Vermont’s ‘second spring’

A classic Vermont landscape. Photographs courtesy Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing.

Stowe perfectly captures the romantic enchantment extolled in such works as the 1944 standard “Moonlight in Vermont.”

A classic New England village at the base of Mount Mansfield, Vermont’s highest peak, Stowe offers unparalleled choices for nature lovers and sports enthusiasts — from golf and wilderness hiking in summer to snowshoe treks and downhill skiing in winter. In autumn, it’s the perfect place to experience Vermont’s incomparable foliage and indulge in that popular perennial pastime, leaf peeping. Indeed, one could say that the hills (and forests and fields) are alive with the sounds of autumn.

The term “leaf peeping” was coined here, a phrase somewhat awkward yet charming, as if catching nature in flagrante delicto.  Actually, this is not far off as in Latin the word “flagrante” means “blazing.”  I mean, what are these stately Vermont mountains and splendid Vermont forests in autumn if not blazing with color? If, however, you visit when peeping has just about peaked, have hope for you can then check into the Stoweflake Mountain Resort & Spa. This property is the recipient of myriad awards, such as Tripadvisor’s “Certificate of Excellence,” Conde Nast Traveler’s designation as one of the “Top 20 Resorts in the Northeast” and Fodor’s award as one of the “Top 10 Best Hotel Resorts/Spas.”   

The Baraw family, owners of Stoweflake, have welcomed guests for more than 45 years.  It is a special place that feels like a home away from home or a relaxed, private club.  After a five-hour drive from New York City, I was cosseted in a room that was elegant, understated and comfy, with spectacular views of the mountains beyond. There are pools both indoors and out (open year-round). Of course, I had to experience the latter, perfectly warmed and surrounded by a radiant-heated patio. Despite chilly fall weather — or perhaps because of it — I loved lazing in steaming water, a prelude to my dream massage at the spa.

Let me tell you about this spectacular spa, one of New England’s most celebrated and with awards from Spa magazine, Spafinder and Elle. Outside it is surrounded by a Meditative Garden with a seven-circuit labyrinth and inside is a dreamlike spa sanctuary with no less than 120 treatments dedicated to soothe, calm and rejuvenate. Every detail I encountered from the moment I entered was carefully designed to enhance my experience. I had a Vermont Maple Sugar Body Polish topped off with a Body Butter Moisturizing Massage. Suffice it to say I didn’t want the treatment to end, but with all that maple sugar and body butter enticing me, I realized I was more than ready for dinner at Winfield’s, Stoweflake’s restaurant honored with an AAA Four Diamond rating.

The next day, sufficiently pampered, I wanted to experience something a bit raucous and rowdy — a dog sled adventure. This was provided by October Siberians Sled Dog Adventures, not merely a ride with dogs pulling a sled but a truly interactive experience.  The sled is designed for two drivers with the musher maintaining full control while the second driver responds and adjusts for the sled to perform properly. Lucky me as I simply sat back and enjoyed the ride cuddled in a sled bag with blanket. We careened around the property at breakneck speed, and I was finally delivered back to the resort in one heart-pounding, happy piece after this once-in-a-lifetime and never-to-be-forgotten experience.

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