Spot Check: Stowe, Vermont

The Name

The Vermont mountain resort known as Stowe is located on two separate mountains, Mt. Mansfield and Spruce Peak, situated (strangely enough) in the town of Stowe. This makes things very easy when naming local businesses: there's the Stowehof, Stoweflake, Stowe Inn, and a now-defunct hippie bakery cleverly dubbed Baked In Stowe. In a nutshell, Stowe is full of all types of ridiculous Stoweisms. One might even say that the occupants of Stowe, with their nature loving, earthly ways should be called “Stoweners,” but take my word, it'll never happen.

The Locals

Does it really matter to you who calls Stowe home? If it does, let's say that even though Stowe is the stomping grounds for a plethora of talented snowboarders, don't expect to see Mack Dawg and his cronies filming their technical wizardry here. Since the majority of locals prefer the tree-lined acreage of Stowe's extensive backcountry, the pipe and/or park is often underutilized. Also, many snowboard/ski companies have headquarters in the nearby city of Burlington, which creates an almost overwhelming weekend presence of industry moguls. Representatives and/or team riders of Dynastar/Original Sin, Rossignol, Burton, Elan, Grindrite, and Nidecker are often spotted in the liftlines with their latest and greatest products. Young grommet tourists who call mall-towns in Jersey, Connecticut, or Massachusetts home are offered a rare glimpse of next year's graphics, step-ins, et cetera during the late winter and spring months.

The Trails

The Front Four: The name says it all. These fall-line trails located on the front of the mountain have achieved legendary status. Boston Bob (a wacked-out local yokel with a variety of old-school read-i to shred-i setups) is often seen jump-turning down Liftline, the most visible of the four. Rumor has it that he and his pre-P-tex bases slipped down Liftline 38 times in one day–a number still unmatched, even by the swift Spyder-suiters from the surrounding high school race teams.

The Lifts

A double and a triple reach high onto the mountain, while a gondola and a high-speed quad go directly to the twin peaks of Mt. Mansfield. Granted, its 4,300-foot-high summit is merely a molehill compared to the oxygen-depriving altitudes found in the West. Having to take only one lift to the top should be mandatory, but it is still something rarely seen in the East. Be forewarned, high winds can shut down the quad and the gondola, forcing people to endure the snail-like creeping of the triple or double. If this happens to you, keep an eye peeled for a group of committed locals hiking into the ODB (Old Dirty Backcountry). Leading the parade, and sporting an oversized backpack filled with backcountry gadgetry, will undoubtedly be Joah Buley, Chris Mask, or Jason King.

The Backcountry

Some say it's impossible to ride untracked powder in the East. It's also assumed that the East Coast's natural terrain, pardon the following phrase, shaves ass. Granted, this is partly true, but the few who bear a full East Coast season receive the sporadic rewards. Many New England mountains, with Stowe ranking near the top, can be a freak show of entertainment when snow covers the ground and misty backcountry lines appear. But don't take this situation for granted. For example, there was an enthusiastic Stowe newbie named Johnny B who sought and destroyed backcountry fame. And not too long ago, his attempts of finding “snorkel deep” snow fields turned into a situation where he needed to be rescued from an icy plateau. His situation wasn't nearly as ridiculous as that of a crew of New Yorkers who needed a helicopter rescue, or the three-day manhunt for a lost child. The bottom line is simple–if you come to Stowe and dabble in its extensive backcountry, shred with caution, appreciate the locals, or stay the hell out.