New England might not be the first destination that comes to mind when planning a ski trip. When looking at a map, states like Colorado, Utah and California are at the top of most travelers’ lists for world class resorts, lodging, villages, and skiing. But don’t be so quick to write off the Northern New England mountains, especially with places like Stowe Mountain Resort.
Taking the family skiing is a commitment. And if you live in the Northeast or even are just visiting from afar, Stowe is an amazing option to get a true winter resort experience with fun for the whole family. Located less than an hour away from Burlington and a 3.5 hour drive from Boston, Stowe replicates that big mountain feel of many resorts out west in places.
Comprised of two separate mountains — Mount Mansfield and Spruce Peak — Stowe Mountain Resort will give you the quintessential New England ski-resort feel, with top-notch skiing and some of the most challenging and family friendly runs in New England. Spruce Peak Village is situated right in the middle of the two peaks, bringing a full on West Coast Ski Village vibe to Northern Vermont.
Since we live in the Boston area, we love that Stowe can give us the big mountain feel with lots of natural snow, without actually having to hop on a plane. Having skied at Stowe well over 200 days combined between my husband and I, we love that it’s a place we can now bring our kids for a true family ski trip.
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Stowe Mountain Resort Basics
Stowe Resort is broken up into two peaks with a gondola connecting the two base areas. Mount Mansfield is the larger of the two, with a separate gondola to the top of the mountain and where you’ll find a majority of the expert terrain. Intermediate skiers and snowboarders will enjoy their time on this side of the mountain as well, but those just learning to ski and ride will probably want to save this peak for a later trip.
On the Mount Mansfield side, you have a few options to explore. First there’s the Mansfield Gondola area that brings you right up to the top of Mansfield. Up here you’ve got the Cliff House restaurant for some fine dining. But if you are with the kiddos, grab a waffle from the waffle house and head on to the trails.
Also on the Mansfield side, you’ve got the main base lodge area. This is your rustic old Vermont ski resort lodge, complete with storage cubbies, a cafeteria and pub. From here you can hit the Fourrunner Quad to the top to access some of the iconic steeps of Stowe or the Toll Road Trail, an actual 4.5 mile road turned trail in the winter that is incredibly beginner friendly (with a short intermediate section). This is also where you’ll find “Jakes Ride” — a trail dedicated to Jake Burton as it was his favorite trail on the entire mountain. Also new to this area in 2022 is the Sunrise 6 pack, giving you great access to some of the easier trails on Mt. Mansfield.
For those just learning to ski and snowboard, a gondola ride on Over Easy to Spruce Peak is perfect. Here you have access to plenty of beginner trials, including the magic carpet ride (with its enclosed bubble). Kids will also love the pint size terrain park to the right of the mountain. And if kids want to challenge themselves a bit more, there are some more expert trails off the peak of the Spruce side — just follow signs for the Sensation Quad. You’ve got a little something for everyone here.
Spruce Peak also brings the West Coast mountain village vibe to the resort. If you are ready to relax or just don’t feel like skiing, there are options to dine, shop, have a drink or even go ice skating, all right at the base of Spruce Peak.
Lift Tickets and Passes at Stowe
As a Vail Resorts mountain, purchasing the Epic Pass is one of the more economical ways to ski and snowboard at Stowe Mountain Resort. If you plan on skiing or riding there a good portion of the winter, you’ll want to look into either the full Epic Pass or Epic Pass Local.
With the full pass, there are no date restrictions, which will allow you to ski every day of the ski season. The Epic Pass Local, on the other hand, offers unlimited skiing at Stowe, but with select holiday blackout dates. But, if you will only embark on one or two ski trips to the mountain, the Northeast Value Pass is a great option — with unlimited skiing at over 20 resorts in the Northeast, although you are capped at 10 days at Stowe (and holiday restrictions at select resorts).
Alternatively, the Epic Day pass allows you to purchase the exact number of ski days you need and could be the most economical solution if you aren’t planning on skiing too much over the winter. This option is also significantly less expensive than purchasing through Stowe directly.
Of course if you don’t want to commit to purchasing an Epic Pass now, you can always purchase a lift ticket at the window or in advance directly from Stowe. Purchasing in advance will save you a little bit of cash, with online pricing for a one-day ticket ranging between $111 to $169 — depending on the day.
When purchasing the Epic Pass (even day passes), you’ll also receive 20% off group lessons, food and rentals.
7 Tips for a Successful Ski Trip to Stowe
1. Stay as close to the mountain as possible
If you aren’t staying at the mountain, the goal is to stay as close to the mountain as possible. With Stowe Mountain Resort having just one way in and one way out, traffic can become a real issue. On a Saturday or Sunday mid-winter with bad weather, you can be in for a long ride to get to the base of the resort. Stowe is working on mitigating this, but when the snow is good, plan for traffic. All it takes is one car sliding or a minor fender bender to wreak havoc on the drive to the mountain. The closer you stay, the less chance you have of sitting in bumper to bumper traffic.
2. Avoid parking fees at Stowe
A trip to Stowe is no longer free as parking can cost you up to $30 a day at all Mansfield lots. But even with the increased cost, there’s many ways to avoid the fee. First and foremost, the fee is only charged on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and major holidays — for arrivals before 2pm. On all other times, there is absolutely no fee to park at the mountain.
Additionally, if you’re traveling with four or more passengers in your car, you can park for free. This means if you have a family of four or more, there’s no need to worry about the daily cost — as long as you are all coming in one car.
But if you’re traveling solo or with just one or two other passengers, you can park at the Cross Country Center or Toll House lots — for free. However, lots fill up extremely quickly and there’s no guarantee that the Toll House Double chair lift is running on a given day — which is your only option to get to the mountain.
Alternatively, Stowe offers a shuttle service — for free — during ski season. The shuttle runs up and down Mountain Road every 15 to 30 minutes, beginning at Commodores Inn on South Main Street taking passengers all the way to the mountain. This shuttle isn’t only useful for getting you to the mountain, but can also transport you to other areas of interest, such as shopping and dining.
If you plan on taking the shuttle, look for a hotel or home rental which is walking distance to Mountain Road.
3. Sign your kids up for ski school
Stowe has a phenomenal ski school for kids and adults — with the option of private or group lessons. You can even book a family lesson if you’re looking for the entire family to learn together on the mountain. And while lessons can get quite pricey, it can absolutely make your ski experience that much better (see more about why ski school is worth it for kids). Fortunately though, if you have an Epic Pass — even if it’s a 1-7 day pass — you’ll receive 20% off for group lessons. This is a huge savings and can make purchasing a pass well worth it.
At Stowe, children as young as three years old can enroll in ski school (although snowboarding lessons start at age five). You can sign up for a full day which runs from 9am to 3pm. If it’s their first time on the snow, there’s a half day option from 1pm to 3pm.
4. Stick to Spruce Peak if you are a beginner
If you and the family are just starting out — whether you are taking a lesson or not — stick to the Spruce Peak side. After warming up on the magic carpet and Adventure Triple, The Meadows Quad will take you mid-way up Spruce Peak and give you a taste of some friendly intermediate and beginner trails with more length. From there, graduate to Sunny Spruce to go a bit higher up and for the more experienced, the Sensation Quad will take you to the top of Spruce. If you need a break, the base lodge here is huge and an easy walk to the lifts.
5. Eat on and off the mountain
On the mountain, and in the Spruce Peak Village, you’ve got a few great options to dine. The Mount Mansfield side offers standard lodge cafeterias with Mansfield Lodge, the Octagon Lodge at the top of the Fourrunner Quad, and a Midway Lodge under the Gondola. If you want to get fancy, Cliff House at the top of the Gondola offers some on-mountain fine dining with amazing views.
On the Spruce Peak side you’ll find even more dining options. With the recently built base lodge, you can easily get a break from skiing and help yourself to a quick grab-n-go lunch. The lodge is quite large and offers a bright and airy space to relax indoors or out. Right in the village there’s also a few sit down restaurants with Alpine Hall and Tipsy Trout. For some après skiing, you can grab a drink at WhistlePig Pavilion while the kids are ice skating in the village. And for a unique experience, reserve a pergola at The Spruce Peak Village Pergolas with your own fire pit and VIP food and drink service.
But of course, if you aren’t staying on-mountain, there are plenty of fantastic restaurants in Stowe Village. The Bench and Piecasso are a couple of our favorites and both family friendly. There’s also the Alchemist Brewery if you are looking to stock up your hotel room or home rental.
6. Fly right into Burlington International Airport
If you don’t live within driving distance, it’s not hard to reach Stowe by air. Although a small airport, Burlington International Airport (BTV) offers many flight options on Delta, American, United, JetBlue and Sun Country Airlines. Non-stop flights are offered from more than 20 destinations, including Atlanta, Detroit, Minneapolis-St. Paul, New York-JFK, New York-LGA, Newark, Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Miami, Philadelphia, Washington DC-DCA and Washington DC-IAD.
The resort is just 40 miles away from Burlington International Airport making Stowe an incredibly easy destination to get to, especially compared to some other ski resorts on the east coast.
7. Break up your ski trip with off-mountain activities
Skiing multiple days in a row, especially for kids, can be tiring. If you plan on staying for an extended time, there are many fun activities for the entire family to give your legs some rest.
Right in Spruce Peak Village, kids will love indoor rock climbing at Stowe Rocks Climbing Center. Ice skating is also a popular — and free — activity, where you can rent skates if you don’t have. Away from the mountain, although not too far, you have sleigh rides and dog sledding. There’s also a fun bowling alley and if the kids are looking for their swimming fix, The Swimming Hole can offer you just that. And of course, a visit to Stowe is never complete without Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream. With their factory about 30 minutes away in Waterbury, you can even go on a tour.
Where to Stay Near Stowe on a Ski Trip
Despite the large mountain feel, there are actually minimal slopeside lodging options near Stowe. Most likely, you’ll find yourself staying down the street on Mountain Road (or nearby) and driving to the mountain. Of course being on the mountain has its appeal, but staying off the resort allows you to truly experience the entire town of Stowe.
While there are many family-run hotels in town, here are some of our favorite resorts.
The Lodge at Spruce Peak
At the base of the mountain — right at Spruce Peak Village — you have the luxurious Lodge at Spruce Peak. As the only hotel option at the mountain, the price tag is quite high, but if you can swing it, it’s well worth it.
Managed by Hyatt Hotels & Resorts, this is the perfect opportunity to use your World of Hyatt points. During peak ski season, most nights will run you 35,000 points a night. And while that might sound like a decent amount of points, it’s significantly better than the $700+ nightly rate.
In addition to standard hotel rooms, the hotel also offers many 1-bedroom, 2-bedroom and even 3-bedroom suites, all with a full kitchen and living room. When we stayed at this property two years ago, we were upgraded to a two-story 3-bedroom suite which was absolutely amazing. It allowed us a comfortable break during lunch and to avoid the pricey mountain lodge cafeteria.
However, the best part of the hotel is the year-round outdoor heated swimming pool. I personally wished the pool temperature was a little warmer, but thoroughly enjoyed the many hot tubs surrounding the pool. After a long day of skiing, having access to a hot tub is high on my list when selecting a place to stay.
The hotel also features a luxury spa, fitness classes and an onsite restaurant. And being right in Spruce Peak Village means you are only a stone’s throw away to the outdoor ice skating rink, Spruce Peak Adventure Center, shops and restaurants.
Trapp Family Lodge
Yes, the Trapp Family Lodge. Owned and operated by the von Trapp family, you’ll receive some European flare during your Vermont ski-trip. Situated on 2,500 acres, this beautiful resort — with mountain views — offers many family-friendly activities for your non-skiing days. Between cross-country and snowshoeing to maple sugar tours and brewery tours, there’s many ways to keep yourselves occupied without leaving the premises.
The resort also features an indoor pool, outdoor hot tub for adults, pickleball courts, rock-climbing wall and campfire s’mores. And if you want to learn more about the von Trapp family and property, there’s even a von Trapp family history talk.
House rentals are extremely popular in Stowe — especially if you’re vacationing with another family. Since there aren’t many on-mountain options, booking via VRBO, Airbnb or going through Stowe Mountain Resort (a popular management company) is a great way to go. (Check out VRBO rentals near Stowe.)
There’s even a small Vacasa Rental Management presence which will allow you to use your Wyndham points, where each rental costs 15,000 points per night per bedroom. If you have Citi ThankYou points, you can always transfer your points from premier credit cards at a 1-to-1 ratio.
Is a ski trip to Stowe Mountain Resort worthwhile?
Absolutely! Stowe is one of my family’s favorite resorts. And even though my husband and I started skiing at Stowe in our college years, my kids independently adopted the same love for the mountain. With some of the better natural snowfall in New England and many trails, spending multiple days on the mountain is quite easy. Coupled with a cute village right at the mountain, lots of activity on and off the mountain and some great restaurants, a trip to Stowe should be on everyone’s ski vacation list.
For more family ski trip tips, check out these related articles:
- Secrets to Saving Money on a Ski Vacation
- Tips for Skiing with Toddlers and Preschoolers
- 7 Mistakes Not to Make Skiing with Kids
- How to Find a Truly Kid-Friendly Ski Resort
About the author: Contributing writer Jennifer Yellin inherited the travel bug at a young age and when searching for her first job out of college, was thrilled for an opportunity to put her on an airplane every Monday through Thursday. This allowed her to spend the weekends traveling to new destinations, with flights paid for by her employer. Self proclaimed deal crazy, she used this opportunity to become an expert in hotel and airline loyalty programs. This eventually led her down a path to create her own blog, called Deals We Like, where she teaches her followers how to travel on a deal.
A husband and two children later, you can now find Jen traveling with her family around the world — with beach and ski destinations being some of their favorite. In addition to still writing on her own site, Jen also writes about everything travel related at CNN Underscored and The Points Guy. You can contact her by e-mail at Jennifer.firstname.lastname@example.org.