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skiing in Stowe vermont
Photo: Courtesy of Stowe Mountain Resort.

According to Ski Magazine readers, Vermont has some of the best ski resorts in the US and even in North-America, whether you are looking for downhill skiing or cross-country ski or simply want to enjoy great après-ski and dining. In each of these categories, Vermont ski resorts are making Ski Magazine’s list of the “Top 10 Ski Resorts”. And others have also recognized Vermont ski resorts as… some of the best! (See where they are all located on this map of Vermont ski resorts).

Top 10 ski resorts for après-ski (Ski Magazine)
For the best après-ski, Ski Magazine readers selected 2 Vermont ski resorts in the top 10.
Here is their “top 10” list:
1. Aspen Mountain, Colorado
2. Whistler Blackcomb, British Columbia
3. Heavenly, California
4. Killington, Vermont
Killington truly has a number of fun places to enjoy after a long day of skiing: the Mahogany Ridge bar at the K-1 Lodge, the Long Trail Pub at the Snowshed Lodge, and the Bear Mountain Lounge at the Bear Mountain Lodge, the Wobbly Barn or the Lookout Tavern. Lots to choose from. And for the very best BBQ, our personal choice is The Back Behind Saloon on route 4 and 100 S.
5. Tremblant, Quebec
7. Park City, Utah
8. Breckenridge, Colorado
9. Whiteface, New York
10. Stowe, Vermont
There is definitely an established tradition of bar hopping after a day of skiing at the Stowe Mountain Resort. There is even a name for it: it’s the “Mountain Road Crawl”! You start by warming up and having a drink at the Fireside Tavern right at the mountain, then drive down the road a little and stop at the Matterhorn Bar. Pool tables, music and great food (appetizers, pizza, etc.) are all there for you. The bar also has a dance floor. Then, The Shed and the Rusty Nail are further down the road. The Rusty Nail also has a great space and pool tables upstairs. Lots of places for lots of fun! And to make sure to stay safe, take advantage of the shuttle which will take you from one bar to another, yep, no kidding!

Top 10 ski resorts for dining (Ski Magazine)
For dining, Stowe is ranking number 10. A very respectable score. Indeed, the whole road from the Mountain to Stowe village and to Waterbury has restaurants of all kinds and all budgets, as well of course B&B and little inns. Some are fun and relaxed, some are fancy and gastronomic in quaint historic homes. We’ll just name a few: the Whip Bar & Grill, located in the Green Mountain Inn, the Blue Moon Café, the Swisspot (in town), the Cliff House Restaurant (at Mt. Mansfield), and Mr Pickwick’s at the Ye Olde England Inne. Waterbury is close as well and hosts some award-winning restaurants, such as Michael’s on the Hill, and Hen of the Wood (our previous article).

For your curiosity, here are Ski Magazine’s “top 10 ski resorts” for dining:
1. Aspen, Colorado
2. Deer Valley, Utah
3. Tremblant, Quebec
4. Whistler Blackcomb, British Columbia
5. Sun Valley, Idaho
6. Vail, Colorado
7. Park City, Utah
8. Beaver Creek, Colorado
9. Telluride, Colorado
10. Stowe, Vermont

Top 10 ski resorts for off-hill activities (Ski Magazine)
And when it comes to off-hill activities, it’s Smugglers’ Notch which is the favorite station in Vermont. Smugglers’ Notch has the FunZone for kids, video arcades, snow tubing, ice-skating at SmuggsCentral, massages, and more…

Ski Magazine’s top 10 list includes:
1. Whiteface Mountain, New York
2. Aspen Mountain, Colorado
3. Heavenly, California
4. Whistler Blackcomb, British Columbia
5. Smugglers’ Notch, Vermont
6. Park City, Utah
7. Tremblant, Quebec
8. Vail, Colorado
9. Breckenridge, Colorado
10. Deer Valley, Utah

Top 10 ski resorts for romantic cross-country skiers (that’s a niche!) (MSNBC – February 2006)
MSNBC has selected the Mountain Top Inn. The photos on its website seem fabulous… with the view on Chittenden Reservoir. We will have to check it out!

MSNBC’s top 10 list includes:
• Callaghan Country at Whistler, British Columbia
• Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, in Alberta
• Garland Resort in Lewiston, Michigan
• Lone Mountain Ranch at Big Sky, Montana
• Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz, New York
• Mt. Washington Hotel at Bretton Woods, in New Hampshire
Mountain Top Inn in the town of Chittenden, Rutland County, Vermont
• Royal Gorge in Soda Springs, California
• Sun Mountain Lodge in Winthrop, Washington
• Vista Verde Ranch in Steamboat Springs, Colorado

And last but not least:
Top 10 ski resorts for family in New England (Family Ski Trips)
The Family Ski Trips website listed 6 Vermont ski resorts as the best ski resorts for family.
Wow, well done Vermont! And it’s nice to know that many of these ski resorts have timeshare rentals available through their owners which are spacious enough to fit the whole family comfortably.

Okemo, Vermont
For its lesson programs…
Smugglers’ Notch, Vermont
For the “most innovative instruction in snow country”, its beginners’ slopes on Morse Mountain, its kids’ ski camp and day care, and all the activities in the Village from the Fun Zone to snow tubing.
Stowe, Vermont
When the kids grow older: “your kids can night-ski while you dine at the European-style Cliff House” restaurant.
Killington/Pico, Vermont
For Bear Mountain which is dedicated to freeskiers and riders, with parks and pipes; for its Winter Adventure Center with snowshoeing, tubing and dog sledding; and for the less intimidating Pico resort. Killington also has several video arcades.
Suicide Six, Vermont
Ascutney, Vermont
Ascutney has a lot for kids of all ages: Young Olympians ski and ride camps for ages 4-12, and a Bumps Center for teens. Note that the Duckling Daycare will not be open this winter.

Other ski resorts in New England which made the list:
– Bretton Woods, NH
– Sunday River, ME
– Jiminy Peak, MA and
– Sugarloaf, ME

On that note, I hope we’ll see you this winter in Vermont… on our mountains or off the slopes. The snow is already here waiting for you.
Related article: 2009 Best Ski Resorts and Ski Hotels

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sugarbush_farm_575_190If you are in the Woodstock, VT area, you might want to check out the Sugarbush Farm. I did not get a chance to go there yet, but they seem to have a lot of interesting fun and interesting things to show you. They make maple syrup and cheese, and have a number of farm animals: a new baby calf called Oscar, our twin goats, Rhode Island Red chickens and of course Larry’s huge Belgian draft horses. Sounds like a tasty back road adventure to me!

While it’s only 3 miles off US Rt 4 in mid Vermont, those 3 miles take you from the busy town to an out of the way working maple syrup, cheese and animal farm. The town-maintained road is gravel not black top and the views of the Green Mountains are spectacular, they say.

Sugarbush Farm is a 550-acre family farm started in 1945 by the Ayres family. Their 2nd and 3rd generation children and grandchildren are now running the farm, tapping 7,000 maple trees, selecting, aging and smoking 15 varieties of cheese, and welcoming visitors from all over the world who want to learn more about farming. The 1865 farm house has become an area for cheese packaging, sampling for cheese & syrup tasting, shipping for thousands of gift packages. The kitchen and living room of the original family is now converted into a farm house store!

Folks say when you step into the back door of the cheese sampling room, you feel like long lost cousin coming back to the family farm. Each family is welcome to a personal tasting of all the cheeses, along with explanations of how it’s made, how to keep it while traveling and at home, and how to serve it. Right now they still have some of that 8-year old Super Wicked Sharp Cheddar Cheese (what a name!) and they say it’s “great”!
And there is also maple syrup sampling. You can all 4 grades and experience the difference in taste as the syrup season progresses. Maple sugaring was much better this year than the previous two and so they still have plenty of each grade.

During the warmer months of the year there is lots of learn outdoors. The maple sugar house is busy with actual syrup making in the spring and during the rest of the year it’s converted into a educational building with lots of graphics, machinery, and a video so folks can learn how syrup is made and how it takes 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup. You can also walk the maple trail to see where trees are tapped in the spring. When weather is warm, Luce’s farm animals are brought out. There is also plenty of room for a picnic and room for kids to run and play. While many farms in Vermont have been lost to development, it’s the Luce’s goal to keep the family farm a successful working farm by welcoming visitors and educating them about local products.

Sugarbush Farm is open every day from 9 to 5.

591 Sugarbush Farm Rd
Woodstock, VT 05091
1 800 281 1757
www.sugarbushfarm.com

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Vermont foliageFall is definitely here in Vermont! A couple of fresh nights this week and the first maple trees turned red and tonight frost will have more leaves turn red, no doubt. A nice premise for a nice week-end.
And to celebrate Vermont foliage season so dear to all of us, there are many things to do here. Of course you can go canoeing and kayaking on lakes and rivers (I will write about it next week) or hike or do a lot of other outdoor activities. But there are also some special events and festivals this week-end:
Apple picking : You are invited to participate to the annual contest « Apples to iPods » which takes place in many orchards again this year. If you find a wooden iPod in a tree at one of the participating orchards, you’ll win a real iPod. More info at: Vermont Apples.
Vermont Life Wine & Harvest Festival – Mount Snow Valley –September 25-27, 2009: It’s the second year of this event, where you can participate to cooking demonstrations by local restaurants, wine and cheese pairing presentations, wine pairing diners at some local restaurants, etc. Specialty food makers, cheesemakers and craft artists will show their products. And of course, there will be music, jazz trio and acoustic roots band… Don’t miss a Vermont style breakfast on Saturday or Sunday morning, with maple syrup (I am sure) and products (bacon and sausages) from local company Vermont Smoke and Cure, or the BBQ and Blue Grass diner on Friday night. The event is listed as one of the top ten Fall events by the Vermont Chamber of Commerce this year. More info at Vermont Life Wine & Harvest Festival.
Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom Annual Fall Foliage Festival – September 27 – October 3, 2009 – Towns and villages of the region offer a variety of activities during this week : food events, visits, music, etc. More info on the site of the Chamber of Commerce.
5th Annual Burlington Book Festival – September 25-27, 2009 – A book fair in Burlington is always a good excuse to come and wander the nice streets of this nice little Vermont town we all like (see our last year’s article on Burlington). Many authors will be there, there will be new and used books, free appraisal of rare books and more. More info at Burlington Book Festival.
6th Annual Vermont Fine Furniture & Woodworking Festival – September 26-27, 2009 – In the Southern part of the state, woodwork and nice furniture lovers won’t miss this event. More than 50 furniture makers and woodworking artists are expected. You can even watch Barre Pinske carve a bear on site. More info at Vermont Fine Furniture & Woodworking Festival.
Lake Champlain Maritime Museum – Archaeology Week-end – September 26-27, 2009 – South of Burlington, near Vergennes, it is the annual archaeology event at the museum. You can do a tour on the lake to see a shipwreck (Saturday 1pm), or enjoy presentations, movies and more. More info on the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum website.
Biking tour – South Hero and Grand Isle – September 26, 2009 – And for cycling amateurs, the Montpelier Section of the Green Mountain Club organizes a 25-mile loop in this beautiful region of Lake Champlain Islands, north of Vermont. For more info, contact: Mary Garcia at (802) 229-0153 or Mary Smith at (802) 505-0603.
– And don’t forget to read the last issue of Vermont Life magazine (we are not paid to promote it), for more info on a lot of outdoor activities you can do this Fall here, or just for the pleasure of looking at the beautiful photos they have throughout the magazine! Vermont Life Magazine Current Issue.

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vermont-institute-for-artisan-cheese-575Photo: Courtesy of Vermont Institute for Artisan Cheese.

We have to confess: we like cheese and Vermont cheese! Last month, we brought the news to you about the Vermont Cheesemakers’ Festival. It was unfortunately sold out so we’re glad to tell you that you can still attend an evening on Cheese and Wine Pairing, at the Vermont Institute for Artisan Cheese, at 255 Carrigan Wing Building, University of Vermont: it’s on September 22nd from 6 to 9pm.
More information at: Vermont Institute for Artisan Cheese website.
To learn more about Vermont cheeses, you can also listen to the recent Vermont Public Radio interview of Allison Hooper, from Vermont Butter and Cheese Company and Paul Kindstedt, from the Vermont Institute for Artisan Cheese. They are both authors of books on cheesemaking. You’ll learn the definition of artisan cheese, farmstead cheese and much more!
And finally don’t forget that cheesemakers in Vermont always welcome you to visit them: you can consult the cheese trail map or read “The Vermont Cheese Book” to plan your visit.

Related articles:
First Vermont Cheesemakers Festival
Award-winning Vermont Cheeses

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cheesemaker_festival_575It’s this Sunday, August 23, 2009 from 10am to 5pm.
A great looking event which unfortunately is… SOLD OUT!
So clearly everyone noticed the quality of the activities presented (seminars, cooking shows, cheesemaking demos, over 100 cheeses to taste, etc) and of the presenters… and the tickets went like hot cakes!
The organizers were planning for 500 to 1000 attendees and 85 people maximum for each of their seminars (Cheesemaking 101, Cheese Pairing Beyond Beverages, Cheddar and Beer Tasting, Cheese and Wine Pairing, Explore Shelburne Farms) and every seminar and general entry ticket is sold!
But you can still enjoy the Vermont Artisan Foodmakers Open Studios, on Saturday, August 22 (the day prior to the festival). On that day creameries, wineries, breweries and artisan foodmakers across the state will be open for special tours and tastings. A map showing location of all the participating foodmakers as well as all website addresses can be seen on the event website.
And for the festival, as the organizers say: “See you in 2010”.
Related articles:
Award-winning Vermont Cheeses

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Harpoon Brewery barbecue competitionJuly 25-26, 2009 – It’s the week-end of this very popular annual event, an event we attended last year and really enjoyed: definitely great food, nice beer, nice music, and a nice setting to sit down and enjoy a beer… if the weather cooperates. Enjoy!
See our article from last year:
Harpoon Brewery – BBQ Competition
Harpoon Brewery web page on the event: Harpoon Championships of New England BBQ

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wine_tasting_575There are a lot of food events to enjoy in Vermont in June. If you are looking for things to do during your stay here, think food festivals!

June 13, 2009 – Cabot Creamery Visitors’ Center – Cabot
This Saturday, Cabot celebrates its 90th anniversary by opening its plant. They’ll serve food, have some music, entertainment, in order to raise money for the Cabot School’s Performing Arts Center.
Time: 10:00 am – 3:00 pm
Location: Visitor Center, Cabot Creamery Visitors’ Center, Cabot, VT
For more information: (802) 371-1265

June 14, 2009 – GNAT-TV Culinary Experience 2009 – Hildene, Lincoln Family Home – Manchester
It seems like a nice fund-raising gala night at Lincoln Family Home.
It starts at 6pm, it will be Champagne hour with hors d”oeuvres, cheese, champagne and jazz. At 7pm, these 22 chefs from the area will have the “Grand Tasting”. There is also live music with the “Don’t Leave Band” and a Grand Prize Raffle of all the dinners for two donated by the chefs.
Location: Hildene, 1005 Hildene Road, Manchester
Tickets: $60; $25 for raffle tickets.
For more information:
GNAT-TV Culinary Experience
Chef’s Circle: The list of 22 participating chefs

Hildene, Lincoln Family Home

June 19-21, 2009 – 11th AnnualStowe Wine & Food Classic – Stowe
Several nice events over these three days to celebrate wine and food.
Friday night – 4 to 6pm: Wine tasting at the West Branch Gallery & Sculpture Park. Tickets are $75.
Saturday night – 6pm: Gala dinner, Live Auction & Dance at the Trapp Family Lodge. Gastronomic five-course meal, prepared by the Trapp Family Lodge’s renowned chef with wine pairings, presented by M.S. Walker. Followed by dancing with Penny Arcade.
Tickets: $150 per person. $185 per person for the Saturday/Sunday package.
Sunday – Noon to 4pm: Grand tasting & Silent Auction: Enjoy culinary demonstrations by regional chefs, including Eric Warnstedt, one of Food & Wine’s Top Ten Chefs of the Year, in 2008. Attend wine seminars. Taste up to 100 wines. Participate to a silent auction of fine and rare wines.
Tickets: $60. $185 per person for the Saturday/Sunday package.
Location: Trapp Family Lodge
More information at: List of events of the 11th Annual Stowe Wine & Food Classic
Related article: Waterbury Award-winning Restaurants

June 26- 28, 2009 – 24th Annual Green Mountain Chew Chew – Food & Music Festival – Burlington
It’s a family-oriented event, with food, entertainment, live music, which showcases a number of restaurants, caterers and food producers. At every booth, you can taste three unique food items. Lots of fun!
Location: Waterfront Park, Burlington
Time: Fri & Sat: 11am to 9pm; Sun: 11am to 6pm.
More info at: Green Mountain Chew Chew

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laughing_moon_chocolates_575
Photo Credit: Paul Rogers.

Known for culinary delights such as maple syrup and specialty cheeses, Vermont also has its share of superb chocolate makers.

Lake Champlain Chocolates
The state’s largest chocolate producer, based in Burlington, started small. In 1983, restaurant owner Jim Lampman began making hand-rolled truffles for his staff and select patrons. Demand was so great he soon turned to chocolate full time.

The company now owns three shops and cafés in Vermont, and sells its wares – truffles; raspberry, orange and cherry creams; hazelnut pralines; peanut butter cups; and Chocolates of Vermont (Belgian chocolate combined with rich local ingredients) – in over 1,200 independent specialty stores across the country.

The selection is diverse and delicious, but don’t take our word for it. Watch their chocolates being made, and enjoy discounts on factory “seconds” – slightly imperfect chocolates – at their factory store in Burlington.

In winter, the cozy, sweet-smelling café is THE place to sample the company’s four varieties of hot chocolate. And don’t worry, there’s a comparable summer ritual: locals and visitors welcome warm weather with a scoop of their sublime chocolate ice cream.

Laughing Moon Chocolates, Stowe
Owner and chocolate maker Leigh Williams has been creating artisan chocolates and old fashioned sweets in Stowe for over fourteen years, with an increasing commitment to local ingredients and the environment.

Hand-rolled truffles incorporate all kinds of rich liquor: Boyden Valley Wines, Green Mountain Distillers Sunshine Vodka and Maple Liquor, Flag Hill Farm Pear and Apple Brandys, and Rock Art Vermonster Beer. Their popular chocolate cookies, covered with milk, dark and white chocolate, come from the Sweet Crunch Bake Shop in Hyde Park.

And Laughing Moon makes more than chocolate – they recently started to candy fresh organic orange slices in Honeygardens of Vermont honey.

Tom & Sally’s Handmade Chocolates
Tom and Sally (yes, those are their real names) arrived from Manhattan nearly 20 years ago to live their dream of making chocolate in beautiful southern Vermont. Their line of sweets includes hand-crafted Luxury Chocolates; chocolate bars wrapped with vintage art; and old time pleasures, peanut brittle and almond toffee.

Our favorites are the 100% Organic Skinny Bars – rich in flavor, low in fat. These single serving size dark chocolate bars, made from 100% organic dark Belgian chocolate, with cocoa contents ranging from 66 to 78%, are infused with Ethiopian Yirgacheffe coffee, ginger root, peppermint leaves, and raspberry.

The yummy confections weigh in at 1.5 oz, and average about 200 calories a bar – which you can burn off in the one-hour guided factory tour in their Brattleboro headquarters.

Touring the state?
Visit these other Vermont chocolate makers, located a bit more off the beaten path:
Snowflake Chocolatiers, in Jericho
Daily Chocolate, in Vergennes
Vermont Chocolatiers, of Northfield
Vermont Nut Free Chocolates, of Grand Isle
Nutty’s Steph’s Chocolate Factory, of Montpelier

And last but not least, discover these fine chocolate makers – and others – at the Chocolate Festival, the 3rd Annual Festival of Sweets, Nov. 21-22, 2009 at the Doubletree Hotel in Burlington.

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maple_sugarhouse_575Spring is in the air and it means it is time to enjoy Vermont maple syrup. There are a few activities taking place throughout the state for all to participate. We just need to hope for cool, freezing nights and warmer days for the next few weeks, for the best maple syrup!

Vermont Maple Open House Weekend – March 27-29 – The big event is the 8th annual Vermont Maple Open House Weekend, March 27-29, 2009. A number of sugarhouses throughout Vermont participate and activities are different at each sugarhouse. You’ll watch maple syrup being made (weather permitting), can taste maple syrup on the snow, see how it is sapped from the trees, and often sample and buy maple products.
More information: List of participating sugarhouses

St. Albans Vermont Maple Festival – March 24-26 – It’s the 43rd annual maple festival in St. Albans, and it is one of the “top 10 winter events” according to the Vermont Chamber of Commerce. This year, there is a special theme to the celebration, for the 400th anniversary of Lake Champlain. The website mentions “Samuel de Champlain was in St. Albans at the time of maple sugaring” which of course could be a stretch of historical facts, as Champlain discovered Lake Champlain in July! But who knows, may be he came back at a later date…
In any case, there are a lot of friendly activities at the festival: pancake breakfast, Fiddlers’ variety show, Vermont maple buffet dinner, “sap run” – an 8.5 mile run, sugarhouse tours, Vermont maple festival parade, antique show, and much more…
More information: Schedule of events

Lunenburg Maple Festival – Lunenberg – March 28 – This is a smaller local event at the Lunenburg Elementary School, but it does offer some of the traditional activities: pancake breakfast, Chicken’N Biscuits supper, tree tapping, and maple syrup making (weather permitting), pie contest, and more.
More information: Top of the Common; Schedule of events

Breakfast at Eaton’s Sugarhouse – Locals know that this is a great place to enjoy breakfast with maple products, all-year-long – right off exit 3, of highway 89, on the east side of the highway. You can even see the place from the highway! Feel free to leave a comment and tell us of other such places, but this is the one we know!

New England Maple Museum – Pittsford – Located on route 7, and open starting mid-March, the museum is promising a trip through over 200 years of maple sugaring, starting with its discovery by Native Americans. Did you know that we owe maple syrup to Native Americans, who had discovered that boiling the tree sap gave a deliciously-tasting syrup? Native Americans were heating rocks on the fire and dropping them in wooden bowls filled with maple sap. The rocks were hot enough to make the sap boil. It was and still is a slow process.
More information: New England Maple Museum

Related articles: Who makes the best maple creemee?

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Vermont Farmhouse Chowder
This winter, six Vermont ski resorts (and more to come) are offering something really special on their menus: a hearty Farmhouse Chowder, featuring products locally grown by Vermont farmers. How it was conceived and developed is truly a fascinating story, but more importantly to all of you skiers, it is delicious!
We had the opportunity to taste it ourselves at the Statehouse cafeteria last week. The chowder has a really nice smoky taste and is truly the kind of hearty food all skiers want to have when they come into the lodge for lunch, after a few hours of skiing.
With this chowder, Sugarbush Executive Chef Gerry Nooney created something truly distinctive for Vermont. The soup is made with Peaslee’s Potatoes, Cold Hollow Apple Cider, Vermont Smoke and Cure sausage and of course, fresh Vermont cream, all local Vermont products. And it does have a very distinctive taste!
And at $6.50 for a bowl at Sugarbush, it costs the same as other prepared soups… but it’s Vermont-made and always fresh…never frozen!
In addition to Sugarbush, the Vermont Farmhouse Chowder is also available at Mount Snow, Bromley, Stratton, Stowe and Smugglers’ Notch Resort, and we’re being told that more ski resorts could join soon. And non-skiers will be happy to know that they can also buy it in a number of delis and local markets or make it at home (see recipe).
Finally… for those of you who are interested in the story of how it came about: it started with a simple idea of promoting local produce, similarly to the Vermont Ski Burger last year.
Chef Gerry Noonley worked hard to develop the recipe. Ski Vermont and the Vermont Agency of Agriculture worked together, along with some private businesses such as Cold Hollow Cider, Vermont Smoke and Cure, and Black River Produce (the distributor) to make it happen! “It is a remarkable example of what Vermont small community can achieve when working together” says Chef Gerry Noonley… Indeed… and the success is there to prove it: the chowder has already been produced in volumes that are twice the team’s initial expectations.

Note: The Vermont Ski Burger is available at Okemo Mountain, Stowe, Burke Mountain, Stratton and Mount Snow. It is made of Vermont-raised all-natural beef from Boyden Farm, and cheese from Cabot Creamery, with some “personalized touches” by the various ski resorts.
Ski Vermont Ale, made by Long Trail Brewery, is another Ski Vermont initiative that you can try at Stratton.

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