Our travel adventures lead to high expectations. When Ryan turned 13, we surprised him with a trip to Chicago to see Hamilton, with just Jeff and me. Cole stayed home with the grandparents. The bar was high to surprise Cole with an equally cool surprise trip when he became a teen. It came down to the wire to come up with a locale. Where could we go that would be exciting for Cole, available on miles and points, and could fit into a long weekend? Surfing in California…too far away. A big city destination…just not as fun in the winter. Luckily, our good friends live in Burlington, Vermont, and had invited us to visit many times. Vermont promised snowy adventures, maple deliciousness, and Ben & Jerry’s. A winter nirvana.
Our first snowy adventure was new to all of us: snowshoeing! We weren’t sure how tough it would be, or how long we may last, but it turns out we all loved it. To get the full Vermont experience, we went to the Trapp Family Lodge near Stowe. We learned that the von Trapp family of The Sound of Music fame settled in the area after traveling the United States as the von Trapp Family Singers in the 1940s. This area reminded them of their beloved Austria. After getting our rentals and a quick tutorial on how to strap them on, we followed one of the marked trails to the Bierhaus. Jeff worried that his size and lack of recent exercise would make it a challenge to keep up, but those worries were unfounded. Snowshoes are attached at the front of your snow boot, but not the back, like a giant flip flop with spikes on the bottom for traction. Walking in them across snow took little coordination, skill, or increased effort. It was exercise akin to hiking, and we shed layers as we continued. The scenery was incredible and the stop for traditional Austrian food and drink at our half way point made it even better. By the end of the day, we were all wishing we lived in a snowier place so this could be a more frequent hobby.
After a good night’s sleep and incredible hospitality, we were excited for the main event, a day skiing at one of our friends’ favorite local resort, Bolton Valley. We were a little worried about conditions, as it was rainy in Burlington, but as we headed up the mountain, the snow started falling and continued throughout the day. We don’t ski as often as we’d like to, because we live south of the Mason Dixon line, and it can be prohibitively expensive, but this day of skiing was a steal. By skiing on Monday instead of over the weekend, lift tickets were $29 instead of $70, with the added bonus of rentals being BOGO. It pays to search for deals during off peak times.
It was Cole’s first time skiing in powder, and he was over the moon excited about it. Eventually my legs gave up, but Cole and our friend Matty did run after run. Cole is completely spoiled and now only wants to ski in powder. Jeff doesn’t ski, but spent the day using the lodge’s wifi to work remotely, while sampling local beers. In our family only half of us ski, but so many ski resorts have other activities that the whole family can enjoy, even if it’s off the slopes. It’s worth the extra research to find one with activities for everyone.
Once we had returned home, social media told us that Liam Hemsworth had also been skiing at Bolton Valley that day. LIAM HEMSWORTH! Why was I not the one hanging in the lodge to offer him hot cocoa and consolation on his Miley break up? Sigh. It was a great day nonetheless.
Our last day in Vermont was spent eating all of the sweet things between Essex Junction and Stowe. We started with cookies and donuts at our hosts’ favorite local bakery, Quality Bake Shoppe, They told us in advance that the service was amazing, and that we would walk out with more than we ordered, and boy were they right! The kind woman behind the counter snuck in extra cookies and donuts when we had trouble deciding. So many delicious treats in fact, that by the time we reached the Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream factory, we were too full for more than the sample handed out on the tour. The tour was about a half hour long and included a brief history, a view onto the factory floor, and a generous sample of one of their scrumptious flavors. One of our favorite parts was walking out to the Flavor Graveyard to visit the tombs of famous flavors no longer in production. The kids were especially sad that they missed out on Vermonty Python, a tribute to a movie they all love.
Our last stop was all of that Vermont magic in one place. Cold Hollow Cider Mill, near Stowe, had so much Vermonty Goodness: fresh cider donuts, tons of maple syrup products, fresh apple cider, delicious lunch sandwiches, and flights of hard cider. Their warm cider donuts were named one of the four best donuts in the country by Gourmet magazine, so we had to taste them ourselves. The adjoining market was charming and had lots of tempting products that found their way into our carry-on bags home. The cider donut pancake mix is amazing. They were still pressing cider in the depths of winter and we learned about the process, watched it in progress, and had more than one sample of the fresh cider. After a leisurely lunch from their farm to table menu, we had to bid a fond farewell to this winter wonderland.
Snowy adventure awaits. Some things to know before you venture into snowy bliss:
- Vermont has countless excellent farm to table restaurants and local breweries. Find a few close to your lodging and taste the local flavor.
- Snowshoeing can be done anywhere you would typically hike. We chose perhaps the most touristy location possible, and loved it, but found that many State Parks and area businesses also rent snowshoes and can recommend great trails. We wished we had more time to do the trek to The Trapp Cabin. I read about it in this article, but didn’t think we were up for the six mile round trip.
- Vermont has twenty ski resorts. Take the time to find the one that fits your family’s needs and budget. They vary widely in amenities, terrain, and cost so do some comparison research and be sure to look for deals.
- The Ben and Jerry’s factory tour happens throughout the week, but you will only be able to see ice cream making and packing during the week. They also offer other experiences that an ice cream fanatic may love. We were able to buy our tickets on the spot, but you can plan ahead for the tour time that best suits you.