At Twin Farms, a historic resort in Vermont, Flora Stubbs discovers warm fireplaces, hearty meals, and the pleasures of doing nothing.
There was snow in the trees as we crossed the Vermont state border — evidence, according to my ski aficionado husband, David, that a good-size winter storm had just blown through. Sure enough, when we pulled through the gates of Twin Farms, a storied resort near the town of Barnard, we found it swaddled in a fairy-tale blanket of fresh, foot-deep snow.
I’d never really seen the American winter from anywhere but the gritty sidewalks of New York City, where David and I live. When I was growing up on the southern coast of England, winters were mild, and snow, when it came, fell in inches, not feet. So as our host, a genial, bearded man named Kyle Rikert, showed us around Twin Farms, I felt as if I was experiencing the season fully for the first time.
Blue-tinged drifts framed each of the windows of the hotel’s main building — an 18th-century farmhouse, which the novelist Sinclair Lewis bought in 1928 as a gift for his then-fiancé, a journalist named Dorothy Thompson. Snow lay on its rooftop in thick swags. A nearby covered bridge was fringed with icicles the size of parsnips. Somewhere in the distance, geese flew over a frozen lake.
“You got lucky!” said recreation manager Brenda Hillier, picking skis off a rack in the resort’s wooden ski hut that afternoon. “This is only about the tenth day of skiing we’ve had this year.” We were at the foot of Sonnenberg, where Twin Farms acquired six downhill-ski trails back when the property became a hotel in the 1990s. Vermont has seen massive fluctuations in snowfall over the past two decades; today, Twin Farms doesn’t really publicize its private slopes, since they’re usable so rarely.
“In the seventies and eighties, the whole neighborhood used to learn here,” Hillier said. “It cost six dollars a day.” As a child, David had also learned to ski in the area, at Suicide Six — a small but much-loved mountain just outside of Woodstock. It had been 25 years since he last took to the slopes, but he seemed unruffled as he headed up Sonnenberg mountain on the back of a snowcat in jeans and a pair of woolly gloves.
I, on the other hand, had never skied before, and was still outside the hut rehearsing the “pizza pie and french fries” drill commonly used to teach children when David reappeared, zigzagging down the sheer face of the empty mountain like something from a James Bond movie. Staffers gathered around to admire his flawless tracks as I slid quietly backward down a tiny incline, vowing to get our kids — who we’d left with their grandparents in New York — into intensive ski training before the winter was over.
All this to say, I never got to fully utilize the ski-in, ski-out feature of our accommodation, the Chalet, which sits to the side of Sonnenberg mountain. It didn’t really matter. Each of the 20 rooms and cottages at Twin Farms is unique. Ours, an airy, two-story wooden cottage, had views all the way to Pico Mountain, some 15 miles away. Looking out at the chocolate-box scenery from under a furry blanket, blissfully alone, was far more enjoyable than skiing, anyway.
For most of the year, Twin Farms has a no-children policy. As any parent will tell you, life with young kids is a perfectionist’s nightmare; Twin Farms is one of those rare hotels that allows its guests to pretend, for a short while, that the world around them is flawless. Care to select from 27 regional cheeses and have them delivered with a bottle of wine to your chalet before dinner? Not a problem. A massage in front of a wood fire, followed by a soak in your own private hot tub? A phone call away.
And then there was the food. From the moment our server arrived to tell us about the particular type of salt we would have on our table at dinner that evening, it was clear we were in for a memorable meal. Sure enough, the seven-course tasting menu with wine pairings (all of which was included in our room rate) was the perfect balance of hearty and high-concept, from the cheddar fritter and aioli starter to the entrée of local suckling pig with smoked-potato purée and crispy brussels sprouts. Pleasantly stuffed, we declined the offer of a ride to our chalet and tramped back in the icy darkness, just as the first few flakes of a fresh snowfall began spiraling down from the sky.
The next morning we went snowshoeing: a gratifyingly even playing field for David and me and, in my opinion, the best way to explore the 300 idyllic acres surrounding the farm. Once we’d gotten the hang of the snowshoes — and it didn’t take long — the crunch-crunch of feet sinking into velvety, virgin drifts became almost meditative. Blue jays and woodpeckers hopped between snow-covered birch branches; the metal spigots used to collect syrup from the maple trees wore little white hats. The only sound was the wind in the woods and the tinkle of meltwater running somewhere beneath the diamond-dust drifts that framed our path.
I was reminded of Sinclair Lewis’s wife Dorothy’s words about Twin Farms. Among other pastoral delights, she wrote, the couple wanted a Vermont estate that could provide them with “delicious air.” In these woods each breath did feel delicious, like a drink of clear, cold water. We gulped it down. The whole experience was a celebration of the elements, rather than the constant battle against them that life in the urban Northeast so often resembles. Which is to say, it was precisely what I’d always hoped the American winter would be.
Twin Farms (doubles from $1,600, all-inclusive) is a 2½-hour drive from Boston, or five hours from New York. You can also fly in to the small airport in Burlington, Vermont, which is just over an hour from the property. Rates include optional picnic lunches and a cocktail hour each night.