Staytripper, Winter 2021-22

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WINTER 2021-22


Head for the Hill

Overnight at acclaimed Rabbit Hill Inn


Sharing Is Caring Tips and tricks to surviving a long winter


Go Figure

Seven spots to hit the ice this season




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Winter Wonder

W IN T ER 2021- 22

The snow is here, and we’re sliding into another long Vermont winter — on skis, boards, tubes or skates, take your pick. Love-it-or-hate-it emotions run high during this frigid, fluff-covered season, especially as the pandemic continues to limit our indoor options. But Staytripper, Seven Days’ road map to rediscovering Vermont, aims to guide you solidly toward Team Love. After all, what’s not to like about a cozy getaway to Rabbit Hill Inn, a charming historic manse overlooking the Connecticut River? Or heading uphill to Vermont’s ski resorts to discover new diversions, from “glow tubing” to snowcat rides? To power those adventures, we’ve rounded up some stellar slope-side eating options, including Mexican street tacos in Stowe and Southern fried chicken in Ludlow. Of course, frosty fun isn’t limited to high elevations. In this issue, find seven unique ice-skating spots and a humorous essay about learning to skate — a reminder that it’s good to get out of your comfort zone. And lest cabin fever creep in, take inspiration from how other Vermonters while away the winter. We asked eight of them to spill their best secrets, and, wow, did they deliver.

Mountain Highs.......................... 6 Beyond skiing and riding at Vermont resorts BY SALLY POLLAK

All Inn the Details....................... 10


“Heartfelt hospitality” elevates the experience at award-winning Rabbit Hill Inn




Wintervention............................. 14


Vermonters share how they survive the cold season





Jay Peak

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Irasburg 14

North Hero Glover


Snow Snacks................................ 20


New ways to fuel up near the slopes, from Jay Peak to Ludlow


Hell Freezes Over....................... 24





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Learning to ice skate is easier than you think






East Burke


St. Johnsbury

Stowe Bolton


Lower Waterford




Derby Line

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ON THE COVER: Backcountry skiing in Vermont PHOTO BY JUSTIN CASH

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White River Junction

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Windsor Ludlow

Exploring the state? Follow the pins to find the fun in this issue.



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Glow tubing at Smugglers’ Notch Resort

Mountain Highs Beyond skiing and riding at Vermont resorts BY SALLY POLL AK •


ontrary to popular belief, Vermont’s snow-capped mountains aren’t just for skiing and riding. While many people casually refer to alpine sports centers as “ski areas,” that’s typically not how these places define — or name — themselves. They’re called resorts, a more accurate word that encompasses the range of attractions these multifaceted mountain enterprises offer. And the variety has picked up in the last decade or so: Today, you can head uphill to enjoy an indoor water park oasis at Jay Peak Resort, a scenic gondola ride at Stowe Mountain Resort or eight pristine lanes of snow tubing at Mount Snow in Dover. Whether you’re a nonskier or simply want to mix it up between runs, we’ve rounded up five surprising and satisfying resort activities for making the most of your mountain visit. 6


Climbing wall at Jay Peak Resort

Movies and Rock Climbing at Jay Peak Resort Jay,

Perhaps the ultimate non-ski activity at a ski resort is not an activity at all, because you don’t have to move. At least, not once you purchase your beer and popcorn and take a seat in the movie theater at Jay Peak’s Clips & Reels Recreational Center. The Northeast Kingdom resort will present movies Wednesday through Sunday this season, kicking off on December 22 with the holiday-themed

films A Christmas Story and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Should you want to work up a sweat before retiring to the 142-seat movie theater and lounge, start on the first floor of the same building, which houses 17 rockclimbing walls, a ropes course and an arcade. Head upstairs afterward for free movies on Wednesdays. Thursdays feature “throwback” films, with a $10 admission that includes a drink and popcorn. When the resort isn’t screening movies, visitors can rent the theater and bring their own favorite film.

Quincy Hotel

Christmas at the



Glow Tubing at Smugglers’ Notch Resort Jeffersonville,

Skiers and boarders sometimes end up on their butts, so why not start out that way? Ditch the gear and plop onto a snow tube for a joyful slide down the slope. Smugglers’ Notch lights up its tubing trails for “glow tubing” two evenings a week after the sun goes down. On Tuesdays and Fridays from 5 to 8 p.m., kids (and kids at heart) can ride down Sir Henry’s Hill and pass under halos of LED lights that illuminate the trail, the night sky and the fun of winter in Vermont. The cost of tubing varies with age and includes admission to certain indoor activities at the resort — think mini golf, a climbing wall and an arcade. Tubers should be at least 42 inches tall and able to stop by themselves. Kids under 12 must be accompanied by an adult.

Outdoor Swimming at the Lodge at Spruce Peak Stowe,

It’s 18 degrees outside, a light snow is falling, and you’re swimming laps in the outdoor heated pool at the Lodge at Spruce Peak — or just soaking in the luxurious, 84-degree water. The pool offers views of the ski slopes on Mount Mansfield at nearby Stowe Mountain Resort. Use of the pool is part of the lodge’s spa package, which is available to guests and the general public. Outdoor swimming can be paired with a number of spa activities as part of a day-use pass; the amenities include the fitness center and classes, a locker room, a sauna, a steam room, and indoor and outdoor hot tubs. “It’s awesome,” Abby Keller, a spa concierge, said. “It’s really fun after you’re skiing all day to sit in the hot tub and then jump in the pool.” But you can jump in the pool without skiing, too, and enjoy a high-altitude dip on a chilly winter day or evening. Spruce Peak recommends calling 760-4782 in advance to check on availability, especially during the busy season.

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Mountain Highs « P.7

Cabin Cat at Sugarbush Resort

Snowshoeing at Stratton Mountain Resort Stratton,

At Stratton Mountain in Windham County, people have been snowshoeing on trails for at least 30 years, communications director Myra Foster said. “If you can walk, you can snowshoe,” Foster said, repeating a mantra she heard from Kathy Murphy, a former Tubbs Snowshoes executive. According to Foster, about 10,000 people visited Stratton’s Nordic Center last year, a significant increase over previous years as folks pursued outdoor, distanced activities during the pandemic. The resort offers a variety of options for snowshoers on its 12 kilometers of groomed trails. You can hike the paths on your own, at a time and pace of your choosing, or join guided sunrise hikes and evening walks on five kilometers of illuminated trail. Those who want a more rigorous workout can snowshoe up and down approved routes on the ski mountain — a round trip of roughly two hours. Rentals are available for all ages, down to 18-month-old children. Online reservations are recommended for guided tours, though you can also reserve a spot the day of the walk at the Nordic Center.

Snowshoeing at Stratton Mountain Resort



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Cabin Cat Rides at Sugarbush Resort Warren,

To catch the early light of a winter day, or to soak in its fading last rays, ride to the top of a peak at Sugarbush Resort in the passenger cab of a snowcat — one of the rigs used to groom ski trails. On the 7 a.m. run, Sunrise First Tracks, up to 12 people can ride in the Cabin Cat, chauffeured to the top by a driver. The early morning ascent takes place before Sugarbush opens for the day, giving cat riders a chance to ski on fresh powder once they arrive at the top of the mountain. Folks can continue skiing down the trail and riding up in the Cabin Cat for another 90 minutes after that — or skip the skiing and simply ride up and down in the rig. At sundown, a driver transports Cabin Cat passengers to the top of Lincoln Peak — a 2,400-foot climb to an observation area with western views. Watch the sun sink and eat snacks provided by the resort at this little viewing party. To ride the cat to more elaborate eats at Sugarbush, book a dinner at Allyn’s Lodge. A mid-mountain warming lodge by day, at night it becomes the setting for a private, five-course, candlelit dinner by the fireside. The cat will shuttle your party to the lodge. After the meal, diners can ski down by the light of the moon (with provided headlights) or hitch a ride in the rig to the base. m

IF YOU LIKE THIS, TRY... • FAT BIKING at Stratton Mountain Resort, • GONDOLA SKYRIDE at Stowe Mountain Resort, • OUTDOOR ICE SKATING at the Lodge at Spruce Peak, • PUMP HOUSE INDOOR WATERPARK at Jay Peak Resort, • SKATE & BIKE PARK at Bolton Valley Resort, • SNOWMOBILE TOURS at Killington Resort, • SNOW TUBING at Mount Snow, ST2V-OGE120821-LEFT 1



12/2/21 11:57 AM

All Inn the Details “Heartfelt hospitality” elevates the experience at award-winning Rabbit Hill Inn BY C A ROLYN S H A PI RO




topped Travel + Leisure’s list of best resort hotels in the Northeast in 2019, the magazine noted that “the property is both homey and luxe, with a sense of refinement that gets to the heart of the New England experience.” In late November, I arrived at Rabbit Hill for a one-night stay to experience the inn’s appeal. Donn Gist, who has worked there for 20 years, greeted me at the door to brief me on breakfast hours, outside door access and afternoon treats before showing me to my room. I had booked the Rose, one of Rabbit Hill’s “classic” rooms. It was smaller than other rooms, though it seemed not the least bit cramped and was equally well appointed. Instead, Gist steered me to Cedar Glen, a “luxury” room that looked like an airy log cabin, equal parts rustic and posh. Light-stained wooden logs framed the top of the king-size bed and a large whirlpool tub. Light jazz tunes wafted from a CD player as Gist explained that innkeepers Brian and Leslie Mulcahy typically upgrade guests when a higher-category room is available and otherwise would stand empty. The good-service gesture warmed me as much as the flickering gas fireplace.


abbit Hill Inn is perched on a rise just off Route 18 in Lower Waterford. It’s a sleepy village where the town clerk’s office shares a building with a U.S. post office and the Davies Memorial Library, the state’s last remaining outpost to lend books on the honor system. Locals are treated to an occasional moose sighting. Massive white Doric columns make for an impressive façade on the main inn, which dates back to 1825. Inside, it’s an unassuming, charming old manse with original wide-plank wood floors and old-farmhouse atmosphere, including plaid wingback chairs and antique furniture. The Connecticut River, which marks the New Hampshire state line, runs right across the street from Rabbit Hill, and the sound of the flowing water reaches the inn’s front porch. Rabbit Hill isn’t the fanciest place to stay in Vermont, and it’s just one of the state’s many remarkable historic properties. And yet, it has won accolades from the likes of Condé Nast Traveler and Travel + Leisure, which have ranked the inn among New England’s — and even the world’s — best lodgings for multiple years running. When Rabbit Hill

Thoughtful touches continue throughout the cozy inn. In Rabbit Hill’s main house, guests often settle at the wooden tables of the sitting room with Stave jigsaw puzzles made in Norwich. The intricate, hand-cut wooden pieces and unusual designs — with no pictures for guidance — are “simply addictive and maddening at the same time,” Gist said. I understood when I began a puzzle later that evening. Just off the sitting room, a bookshelf holds stacks of board games, and a full bar fronts an Old English-style tavern. Before dinner, Brian Mulcahy mixed me a mean Manhattan using Mad River Distillers’ Burnt Rock Bourbon. A small nook by Rabbit Hill’s front entrance holds not only brochures for the region’s attractions but also Leslie Mulcahy’s thorough itineraries for nearly every interest: an antiques guide, a “taster’s tour,” a list of ice cream shops, and rundowns of nearby towns’ highlights. Gist, a Waterford local and the “hike concierge” of Rabbit Hill, helps match guests with the right nearby trek, based

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Clockwise from top left: Rabbit Hill Inn on a winter evening; a common area with a view of the tavern; dinner at the restaurant; the Cedar Glen room; decorative accents on the porch; owners Brian and Leslie Mulcahy in front of the inn SEVEN DAYS STAYTRIPPER WINTER 2021-22


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on their skill level, time frame and footwear. In the winter, Rabbit Hill offers a snowmobile package, and the innkeepers can procure passes for cross-country skiing — extra charges that are billed to a guest’s room. The inn doesn’t see too many Alpine skiers, Leslie said, because Rabbit Hill guests often have different interests and don’t necessarily want to spend the whole day on the slopes. For those who do, Burke Mountain and the White Mountains of New Hampshire are within easy reach. “He wants to do breweries and she needs to go to the yarn shop, and I’m like, ‘I can help you get to a brewery where there’s a yarn shop 15 minutes away,’” Leslie explained when we chatted in the tavern during my stay. “Every day, we custom day plan for our guests.” The Mulcahys, both Rhode Island natives, had never stayed at inns before booking a getaway at Rabbit Hill about 30 years ago. They liked it so much that they returned multiple times and befriended the owners, John and Maureen Magee. In 1994, the Magees invited the Mulcahys to manage the inn while they gradually disengaged from the business. Three years later, the Mulcahys bought Rabbit Hill, including the owners’ home up the road. Today, Brian runs the back end of the business, crunches the numbers and tends bar. Leslie is the heart and soul of the inn.

Her sharp eyes for atmospheric perfection sparkle as she talks with guests over their meals. “We pride ourselves on just genuine, heartfelt hospitality, personally being with our guests,” Leslie said. Rabbit Hill is the go-to getaway for fellow proprietors Dave Briggs and Peggy Adams, who own Hotel Coolidge in White River Junction. They like to celebrate Peggy’s birthday with the Mulcahys. “These guys are the model,” Briggs said. “They are the whole package. Meticulous. Every detail is there. We know because we see it.”

Clockwise from above: A puzzle in the common room at Rabbit Hill Inn; the Jonathan Cummings Suite; the plating of a dessert

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This place is like an ice cream shop. There is a flavor for everybody. LESLIE MULCAHY

Rabbit Hill suggests evening reservations at its restaurant, where it also serves sumptuous, multicourse breakfasts in the mornings. The dinner menu runs pricey, with entrées reaching $44 for Wagyu beef sirloin. During my stay, I tried a savory sweet potato bisque ($9) with hints of lemon and tarragon, as well as a halibut entrée ($38) with a salty miso glaze, balanced with a creamy orange-soy butter and a side of mushroom risotto. For dessert, the apple pâte à choux ($9), like a deconstructed apple crisp, paired a vanilla cream-filled puff pastry with a fan of sliced poached apples. Breakfast the next day, included in the room rate, began with an ample pastry-and-fruit plate. My entrée of eggs Benedict came with a citrus-dressed arugula salad that accented the hollandaise sauce. Rabbit Hill encompasses 19 guest rooms in the main house, the attached carriage house and the adjacent 1795 House, which was the original tavern and inn that Samuel Hodby opened for weary travelers along the trade routes from Boston to Canada. Each room boasts distinct décor: The Sterling is art deco with mirrored side tables; the Colonial-style Music room features the original 1857 pump organ from the church across the street. “This place is like an ice cream shop,” Leslie said. “There is a flavor for everybody.” The inn even has a hidden door that leads to the upstairs Loft bedroom with exposed beams, slanted ceilings,

a four-poster bed and an expansive bathroom. “Superior” and “luxury” rooms have gas fireplaces. All rooms have en suite bathrooms, many with whirlpool tubs in addition to large, tiled standing showers. A few rooms have private porches. Prices, which cover gratuities, range from $219 per night for a classic room to $359 for a luxury. Rabbits pop up in the garden, on fireplace mantels and in the corner of bathtubs, but the décor isn’t cutesy or in your face. Everything at Rabbit Hill is understated but carefully considered. Towels are plush. Courtesy robes are heavy, wine-colored satin with fleece lining. Afternoon treats recently included a succulent macaroon, luscious chocolate brownie, rich butterscotch cookie and creamy cheesecake bar made by Phyllis Grech, the inn’s Culinary Institute of America-trained pastry chef. No longer on a help-yourself tray, the sweets come on individual, cocoadusted plates — each plastic-wrapped since the pandemic began. The national recognition does draw visitors to Rabbit Hill, but the Mulcahys are hardly resting on that reputation, Leslie said. As she put it, “You’re only as good as you were for the guests of that day, and we just feel like we always have to re-earn it.” m

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INFO Rabbit Hill Inn, 48 Lower Waterford Rd., Lower Waterford, 748-5168, SEVEN DAYS STAYTRIPPER WINTER 2021-22


Wintervention Vermonters share how they survive the cold season



etting through a Vermont winter is no joke. If the short, frigid days and endless long nights weren’t enough of a challenge, the prospect of yet another pandemic season limiting our indoor gatherings could feel downright daunting. While most of us have a reliable repertoire of winter pastimes, even folks who love snow and subzero temps might run out of creative ways to stay entertained and active by month three or four. But imagine combining our collective winter wisdom and using it as a road map for surviving and thriving through the season. With that goal, we asked an array of Vermonters — snowboarders, bookworms, artists, innkeepers, farmers, foodies and more — to spill their best winter secrets. They generously gave up the goods on everything from favorite snowy destinations and cozy après-ski spots to personal winter rituals and reading lists. Wherever the winter takes you, follow this practical yet profound advice from the Featherbed Inn’s Karen Rookwood: “My main winter survival tip is simply to embrace the cold, to welcome that feeling of frigid air hitting your face and your lungs the first time you walk outside in the morning, and to find an outdoor activity that brings you joy.”

A snowshoe tour with Umiak Outdoor Outfitters



Erin Torres

Don Stevens

TOWN: Colchester OCCUPATION: Realtor and president at Livian at Keller Williams; blogger and influencer of Travel Like a Local: Vermont; and author of Classic Diners of Vermont

TOWN: Shelburne OCCUPATION: Chief of the Nulhegan Band of the Coosuk-Abenaki Nation

Erin Torres

What are some of your winter traditions?

[The Abenaki Forgiveness Moon] is a tradition, held on the first new moon after the Winter Solstice, where you approach people you have wronged throughout that year and ask them for their forgiveness. So, not Don Stevens only is it a communal fire where you have conversations with people, but you go into winter confinement not holding that anger in your heart, so you can actually work together. It’s about opening a dialogue with someone who may be angry with you and taking responsibility, being sincere and making amends. If the person you wronged isn’t there, you can write it down, ask to be Hand-carved forgiven, then offer that snow snake prayer into a fire.

What’s your favorite hiddengem winter destination?



Last winter, we had a siblings’ trip to Woodstock and discovered the warming huts at Harpoon brewery in nearby Windsor. They have four huts that are reservation-only and reminded me of icefishing huts on the lake. It was one of the best winter afternoons I’ve had and such a unique experience — with a heater and hut service! They also have outdoor A bedroom at Hotel Vermont fire pits, and it’s fun to see people enjoying some Vermont craft beer in the snow. You can also snowmobile to Harpoon; we saw a lot of people coming for an aprèssnowmobile beer!

Do you attend any communal activities outdoors in winter?

Usually in February, when people start getting cabin fever, we hold Snow Snake Games to break up the monotony of the winter. Beforehand, we’ll prepare by hand-carving snow snakes — Psôn Skoks — out of wood and getting ready for the competition. This is an ancient tradition where you slide a stick down a track, and whoever throws it the farthest wins. We may do some games locally this year, maybe at one of the local ski resorts.

Where would you go for a winter getaway?

Do you have a favorite outdoor winter destination?

I love a good staycation in the winter. You don’t have to worry about traveling too far in snowstorms, and a fresh snowfall gives everything a new perspective. I would opt to stay at [Burlington’s] Hotel Vermont, where they provide snowshoes for snowshoeing on the lake once it’s frozen! There’s something magical about walking down Church Street at night in the winter under the festive lights. Or, if I wanted to truly get away in another part of the state, I would head to Stone City Treehouse in Hardwick for a tiny-house treehouse experience or, with a group, the Gregoire Castle in Irasburg. The Northeast Kingdom is an underrated escape in the winter, with lots of snowshoeing opportunities and hot pizzas from [Glover’s] Parker Pie!

Personally, I just like being out in the woods in the Jericho forest, walking those trails when it’s quiet, no one is around and the pines give you protection from the wind. Just being alone in the woods and having time alone with yourself in nature to reflect. That’s when Mother Earth is covered in a blanket of snow and resting for the spring. WINTERVENTION

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Do you have a favorite spa treatment to beat the winter blahs?

I am a huge fan of the CBD facial and CBD body scrub, wrap and massage at the Spa at the Essex. It’s super quenching and alleviates the dry skin that plagues us all in the winter months. Hanging out in their relaxation rooms is a nice way to decompress, as well. Hands down, General Stark’s Pub at Mad River Glen [in Waitsfield] when the Grift is playing! Everyone works up a sweat dancing, and the floor literally shakes. There’s nothing like sipping a Lawson’s Sip of Sunshine at the base of the mountain while listening to the Grift in a room full of Vermont- and winter-loving people!


Any après-ski spots you dream about all year long?

Don Stevens at the Snow Snake Games in Derby Line SEVEN DAYS STAYTRIPPER WINTER 2021-22


Wintervention « P.15

Karen Rookwood TOWN: Waitsfield OCCUPATION: Owner/innkeeper of the Featherbed Inn

Describe your ideal winter day of adventuring.

The winter day of my dreams would be a bit of a smorgasbord, combining snowshoeing in the magical woods off of our meadow, skiing at Mad River Glen with friends or with our kids, soaking in our hot tub and rolling in the snow, and eating a scrumptious dinner cooked by someone other than myself. If I were a visitor to the Mad River Valley, I’d want to take an evening snowshoe tour from the Featherbed, led by Umiak [Outdoor] Outfitters, through the dark woods off of our meadow to a tipi warmed by a fire, to eat [my husband] Mick’s ridiculously delicious chili and my yummy cornbread and brownies. Where would you like to get away?

Mick and Karen Rookwood at Mad River Glen

Elizabeth Bluemle TOWN: Burlington OCCUPATION: Children’s book author; owner of the Flying Pig Bookstore

What’s on your winter reading list this year?

This is a crazy-hard question for a bookseller to answer. So many books! Three by Vermonters I can’t wait to read are Kekla Magoon’s Revolution in Our Time: The Black Panther Party’s Promise to the People (a National Book Award finalist, woot!), Brad Kessler’s North, and Kimberly Harrington’s But You Seemed So Happy: A Marriage, in Pieces and Bits. All three writers are exceptionally accomplished. I think Vermont has more fine writers per capita than any other state.

Elizabeth Bluemle

Do you have a favorite book or poem about winter?

I love Gary Paulsen’s Winterdance, a memoir recounting his rookie Iditarod. It’s laugh-out-loud funny and a great winter adventure that’s full of misadventures along the trail during the great Alaskan dog sled race. I also have to binge-read mountain-climbing books every January. It’s a thing. What’s your favorite destination for winter recreation?

The Phineas Swann Inn in Montgomery has great riverside suites with full kitchens, a back deck, outside firepits and plenty of trails to take our pup for long walks. It’s also near Jay Peak. And they’ve added a spa since I was last there, so it’s about time for another visit. Do you have any winter traditions?

We used to head to Montréal for a winter overnight trip; the Old Port is magical with lights and ice and little shops and bakeries. I can’t wait until it’s easier to zip up there again. © JIAO ZHANG | DREAMSTIME

I would love to stay at the Inn at Mountain View Farm, in East Burke. When I was a kid, my family went there every winter for a week (someA bedroom at the Inn times twice) to cross-country ski, at Mountain View Farm back when it was the Darion Inn. Mick and I spent several New Year’s weekends there when we first married, filling the entire inn with our closest friends. I have many happy memories of that beautiful place.


The backcountry at Mad River Glen

What’s a favorite après-ski spot?

We are really excited about a new après-ski option practically across the road from our inn — a new wine bar called Alpino Vino. It’s cozy and warm, with a fabulous wine selection, delicious and locally made pâtés and cheeses, and a friendly vibe. I seem to lack all self-control when it comes to the 5th Quarter pâté. Are there any local winter events you look forward to?

One thing we really look forward to is Mad River Glen’s Roll Back the Clock Day, when MRG celebrates its anniversary by rolling back ticket prices to the 1949 price of $3.50. Even though Roll Back the Clock Day gets pretty nuts, with so many people coming to ski, it’s a great scene, a big party on the hill. 16


Montréal’s Old Port


DRIVE FAST. DRINK BEER. THROW AXES. Cross-country skiing at Craftsbury Outdoor Center

(responsibly :)

Grant Wieler with his children

Grant Wieler TOWN: Morristown OCCUPATION: Realtor at Element Real Estate VT; freelance photographer

Where do you head for winter recreation?

One of my favorite destinations in the Stowe area is up in Sterling Valley, where I enjoy backcountry skiing along the Sterling-Ruschp and Catamount trails. Sterling Valley is off the beaten path, quiet, scenic and historic! There are homesites up there dating back to the late 17th century. It always amazes me to find old farming equipment and homesites up in the woods and wonder what it would have been like to live on a homestead in the mountains back then.

Trillium Hill Farm sugarhouse

What’s your favorite scenic winter overlook?

My go-to overlook is the fire tower atop Mount Elmore in Elmore State Park. It grants you a stunning 360, panoramic view along the Worcester Range and across the valley to Mount Mansfield. During the winter, while the park is shut down, you hike in from the beach parking, a moderate two-mile trek with snowshoes. The last 10th of a mile does get a bit technical; I would suggest swapping snowshoes for microspikes for the top section. Where will you take your family this winter?

I’m looking forward to taking the family to the Catamount Outdoor [Family] Center [in Williston] and pulling the kids in a sled. My wife and I cross-country ski around the Craftsbury Outdoor Center [in Craftsbury Common] — some of the best cross-country ski trails around! What winter treat is worth driving for?

It’s really fun to explore some of the more rural parts of the state in the late winter/spring and sample maple sugar candy at sugaring houses as the maple sugaring season begins. WINTERVENTION

294 N. Winooski Ave. Burlington

Book online

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Wintervention « P.17 Melissa Hessney Masters TOWN: Brookline OCCUPATION: Owner of Tanglebloom Flower Farm

[on] the pond itself. It’s great for an extended lunch break for locals who work from home, and when my 6-year-old tires of skiing, we can easily pull him the rest of the way on a sled. When kids are along, we’ll pack a thermos of hot cider and muffins. The snow-covered campsites along the pond’s shore make for good pit stops.

What meal or treat is worth driving for in winter?

It doesn’t take much convincing for me to make the hourlong drive to Piecemeal Pies in White River Junction for boozy brunch or takeaway hand pies and fancy coffee drinks. The whole experience is a treat, from the creative menu — rabbit! beet ketchup! breakfast beer! — to their ethics.

Melissa Hessney Masters with her son, Jonas

What’s on your winter reading list?

I’ll be getting inspiration for our farm-stay cabin rentals reading Cabin Tripping by JJ Eggers. Usually I steer towards nonfiction, but I’m looking forward to diving into Charlotte McConaghy’s newest novel, Once There Were Wolves. The Snowy Cabin Cookbook: Meals and Drinks for Adventurous Days and Cozy Nights by Marnie Hanel and Jen Stevenson sounds like it should be on every Vermonter’s bookshelf, so I’m really looking forward to that one!

What’s your favorite hidden-gem winter destination?

Southern Vermonters are going to scorn me for giving this up, but: Grout Pond in the Green Mountain National Forest. It’s a wilderness area that sees a lot of visitors in summer, but it quiets right down in winter. Kids play hockey at the same spot where they swim in summer. You can access the Catamount Trail for intermediate-level backcountry skiing. My favorite way to enjoy it, however, is cross-country skiing a loop

Aisha Bassett TOWN: Winooski OCCUPATION: Owner of plant-based Offbeat Creemee

What are your favorite ways to enjoy Vermont during your winter slow season?

When my husband, Dan, and I aren’t making ice cream, you can find us out exploring Vermont with our pup, Stella, by our side, eating good food and staying as cozy as possible. [We like to] visit greenhouses on bitter-cold days, browsing plants and soaking up all the warmth, or drive through the App Gap enjoying all the different views and ending it with tacos at Mad Taco in Waitsfield. What are your go-to winter recreation destinations?

Winter hikes and walks on [Route] 108 starting at Stowe. 108 is like a playground; it’s the equivalent to the sledding hill in adult form. So many people are enjoying the path, from cross-country skiing to snowboarding.

[And in Huntington, the Green Mountain Audubon Center’s] river walk is my favorite in the winter. The sound of running water is all you hear, and the contrast of the white snow and blue river is stunning. You’ll find us at both of these places after a fresh snow. What’s the coziest winter meal?

Herb-roasted spatchcocked chicken with Parmesan mashed potatoes, pan gravy and lemon asparagus. Sorry to all my vegan people — I can’t resist a spatchcocked chicken. I hope everyone knows we’re not vegan! Worthy Burger [in South Royalton] is one of our favorite places to stop for a fried chicken sandwich. Tuckerbox [in White River Junction] never disappoints in anything you order, but kebabs are the go-to. Do you still eat creemees in the winter?

In pie form! We make a cardamom-sweet-potato ice cream pie.

Jackson Tupper TOWN: Burlington OCCUPATION: Illustrator and graphic designer/artist; former designer at Burton Snowboards

Describe your ideal winter day of adventuring.

Jackson I snowboard all winter long, and the best days Tupper always start with a Feldman’s [Bagels] bacon-eggand-cheese on the way to the mountain — whether it’s riding at Sugarbush, splitboarding around the Notch or driving through rural Vermont looking for hills to pow surf on.

What’s your favorite hidden-gem winter destination?

Cochran’s Ski Area in Richmond is a true gem. The tiny, family-run nonprofit ski hill is geared toward affordable and accessible family skiing and has a such a wonderful community vibe. It only has a tow rope and T-bars, but it’s such a fun way to slow down and spend a day snowboarding off the main resorts. I can get a hot dog and a lift ticket for under $25, and they offer night skiing under the lights on Fridays. Just last winter, I also discovered the pond off the side of Route 127 in Burlington where the secret “sea caves” exist. It’s accessible only from North Ave., right across 18


Aisha and Dan Bassett with their dog, Stella, at Idletyme Brewing in Stowe

Burlington sea caves

from the Burlington High School entrance, and last winter the city plowed and maintained the pond for ice skating. What’s one of your top places to see art around the state?

The Vermont Ski & Snowboard Museum in Stowe is hosting a show this winter called “The Art of the Graphic,” which will exhibit ski and snowboard graphics from a handful of designers in the industry (including myself ). The VTSSM is a historic gem and definitely worth a visit any time of year. Do you have any winter “survival” tips?

Cozy pants under Carhartts all winter long. Other than that, keeping my soul warm with the ramen and udon bowls from Shinjuku Station on North Street in Burlington is key to my survival. m These interviews have been edited and condensed for clarity and length.



Snow Snacks


very winter, perhaps excluding the last one, visitors from all over the world flock to Vermont for snowy wonderland activities. Whether boarding down a half-pipe, slicing through the backcountry or gliding along a high-elevation cross-country trail, everyone works up an appetite. Three new food options close to — and even on — the slopes show that Vermont offers an equally global menu. Craving traditional Mexican tacos? How about a Southern-style feast? Or maybe Japanese miso soup and rice balls? Read on for a whole new set of reasons to head to the mountain.

New ways to fuel up near the slopes, from Jay Peak to Ludlow BY M E L IS S A PA S A NE N •

Michael Werneke at Alfie’s Wild Ride




Baja fish taco and chicharrónes at Alfie’s Wild Ride

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Stowe evokes many images: the village’s iconic covered bridge and church spire, an impressive ski-area base lodge, a family of famous Austrian singers. What this quintessential Vermont ski town does not bring to mind are traditional Mexican street tacos. But since late September, that’s what longtime Vermont chef Michael Werneke has been cooking up at Alfie’s Wild Ride, a bar, restaurant and music destination in a converted auto shop on the Mountain Road. It is owned by Beth and Chris Oleks, proprietors of the Stowe Public House & Bottle Shop. Crystal chandeliers hanging from the ceilings elevate the cavernous, concrete-floored space, which otherwise resembles a deluxe home basement hangout. One corner has couches and a large projection screen for sporting events and movies. Shuffleboard, video games and cornhole are sprinkled about. You’d be seriously in luck if your basement had a chef turning out such excellent versions of regional Mexican tacos. Werneke spent six years cooking in San Diego, during which time he frequently traveled to Mexico. Now he turns out tacos within view of a red velvet curtain-backed stage. “It’s sort of

open-air, like a street stall” in Mexico, the chef said of his open kitchen. The counter-service menu focuses on classics such as crisply battered Baja-style fish; spicy housemade chorizo sausage mixed with soft potato cubes; and carne al pastor — spit-roasted pork deeply flavored with smoky adobo. Most fillings are served on a pair of corn tortillas, but the rare steak and beans in the Sonoranstyle carne asada come on a flour tortilla. Simple toppings include onion, cilantro, shredded cabbage and, in some cases, avocado crema and housemade salsa roja. The bar has a broad tap and drink list; pair your pour with crunchy chicharrónes — deep-fried pork skin — or try the purist four-ingredient guacamole with just-fried chips. The top-notch daily ceviche, made with the freshest seafood, is drenched with lime and spangled with bits of fresh chile. Werneke is gradually adding more tacos to the menu, including campechano, a mix of jalapeño pork sausage and beef brisket; marinated beef birria de res; and cochinita pibil, Yucatán-style barbecued pork. His goal is simple: “I just want to do really, really good tacos.” SNOW SNACKS

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Weston Nicoll and Abby Lechthaler of Gamebird

of a restaurant, it might look like Gamebird in downtown Ludlow. The brand-new bar, arcade and eatery opens on December 17. Highlights will include a taxidermied moose head, the nostalgic chime of Galaga starship captures, fried chicken and tequila-spiked Fried chicken with slush puppies. pickles and deviled eggs To clarify, Gamebird was not born out of crisis. But it does read like an ’80s kid’s daydream. As co-owner Abby Lechthaler said of her husband, Rogan: “Like a lot of dudes in their forties, he’s always been into video games. He grew up playing Mario.” Gamebird is a decided departure from the Lechthalers’ other Ludlow restaurant, the Pimento cheese and crackers with Downtown Grocery. The couple pickled veggies opened the fine-dining, farm-totable destination in 2010; Rogan is the chef, and Abby manages the front The counter-service menu will be of the house. By contrast, Gamebird is playful, Nicoll said, putting modern “fun, accessible, super casual, family and local twists on Southern classics. friendly but with a sports-bar vibe,” In addition to family-style feasts of Abby said. She and Rogan expect to sweet tea-brined fried chicken with draw in locals and visitors to nearby pickles, deviled eggs, biscuits, smothOkemo Mountain Resort. ered greens and grits, there will be a The couple have partnered with chef meat-free, carrot-rich Bolognese and Weston Nicoll. He most recently spent 18 fried local quail served with waffles. months cooking in New Orleans, where Snacks will include pimento cheese “I learned a lot about frying chicken,” he with Old Bay crackers, curry-battered said. Ironically, the Ludlow native’s first fried pickles and housemade onion dip culinary job was at the same Main Street with chips. No doubt they’ll disappear address — back when it was Valente’s, an as fast as Ms. Pac-Man chomping her old-school Italian restaurant. way to victory.

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When Jordan and Momo Antonucci launched their Miso Hungry food truck at Jay Peak Resort in 2014, “We had $2 to our name,” Jordan said. Seven years later, the couple can count a little bit more. They now serve food inspired by Momo’s native Japan out of one tram, two trucks and, new this year, three trailside huts. The Antonuccis began their business with ramen bowls and have gradually added rice balls (onigiri in Japanese) to their menu. The two foods fueled the couple during their courtship in Japan, where they pursued a shared passion for snow sports. This winter, three new Miso toh Kome huts will open at Bolton

Valley, Sugarbush’s Mount Ellen and Stowe’s base lodge. Kome means rice in Japanese. Each hut will serve up steaming bowls of Momo’s fromscratch miso soup, made from a mix of white and red miso with caramelized local apples, ginger and other ingredients. Also on the menu: assorted rice balls and canned Japanese coffee. The rice balls, especially, are perfect for long days in the backcountry, Jordan explained. Warm, seasoned sushi rice is shaped around fillings such as braised and flame-broiled Vermont pork; spicy New Englandcaught tuna; nuggets of sour plum; braised shiitake with kelp; or marinated, broiled eel. Each triangular rice ball, about the size of a baseball, comes wrapped in a rectangle of dried seaweed. The rice balls are rich with carbohydrates and protein, sturdy and portable when wrapped in foil, and perfectly suited for eating on the go. “They are the Japanese version of a Clif Bar,” Jordan said. Expanding to new resorts is exciting for both business and personal reasons, he continued. When you have an excuse to get season passes for four different mountains, Pork and spicy Jordan said with a laugh, tuna rice balls “You’ve made it.” m

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Hell Freezes Over

SKATE YOUR WAY THROUGH WINTER Vermonters adapt to changing weather with gusto. When winter hits, it’s all about frigid fun, and ice skating is a classic cold-weather pastime. While many indoor ice arenas stay open throughout several seasons, outdoor ice skating is an ephemeral treat — especially during the postholiday, pre-thaw months of January and February. From pop-up ice rinks to sports complexes to swaths of Lake Champlain, plenty of skating opportunities await, indoors and out — some closer than you may realize. Wondering whether your backyard pond is OK for skating? Stick to this old adage: Thick and blue, tried and true; thin and crispy, way too risky. “My grandfather always told me that a team of horses can go across two inches of ice,” said skating coach Jennifer Lupia, though current recommendations more than double that estimate. For tips about ice safety, visit to be sure you’re knowledgeable and prepared. Whether you’d like to carve the ice at a solar-powered arena, a friendly neighborhood park or a miles-long loop on a lake, here are seven varied places to skate all over Vermont this winter. Check the websites or call in advance for dates, rates and conditions.

Learning to ice skate is easierthan you think

BY JOR DA N A DA MS • j o r d a n @ s e ve ndaysvt. c om



ome people think that all Vermonters are nuts about winter sports. If you grew up here, surely you must be an expert snowboarder, cross-country skier, ice climber, curling lead and bobsledder. At least, that’s what many folks have assumed of me, a born Vermonter. What they don’t realize is that, if your parents didn’t do winter sports, you probably didn’t, either. Thanks a lot, Mom and Dad. Aside from sledding down Mount Philo and building snow forts à la the classic Disney short “Donald’s Snow Fight,” the only winter sport I ever tried as a kid was downhill skiing — and I sucked at it, even after two seasons’ worth of lessons in middle school. Lately, though, I’ve gotten more into athletics. With winter’s arrival — as well as my fast-approaching 39th



birthday in January — I decided to be adventurous and try a cold-weather activity that has long piqued my curiosity: ice skating. Maybe it was the thrill of watching high school friends zip around the hockey rink that intrigued me, or the serenity of the opening sequence in “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” I have vague childhood memories of strapping on training skates, the kind with two blades, but I don’t remember ever touching ice. Or, if I did, I didn’t move more than a step or two. The thought of smacking my head, knees, elbows and everything in between on cold ice over and over kept me on solid ground — an ice-rink virgin. If I was going to skate, I wanted to learn from an expert. After a quick internet search, I stumbled on coach Jennifer Lupia, who’s known by the clever aptronym Jenn “Loops.” A

decorated figure skater and experienced coach, Loops is a six-time United States Figure Skating Association gold medalist in various categories. She teaches group and private lessons all over Vermont, sometimes crisscrossing multiple counties in a single day. After a phone chat, she agreed to join me for a couple of sessions at the Gordon H. Paquette Ice Arena at Burlington’s Leddy Park. The day before my first lesson, one of my editors sent me a link to an Onion article headlined: “Man Ice Skating for First Time Really Getting Hang of Clutching Wall.” Yup, that’s gonna be me, I thought to myself. My freezer was stocked with ice packs and bags of frozen peas. I was prepared for the worst. I arrived at Leddy excited but also HELL FREEZES OVER

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Calahan Park Community Rink 45 Locust St., Burlington,

Some of the best spots for skating can be found right in neighborhood community parks, and they’re almost always free. Within walking distance of many popular dining and shopping destinations in Burlington’s South End, Calahan Park is home to one of the most beloved pop-up skating rinks in the Queen City. The park is also known for its sledding hill, so bring along the toboggan.

Great Ice! February 18-20, North Hero,

Perhaps the biggest skating spot on Lake Champlain emerges in February, when snowfall is cleared for the Great Ice! festival in North Hero. The mostly free frozen fête happens right on the ice, with bonfires, dogsled racing, crosscountry skiing, fireworks and, of course, ice skating. Zipping around on natural ice can be bumpy, so Great Ice! smooths out its skating plot with a professional ice resurfacer, ensuring a clean ride.

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Ice skating at Spruce Peak in Stowe

Lake Morey Resort 82 Clubhouse Rd., Fairlee, 800-423-1211,

Once the midwinter freeze sets in, natural bodies of water such as Fairlee’s Lake Morey should top any skater’s list. The lake’s 4.3-mile-long loop is a scenic gem, with natural beauty extending for miles around. It’s one of the longest skate trails of its kind in the United States. It’s free to skate, though donations are appreciated for access to the trailheads.

Skatium Outdoor Ice Skating Rink 40 Slow Rd., Waitsfield, 496-8845,

Home to ski centers such as Mad River Glen and Sugarbush Resort, the Mad River Valley is synonymous with winter sports. The Skatium Outdoor Ice Skating Rink in Waitsfield is an open-air gem, with half the ice reserved for stick-and-puck and the other half for pleasure skating. On Tuesdays, it hosts potluck community dinners. Wednesdays are all about friendly pickup hockey matches.

Spartan Arena 100 Diamond Run Mall Pl., Rutland, 775-3100,

Some like a leisurely spin around the ice, while others, such as members of the Green Mountain Speedskating Club, go for sheer velocity. Founded in the 1970s, the group calls Spartan Arena in Rutland home. Welcoming to newbies and seasoned skaters

alike, the club is sanctioned by U.S. Speedskating of the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee and has launched members to competitive glory. Not a speed demon? Check Spartan’s calendar for open skate dates.

Spruce Peak 7412 Mountain Rd., Stowe, 282-4625,

Want to tag along to the mountain with your skier friends, even though you don’t personally ski? Stowe’s Spruce Peak has a little something for everyone. Among amenities such as fine dining and spa services, there’s a large outdoor skating rink that’s free and open to the public. Nestled in the resort’s quaint central village, the rink offers gorgeous views of the surrounding mountains.

Union Arena Community Center 80 Amsden Way, Woodstock, 457-2500,

Woodstock’s Union Arena distinguishes itself from other local sports complexes as the only net-zero arena in the state. The massive, newly completed rooftop solar array drastically cut energy use, quelling any anxiety that skaters may have about the environmental impact of their recreational activities. Throughout the seven-month season, youth and adult hockey leagues take over the ice to compete in tournaments, and public skate hours vary throughout the week.

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Hell Freezes Over « P.24 scared that I would spend the rest of the day at urgent care. After lacing up, I carefully took my first steps around the perimeter of the rink. I remarked to a woman who had just come off the ice that walking in skates was way easier than I thought it would be. She pointed out that’s because the rubberized flooring in the arena is cushy and stable. “Wait until you get out on the ice,” she said with a bit of playful menace. Loops greeted me soon after and immediately pointed out that my skates were not properly laced. With my foot secured between her knees, she relaced them, noting that the tongue needed to be pressed as close against my shin and ankle as possible. Aside from forgetting to bring gloves, I’d made another wardrobe mistake: wearing skinny jeans. I’d planned to tuck my pants inside the tops of the skates, but Loops suggested a looser fit next time. Before we got on the ice, she made sure I knew how to enter the rink — by stepping over the slippery divider between the rubber flooring and the ice, not on top of it. I held my breath and steeled myself for impact as my blades touched the rink’s surface. Miraculously, nothing bad happened. I did not involuntarily fall into the splits and tear my pants the way I had pictured. Under Loops’ instruction, I started with some literal baby steps. Bill Murray’s character Bob Wiley in the



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comedy film What About Bob? came to mind: Baby steps, learn to ice skate; baby steps, don’t die, I thought to myself. Next, Loops talked about proper stance, explaining that my knees should be bent and loose. “Squishy squishy,” she said, noting that’s how she describes it to children.

“You can teach me like I’m 5,” I joked. She also stressed that I should keep my head and spine straight up. It’s natural to want to lean forward to correct your equilibrium, but that’s not how you achieve good balance on the ice. After those basics, Loops suggested cruising around a bit, just to get comfortable. Personable and friendly, she distracted me with general questions about my life and work. After a quick back-and-forth, she interjected, “I hate to break this to you, but you’re skating.” She was right. I was already gliding

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I held my breath and steeled myself for impact as my blades touched the rink’s surface. Miraculously, nothing bad happened. On a Thursday morning at 9:30 a.m., the rink wasn’t terribly crowded, with about 10 other people gliding around the ice. An intermediate couple practiced synchronized moves. A nimble woman carved back and forth, doing skid stops. A teenage boy, the human embodiment of a Great Dane, flailed his lanky limbs with wild abandon, falling numerous times and laughing it up. He might have been having more fun than me, but my staid movements made me feel more in control. Loops decided it was time to learn a few specific techniques. Gripping the wall, she demonstrated a swizzle move. Skates start together, move forward and outward, then come back together, making a kind of teardrop pattern. Moving off the wall, we

worked up a bit of momentum and practiced the swizzle. After that, Loops showed me a simple snowplow stop. The toes of the skates point slightly inward as you push out to the sides, leaning on the inside edge of the blade. A more difficult maneuver was backward skating. To accomplish this, Loops ever so slightly pointed her heels apart, and voilà! But I found it challenging to gain momentum or keep a fluid motion using her method. I gave up pretty quickly, which Loops would rib me about during our second lesson, the following morning. Loops briefly went over slaloms, in which the skates stay together and swish from side to side, and how to fall properly, absorbing impact on your side: arms stretched out, knees together. If you feel like you’re about to fall, she said, grip your knees to stabilize. By the end of day two, I could do three swizzles in a row, snowplow stop and, daringly, balance on one foot for a split second. I did not try to one-foot it again after my brief success. All through our lessons, Loops reminded me to keep my shoulders squared, head level, buns and core tight, and knees loose, employing each body part as needed for the skill we were practicing. It was an awkward combination of things to keep track of, and the motions sometimes felt like they were in opposition. But they slowly translated into muscle memory. My favorite thing about learning to skate? Just cruising around the rink with a forward glide, pushing my feet out behind me in a swift diagonal motion. It became easier and easier, even in my first session. And I didn’t fall. Not once. m

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with relative ease. Each carving motion felt surprisingly natural. I had expected to have the sensation of scrambling atop a hostile surface, but instead the world seemed to be gradually moving beneath me.



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