Stowe Mountain Resort is a classic ski mountain. Mount Mansfield’s Chin is Vermont’s high point at elevation 4,395 feet. The Resort’s trails are snuggled beneath the mountain’s rugged ridgeline and drop to the valley floor. Skiers and snowboarders can run over 2,100 vertical feet of fun. More vertical can be found following the Stowe Derby route to town via the Toll Road or if you know a local you could end up out of bounds on the back roads over in Underhill.
The snow conditions were wonderful and the mountain was 100% open. The famous front four double black diamonds, Goat, National, Liftline and Starr had the best snow cover you could imagine. Skiers have been conquering these trails with great pride since they were first cut in the 1930’s.
The Stone Hut was built in 1936 for a warming hut by the Civilian Conservation Corp by some of the same crew that cut the original ski trails. The hut sits under Mansfield’s Nose, not far from the top of the FourRunner high speed quad lift. The hut is operated by the Vermont Department of Forest, Parks and Recreation in partnership with the Stowe Mountain Resort.
Lucky winners of a lottery held each fall get the chance to rent the Stone Hut for a few nights sometime between mid-November and mid-April. One of Charlie’s Vermont Academy classmates, Bill Hosely, was a lucky winner and we were fortunate to be invited to join his friends and fellow classmates. The hut would be our home and private warming hut for the nine of us from noon on Wednesday until noon on Friday! (If you are interested about the lottery visit online Vermontparks.com.
The primitive stone hut sleeps 12 people utilizing four full size beds and four single beds—all on wood bunks! In the center there is a big square table surrounded by four benches. There are two elevated peg boards/drying racks that hang from the ceiling that can be lowered and raised via a rope and pulley system. The only heat is a large wood stove and thankfully there is a full woodshed outside. No candles, stoves or other fire are permitted in the hut.
No electricity, no lighting, no kitchen sink or bathroom. Sounds like fun right! Yes, it was fabulous to sleep on the mountain at elevation 3,625 feet! And of course if you get up before the lifts start spinning at 8 am it is easy to claim first run of the day!
But it isn’t as primitive as it may sound. Just a hundred feet away in the Ski Patrol building we had 24 hour access to potable water and its heated bathroom.
We boiled water in a pot and warmed food on top of the woodstove. A battery operated lantern was hung with Charlie’s belt from the drying rack over the center of the table and its warm glow lit the hut nicely. The woodstove kept the hut warm and sometimes hot even though the temperatures outside at night were far below zero.
We all brought up the lift what we could carry in our laps and we would be responsible to carry out everything we carried in. I was impressed at what our friends brought! Charlie and I had our hiking backpacks filled with our
sleeping bags, clothing and food. I brought my mother’s chocolate chip cookies, instant oatmeal and my Jet-Boil stove to boil water quickly for morning coffee and tea. Our friends used large hockey bags filled with necessities and the most amazing treats. Friends from California brought oranges picked from their own trees! Chili, Lasagna, soup, bread, deviled eggs, gorp, maple sugar candies and more. We ate like Kings!
Charlie and I took along our snowshoes and at sunset we left the hut and trekked up to above the antenna farm to the rocky top of the Nose. The vista directly down the spine of the Green Mountains was gorgeous. The sun setting far away over Lake Champlain produced a red pink alpine glow that blanketed Mount Mansfield all around us.
Back at the hut dinner was finishing up and people were busy at all different stages preparing for the next day and bed. But before stuffing the woodstove tight for the night and hitting the hay we all gathered around the table to play a game. I am not sure if the game has a real name, Telephone Pictionary? Nine people, each with nine sheets of paper began the game by writing a phrase or anything that came to mind on the top sheet. Then we passed the stack to the person to our right and read the written words and placed that paper at the bottom of the stack. Next we attempted to draw what we just read and then we passed the stack to our right again. Now we had to look at a drawing and write what we think it represents. We continued alternating guessing words and drawing pictures all around the table until our first words returned. Together we reviewed the progression of the phrases and drawings with much amusement and laughter.
We played the game two rounds each night.
I confess the stone hut was a grand experience and the wonderful camaraderie we shared with old and new friends was certainly a swell time shared by all. But the skiing was the real reason we were gathered together.
First runs down the freshly groomed Nosedive were delicious. No one on the trail in front or behind us, only a fresh carpet of corduroy snow stretched out below for only us that slept in the Stone Hut.
Stowe Mountain Resort is combination of historic rustic and new luxurious amenities and accommodations. The rustic Mansfield Lodge filled with locals and tele skiers still rests below the Front Four where cold draft beers and French fries can still be found. On the opposite side of the spectrum and just a short gondola ride over Route 108 from the summit gondola base is the new and still under construction lavish Stowe Mountain Lodge and Spruce Peak Village. At the base of Spruce Peak is the home of upscale dining and superior slope side accommodations.
We covered a lot of terrain riding high speed lifts and skiing fast over the superbly groomed trails and bouncing down the soft moguls was a blast, a skier’s dream come true. We will long remember our stay in the Stone Hut and the fun we had experiencing what ski pioneers shared long ago on top of Vermont.