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Skiing all in the family.



Tell any New England skier you're going to Stowe and two things happen: first, the brows rise and the eyes widen in surprise, and second, a large smile creases the face. Obviously, you are no tenderfoot, but a person of discernment and knowledge.

Nowhere can the skier find a resort that better embodies the dream of a perfect New England skiing village. Main Street is lined with a jumble of elegant shops, and old-time stores are piled with fuzzy mittens and red long johns. The nearby peaks are lined with ski trails.

The ski area is a short drive from the village up Mountain Road to Spruce Peak and Mut. Mansfield (the highest mountain in Vermont). Most of the runs from the top of Mt. Mansfield's Quad chairlift are narrow, steep, and mean; intermediates and novices find a haven on Spruce and on the Mansfield trails served by the Gondola and Triple chairs. Beginners can also use the wonderful gentle slopes at the Toll House. This massive network is joined by a trolley shuttle that runs continuously between the ski areas and the lodges and restaurants on Mountain Road.

Stowe's ski school is among the most respected in the nation. Founded by Sepp Ruschp and now under the direction of his son Peter, the highly personalized classes make beginners into intermediates and intermediates into experts.

Parents and grandparents can enjoy the day without worrying about fractious offspring. Ankle biters from three to seven run off to the Winnie the Pooh Ski School for a fully supervised day of morning and afternoon lessons; lunch is provided. Little brothers and sisters toddle off to Kanga's Pocket, a cozy day-care center that provides a full day of fun, snow play, naps, and lunch.

Skiers aren't restricted to alpine skiing at Stowe. The Mt. Mansfield, Topnotch, Edson Hill, and Trapp Family Lodge ski-touring centers have extensive cross-country trails that interconnect. All the centers offer lessons, rentals, and repairs. For nonskiers, there's tennis, racquet-ball, and aerobics at a variety of public clubs and spas in the area, and ice skating at the town's Olympic-size Jackson Arena rink.

Prince or pauper, visitors can find a place to rack their skis at the end of the day. Sixty inns, bed-and-breakfast places, lodges, condominiums, and motels line Route 100 and the Mountain Road. The Stowe Area Association (800-24-STOWE) can help visitors tailor preference to pocketbook. In addition to booking reservations, the association can send information on shops, attractions, and restaurants.

Stowe is no Donner Pass. You'll eat up all those calories you burn on the slopes and then some. The Gables Inn is a personal favorite for a hearty breakfast cooked with care and imagination. Lunch is usually a fast bite at either the base lodge or a cross-country center, although I must admit to a tendency to run up to the Trapp Family Lodge's Austrian Tea Room for a civilized meal topped off with the best Black Forest cake this side of Bavaria.

Every vacation demands at least one special dinner, and Topnotch at Stowe and the Ten Acres Lodge are both noted for their superior chefs and cuisine. The Restaurant Swisspot on Main Street has a delectable chocolate dessert fondue, as well as those warming cheese and beef fondues so loved by skiers.

Ice-cream fanatics can OD on Ben & Jerry's, which Time magazine calls "the best ice cream in America." Pick up a cone of New York Super Fudge Chunk or Heath Bar Crunch at The Latest Scoop in Main Street's Old Depot, or visit the Ben & Jerry's factory in Waterbury, just eight miles south of Stowe on Route 100. The plant tour is especially fun for the kids, who will love the ice-cream samples and the rooms painted with summer fields populated by amiable Holsteins.

Stowe has special events and attractions throughtout the ski season. The Winter Carnival is January 15-24, and the cross-country Stowe Derby, February 21. Sugar houses go full bore in the spring, and many welcome visitors with tours and samples; the ski area celebrates the harvest with the Sugar Slalom, April 2 and 3.

Stowe is on Route 100 in northern Vermont, ten miles from Interstate 89. It is served by Burlington International Airport and Amtrak (Waterbury station). For information on the ski area, contact the Mount Mansfield Corporation (800-253-4SKI outside Vermont and 802-253-7311 in Vermont and Canada).

--Words and pictures by Sally Moore


The superlatives flow--near waters that don't--when ice-shrouded Lake Superior emits columns of steam from its surface on a sunlit December morning. Entranced skiers pause in their respective descents to witness this ethereal vision.

The sight evokes superlatives but suggests the remote and inhospitable. Nothing could be further from the truth, even during this "unreal" experience. It's simply a part of the environmental regimen at Lutsen (the first syllable pronounced "Lyoo"), the resort that is not only Minnesota's oldest but was also the first to offer skiing with food and lodging, 40 years ago this season. The practice of offering hospitality to lodgers, sans recreation, began with loggers 101 years ago. Loggers, as well as hunters, trappers, doctors, and people who liked to fish--all availed themselves of the opportunity to visit the C.A.A. Nelson homestead and sample the hospitality the Nelsons extended to everyone who happened by. (Some of Anna Nelson's original recipes are the most popualr part of today's menu at the main lodge.) That's how the Nelsons got into the resort business, although they never planned to.

Charles Nelson emigrated to the United States from Sweden in the early 1800s. He became the captain of a fishing tug that operated from Duluth, but his fascination with the magic of Lake Superior's North Shore propelled him to buy a homestead site and a considerable amount of property (for $12) at the mouth of the Poplar River on the shores of the great inland sea. He constructed a cabin and began a commercial fishing, logging, and limited trapping enterprise. By 1886, the only "limited" aspect of his enterprise was the space for visitors--thus the genesis of the resort.

Lutsen's reputation for hospitality in the (almost) extreme became a lure for legions of families even before the ski operation began. Legion, as well, are stories about the more notable guests, claiming widely disparate degrees of esteem, from Al Capone (a habitue) and John Dillinger to Lowell Thomas and Nelson Rockefeller. (Politics make strange bedfellows, but Lutsen has apparently made even stranger ones!) But Lutsen's history is no more notable than those who have helped shape it, including Cindy Nelson. She gained world renown, not only as a 1976 Olympic alpine ski bronze medalist, but also as one who overcame numerous injuries in nearly two decades of competition to emerge as one of America's most respected alpine ski champions.

Frequent at Lutsen are the "lake effect" snows, abundant deposits on the first mile or two inland, caused by the meeting of the relatively warm, moist air from off the lakes with the cooler air over the land. In 1948, George Nelson, Sr., Cindy's grandfather and one of the seven children of Lutsen's founder, took advantage of Lutsen's geography and atmospheric peculiarities by opening its first ski hill. Cindy was not even a gleam in her parents' eyes when the first lift began transporting skiers to the top of Minnesota's highest ski hill, but the terrain was to become Cindy's backyard training facility, attracting world-class skiers to coach her in her successful bid for an Olympic medal.

Now Lutsen's ski mountains number four. The longest run covers 6,000 feet; the vertical height is a respectable 1,000 feet, the highest elevation between the Appalachians and the Rockies. Hewn from the forest in sensible stages, the ski area offers every conceivable state-of-the-art conveyance for skier comfort and ease of access to the five-miles-plus of alpine trails.

Cross-country devotees can traverse nearly 130 miles of trails, offering terrain that varies from flat to gently rolling. There are also abundant opportunities for telemarking on steeper, more angular trails that provide sufficient challenges for proficient skiers.

What began as a homesteader's cabin at this point midway between Thunder Bay, Ontario, and Duluth, on U.S. Highway 61, has mushroomed into a winter vacation nirvana. The main lodge, constructed of native timber, occupies the site of Charles Nelson's original homestead. The vast dining room offers ample and ever-changing views of the glistening winter shoreline and the truly blue ice that often clings to it. Thirty-one rooms in the main building and 16 at the nearby Cliff House easily accommodate 100 to 110 guests. In addition, the Sea Villas, two miles away, offers townhouse living for dozens of guests.

The ski-in, ski-out crowd will find state-of-the-art townhomes and condominiums, some able to house 12 people, at the four-year-old Village at Lutsen Mountains, surrounded by the skiing venues. The Village offers every conceivable amenity for today's luxury-oriented society, including a 20-by-40-foot pool, giant Jacuzzi, winter outdoor volleyball court, stores and a deli, and videocassette and VCR rentals. There's also a video arcade in the main lodge, and 18 miles away, the picturesque village of Grand Marais offers bowling, pizza parlors, outdoor night skating, an Olympic pool, a sauna, and a whirlpool.

The marriage of yesterday's values and today's pace promises to be lasting at Lutsen. It sings North America's siren song alluringly and hauntingly in the land of Hiawatha, where ways of life fondly remembered still exist, yet where today's vacationers can enjoy high-tech and high speeds.

George Nelson, Jr. (Cindy's father), the third-generation property owner, maintains with reverence that this magic haven will be here forever. It's easy to believe.

--Barry N. ZeVan


Somewhere, over the rainbow, there is a world-class ski resort where lift operators greet you with a smile, where you needn't boast the latest couture du ski, and where the waits at lift lines are never more than 15 minutes long. Actually, this utopian vision is closer than you might think.

Just 157 miles northwest of Denver, Steamboat Springs is a down-to-earth ski heaven that prides itself on its friendly, laid-back atmosphere. Perhaps the tendency of most Steamboat employees to reside there year-round --indeed, many grew up in the area--accounts for the noticeable esprit de corps.

Steamboat is 2,500 acres of skiable terrain (1,551 of them groomed) for all levels of ability: 15 percent for those just getting their "ski legs," 54 percent for intermediate skiers, and 31 percent for the show-offs. Its four mountains provide the second highest verdical drop in Colorado (3,600 feet); glades of spruce, Douglas fir, and aspen provide premier cru "champagne powder." The season from Thanksgiving to mid-April sees an average snowfall of 325 inches, enjoyed by alpine and cross-country skiers alike.

Schussing down the slopes of Storm Peak, one is likely to be out-schussed by a half-pint Killy on 36-inch skis. Steamboat Springs, which bills itself as "Colorado's finest resort for family skiing," hosts a bevy of children's programs to back its claim. The Steamboat Ski School offers special classes for ages 6 to 15, with instructors who show an affinity for kids. The Kiddie Corral provides both nonskiing day-care and ski classes for youngsters ages 3 to 5, in which either half-day or full-day supervision is combined with lunch, games, and rest time.

Steamboat's innovative Kids Ski Free Program means just that: children 12 and younger ski free with parents who purchase at least a five-day lift ticket and stay five nights or more at any participating lodging property. Kids also stay free in their parents' room and enjoy free ski rentals at participating ski shops when mom and dad rent equipment for the five-day period.

The "Skids Club" in Gondola Square is the junior apres-ski spot; it offers video games, television, pinball, hockey, music, and other diversions of youth. If this isn't enough to appease the younger set, the town of Steamboat Springs offers offers such activities as swimming and hydro tubes, ice skating, a library, balloon rides, bowling, snowmobiling, sleigh rides, sledding, and movies. The half-hourly shuttle up and down the mountain makes a car unnecessary and relieves the old folks of chauffeuring duty. Between the town and the resort there are more than 50 restaurants from which to choose, many offering special children's menus.

Despite Steamboat's easygoing ambience, its operation is more efficient than ever these days. A recent $9.5 million expansion equipped it with the "Silver Bullet," the first eight-passenger ski gondola in the world. Though not quite as fast as its namesake, the new contraption will travel 1,000 feet per minute, carry 2,800 people up the mountain per hour, and eliminate lines at most times of the day. Its terminus, the Thunderhead complex halfway up the mountain, has also been expanded to include 2,000 more square feet of deck and cafeteria space, making lunching a less arduous venture.

Another addition midmountain is Hazie's, an elegant restaurant serving nouvelle cuisine along with its gourmet burgers. Despite the refined decor, the dress code doesn't snub unbuckled ski boots and sweaty turtle-necks. At the lower level, new and expanded ticket offices, stairways, and loading areas streamline the waiting process. And a new major run, Valley View, has been added on the lower mountain, with a 2,000-foot vertical drop and an 8,000-foot length.

Steamboat's other good news is daily nonstop jet service during ski season. Just 22 miles from the mountain, Yampa Valley Regional Airport has new longer runways to accommodate 727s and 737s from Chicago, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. Connecting service is available from more than 80 cities.

Whatever your family's lifestyle and budget, Steamboat Springs has a package to please. More information on accommodations is available through your travel agent or the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association (303-879-0740). Don't be surprised by the friendly, cheerful voice at the other end of the line-- Steamboat's just that kind of place.

--Words and pictures by Kirsten Mickelwait

Photo: Deep in the heart of Norman Rockwell country: picturesque Stowe, Vermont.

Photo: (Left) Just like family: Stowe's ski instructors get outstanding marks. (Below) As the name implies, the Trapp Family Lodge is more than a relative success.

Photo: On a rare mild day, the deck of the Octagon restaurant near Mt. Mansfield's summit attracts the apres-lift crowd.

Photo: After reaching their trails via alpine lift, Lutsen's cross-country skiers descend gently to the Poplar River valley, where the venerable lodge awaits.

Photo: The only generation gap at Steamboat Springs, Colorado, is in father and son's differing rates of downhill acceleration.

Photo: Steamboat can't promise the accessibility to lifts you'll find in the spring, but a 15-minute wait is the year-round maximum.
COPYRIGHT 1987 Saturday Evening Post Society
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1987 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:resorts change their singles image
Author:Mickelwait, Kirsten; Moore, Sally; ZeVan, Barry N.
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:Nov 1, 1987
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