WINTER 2022-23 10 Full Steam Ahead Savu’s take on Scandinavian sauna culture WITH SUPPORT FROM 4 Gone to the Dogs Winter sled tours with October Siberians 16 Après Away! Slope-side drinking and dining destinations
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BY CAROLYN SHAPIRO
Some folks wait all year for the flakes to fall and Vermont to assume its alter ego of Winter Wonderland, USA. Others understandably need a little convincing to leave their cozy cups of cocoa and face that arctic air. This issue of Staytripper, Seven Days road map to rediscovering Vermont, aims to offer a chill itinerary for everyone.
Seeking an invigorating thrill ride through the frozen forest? October Siberians’ sled dogs will guide your way. Need to refuel after mountain riding and sliding? We’ve rounded up après eats for every taste. Prefer to unplug on a dairy farm and maybe milk a cow? Rochester’s Liberty Hill Farm will be your home away from home. Ready to shake those winter shivers? Savu’s serene saunas bring the heat.
Guided by that trusty travel axiom “Do as the locals do,” we also chatted up resident cold-weather lovers of all stripes. Their insider tips on where to stay and play will get you through this winter and many more.
— CAROLYN FOX, EDITOR
BY MELISSA PASANEN
BY CAROLYN SHAPIRO
BY SALLY POLLAK
BY JORDAN BARRY, KIRK KARDASHIAN & SUZANNE PODHAIZER
SEVEN DAYS STAYTRIPPER WINTER 2022-23 3
ON THE COVER: Backcountry skiing at Bolton Valley
PHOTO BY RYAN SMITH
WITH SUPPORT FROM DOG DAYS ................................... 4 October Siberians lets customers dogsled their way through Vermont’s winter wilderness
A PLACE LIKE HOME 6 Rochester’s Liberty Hill Farm has embraced guests as family for almost four decades
SOME LIKE IT HOT ..................... 10 Savu seeks to reinvent the sauna experience in Vermont — and beyond
WINTERVENTION 12 Vermonters spill their secrets to surviving the cold season
SLIDE ON IN ................................ 16 Warming spots to eat and drink by the mountain
DESTINATIONS BTV Winter Market 18 Forest Bathing .......................... 18 Wine & Cheese Snowshoe Tours 19 Exploring the state? Follow the pins to find the fun in this issue. Play It Cool Burlington Middlebury Rutland Brattleboro Bennington Montpelier St. Johnsbury • Jeffersonville 10 • Stowe Shelburne • Grafton • • Huntington • Stockbridge • Montgomery Rochester • 18 6 16 12 19 18 16 Woodstock • 12 10 Hinesburg• 4 • Corinth 12 • Bristol 12 Ripton • 12 • Craftsbury 12
October Siberians lets customers dogsled their way through Vermont’s winter wilderness
BY CAROLYN SHAPIRO
Mojo is a strong leader. He’s confident and knows how to motivate others. The team respects him. He’s assertive but doesn’t dominate. He doesn’t have to throw his weight around to make his teammates submit.
After all, he’s only about 50 pounds.
Mojo is a 10-year-old Siberian husky with a thick coat of tan, black and white fur, pointed ears, and a game attitude. Anyone who books a dogsled ride with October Siberians, a Hinesburg kennel owned by Rob and Elly Farley, might see Mojo out in front of the dog team pulling the sled.
“You look for a dog that’s confident up there and that’s got a good drive and is smart and will learn their commands and listen to you,” Rob said, de scribing the characteristics of a good dogsled leader. “It’s keeping the team going, setting the pace.”
Rob, 61, started dogsledding more than 30 years ago, when he fell in love first with Siberian huskies and then the sport. During the week, he works in hazardous waste management for the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation. Most
of his winter weekends he spends out with the dogs — all 15 of them.
“It’s something that captures the imagination, just being out on the trails and traveling through the woods,” Rob said. He always liked that he could go farther on a trail with the dogs than he could snowshoeing or cross-country skiing.
“It’s just so peaceful out there,” he added. “You go out on a full-moon night, and it’ll change your life forever.”
An October Siberians dogsled outing offers an unmotorized, quiet but invigorating ride through Vermont’s winter wonderland. Rob runs the tours from Little River State Park in Waterbury and mostly follows the groomed snowmobile trails. The dogs tug the sled up and down hills, around twists and turns, through woods and past ponds. The ride costs just under $500 for two people and lasts about two hours.
The customers get to drive the sled, too — with Rob’s guidance. The tandem sled is equipped with two musher spots, as well as space in front for another person to sit. Rob can take out two people
at a time, so if customers come in a larger group, he’ll split them up within the allotted time. His most important advice: Hold on to the sled tight, because a rider who falls off will likely get left behind.
German Cuevas and his son, Antonio, took their first October Siberians sled ride with Rob five years ago and have returned from their home in Methuen, Mass., every March since. Antonio, 21, loves dogs and got to harness them to the line, he said.
“Experiencing the wind in your face and watch ing the dogs run, it’s really an experience like nothing else,” he said.
His 48-year-old father relishes going deep into the Vermont wilderness. “And the dogs got me there,” German said. “I didn’t have to hike up.”
Despite the twisty terrain, the ride is smooth and fast, they said. “Those dogs can go at pretty good speed,” Antonio added. “It’s almost like pushing the gas pedal all the way down on a car.”
Rob was 25 when he met his first husky — a friend’s dog that was beautiful and sweet, he recalled. He began to research the breed and visit kennels
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Rob Farley with his dogsledding team
with Siberians. He eventually went to watch a 60-mile dogsled race in Sandwich, N.H., and was hooked.
The Farleys adopted Thyme, their first husky, from a musher who didn’t think the dog had the goods. Thyme proved a worthy mentor, though, to the Farleys’ first Siberian puppy, Kona.
Their kennel grew quickly. They added three more dogs, including their first lead dog, Micro. “That’s the only position she wanted to run in,” Rob explained. “She would throw a fit if she was somewhere else on the team.”
By 1996, they bred their first litter and kept two of the puppies. Many have joined the pack since.
Rob never cared much for the intensity or compe tition of dogsled racing, he said. In 2005, as his kennel and related expenses grew, he saw an opportunity for a dogsled touring business to help pay for the maintenance, food and vet bills. He has a license to run the dogsled in the state park and is a member of the Vermont Association of Snow Travelers, which is mostly a snowmobiling group.
These days, Rob said, he also enjoys doing
educational events. One is scheduled at Burlington’s ECHO Leahy Center for Lake Champlain on December 29. He brings the huskies and appears in character as the early 20th-century musher Leonhard Seppala to talk about dogsledding, which he consid ers a lesson in leadership.
October Siberians’ huskies live in a communal kennel outdoors at the Farleys’ home in Hinesburg, on hilly property that Elly’s parents gave them when they got married. There they raised two children, Sage and Graham, who are now grown. When they were babies, Elly said, a dogsled ride would help get them to sleep. Some parents soothe a fussy child with a drive in a car; Elly sat in the front of the sled with the kids tucked between her legs under a blanket.
The Siberians’ dense coats are as warm and fluffy as a down jacket, making them well equipped to withstand the cold. In their kennel, they curl up in old pickle barrels repurposed as doghouses, bedded with straw.
When a visitor arrives, they bark and yelp and whine and jump. Keb, the son of Mojo and Savannah, has a particular talent for getting air — and for climb ing, a trait he apparently inherited from his mother. He once ascended the chain links of his kennel to reach the top rafters, where he stayed until his owners fetched him.
The October Siberians’ names are all inspired by music. Syd is named for Syd Barrett, cofounder of Pink Floyd; Angus, for AC/DC cofounder Angus Young; and Keb for musician Keb’ Mo’. Annalee refer ences the song “Anna Lee” by the band Sonia Dada.
When Rob gets home from work, he lets the dogs out to play in two groups. They run loops around their large fenced area and dig up patches of grass to fling like toys. Every few minutes, one will circle back to Rob and any visitors to spring up and kiss their noses.
When they eat dinner, Rob asks the dogs to sit and wait before saying, “OK.” He feeds them raw turkey necks from Misty Knoll Farms in New Haven. The dogs crunch through those in minutes, then lap up a bowl of kibble soaked in water.
In the summer, the dogs chill. It’s too hot for them to run. By fall, Rob starts to condition them for pulling the sled, which weighs 500 to 700 pounds with riders in it. He usually harnesses 10 at a time to the tug line and, even before there’s snow on the ground, uses a cart or an ATV to help build their strength and endur ance. Customers can book cart tours if there’s no snow on the ground, but few people do, Rob said.
He watches for slack in the tug line, which indicates that a dog has stopped working and is just running, not pulling. It takes the whole group to power a sled properly.
“Everybody’s gotta be working together,” he said. “I always compare the dog team to a rowing team. Everyone has to be in sync to make that boat move and move smoothly.”
Rob rarely barks out commands to his dogs from the sled. A simple “Let’s go” gets them started. He’ll clap on the sled to get them moving faster or say “Dig it up” with a growl in his voice. On the sled, he’ll call out “gee” for a right turn, “haw” for left and “whoa” to stop.
On busy Saturdays booked with three tours, Rob will rotate the pack so each husky has a chance to run twice. They love it, he said. Even 12-year-old Chapin, a graying lady with a sweet demeanor, still pulls the sled.
Keb and his sister, Evie, are now coming into their own as sled dogs at age 3. Tenny, who is 2 and the youngest of the October Siberians, needs a bit of schooling. She’s easily distracted.
“She’s gotta figure out pulling on the harness,” Rob said. “When she’s focused, she’s working really hard.”
She might even make a good leader someday. m
October Siberians appear at Sled Dogs Live! on Thursday, December 29, at ECHO Leahy Center for Lake Champlain in Burlington. Presentation times are 10:30 and 11:30 a.m. and 1 and 2 p.m. Learn more at echovermont.org. Book tours at octobersiberians.com.
SEVEN DAYS STAYTRIPPER WINTER 2022-23 5
You go out on a full-moon night, and it’ll change your life forever.
PHOTOS: OLIVER PARINI
A Place Like Home
Rochester’s Liberty Hill Farm has embraced guests as family for almost four decades
BY MELISSA PASANEN firstname.lastname@example.org
Avisit to Liberty Hill Farm’s bed-and-breakfast in Rochester feels like going to Grandma’s — assuming your grandmother is an accomplished home cook who regularly welcomes an eclectic mix of global travelers to her cozy 200-year-old farmhouse in a picturesque, rural Vermont valley.
Since 1979, the Kennett family has raised dairy cows and prized breed ing stock on a couple hundred acres just off Route 100 in central Vermont. Beth and Bob Kennett, now 67 and 72, respectively, started inviting guests into their rambling Greek Revival home in the winter of 1984. Their son, David, 44, who now runs the farming operation with Bob, was 6 years old.
Over the past four decades, Beth estimated, Liberty Hill Farm has easily hosted 40,000 people of all ages and backgrounds from every continent, including a research scientist from Antarctica. Farmers don’t get to travel much, but “the world has come to us,” Beth likes to say.
Liberty Hill farm stays also broaden the perspective of guests. Included in each overnight visit is a firsthand view of the daily rhythms of farm life: David’s wife, Asia, 35, leads morning tours of everything from milking to bottle-feeding calves. The Kennetts value the opportunity to help people understand what it takes to make the key ingredient for their favorite cheese, ice cream and yogurt.
“It’s really not about the bed, and it’s not about the pancakes,” Beth said. “It’s about really connecting people not just to food but to the farming way of life, something that most people are really disconnected from.”
Every morning, Beth rises early to bake favorites like her rhubarb custard clafouti. She whisks up pancakes or scrambled eggs, fries bacon, and cuts fresh fruit while Bob sits in a rocking chair cradling a mug of hot coffee after
SEVEN DAYS STAYTRIPPER WINTER 2022-23 6
COURTESY OF ORAH MOORE
the morning milking. Beth is renowned for her hearty, home-cooked breakfasts and suppers; they feature many local ingredients and are served family-style around a big dining room table.
The home’s seven guest bedrooms are simply and comfortably appointed with plaid curtains, quilts and chintz flowered wallpaper. Common areas offer board games, puzzles and books to be enjoyed in arm chairs and nooks. The barns, fields, river and hills on and around the farm provide ample space for exploration in every season.
Beth is always ready to provide personal ized recommendations for area excursions, as close as the Rochester Public Library’s historic stained glass windows or farther afield, such as the Rikert Nordic Center in Ripton.
The farm’s first paying guests were a New Jersey family of seven who spent the week skiing at the Middlebury College Snow Bowl. At the time, lodging was sparse for skiers who came to Killington and smaller local mountains. “The ski areas would get on the radio and beg people to take in skiers,” Beth recalled. The early 1980s, she added, were also a “really volatile time for the dairy
economy,” and the Kennetts needed the money.
Nowadays, the big ski areas have slopeside resorts, but plenty of people still seek out accommodations with a more personal touch. The Kennetts are happy to provide their own approach to convivial, communal hospitality, bringing together up to 15 guests at a time for meals and conversation. (Guests also share the house’s four bathrooms, a reminder that this is a real family home.)
Liberty Hill Farm, 511 Liberty Hill, Rochester, 767-3926, libertyhillfarm.com
Opposite page: Rochester’s Liberty Hill Farm in winter
This page: A guest bedroom; youngsters enjoying hot cocoa; communal meals; Asia Kennett feeding a cow; owners Beth and Bob Kennett; a young guest reading in bed
SEVEN DAYS STAYTRIPPER WINTER 2022/2023 7
PHOTOS COURTESY OF JESSICA SIPE
A PLACE LIKE HOME » P.8
Though born out of necessity, play ing host has enriched the Kennetts’ lives, Beth said: “It’s just been a joy and privilege and honor to host people here from literally across the country and around the world that truly have become family of the heart.”
The feeling seems to be mutual: Hundreds of guests have become repeat visitors. Jules Williams, now 18, has been coming from Redding, Conn., with her family since she was 7 years old. “It’s sort of become a second home,” Williams wrote by text. She loves that she knows every corner of the property, she said — and “also the food is really good.”
Her mother, Ellen, said she worried before the first visit that the farm would be too remote, but she easily found a plethora of interesting daytrips, which have often involved a bookstore and café. Between visits, she re-creates a bit of Liberty Hill at home through Beth’s recipes for savory cheddar bread pudding, chicken pot pie, corn pudding and chopped broccoli salad with dried cranberries.
Ann Carpenter of Groton, Mass., made her first trip to Liberty Hill Farm when her now-27-year-old daughter was 18 months old. They have returned several dozen times with friends and family in all seasons. “It is the place that always feels like home and [that] I want to share with the people I love,” Carpenter wrote by email. “I think everyone who stays at the farm feels included, not just in farm life but in the extended family itself.”
Among Carpenter’s favorite win tertime activities are visiting Sandy’s Books & Bakery in Rochester for a good read and a maple-sweetened coffee drink, cross-country skiing to the top of Liberty Hill, and walking the Robert Frost Interpretive Trail in Ripton.
Staying on a working farm, Carpenter noted, allows people to experience an “increasingly rare part of our agricultural heritage.”
Beth vividly remembers a group of Boy Scouts from Staten Island who visited years ago. It was spring, and they helped picked rocks from the fields for about an hour after receiv ing a geology lesson from Bob about how the freeze-thaw cycle pushes new rocks to the surface every year that the farmers must remove before they can plant.
“One of those boys came back several years later with his wife to introduce her to ‘his’ farm,” Beth said.
The Kennetts’ daughter-in-law, Asia, “had never stepped foot on a farm until the day I met my hus band,” she said. “I learned it from the outside in.” This perspective, Asia said, helps her guide the two-hour farm tours, which she not only offers as part of the overnight guest package but also markets to non guests through Airbnb’s Experiences platform.
“Some people come wanting the nitty-gritty of the industry, the envi ronmental impact,” Asia said. “Other people come and just want to take selfies with cows and snuggle with cows.” Asia added that she’s been shocked by how many people want to milk a cow. “One woman from Connecticut threw her teenagers in the car at 5 a.m. and drove straight up here because it was on her bucket list to milk a cow, and she wanted them to hold the camera,” she said.
In March 2021, then-New England Patriots linebacker Chase Winovich came with a camera crew to Liberty Hill Farm, and Asia took him on a tour in which he tackled an udder with minimal success. The resulting YouTube video has received almost 7,500 views.
For many guests, though, a visit to Liberty Hill Farm is about escaping technology. Repeat guest Olesya Baker of Brookline, Mass., said by phone that it’s the one place where her two sons, ages 6 and 11, don’t beg for electronic diversion. The past few trips, she said, “they just run out in the morning after breakfast, and we don’t hear from them until lunch time.” Her kids take pride in doing chores, including shoveling cow manure in the barn and laying down fresh sawdust. “They’ve milked a cow multiple times, seen calves be born, picked corn and vegetables,” Baker said. “They can be free-range and safe.”
The busy mom said she loves that someone else does the cooking. She also appreciates the peace and quiet and meeting interesting fellow guests.
“There is no phone pinging at you all the time,” she said. “You can just sit on the porch, just be in the moment, and enjoy the beauty and simplicity of life.” m
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One woman from Connecticut threw her teenagers in the car at 5 a.m. and drove straight up here because it was on her bucket list to milk a cow.
A Place Like Home « P.7
PHOTOS COURTESY OF JESSICA SIPE
From top: Guests enjoying wine on the porch at Liberty Hill Farm; Asia Kennett milking a dairy cow in the barn; gathering over a communal home-cooked meal
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Some Like It Hot
Savu seeks to reinvent the sauna experience in Vermont — and beyond
BY CAROLYN SHAPIRO
Nicole Sweeney and Dave Nelson embraced Scandinavian sauna culture while living in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 2009. There, they said, people treat a session of sitting in a very hot room like a daily trip to the gym or glass of wine after work. It’s routine, part of a wellness regimen practiced by people from all walks of life. In Finland in particular, saunas are as common as bars and just as communal — gathering places to unwind, Sweeney and Nelson explained.
The couple wanted to bring that tradition to the United States when they returned 12 years ago, first to Hawaii, then to San Francisco. But they quickly recognized that Americans’ independence, penchant for privacy and body self-consciousness weren’t com patible with the collective sauna experience. People here see their health and fitness habits as personal, not as activities to share with others.
So Sweeney and Nelson adapted their vision, focus ing on a sauna experience that would offer peaceful seclusion. In May 2021, they moved to Sweeney’s native Vermont to launch Savu.
The couple, who now live in Winooski, began by opening a single sauna on the Jeffersonville property of Sweeney’s parents, near Smugglers’ Notch. The following spring, Savu added two more saunas for the public to rent at the Burlington Surf Club behind Hula, the tech incubator and coworking space on Lakeside Avenue.
“Americans versus Europeans, in general, just feel
a lot more private about their bathing habits,” Nelson, 37, said during a recent interview. “In Europe, you have these giant, public sauna spa facilities where people go and they walk around naked, and they’re around strangers.”
“It’s normal,” Sweeney, 36, added. “So we wanted to really lean into what will make people relax and feel good here, and what we learned is: [That’s] them having their own space.”
Now, the Savu owners are taking the solitary sauna experience a step further. In the mold of the Airbnb app, which travelers use to book stays at private homes, Sweeney and Nelson have begun soliciting landowners in pristine settings to allow Savu to set up custom-built saunas and lounging decks on their properties in exchange for a portion of the booking revenues. Customers will reserve their sauna time and check in on a Savu app — currently in development — that provides detailed instructions. No direct contact with a person is necessary.
With this concept, which the couple calls Savu Unbound, the company can expand quickly while avoiding hefty investment and a long process of find ing locations and building out each sauna operation with staff and facilities, Nelson said. The app model requires no staff, no amenities.
The couple are currently testing the Unbound model at Savu’s minimalist wooden hut at Smuggs, which stands in a remote spot down a separate driveway, away from the Sweeney home. Sweeney’s mother used to greet sauna guests and hand out Savu’s upscale cotton towels and robes before their
sessions. Now, when they book online, Savu tells them to bring their own linens.
Inside the hut, a basket of electric-heated granite stones warms to the ideal 200 degrees for sauna soak ing. Patrons relax for an hour or more, turning toasty as they gaze out the window at Mount Mansfield. If they wish, they can ladle water over the oval stones to create steam.
A sauna holds particular appeal in the winter, when a blazing-hot box defends against the outside chill. On a particularly blustery November day, the soothing Savu chamber at the Burlington Surf Club overlooked whitecaps skidding across Lake Champlain.
But Sweeney and Nelson said sauna soaking is just as valuable during a sweltering summer, when it helps regulate internal body temperature and make people more comfortable.
The couple are talking to other New England property owners about two additional Unbound sites and seeking funding for their concept. “The idea is to expand sauna culture everywhere, to beautiful places across the U.S.,” Sweeney said.
Individuals or small groups can reserve the Savu saunas for $65 per hour from Thursday to Sunday at Smuggs and Wednesday through Sunday in Burlington. The saunas comfortably fit four people — or six, if they know each other well enough to get cozy. Both locations have been booked solid most weeks since they opened, Sweeney said.
Gina Cocchiaro never cared much for the sauna at her gym, but she has become a Savu devotee since she and her husband took in the mountain views at
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INFO Learn more about Savu saunas at savu.cc.
the Smuggs location late last year. “It’s really very peaceful there,” she said.
The Richmond couple have since started spending their date nights at both Savu locations. “This level of relaxation is so difficult to achieve,” Cocchiaro said. “It’s such a true reset. It feels very healing and cleansing, even emotionally.”
Savu, the Finnish word for smoke, refers to the individual shacks that Finns built centuries ago beside their homes for a quick, fiery fix. Sweeney, who studied architecture at the University of Arizona and is an experienced woodworker, designed the saunas herself.
After starting Savu, the couple began getting requests to build saunas for private homes. They have delivered 15 custom-designed saunas, con structed at their warehouse in Williston and priced from $18,000 to $35,000.
Each Savu sauna is a simple wooden sanctuary, burnt to black on the outside and lined inside with cedar planks from floor to ceiling, all sourced in Vermont and aligned with painstaking precision so the grain matches. Most have windows for a view of their surroundings, deepening the connection with nature and “letting the outside in,” as Sweeney put it.
The design is meant to evoke cleanliness and inspire serenity.
“We want to offer people the opportunity to step out of their daily lives and feel what it’s like to be in their body,” said Nelson, who met Sweeney in college, where he got a degree in human anatomy and physiology. He spent several years as a profes sional bike racer in Europe while Sweeney was in Copenhagen, and he later worked for an electric bike startup in San Francisco.
“We come from a place of believing that people are probably a little bit too connected to their technologies and their phones and their social networks,” he continued. The couple hope to offer a chance to “experience something different and reconnect with what’s going on inside.”
The benefits of heat bathing aren’t solely psychological. Studies have shown that sauna use can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and neurocognitive disease, as well as relieve occurrences of arthritis and headaches, according to a 2018 report published by the Mayo Clinic.
Many sauna enthusiasts today like to complete their body-cooking session with a cold plunge in a nearby pool, tub, pond or river. The extreme temperature shift creates a sense of euphoria, Sweeney said.
“The feeling that you get from being in a
200-degree sauna and then going in a 40-degree cold plunge — you literally feel turned inside out in the best way possible,” she said. “You feel high. It’s truly, like, a crazy experience.”
At the Smuggs site, a deck and stall are fitted with a hanging bucket, which guests can fill with cold water and dump over their heads post-sauna. At the Lakeside location, the two saunas sit on opposite sides of a wooden deck, with a large tub for the cold plunge in the middle.
In the summer, surf club staff check in sauna guests and hand them robes and towels. In the winter, Savu repurposes a trailer that Higher Ground uses for the musicians who play the Ben & Jerry’s Concerts on the Green to serve as the sauna check-in, where visitors can change into robes and leave their belongings. Savu encourages them to wear bathing suits rather than go naked, whether in the public Burlington setting or at Unbound locations on a stranger’s property.
The concept of a self-sufficient sauna experience, however, gives guests the opportunity to decide for themselves.
“We want to get people excited about this Unbound idea,” Sweeney said. “We really think that there’s something special there and that we’re doing something cool and unique.” m
SEVEN DAYS STAYTRIPPER WINTER 2022-23 11
From left: Savu co-owners Nicole Sweeney and Dave Nelson; Randy Camacho in the cold plunge pool at Savu’s Burlington Surf Club location; scenes from Savu’s Jeffersonville location
We want to offer people the opportunity to step out of their daily lives and feel what it’s like to be in their body.
Vermonters spill their secrets to surviving the cold season
BY SALLY POLLAK • email@example.com
On a June day in 1922, the month of the summer sol stice, Vermont’s first poet laureate wrote “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.” Six months separated Robert Frost from the cold, dark days of winter, yet he immortalized the season for generations of Vermonters.
With its official arrival in two weeks, winter once again moves from imagination to real life. These are the days when Vermonters consider the question: What should we do when the sun sets at four o’clock in the afternoon and it’s 12 degrees outside? While it’s tempt ing to crawl under a blanket with a cup of cocoa and a book of poetry, it’s exhilarating to don a pair of skis or swim in an outdoor, heated pool as snowflakes fall.
Continuing a series started last year, we asked five Vermonters to share their favorite winter activi ties and destinations — the things they do and places they go not simply to survive winter, but to celebrate it. None of them sug gested reading Frost’s poem, but bookseller Kari Meutsch said she loves “any book where winter is as much a part of the story as any human character.”
Winter weather is a central theme in Vermont for at least four months a year. Here’s hoping these suggestions from fellow Vermonters will help brighten and enliven the season.
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Snowshoeing at Trapp Family
OCCUPATIONS: Entrepreneur; cofounder of the Skinny Pancake; founder of a base camp for bikers and skiers opening in Waitsfield in 2023
You’re a super experienced downhill skier. When you want to push the Alpine enve lope, where do you go for backcountry skiing?
Oh man, where to start?! David Goodman’s Best Backcountry Skiing in the Northeast is the single best resource to get into the sport, with 50 classic ski tours, almost all of which are doable as day trips from anywhere in Vermont.
To self-guide your way into the sport, I highly recommend Braintree Mountain Forest and Brandon Gap because they have fantastic ter rain and they are mapped and maintained by the backcountry heroes at the Ridgeline Outdoor Collective.
For a little more help, Bolton Valley is your spot. You can get instruc tion and even hire a guide to tour around thousands of acres of mostly north- and east-facing terrain. For a unique adventure that’s off the beaten path and super scenic, check out the Willoughby State Forest zone maintained by the Northeast Kingdom Backcountry Coalition.
What are your favorite winter hikes?
Hiking is for summer. At the very least, don a pair of snowshoes and head to the snowshoe trails at Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe or Mad River Glen in Waitsfield.
For those who love to hike, I can’t recommend enough buying a pair of skinny skis and a season pass to your local cross-country ski area. When you do, you get one free day at basically every cross-country center in the state.
What adventures do you recommend for parents of young kids?
Love of winter recreation starts with sledding in the middle of a snowstorm at your nearest hill. For kids who can already ski a bit, the two standout gems are Cochran’s Ski Area in Richmond and Northeast Slopes in East Corinth. Both are powered by T-bars and handle tows, both have really good pitch, and both are pure skiing the way it should be.
At Cochran’s, you can gather round a bonfire right at the base and watch the bigger kids race training. Cochran’s Friday Night Lights program offers an affordable, family-friendly dinner with a thousand other kids and super-fun night skiing for (not kidding) $5 per person.
Northeast Slopes is a true gem: 100 percent volunteer-run, 100 percent natural snow, actual glades, open faces and steep spots, and just a little shoebox at the bottom to gear up and get a burger.
After a day of playing in the snow, where do you like to go for food and drink?
We live in Stowe and ski there often. On the way back down the Mountain Road, our car pretty much turns itself into the Piecasso parking lot to get a hot slice or two.
If you’re heading back to Burlington, hot cider and a doughnut at Cold Hollow Cider Mill hit the spot.
According to a data-driven study by my 6- and 8-year-old nephews, Lake Champlain Chocolates has the best hot cocoa around.
TOWN: Waterbury Center
OCCUPATION: Entrepreneur who runs the wellness center at Zenbarn; co-owner of Zenbarn Farms AGE: 38
Where do you find your winter zen in Vermont?
I find zen cross-country skiing in the field outside my house and through the trails on Camel’s Hump. One of my new favorite places to cross-country ski is around Blueberry Lake near Warren. I find my zen dancing to live music at Zenbarn in Waterbury Center and sitting by the firepit. As I answer this question, I realize there are, gratefully, so many places I find my zen in Vermont. I also find my zen at the Grange in Montpelier, doing West African drum and dance every Tuesday, 6:30 to 8 p.m.
It’s a surprise snow day, and you and your husband are playing hooky and spending it with your sons. Where do you go, and what do you do?
Oh, I love days like this. We usually venture up to Spruce Peak Lodge in Stowe for a mini staycation and enjoy the outdoor hot tub and heated pool. If not keeping hot in water, head to Lincoln Gap; the road is closed in the wintertime. It’s a nice two-mile walk up and epic sled ride down the winding road.
For a restaurant meal not at Zenbarn, where does your family head?
You can’t go wrong with Butler’s Pantry or Doc Ponds in Stowe, depending on the time of the day. For family enjoy ment and great food in downtown Waterbury, the Reservoir it is! Barbara Jean’s Southern Kitchen [offering takeout in Burlington] is great soul food to break the cabin fever.
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WINTERVENTION » P.16
Backyard sledding in Jericho
The heated outdoor pool at Spruce Peak Lodge
Program manager at Catamount Trail Association
Can you recommend three stretches of the Catamount Trail for three levels of Nordic skier: novice, some experience and hard-core skier?
The Catamount Trail is divided into 31 sections based on geographic location. So, for a novice skier, I’d recommend sections 1 to 4 in southern Vermont. These sections have gentle terrain without steep inclines, fol lowing the Deerfield River and the shores of Somerset and Harriman reservoirs, making for a beautiful beginner ski.
Skiers with some experience would enjoy sections 15 and 16, which go through the Moosalamoo National Recreation Area in central Vermont. These sections follow rolling backcountry terrain with various ungroomed and groomed portions, pass ing through both Blueberry Hill and Rikert Nordic Center.
For more hard-core skiers, I’d recommend section 22 [Bolton Valley to Trapp Family Lodge]. It’s a popular, rugged backcountry tour that has both challenging climbing and descending portions.
Where do you like to cross-country ski that’s not on the Catamount Trail?
I love to ski at Sleepy Hollow Inn’s Nordic center in Huntington, which is run by a multigenerational family and has plenty of varied terrain and scenic views at Butternut Cabin. Also, you can’t go wrong spending the day at Craftsbury Outdoor Center, which has over 100 kilometers of groomed trails, great food and fantastic terrain.
What are some favorite spots to chill with a drink or a meal after a day of winter recreation?
I’d recommend a meal at the Blueberry Hill Inn in Goshen, Edson Hill in Stowe or the von Trapp Brewing Bierhall Restaurant in Stowe.
It’s February, and you need a pick-me-up. What do you do to kick the winter blues?
I’d head to Blueberry Hill Outdoor Center, which has rustic, woodsy trails and feels like a getaway. I’d take a stop in Bristol for a pastry at Jones the Boy or Minifactory on the way up and stop in Middlebury for some Thai food on the way home.
OCCUPATION: Inn and hospitality director at Shelburne Farms AGE: 55
You live on the property of Shelburne Farms year-round. What do you enjoy doing there when the inn’s season winds down?
I have a very rambunctious 9-year-old golden retriever, Maisy. On any given day, she and I will walk three to five miles on the farm, just enjoying the scenery. Even on the coldest winter day, the farm is a beautiful place to spend time and explore.
When I’m not doing that, I am usually neck-deep in overly ambitious cooking projects.
Where do you take pleasure being a guest while other people run the show?
I am a terrible homebody. That being said, I am very keen to try the Tillerman in Bristol. If their inn experience is as great as their dining experience, then I’m all in! Their chef, Justin Wright, does a great job.
What other dining destinations make the most of the season?
This is a hard one, because we are so lucky to have great options in the area. In Burlington, I think Hen of the Wood does a wonderful job, and I particularly enjoy sitting at the counter, watching their talented staff do their thing. I love the warmth and conviviality of small, intimate places like Honey Road and Poco, both of which have awesome small-plate-focused menus.
I am an enormous fan of Pizzeria Ida. Owners Dan Pizzutillo and Erika Strand are incredibly dedicated to their craft, use amaz ing ingredients, and produce pizzas, salads and other items that are unlike anything else in the area. I’m particularly addicted to their square pie.
Last but certainly not least, Zabby & Elf’s Stone Soup is a personal favorite, with great baked goods and such a genuine community vibe! In my opinion, it is the epitome of what a neighborhood spot should feel like.
What are your go-to stores for winter shopping in Burlington?
Patagonia has good gear with a great social and environmental mission. I also love Outdoor Gear Exchange, even though I’m not super sporty. The shop covers so many bases, is locally owned and I especially love that their consignment program helps keep used gear in action rather than fill land fills! We also do a lot of shopping at Monelle, a favorite of my two daughters and my go-to when I’m trying to find gifts for them.
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Wintervention « P.15
Winter lights on the Church Street Marketplace
FILE: JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
Austrian sausages at the von Trapp Brewing Bierhall Restaurant
TOWN: Bridgewater Corners
OCCUPATION: Yankee Bookshop co-owner AGE: 37
You’re holed up in a snowstorm on a winter day. Where are you?
When I heard about the impending storm, I managed to book myself a massage at the Spa in the Woodstock Inn — and while the massage is great, the real reason I’m here is the opportunity to relax in their common room afterwards. I’m curled up in a comfy chair, watching the snow through a wall of windows, wrapped in a blanket and settled in next to a woodstove, while reading whatever fun, new witchy and magical novel has caught my eye.
What are your winter traditions?
I always want a bonfire around the time of solstice, but we’re often too busy with the bookstore in the lead-up to gift-giving holidays to make that happen. So in the quieter months, I try to take time to walk through the woods in the snow when I can and enjoy the quiet. Sometimes I’ll take my camera along, but it’s nice to be out there alone without distraction, too.
you have a favorite book or poem about winter?
For me, it’s any book where winter is as much a part of the story as any human character — and there has to be magic. I have to mention The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden, because although it’s set in historical Russia and chock-full of fairy tales and folklore from that space and time, you can tell that Arden resides here in Vermont. The way she describes the cold and the snow and the woods and the trees, it makes you feel like everything could be happening right now, just outside the door, in our own backyard. Plus, it’s the first in a fantastic trilogy — and it’s always nice to have a long story to dive into and carry you through the darker months.
Describe your dream day of a winter adventure.
Snowshoeing on the trails at the Vermont Institute of Natural Science with friends, enjoying the quiet and beauty of the winter woods before visiting with all of the rescued birds. Then heading to the Ransom Tavern in South Woodstock for a delicious wood-fired pizza and the cozy ambience (and tasty drinks). And, of course, we’ll end the night with their Nutella pizza, because it’s absolutely the stuff of dreams. m
These interviews were edited and condensed for clarity and length.
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A screech owl at the Vermont Institute of Natural Science
Slide on In
Warming spots to eat and drink by the mountain
BY JORDAN BARRY, KIRK KARDASHIAN & SUZANNE PODHAIZER
The first snow of the year has fallen, and Vermonters have ski season on the brain. As you dig out your goggles and make sure your snow pants still fit, why not find a new preor post-mountain stop for your winter routine?
Sure, resort restaurants and cafeterias will fill you up, and it’s easy (and cheap) to pack a sandwich and
a thermos. But beyond the lodge, you’ll find plenty of cozy drinking and dining spots — destinations in their own right — that just happen to be right near the slopes.
Here are three bars and restaurants, from tried-andtrue to brand-new, that are ready to fuel your winter adventures.
Board on the Mountain
Après Only, Field Guide Lodge, 433 Mountain Rd., Stowe, apresonly.com
It’s no surprise that Stowe has a strong après-ski scene. The mountain town draws winter enthusiasts from near and far, and it boasts a wide array of restaurants, bars and tasting rooms to revive them after a long day of skiing, riding, tubing or snowshoeing.
New among them is Après Only, which opened this fall in the Field Guide Lodge, complete with 1980s ski décor, local booze, snack boards and “shotskis.”
Field Guide is part of boutique property group Lark Hotels; the large communal space at the Mountain Road lodge previously housed Picnic Social and, last winter, a pop-up tasting room for Stowe- and Grand Isle-based Ellison Estate Vineyard.
On a recent evening, groups of all ages stayed snug under heat lamps on Après Only’s covered deck. Inside, several couples gathered on worn leather couches and sheepskin-draped chairs around a freshly lit woodstove, sipping equally warming flights of Vermont bour bon. Their children played board games from the hotel’s extensive collection on an orange shag rug nearby — and a game of hide-and-seek behind the bar’s eclectic furniture.
Beyond the bourbon, Après Only’s drink list is a who’s who of local beer, cider, wine and canned cocktails. Black Flannel Brewing, Mount Holly Beer, Fiddlehead Brewing, Outer Limits Brewing and Lawson’s Finest Liquids are represented just among the IPAs on draft.
The bar’s snacky foods — from fancy bites to slope-side lunch box classics — are served entirely on wooden boards. An elegant charcute rie and cheese spread and decadent chocolate-coconut cake from Stowe’s Shugah Cookie Baking pair unexpect edly with Swedish meatballs and an oversize warm Bavarian pretzel bigger than the board itself. A bowl of organic SpaghettiOs is described on the menu as “a childhood classic that mom never let you have.”
That sense of nostalgia fills the entire space, which features a wooden toboggan propped up near the wood stove, vintage ski suits hanging on the walls and Brat Pack movies playing on TVs near the bar. What could be warmer after a cold day on the slopes?
SEVEN DAYS STAYTRIPPER WINTER 2022-23 16
COURTESY OF SAVANNAH BROWN
COURTESY OF SAVANNAH BROWN
Organic SpaghettiOs, hot dogs and a Bavarian pretzel at Aprés Only
Rooted in Community
The Wild Fern, 1703 Route 100, Stockbridge, facebook.com/thewildfern
As the proprietor of the Wild Fern — the only eatery in the town of Stockbridge, population 718 — Heather Lynne could get away with turning out less-than-stellar fare. But Lynne, 52, a friendly and energetic baker and musician, wouldn’t think of it.
Since she opened the Fern in 2012 with partner and bandmate Rick Redington, Lynne has been serving hearty baked goods and local, organic pizza with sides of live music, Grateful Dead-inspired art and cozy atmosphere. She’s built a loyal following of locals and second-home owners, as well as people visiting nearby Killington, Pico and the Middlebury Snow Bowl.
“We’ve survived on all walks of life,” Lynne said.
On a recent Sunday morning, Lynne was behind the counter in overalls while a few customers ate and Redington warmed up on a cigar-box guitar in the back of the narrow roadhouse. On the menu were home-baked bagel breakfast sandwiches with eggs, spinach, caramelized onions and Cabot cheddar, with roasted potatoes and the option of bacon from Roma’s Butchery in South Royalton. Lynne was also serving sourdough wa es with maple syrup and blueberries. To drink, she o ered drip co ee and a house pumpkin chai latte with oat milk.
The Fern’s hours are limited, so it’s best to check the restaurant’s Facebook or Instagram page before heading over. Usually, it’s open for Sunday brunch from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., with live music starting around noon. Thursday is pizza night; customers preorder in the morning and pick up their pie after 5 p.m. for eat-in or takeout. Redington hosts a pizza night (with his own menu) and song circle on Wednesday evenings from 6 to 9 p.m.
The unassuming café has had previous lives as diners under various owners and, after Tropical Storm Irene ﬂooded much of the town, even served for a while as the Stockbridge town o ces. No other restaurant there has lasted longer than ﬁve years, but the Fern just celebrated its 10th birthday. Lynne seems to have found the right formula.
A Bright Light
Black Lantern Inn, 2057 N. Main St., Montgomery, blacklanternvt.com
The town of Montgomery is known for its covered bridges and proximity to the Canadian border and Jay Peak ski resort. Not surprisingly, there’s no shortage of places to grab a meal and a bed.
The Black Lantern Inn is one such establishment. Its reasonably priced rooms have a friendly, country vibe, sporting vibrant quilts, rich-colored wood and delicate ﬂoral wallpaper.
That aesthetic continues in the inn’s restaurant, with rustic timbers in the ceiling and barn boards on the ﬂoor. At ﬁrst glance, the menu is similarly traditional, packed with pub fare such as burgers, French onion soup, ﬁsh ﬁngers and barbecue steak tips.
Look more closely, though, and you’ll notice surprises. Mussels come in a warming poblano chile broth, garnished with crumbly cotija cheese.
Local meats and vegetables abound. The corn tortillas used in a variety of tacos are handmade by head chef Hersson Villatoro, who is about to celebrate a year at the Black Lantern.
Villatoro was born in Guatemala, but his family immigrated to the United States when he was young. In 2018, his previous restaurant, in Marlborough, Mass., was selected by Travel + Leisure as one of “The 25 Best Diners in the U.S.”
What’s the secret to the chef’s success? Villatoro, who lives with his wife and
children on her family’s land in Bakersﬁeld, believes that it’s his passion for marrying the ﬂavors of Central America with familiar ingredients — and packing ﬂavor into every part of each dish.
Villatoro’s pot roast is a perfect example: From tender, wine-braised beef and pumpkin risotto to Brussels sprouts and blueberry glaze, each component is enticing and harmonious. Other highlights include
the brisket, the ﬁsh tacos, and the kale salad studded with corn, chèvre, roasted pumpkin and candied walnuts.
How are the folks of Franklin County taking to the chef’s twists on old favorites? As evidenced by an almost rowdy crowd on a Saturday night, “They love it,” Villatoro said. He added that his specials, such as pupusa corn cakes with shrimp and ranchero sauce, often sell faster than he can make them.
SEVEN DAYS STAYTRIPPER WINTER 2022-23 17 KIRK KARDASHIAN PHOTOS: SUZANNE PODHAIZER
Heather Lynne with baked goods at the Wild Fern
Pot roast at Black Lantern Inn
Mussels à la Toro at Black Lantern Inn
BTV WINTER MARKET
Through December 23: Fridays, 2-6 p.m.; Saturdays, noon-6 p.m.; Sundays, noon-4 p.m.; and Thursday, December 22, 2-6 p.m., at Burlington City Hall Park. Free. Info, burlingtoncityarts.org.
There’s something magical about an outdoor winter market — especially in the lead-up to the holidays. Burlington’s version is the BTV Winter Market, where shoppers will find local crafts, food and art most weekends this month in City Hall Park.
Among the offerings are earrings made of preserved flowers, mushrooms and ferns by Wild Perennial; radical prints straight off the antique press from A Revolutionary Press; South African handbags and totes by Bosisi Designs; beer-inspired sugars, candles and bath bombs in funky varieties such as chai and chile lime from Beer Feelings; and kiln-fired glass dishes, ornaments and wind chimes by artist Jackie Bishop.
And, of course, visitors can refuel after all that shopping with warming bites by local Thai, Somali, Québécois and Afro-fusion eater ies. Highlighting experienced and emerging makers, the BTV Winter Market aims to create “a vibrant, joyful space for our community to gather and celebrate the most wonderful time of year,” Burlington City Arts communications director John Flanagan said.
Saturday, December 10, 9-11:30 a.m., at Shelburne Farms; and Saturday, December 17, 9:30 a.m.-noon, at Green Mountain Audubon Center in Huntington. $30-35; preregister. Info, natureconnectionguide.com.
The Japanese practice of shinrin-yoku — which translates literally to “forest bathing” — uses mindful walks through the woods as tools to slow down, rest and enjoy the restorative vibes of nature. Anyone itching to try it can make their way to the rolling hills and woodlands of Shelburne Farms or the hardwoods, hemlock swamp and babbling brooks surrounding Huntington’s Green Mountain Audubon Center for a forest bathing session led by Duncan Murdoch of Nature Connection Guide.
Murdoch encourages curious Vermonters to “create the time and space for yourself to connect to the natural world and join a growing community of forest bathing kin.” Winter in the Green Mountain State is teeming with just as much life as any other season; participants will take in the stark beauty of the land, spot beavers and enjoy the invigorating chill in the air. Both walks conclude with a collective warming around a bonfire.
A practicing certified guide since 2015, Murdoch said he is “grateful to witness the profound revelations and transformations from my participants throughout the years. Nature has so much to offer us in each and every season. As the poet Mary Oliver aptly states, ‘You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.’”
SEVEN DAYS STAYTRIPPER WINTER 2022-23 18
BY EMILY HAMILTON
© VVVITA DREAMSTIME
COURTESY OF SAM YANG
WINE & CHEESE SNOWSHOE TOURS
Vermonters whose ideal winter day is less “shredding the slopes” and more “hitting up the ski resort bar for mulled wine,” rejoice: The Grafton Inn presents Wine & Cheese Snowshoe Tours, featuring the perfect amount of outdoor time followed by a relaxing sojourn in a cabin, complete with local libations.
Small groups of guests enjoy a onehour trek along the Grafton trails in all of their stunning, snowy glory. (Borrowed snowshoes are complimentary for those who don’t happen to own a pair.) After taking in the woods, icy ponds and other hallmarks of a winter wonderland, every one packs it in to warm up by a fireplace with two glasses of wine. There’s also
a cheese plate that’s as local as it gets, featuring award-winning dairy delights from Grafton Village Cheese, right down the road from the inn. The reserve ched dars, cave-aged sheep’s milk wheels and flavored offerings — think smoked maple, truffle and chile — pair perfectly with the vino and the cozy cabin.
“This unique experience is only done here in Grafton at our outdoor center,” innkeeper and general manager Angela Comstock said. “Many of our guests that stay here at the Grafton Inn love it.”
Participants must be at least 21 years of age, and groups are limited to eight people. Register early to secure your spot! m
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Monday, December 26; Wednesday, December 28; Friday, December 30, through Sunday, January 1; and Saturdays, January 7 through March 4, 1:30 p.m., at the Grafton Inn. $45; preregister. Info, graftoninnvermont.com.
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