The Oliver Luce family, the first settlers in what is now Stowe in northern Vermont, trimmed trees to build their home in 1794. Within a few years the Luces had opened an inn and a tavern to provide bed, board, and copious drinks to travelers.

In the 1930s, skiers, locked onto wooden skis with bear-trap bindings, discovered the joy of hanging onto rope tows that dragged them up the slopes of nearby Mount Mansfield so they could fight their way down a couple narrow, twisting trails through the thick woods. They arrived by the overnight ski train special, and they played and slept at local inns that provided them with bed, board, and copious drinks.

When the Von Trapp family fled Austria and brought The Sound of Music to Vermont, they opened a lodge here in 1940, the same year that Stowe replaced one rope tow with a small chairlift to the summit of Mount Mansfield - at 4,393 feet, the highest in Vermont.

After World War II, Stowe was the first area in the East to develop into a true destination ski resort. More lifts and trails were added to the mountain. The parents of the baby-boomer generation found all they wanted in terms of amenities at the new inns and lodges that opened in Stowe itself and along the access road to Mansfield. But then, for some inexplicable reason, in the early 1980s Stowe stopped expanding and improving and rested on its enviable reputation.

Meanwhile, many of the region’s little playgrounds of rope tows and narrow trails blossomed into major ski areas with more and better housing facilities, and skiing, and services than Stowe.

All that has changed. Stowe today is vibrant with a new life that came from pumping the millions of dollars it found necessary to climb back into the ranks of the first-class ski resorts of America.

By way of example, long after its neighbors had begun covering their slopes with snowmaking, Stowe finally got around to installing a comprehensive snowmaking system. Now, 75 percent of the ski terrain on the two mountains, Mansfield and adjacent Spruce Peak, can be blanketed with white when winter is miserly. They’re served by 10 lifts, including high-speed detachable quads, plus a gondola. Skiers can frolic or challenge themselves on 39 miles of wide, groomed trails.

So impressive is Stowe today that it was ranked Number One by Ski magazine’s readers in a 1996 survey of New England ski areas.

Of course, some things haven’t changed. The double-black hotshots can still attempt the fabled “Front Four” trails - Goat, Starr, National, and Liftline - that have been a trademark of the resort almost from its founding days. For the rest of us, some 75 percent of the runs are for novice to strong intermediate skiers.

Snowboarders are welcome. Spruce Peak has one of the largest halfpipes for shredders in all New England.

Four touring areas provide more than 150 km of groomed and tracked trails for cross-country enthusiasts.

Stowe itself is essentially a small town, with its famous white-steepled Community Church towering over the other buildings. The town was designated a National Historic District in 1978. Its numerous shops and cafes and, more than anything else, ambience of old New England make it a delightful place to walk around.

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