stowe Mountain Lodge room reservations, with special lodging offers and packages, are available by calling (802) 253-3560 or (888) 4-STOWE-VT, or by visiting 
As nice as Stowe Mountain Lodge is, do make a point of venturing down the hill (a 10-minute drive by car) to the small, quaint town of Stowe. This place has plenty of character and several pretty darn good restaurants. We especially liked Pie-casso (1899 Mountain Road) where they will custom-make your pizza. Great atmosphere, with a busy bar filled with locals.
Winter Rendezvous is the largest and longest-running Gay Ski Week in the Northeast. The ski week attracts mostly men, lots of couples, and programs entertainment – from DJ nights to Sound Of Music sing-a-longs – for all tastes. The intimacy of  Winter Rendezvous and Stowe Mountain Resort encourages a relaxed atmosphere. 
The easiest way to travel from Montreal to Stowe is by car. The drive is roughly two-and-a-half hours. Vermont’s roads are not very well-lit at night, so daylight driving is recommended. 
More travel tips: 
Read Richard Burnett’s POP TART blog for The Montreal Gazette at 
Read Burnett’s national queer-issues column Three Dollar Bill online at