In the spring of 2016 I had the opportunity to take a 6 week (one night a week) Mountain Bike Clinic with the IMBA Certified Instructor and owner of Four Points Mountain Bike School, Rick Sokoloff (and past President/Founder of Stowe Mountain Bike Club). Ultimately, Rick taught me much more than just how to safely navigate the trees for the forest within some of the amazing local single track mountain bike trails of Trapp Family Resort or Cady Hill Forest.
One of the many lessons learned over the course of that clinic and one that clearly spans a much wider influence on me other than mountain biking, was the coaching from Rick that I still hear in my head as I zig and zag through the woods; “stay loose” and “look beyond the obstacles.” These two instructions, I can attest, have informed me of how to navigate my mountain bike through the wood while also guiding my latest life’s adventure as co-owner/Innkeeper of the Brass Lantern Inn here in Stowe, Vermont.
As a road bike enthusiast and bike touring veteran, my focus on the paved roads was to keep my vision very close to the immediate obstacles. That focus in concert with my awareness of the vehicular traffic from behind keeping me safely on the seat of my bike. From that first mountain bike lesson I realized my concept of seeing, minimizing and hopefully avoiding the obstacles of this new terrain in the woods was going to need some radical adjustment. I discovered a very strong relationship with identifying the obstacles but trusting muscle memory and the technology in today’s mountain bikes to avoid injury and allowing me to ride again the next day.
On the mountain bike I’ve discovered, very first hand, that if I keep my focus on that boulder, the one just a bit off center of the trail, just beyond the knobby front tire of my bike that, guess what, if I keep my eyes on it, I will absolutely run smack dab into that boulder. And transfer “boulder” for “tree” or “edge of bridge” or any number of other obstacles on the trail and the same reality applies. Hard lesson(s) learned early on. Fortunately, by maintaining a conservative speed on the bike, and that coaching from Rick from directly behind me on the trail, it left only my pride hurt and thankfully no real damage to me or the bike.
As part of the clinic, Rick had our class practice drills on an open field with just small orange cones spaced in the layout of a slalom course to help us train our brain to look past the most immediate cone to the next cone all while keeping a peripheral eye on the cone we were just passing. My brain did not trust that my inexperience of this concept would allow me to safely navigate the course and not roll over each and every one of those cones. With lots and lots of practice I continued to improve (and perhaps “trick my brain?”) into accepting that all is good, that tree root and boulder combination ahead is not a threat as long as I apply the skills of weight shifting, trusting the bike, and rolling over this obstacle all the while as I look ahead to the next challenge. “Stay loose and look past the obstacles.”
This whole metaphor thing of life, mountain biking and obstacles hit me suddenly one afternoon as I took a break at the bottom of a successfully run single track. And perhaps discovering this new sport of mountain biking at this “mature stage of my life,” and experiencing this thrill of earning your downhill rides, has provided yet another explanation for how and why I so appreciate and enjoy my landing spot here in Vermont in this magical place of Stowe.
Look for me outside,
May 9, 2017
Getting out of town can be so refreshing and, admittedly, can also be somewhat stressful. We regularly hear from our guests that traveled here by car, either from our neighboring states of New England to several states away, that shortly after entering Vermont they feel a sense of calming retreat.
Perhaps part of that feeling is from the scenery that the Green Mountain State of Vermont provides as you make your way to the Brass Lantern Inn. There is a wonderful and unique opportunity that is afforded to those who travel through Vermont as our small state does not permit billboards along our roadways. No billboards, anywhere, period. Whether you are making your way up Interstate 89 or via the iconic and historic Route 100 through the Mad River Valley, or Route 7 along the eastern edge of Lake Champlain, your views of this special corner of New England are unencumbered by these unnatural elements blocking those views. It is just one of those special conditions of this amazing place.
As I write this post we are actually away from our Inn as we take a brief retreat ourselves from our role as Innkeepers. We are in Bozman, Maryland, just outside of the town of St. Michael’s. It is an area we know fairly well from our life prior to our 2009 relocation to Stowe, Vermont. This area is rich in the qualities similar to Vermont; friendly locals, unique restaurants, shops, culturally rich and diverse events, peaceful, and just stunning vistas.
If you venture deep enough into this area known as the “Eastern Shore” you will notice a particularly interesting feature. As you drive along the quiet back roads of the area you will note that locals will give you a little wave from the steering wheel of their vehicle. It is just a two to three finger wave, just to say, “Hello, and Welcome.” In Stowe, and perhaps other small towns in Vermont, our special feature is to yield to others trying to make a left turn on Main Street. A simple gesture of unexpected courtesy, but one that is clearly special to experience first hand.
To be sure, the views are quite different here on the Eastern Shore of Maryland than from the back porch of the Brass Lantern Inn, as much of this area that provides the soft edge to the Chesapeake Bay is low and flat, all dramatically different than our view out of the Inn looking up at Mt. Mansfield. Sixty to seventy percent of some of the counties that make up that transitional area from estuary to land on this side of the Bay are considered and protected as wetlands. I know, sounds amazing, right, that we could see what some would perhaps term as swamp land to be so serene.
All this to say it is really calming to the soul to venture to a place, whether far, near or somewhere in between to experience either as the first timer or as a regular migratory traveler a place even subtly different than what you have at home. I think it is the peacefulness of being in a new place that then allows one to appreciate their own special retreat of home that in turn makes whatever stress or effort needed in that process of traveling to reach this place all worthwhile.
As I write this post on the evening of March 13, 2017, we are positively giddy with excitement waiting for our next big dump of snow. The National Weather service and local reports are calling for snow depths of anywhere between 16 to 20+” of snow between tomorrow, mid-day through Weds., evening, 3/15. And we say, “it’s about time!”
Admittedly, it has been a schizophrenic kind of winter. We were skiing, as if on cue, on the Saturday right after Thanksgiving, 2016. We received more than 5 feet total of snow in the month of December, 2016, alone. Then, the dreaded January thaw hit us. And hit us again in the second week of January. The Stowe Mountain Resort crews did an amazing job taking whatever Mother Nature threw at them and turning it into (for the most part) some really great conditions. Ok, there was a day that we did two runs and called it and then had a early lunch in town! So yes, you had to have the luxury of an extended stay this past January to get in any consistently good skiing/riding conditions.
February was ushered in with, and I really do not use this term lightly, some epic powder days. We had a couple of days where we easily hit 16 to 18″ of absolute champagne powder. There was so much excitement in town during that period I heard of people, and felt some of this myself, having trouble falling asleep the nights before, because of the anticipation of the stellar conditions that we were predicted and hit us with even more than what was predicted. It was truly a nice little reward for getting through those January thaws.
After President’s day Weekend we had our February thaw. We actually hit 62 degrees and a few follow up days of mid to upper 50’s. Oh, and I forgot to mention, rain, yes, lots of it during that brief period. Fortunately, the mountain had a 60″ base or more on the vast majority of trails but the couple of days of 1/2″ or more of rain did take its toll. When the temps. the snow guns were fired back up and greatly improved the conditions.
All that to say, we have a full house set up for this weekend and anyone who skis, snowboards, cross-country skis, snowshoes or even if you just like to drink hot chocolate (or perhaps a Vermont Craft Beer) by the fire and watch it snow will be in the perfect spot this week and weekend here in Stowe, Vermont. Typically, March is one of our best months of the year to play outside with our snow equipment. The sun is getting closer to the position of vernal equinox as our days are getting longer, the temperatures resist those below zero (and more with that silly wind chill factor) levels and many times, we can have lunch outside at the Midway Lodge. Also, many times, the snowfalls in March are more legendary than any other time of the preceding winter.
We are hopeful that with this pending Vermont snow storm and perhaps another one to to finish out the season we will be able to keep the skis firmly in place within the truck to allow us, on a moments notice, to spring for the mountains. And a “Last Hurrah” offer – watch the forecasts, plan your “sick day” or “snow day” (call it what you will) and if you can make a last minute trip to get outside with us, we can offer you a wonderful stay here at the Brass Lantern Inn, fabulous breakfast, that we can make early if you want, so that you can grab that “first chair” up Mt. Mansfield.
See you outside,
Have you experienced winter in Stowe? If you have, you understand the wonderful transformation of the Stowe Area and Mt. Mansfield from our summer playground to the most scenic winter wonderland. While of course Stowe is well known as the ski capital of the East, there is so much more to experience here in the winter for those who may not be as enamored with strapping a couple of fiberglass boards or a single snowboard onto your feet and gliding down the mountain, testing the laws of gravity and feeling that rush of sheer joy of being outside.
And while we do happily and graciously host many skiers and snowboarders each winter we actually have just as many guests who come here at this time of the celestial calendar for the sheer beauty of our winter scenery or to perhaps experience this winter landscape in other ways; snowshoeing, cross country skiing, dog sledding, outdoor ice skating, snowmobiling and not just limit their options to downhill skiing or riding. And then many may just be looking for a peaceful retreat with a book, glass of wine or mug of hot cocoa, next to the fireplace in our common areas, or your personal fireplace in your guest room, all the while watching the snow fly beyond the windows. Can’t you just picture that?
We love Vermont for so many reasons, but, certainly the opportunity to experience each of our distinct and memorable four seasons is a huge part of why we think we have such a special place here to share with our guests. We look forward to sharing our “backyard” of Stowe, Vermont with all who, for any length of time, look to call our home their home away from home.
See you outside,
George and Mary Anne
This past December 16th marked our 7th anniversary of the start of this wonderful journey of owning the Brass Lantern Inn in Stowe, Vermont. I still vividly recall putting up Christmas Holiday lights on the Inn on 12/17 on a beautifully clear, crisp, bright sunny day. The temperature that day reached a high of -12. Perhaps, and most likely due to the excitement of finally being here in Stowe and “living the dream” it never really felt that cold (“it’s a dry cold,” I convinced myself…).
And while we recognize winter as our signature season, we soon discovered that Stowe is an amazing place to live and visit in any of our distinct four seasons. Moving here from Baltimore, Maryland, what struck me initially was the enthusiastic embrace of winter by the town, and of course, its visitors. If you going to have winter, you might as well go all the way, right? While we loved our experiences in Baltimore, winters there could be grey and wet most of the time. Schools would close on a forecast of 4” of snow (and then not snow….). Here, in Stowe, for many Fridays in the winter, the school kids get to experience Friday afternoons as a “Friday Program.” The school buses line up at 11 a.m., picking up the students and the educational programs move to the slopes of Mt. Mansfield where the kids learn to ski or snowboard. What a wonderful life, right?
The excitement we feel today when we see that first snowfall of the season or any of our several “freshies” (new snow over old) is just as strong today as it was in that first week of ownership, 7 years ago. Much of the reason for this, I believe, is that we have the truly special opportunity to see and experience our winter landscape through the eyes of each and every guest (new and returning). The dream remains strong through the opportunity to be of service to you, our guests. Thank you all for supporting our dream over the past 7 years.
It has been a wonderful, enriching journey so far, and we are looking forward to what lies ahead. Sign on a shop window viewed today; “Don’t look back, you’re not going that way.”