A winter weekend at the beautiful, historical Woodstock Inn and Resort offers a full itinerary of outdoor and indoor fun.
By Cathryn McCann
Dec 20 2019
From the quaint brick and mortar downtown to the town green and the iconic covered bridge, the village of Woodstock, Vermont, is a true embodiment of the quintessential New England small town, complemented by centuries worth of history. Over the years, the beautiful Woodstock Inn & Resort — tucked mere feet from downtown Woodstock — has established itself as a part of that history, while continuing to develop for future generations to come. Even when snow has blanketed the ground and an icy winter breeze blows, there’s plenty of things to do in Woodstock, VT, while enjoying an escape to the inn. For those looking for outdoor adventure, freshly groomed powder at the resort’s Nordic Center or Suicide Six Ski Area beckons. If the icy winter breeze blows a bit too hard, a day by the fire, an appointment at the spa, and some delicious, local fare from either of the inn’s two restaurants are options that will be just as pleasing.
For a small taste of the fun outdoor and indoor things to do in Woodstock, VT, I spent a lovely winter weekend at the Woodstock Inn & Resort in early January, just after the holidays. From the outset, the charming, colonial-style building, adorned with subtle post-holiday decor, makes a serious statement. And the quaint, historical feel doesn’t fade upon entrance — it is only enhanced by the roaring, cozy fireplace and the personalized, sit-down concierge and check-in service desks.
Friday night I (thoroughly) enjoyed a sampling of dishes from the resort’s executive chef, Rhys Lewis. Guests are lucky to enjoy food that is largely sourced from the resort’s Kelly Way Gardens, a 2.5-acre plot of land that provides the inn with over 200 varieties of vegetables, 75 varieties of berries and orchard fruits, and 50 varieties of herbs and edible flowers. The inn’s master gardener, Benjamin Pauly, likes to say they grow everything from A to Z — arugula to zucchini, that is.
“To be able to bring that to the guests and have them compare or see how good things can be and really get them in tune with where their food comes from and what goes into it is a huge benefit for us,” he said.
Using a refractometer, technology that surpasses typical farm-to-table operations, Benjamin tests his garden produce to ensure that guests are being provided only the highest quality and most nutrient-dense food he has to offer.
One mile south of the inn, Kelly Way Gardens is nestled on a hillside overlooking the golf course, and — with its lit walkway and beautiful view — has itself become a destination for guests. Tours and classes are offered every week for the foodie-inclined visitor.
Now in its fourth year, the Kelly Way Gardens operation generates about 9,000 pounds of produce in a year with the goal of providing 100 percent of in-season fruits and vegetables to the resort’s restaurant operations. In other words, for the months of August, September and October, the heirloom tomatoes on your plate have come straight from the on-site garden.
“That’s why having a chef like this is so spectacular — because he’ll take anything,” Benjamin said. “I come in and say ‘I have lots of cucumbers…’ and he’ll say ‘We’ll take them!’ They’ll just take anything that I’ve got and they’ll figure out a way to use it.”
Historically, winter is a great time to visit the Woodstock Inn, originally built in a grand Victorian style in 1892. From the start, wintertime guests have been entertained by cross country ski treks. So, when offered an opportunity to spend a weekend at the inn and resort, I knew exactly what I wanted to do — ski.
Fueled by a tasty breakfast, I headed out into the 15-degree air on Saturday morning for a full day of ski fun. My first destination was Tubbs Snowshoes and Nordic Adventure Center, half a mile down the road from the inn, where an extensive network of cross country ski trails crawl up and around Mt. Peg and Mt. Tom. With such a large variety of groomed trail options, including some tough climbs and speedy descents, I easily could’ve spent the whole day there. I went out exploring on my own, but the center also offers expert-led tours and lessons for those looking for more guidance.
The Nordic Center opened its doors in the early 1970s, and has in the past several years begun working year-round to keep the trails in the best possible shape for winter. As a result of those efforts, most of the network remains open to skiers even when there’s not a lot of natural snow.
“In a couple of our meadow areas, we’ve completely scraped and farmed the [the snow] off the center of the meadows and up onto the trails,” Nordic Center manager Nicholas Mahood said. “Even if we have a thaw or rain or whatever, we’ll be able to preserve the snow in those areas because we’re taking this initiative and opportunity to take the snow that we do have and put it where the guests can be out on the snow and enjoy it.”
My afternoon skiing destination was just outside of Woodstock in South Pomfret, Vermont. Suicide Six Ski Area — the Woodstock Inn & Resort’s independently owned ski mountain — is small, with about 24 trails and 650 vertical feet, and has a family-friendly and community-oriented spirit. In continuous operation for over eight decades, the ski area is one of the longest-running in the United States. In fact, the site once boasted the first rope-tow in North America.
The 24 trails offer classic New England skiing with a good diversity of terrain and nice, tight trails. The grooming, lack of crowds, and rolling trails offer a gentle, pleasant ski experience. For more of a challenge, “The Face” is a groomed black-diamond run that is steep, fast-paced, and as wide as an eight-lane highway. “Show Off” is a bumpier, black-diamond run with 250 yards of moguls right underneath the lift.
The lodge has a great lounge with a brand new six-tap system of Vermont craft beers, along with additional menu selections (I was told the reuben sandwich is a must!). The lodge also offers classic ski fare — such as chicken fingers and fries and fresh soups and salads — all cooked in-house with locally sourced ingredients.
2017 was “The Year of the Quad” at Suicide Six, following the replacement of the old double chair with a brand new quad chair lift. More developments are in the works, too, including a move towards more of a year-round business model through the offering of outdoor adventures in every season. But, according to manager Timothy Reiter, all future plans are being made with respect to the past.
“Historically speaking, in developing our plans for the future, we really do want to pay homage to the past,” he said. “Everything that we do out at Suicide Six is kind of a credit to the programs and vision that was laid out by the Rockefeller family, as well as conservation and leaving a small footprint and packing out what you pack in.”
After a full day of skiing, Richardson’s Tavern at the Woodstock Inn felt like the perfect place to settle into a cushioned armchair, get a drink from the long list of micro brews on tap, and enjoy a warm meal. My table ordered the roasted carrots with harissa aioli, frisee, leek ash, and garbanzo beans, plus the pan-roasted stuffed chicken with sautéed fennel, button mushrooms, spinach, goat cheese, mashed sweet potatoes and lemon thyme jus. Described as “an expression of the Landscape of American Food,” you really can’t go wrong with any of the flavorful menu options, and the chef accommodates special dietary needs as requested.
If a day of skiing isn’t exactly your cup of tea, perhaps a real cup of tea (or water, fruit, granola…) at the inn’s spa would be more appropriate. The 10,000 square foot, LEED-certified spa is one of the newest in New England, and embraces organic products and Vermont-inspired treatments. Sit indoors by the fire in a cushioned chair, outdoors in the steaming hot tub, or spend some time in the eucalyptus steam room while waiting for your appointment to begin. The spa offers a full menu of treatments year-round, with additional specialty treatments in each season. On Sunday morning, I personally enjoyed the Lemon Verbena Body Polish, which included a body wrap, time in the luxurious shower, and a moisturizing massage, complete with a glass of cool water and an almond flour macaroon. It was relaxation at its utmost.
And, of course, a winter weekend (or any other season, for that matter) at the Woodstock Inn & Resort is not complete without exploring quaint, historic downtown Woodstock. Fortunately, it’s just steps away from the inn.
For more fun things to do in Woodstock, VT, be sure to check out suggestions of where to eat from Yankee’s senior food editor, where to shop downtown, and more information about Woodstock’s iconic Wassail Weekend.
Have you ever enjoyed time at the Woodstock Inn & Resort?
This post was first published in 2017 and has been updated.