Eastern skiers think of Stowe Mountain Resort as a grand old lady – a revered 2,160 feet (658 metres) of vertical holding court in Vermont’s Green Mountains, with meandering old-school style trails, oodles of sustained steeps, and the state’s highest ski peak. The Town of Stowe is every bit as grand with its church steeples and Colonial architecture. Yet Stowe is anything but staid. The ski resort’s state-of-the-art gondolas move lickety-split, restaurants are lively yet laid-back, and hotels are hot enough to draw hipsters from Boston, Montreal and Manhattan. Stowe’s latest mod spot: Field Guide by Lark Hotels.
Perched on a knoll near the centre of town, Field Guide is like a bird on a wire — its vantage point high up and all-seeing, yet separated from the fray. Here on Mountain Road you’re within view of the Vermont Ski and Snowboard Museum, where rotating exhibits slide you through decades of stretchy ski pants, Norwegian sweaters and skis with bear-trap bindings. Shops and galleries within a brisk three-minute walk of the hotel feature Vermont artists and ateliers. The iconic New England white church steeple is only an Instagram click away. And as its title suggests, Field Guide serves as a basecamp for forays into Stowe’s forests – for birding, hiking, skiing or tasting maple syrup. A short drive any direction from the Field Guide’s front door will lead you to miles of walking, cross-country-skiing and snowmobile-friendly trails. For alpine skiing, Stowe Mountain Resort is a 10-minute drive northward along the Mountain Road, but beware: on-mountain parking is tight on weekends. It’s less stress to ride Stowe’s free ski shuttle from town to slope.
Field Guide opened to a swell of praise from the New York and New England press. It represents Lark Hotels’ first foray inland – its other properties are coastal beauties in swank beachy towns such as Kennebunkport, Me., Nantucket, Mass., and Mendocino, Calif. Many are linked by the design quirks of Boston-based interior designer Rachel Reider, who adorns her hotels with eye-popping colour, art, furniture and a sense of humour. Here in Vermont, antlers and animal heads formed from paper maché are mounted over fireplaces. Mini-metal mountain climbers scale neatly stacked piles of wood. Vintage trail maps act as visuals. Silver leaf tree stumps serve as end tables. And wallpaper is covered with birds, birches or some other twist of Vermont’s outdoors.
EAT IN OR EAT OUT?
Field Guide staff deliver breakfast picnic baskets to your door that are full of goodies, including oatmeal in jars and fresh-baked muffins. But eating dinner out is your only option, at least until Field Guide finishes constructing its Picnic Social restaurant later this year. Thankfully, top Stowe eateries are nearby. Doc Ponds across the street gets instant praise from Field Guide staff for everything from its milkshakes to craft beer, brisket, smoked bluefish melts and fried shishito peppers. Piecasso, a short drive up the road, is a busy spot serving Sicilian pastas and pizzas. Cork Wine Bar & Market, also seconds up the road, is a popular après-ski stop for wine, cheese and charcuterie. After a day of fresh air, the home cooking in Gracie’s Restaurant fills you up with shepherd’s pie, jambalaya and family-friendly fried chicken.
Field Guide’s front desk staff is helpful, casual, and friendly, but even their congeniality can’t out-comfort this boutique hotel’s soft linens and sumptuous beds.
ROOM WITH A VIEW
The Trail Suite (Room 402) offers the best view: it’s the only suite on the building’s top floor. It has a broad balcony, a Stowe view, and three spacious bedrooms, including a sweetly decorated loft with a spiral staircase and twin designer beds – fun for kids.
IF I COULD CHANGE ONE THING
Field Guide’s mischievous, woodsy decor is fun to look at, photograph and post, but some parts are impractical for an outdoorsy hotel. Case in point: the lobby’s fluffy white rugs make you want to look but not touch, particularly with muddy feet, no matter how stylish your Hunter boots.
WHOM YOU’LL MEET
Not many. With only 30 rooms in total, this quirky hotel is quiet — at least it is on a sparkling winter’s day when guests are either flashing Nikons out-of-doors or spreading organic bath salts in one of the hotel’s deep soaker tubs. The few we encountered in the “designer guest lounge” hailed from Boston and New York, dressed head to foot in cargo pants, Davy Crockett hats, down vests, and L.L.Bean.
Field Guide, 433 Mountain Rd., Stowe, Vt, fieldguidestowe.com; 30 rooms from $139 (U.S.).
The writer was a guest of the hotel.