PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – It’s a small town story that became as big as the mountain that towers above it. In another time, before skiers discovered mountain, towns like Tannersville, Pennsylvania and Stowe, Vermont, they were sleepy country villages that survived on tanning and timber. But all that changed when the skiing crowd arrived by trains and buses. Other towns suddenly sprouted up as part of ski resort development. The advantage of having a town near or surrounding the mountain is access to supplies, great restaurants, movie theaters and nightlife. So, where can we find these all-encompassing and often picturesque villages. Here’s a sampling.
In its early days Tannersville thrived on lumber and tanneries. When those industries faded, the small crossroads village became a hub of a fledgling eastern Pocono Mountain tourist boom. But in the 1950’s, the development of Camelback Mountain and the art of snowmaking accelerated a restaurant boom – The 19th century Tannersville Inn grew new diners. Skier magnet eateries like Smugglers Cove for seafood and prime rib with a lively bar scene planted roots, As the years marched on, route 611 through Tannersville exploded with a state store, beer distributor and supermarkets to stock ski condos. A major outlet complex opened on the Camelback access road and so did Barley Creek Brewing, one of the area’s first craft breweries with a commendable restaurant and bar scene. Camelback itself became a major resort center with a hotel, new eateries and an impressive indoor water park. And when the snow falls, state and Camelback plow crews make sure the roads are clear between town and what we came for – the mountain.
The largest of Pennsylvania’s four-season resorts is set around a mountain, full of slopes and trails at the highest elevations of the rugged Alleghenies in western Pennsylvania. It’s also its own municipality. While the official population is listed at 25 people, thousands visit each week throughout the year. In winter the attraction is a mountain hideaway, skiing, more than half a dozen restaurants and a fun collection of bars and intimate lounges. There’s entertainment, ice skating and a dynamic spa. What more could you want? By the way, my favorite restaurant here is Helen’s with a slopeside view, piano bar and elegantly rustic rooms with creative takes on classic American fare.
The village at Waterville Valley, New Hampshire is a short stroll to the mountain. It’s not unusual to see visitors going from lodging to dinner here on cross-country skis. Shops for everything from groceries to tchotchkes mix with restaurants, bars, inns and condos. The mountain is scenic and skiable for all ability levels and a cross-country center offers rental equipment, lessons and 45 miles of trail, much of it, groomed. I’ve stayed at 2 spots here and can recommend both – the intimate Snowy Owl Inn is ideal for a couples getaway and the Town Square Condominiums are a natural for buddy trips, families and groups. Dining ranges from creative takes on pizza to Mexican pop dishes. But for breakfast and lunch, you can’t go wrong at the Schwende Hutte on the mountain at the upper terminal of the “Sunnyside” triple chair.
The village of Stowe was around long before nearby Mt. Mansfield was carved into a versatile network of slopes and trails, and the skiers descended. A white church steeple dominates the town and is a guidepost that can be seen for miles. Surrounding the early 19th century Stowe Community Church are a collection of shops and eateries including a 19th century General Store that has been updated to 21st century trends. You won’t find sacks of flour and beans. But you will find sturdy New England wearables. There’s a supermarket, if you plan to have meals at a nearby rental condo and restaurants that range from the tony Cork Wine Bar where snacks are more on the level of Tapas to the upscale rustic Harrison’s where you find creative renditions on traditional comfy fare. As Mountain Road wanders north from the village, a wide variety of restaurants, hotels, motels, condos and Inns light the way. We’ve stayed at the reasonably priced Golden Eagle Lodge, closer to the mountain. A Stowe icon that must be visited for dining, lodging or just soaking up history is the Trapp Family Lodge, founded by the “Sound of Music Family” that escaped Nazi occupied Austria and settled in Vermont. The focus at the lodge is cross-country skiing.
LAKE PLACID, NY is a compact New York State, Adirondack Mountain village set on Mirror Lake with waterfront eateries and name brand hotels. On our last visit we stayed at a comfortable Best Western right off the Main Street. On the outskirts of town, you’ll find classic Adirondack resorts. The entire region was the site of the 1980 Winter Olympics with the focus on challenging Whiteface Mountain.
VAIL, CO is perhaps one of the best known skiing villages in America. Stand slopeside in mid-village, look from side to side and as far as the eye can see is an imposing skiable mountain panorama. the village and surrounding area offers a dynamic concentration of restaurants, bars, shops, hotels and condo complexes.