The car winded along the road past fields of of overgrown corn and I roll down my window to catch a breeze. The grass to my right is a bright lime green color which seems in stark contrast to our drought infested lawns back home. Beautiful black and white cows swish their tails lazily and blink their eyes as our vehicle moves past. I smile reading a sign that boasts “Moose Crossing.” The kids would have gotten a kick of that. I inhale a deep breathe and make a mental note of the cleanest crispest air I’ve smelled in a long time – the pride of the state of Vermont.
“9 years of marital bliss, Kris” he says with the same sly little smile that reeled me in 14 years ago. “And what better way to celebrate it then in the land where it all began?” You see our parents both went to University of Vermont and were close friends; my Father-in-Law was my Dad’s freshman year roommate. They both met their mates, fell in love, and the rest is history. I’ve known my husband since we were in diapers. He was right. We have an ingrained love for this state and don’t come back to it nearly as much as we’d like. Suri interrupts my thoughts and announces we’ve arrived at our destination. He slows the car down and pulls into an unassuming entrance that reads STOWEFLAKE MOUNTAIN RESORT & SPA. We park the car around the back and hop out to stretch our legs. That unassuming entrance is misleading – this resort sits on a sprawling 60 acres of beautiful Vermont land. A friendly staff member helps us check in and as we make our way up to our room, I notice the family photos lining the wall. Our room is spacious with a cozy fireplace and a view of the Zen garden and waterfall in the courtyard. Naturally, we’re starving. We unload and head back downstairs for a welcome reception that features local brews, local whiskeys, and a tasting from Stowe Cider. My husband’s in his glory. A large array of local Vermont cheeses gets passed around. Now I’m in my glory. And there, in that little Stowflake Spa Cafe , began one of the best weekends we’ve ever had.
For over 50 years the Stoweflake Mountain Resort has been owned and operated by the Baraw Family, founded in 1963 by Beatrice and Stuart Baraw. Under their son Chuck’s leadership and vision, Stoweflake has grown from a modest motel into one of Vermont’s premiere resort and spa destinations. Joining in the ownership and management of Stoweflake are members of the next generation of the Baraw family, Chuck’s daughter Sheri – who we had the pleasure of spending the weekend with and his nephew Scot – who gave us an insightful tour of the grounds on Friday night. We learned that the hotel features a 9 hole 3-par golf course (Hubby does another happy dance), a radiant heated pool open year round, bike and snowshoe rentals, a spin and yoga studio, and condos available for families or group holidays. The world class spa is a destination on to itself featuring over 120 signature healing and anti-aging remedies, an Aqua Solarium, men’s and women’s private sanctuary lounges, cascading waterfalls, and soothing mineral soaking pools — all enhanced by glorious mountain views. All of this is offered with no resort fees. The highlight of the tour though was for me was watching Scot pause at a picture of his deceased grandmother and reminiscing to us how lovely she was.
On Saturday morning we ate a power breakfast on site in the Winfield’s Dining Room and as I contemplated how to tuck the omelet maker in my pocket, Hubby announced it was time for the hike. We were going to conquer the Pinnacle today accompanied by a group of hotel staff, PR reps, and journalists. We take our kids hiking every weekend, and when I say hiking I mean a 1 mile light trot in the woods. This was no such thing. Let’s just say at one point I was hand over foot grasping at trees while trying to quiet my huffing and puffing nosies. It was worth every step for the view at the top, though.
Among the many reasons I love to travel is the people you get to meet along the way. Take the Stowe Cider guy who quit his job and started brewing with 3 friends. Or the woman who went to college with a girl I grew up with in a very small, Upstate NY town who will soon become the new Boston Magazine Food Editor. Or the uber-athlete/my new bestie who writes for Oxygen Magazine when she’s not running marathons who told me I was one of the most stylish moms she’s ever met. (Love you, mean it, girl.) Or the man that started the ZEAL hockey stick company with a buddy after graduating from business school. Or the 60 something year old woman/ PR firm owner who kicked all of our butts on the hike and took no prisoners. Sometimes it just takes a long hike up a Vermont mountain to realize this world is full of interesting and intelligent people.
Do you know what the best things to do are after a long strenuous hike? Eat pizza and get a massage. So we did just that. Piecasso was not only delicious I noticed it was super kid friendly with a mini arcade. At the Stoweflake spa I decided to go with an Ayurvedic treatment I had never heard of before: SHIRODHARA. After a massage, a stream of warm oil is poured over your third eye for 20 minutes to soothe the mind. I know what you’re thinking – can I pay someone not to pour oil all over my head? But I survived and maybe even transcended. No really at one point I think I lost consciousness. I’ve never hugged a massage therapist after a treatment but after this experience it just felt like the natural thing to do since we had been through so much. Also a huge thank-you to her for talking me off the ledge when I was worried about greasy hair and a broken out face. It only took 4 shampoos to get the oil out.
Hubby snuck a picture of me not picking up toys in the Aqua Solarium. This waterfall massage was heaven on earth.
Saturday night dinner was oh-m-G delicious. We met the chef that heads up Charlie B’s (named after the Patriarch) upscale-food-but-signature-relaxed-Vermont-feel, restaurant. He told us the pasta dish featured vegetables from his own garden!
My favorite part of the evening was having the chance to chat with the second, third, and fourth Barlaw generations at the dinner table. The son had just finished working a Harvard Business School dinner in one of the conference rooms and the daughter had just finished serving appetizers at a wedding in their banquet hall. It was the first time they had worked events at their hotel. I witnessed these kids kiss their grandfather and tell their Mom they had so much fun they wanted to work a function every night. I listened as they play-bickered about who would walk home first and when I inquired where they lived they chirped “right over there!” pointing to the back of the hotel. Talk about truly living the brand.
If you ever want to stay in a beautiful hotel, in an equally beautiful section of the world and feel right at home – then you must check out the StoweFlake Mountain Resort & Spa. I can say one thing for certain, it will not take us another 9 years to get back here.
Although we didn’t bring the kids on our Anniversary weekend, there is plenty to do at the Stoweflake (and in the town itself) with your offspring. Check out the Family Guide Services; they’ve partnered with Apple Tree Learning Center (a daycare down the street that is also in the family.) Let them care for your children or they welcome parents to join in on these exciting adventures. The full-day and half-day programs are designed around families’ interests, abilities and schedules. Examples of experiences include Llama walks and farm tours, reservoir expeditions, mountain biking, cook outs, challenge courses and indoor climbing adventures, sleigh rides, snowshoe tours, and fishing adventures to name a few. For more information contact the Mountain Vacation Planners at 800-253-2232 or firstname.lastname@example.org.