Vermont: The Four Season State
By Ron Kapon, Contributing Travel Editor

Vermont Map
New York, NY - When I think of skiing it is water, not snow; bathing suit, not ski boots; sun, sand and surf, not drifts, danger signs and slaloms. Ski resorts, on the other hand, have become four season destinations, as my recent trip to Stowe, Vermont (and beyond) demonstrated. Sure, Mount Mansfield in the Green Mountains is Vermont's highest peak while fall foliage brings forth a whole different demographic sporting every camera, telephoto, macro and wide angle lens available to man. Additionally, the summer resorts along Lake Champlain are child friendly which, depending upon who is in your car besides Chevy Chase and Steve Martin, can be good or bad.

I was there, candidly, because the North American Travel Journalist Association held their annual conference in Stowe. This town of 4,400 has over 50 restaurants and 75 shops with most of those businesses locally owned and operated. The personality and attitude of the locals towards obvious strangers was demonstrated when one of them took the time to drive three of the journalists back to their hotel when they were accidentally left behind by the tour bus. Further, the lovely lady extending that bit of local hospitality and courtesy was not even going that way. The first resort that was waiting was the Stoweflake Mountain Resort & Spa, a 4 Diamond AAA property, right next to the 5 ? mile Stowe Recreation Path, a paved non-motorized greenway. For the healthy and weight conscious among you, there is a fitness center, spa, Jacuzzi, indoor and outdoor pool. I would suggest the Trapp Family Lodge for dinner and, yes, the same as the famous family of The Sound of Music - just the name, however.

My personal two local tour choices included a kayak tour on the Lamoille River conducted by Umiak Outdoor Outfitters, concluding with a wine tasting at Boyden Valley Winery. I would definitely recommend a drive along Route 100 south of Stowe (known as Enticement or Temptation Alley) for an afternoon of "grazing and noshing" in nearby towns, scheduling a first stop at Cold Hollow Cider Mill. With 300,000 visitors a year it is one of New England's largest producers of fresh apple cider but a word of positive advice - don't forget to try the cider donuts.

Then it was off to Vermont's number one attraction, Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream Factory, voted by U.S. News & World Report one of America's top 10 tour experiences. The free sample at the end was the "icing on the cake." With my sweet tooth satisfied (at least I thought it had been) we stopped at Cabot's Cheese Visitors Center, which is dairy farmer owned, to learn all about Cheddar Cheese. The bonus was a tasting of Lake Champlain chocolates as we sampled over 30 types of cheese. What better way to finish off a day of tasty tidbits than at Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Visitors Center, an 1865 working Amtrak station, located adjacent to the company's plant. Their "Fair Trade" policy guarantees coffee farmers a fair price for their crop which is grown without chemicals.

I took the occasion of this trip to head to the west coast of Vermont, just south of Burlington at the Basin Harbor Club. A member of the Historical Hotels of America, it opened in 1886 and continues today in the same family with Pennie & Bob Beach as fourth generation hosts. There are 700 acres (they are part of the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program), three historic guest houses and 77 cottages- 138 rooms in all. While most in today's world of hi-tech and instant communications will recoil at the thought, I rather enjoyed the idea of no television in the rooms, although there are sets available in the two dining room areas. I was there to relax and enjoy the golf course, grass airstrip, nature trails, tennis and croquet courts, gardens, outdoor pool and fitness center. Did I mention that they welcome pets? Just a thought if you a have a four legged pal you'd rather not leave home and plan to drive up instead of flying. You will be surrounded by Lake Champlain, the 6th largest fresh water lake in North America (after the 5 Great Lakes) and New York State is a bridge or ferryboat ride away. Their marina holds a private tour boat available for leisurely jaunts around the lake with very reasonable prices as part of their full American plan - the height of the season being June 16th - September 3rd, at $260 to $530 for two people. The resort is open mid-May to mid-October.

Websites of Note:
Since my arrival day was cloudy with occasional rain it was the perfect time to visit the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum . The museum documents the history of the Champlain Valley; the various battles fought all around it, and emphasize nautical archaeology. The next day I was out and about visiting the Shelburne Museum, an idiosyncratic museum of art and Americana founded in 1947 by collector Electra Havemeyer Webb. There are quilts, weather vanes, sculptures, paintings, furniture, decorative arts and a dazzling array of 17th to 20th century artifacts together with 150,000 works spread out in 39 exhibition buildings on a 45 acre site. I especially enjoyed the 1950 House with displays on life in post-World War II Vermont. The Circus Building contained a panorama of a miniature circus parade with an operating 1920's carousel outside...great for kids and almost as much fun and interest for adults. The Ticonderoga is a 1906 Lake Champlain steamboat, available for visits above and below deck if you want to take "cruise" down memory lane.

The presumption is that nearly everyone, at one time or the other, has heard the commercials for the Vermont Teddy Bear Factory. The lure was irresistible and that, of course, let to the purchase of a baby bear. But, rather than parry questions concerning its display in my home, a hasty decision was made to gift it to my grand-nephew. Every VTB, by the way, is guaranteed for life and they will repair or replace any "sick or dead bear."

Has anyone out there ever really milked a cow before? Neither have I. But, then, I arrived at Shelburne Farms, a non-profit environmental education center. It is a 1,400-acre working farm and a National Historic Landmark and their mission is to teach and demonstrate natural and agricultural resources. I watched them making Farmhouse Cheddar Cheese, baking Sourdough Bread and, then, it was milking time for yours truly. It was an "udderly" enjoyable experience. The farm was built as a model agricultural estate in 1886 by Dr. William Seward Webb and Lila Vanderbilt Webb. Those Vanderbilt's certainly enjoyed spreading the wealth. Dinner followed at the Inn at Shelburne Farms, a 19th Century inn with 24 bedrooms and two cottages. Highly enjoyable and recommended.

There is something to be said for the leisurely pace of life in Vermont as I met many former corporate executives who gave up the "big city stress filed life" to live the "good laid back life" in Vermont. The air was so clean I had to wonder if they ever coughed up there at all.

Ron Kapon has over 50 years experience in the wine & spirit field, starting with his first drink (mixed with water) at age three and his family's business - Acker, Merrall & Condit - was established in 1820 and is the oldest wine merchant in the United States as well as the largest wine auction company in the world with sales of almost $100,000,000. After college and grad school he spent some time spent living in Europe where he developed his love for wine, a passion that turned to teaching, writing & lecturing about every facet of it. He has since visited 150 countries to learn, lecture, advise with the Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Cyprus and German governments inviting him to speak on select panels. He began the wine programs at Queens College, New York Institute of Technology as well as C.W.Post. In 1995 he organized the new wine program at the International School of Hospitality & Tourism management at Fairleigh Dickinson University and has taught both wine & spirits since then at their Hackensack campus. In addition, he teaches the wine program at Hudson County Community College Culinary Arts in downtown Jersey City and was recently honored at the James Beard Foundation for his educational efforts. He has established the Ron Kapon Wine Library at FDU with a donation of over 4,000 books, magazines and articles. Travel with him through his writings and enhance your taste for wine...with anything at all. Ron is the co-author and co-producer of the FDU/NYTimes On-Line Wine Course. or email him at

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