Hoik on your Fjällräven backpack, shrug on your worn-to-peak-softness buffalo plaid, and pull up your woolliest socks: we’re off to Bluebird Tälta Lodge, a – more upbeat – Bon Iver song of a stay in Stowe, a Vermont town whose charming looks are only matched by its passion for skiing and hiking. This sweet, camp-style stay worships the outdoors – it has its own pump track and an alfresco hot tub; many rooms have a private deck, and all have a modular gear-hanging wall and private locker or closet for stashing skis, snowboards and other adventure kit. Often involved in community events (gravel runs, 4 July parties, film fests), and set close to all the action, for somewhere you’ll be ‘staying’, this lodge has a lot of get-up-and-go.
11am, but flexible, subject to availability, if requested in advance. Check-in is from 4pm to 7pm – let staff know if you’ll be arriving later.
Double rooms from £99.24 ($125), including tax at 10 per cent.
The hotel doesn’t serve breakfast.
This is a historic property, so its layout is unfortunately not best suited to guests with mobility issues; however, the hotel staff can advise if needed.
The hotel is currently hammering away at some chic modern cabins for more intimate stays.
At the hotel
Pump track, alfresco lounging space, gear storage, hot tub, yoga room, sauna, retail space, and high-speed WiFi. In rooms: Modular gear-hanging wall, LED TV, individual climate control, mini-fridge, black-out blinds, and Ursa Major bath products.
Our favourite rooms
Aside from a few nights huddled by a lit fireplace, the keyword here is outdoorsy – so a room with a patio, deck or balcony is a must for fresh-air breathers and leaf-peeping. Rooms are all similar in style, with cosy wool blankets, closet space, modular walls to arrange your gear on, and ski-themed artworks, but we like the King Junior Suite for its larger lounge space. All guests get a locker or closet in the hotel hallway to keep their skis, snowboards, any larger bits of kit.
There are two options for après-ski soaking here – both delightfully toasty. Get the circulation flowing again in the surprisingly sizable indoor heated pool, or steamily bubble away in the outdoor hot tub, even when there’s a white coating of snow all around.
There’s no spa, but the yoga room has a serene Vermont view, and there’s a sauna for post-ski toastiness.
Remember any heavy-duty stuff: stompy boots, fisherman hats, cable-knits. But, the lodge does have a small retail space if you forget any minor bits of kit, alfresco reading material or snazzy headgear. We especially like the sweet Skida-collab picnic blankets.
If you’re the sort who wants your wedding under white canvas, the hotel can set up rustic tables, sweet floral arrangements and more on request.
Up to two four-legged hike buddies (under 70 pounds) can stay for $35 a day in the hotel’s seven dog-friendly rooms. They’re not allowed in interior communal spaces, and there’s a $250 fine for any damages or dogs found where they shouldn’t be… See more pet-friendly hotels in Vermont.
Little ones are welcome. The Deluxe Double Queen, King Suite or Twin Bunk all sleep four, but most rooms sleep two extra smalls for £35 a child, each night.
If it ain’t alfresco, we don’t wanna know. Unless it's toasting bring-your-own s’mores by the lobby fire. Or take a can of beer to the hot tub.
Mountain-dweller à la mode.
There’s no food served onsite, so fill your mess tins and bring your baggies of trail mix. But, every so often, Vermont street-food stars, such as Kitsune (new Japanese cuisine) or Waffle Wagon, stop by to serve.
In the lobby there’s a bar with local beers on tap (perhaps something from Long Tail, Burlington Beer Company or Alchemist – grab a can of their rare-find, very-small-batch Heady Topper if it’s in stock), wines and coffee. It’s a cool mid-century-style hangout for your après-ski, with indoor picnic tables and a fireplace. The hotel is often the gregarious host for 4 July parties, and local events: the Back Country Film Fest; post-‘gravel ride’ celebrations with the Stowe Mountain Bike Academy; Little River Summer Series festival, and more.
Bluebird Tälta Lodge is in the ski-mad (but lovely all year) Stowe in Vermont, situated by the West Branch of Little River, under 10 minutes’ drive from both the village and the mountain resort.
Burlington Airport is just under an hour’s drive away, and has direct links with cities across the Eastern Seaboard and the Midwest. International travellers will need to connect. Otherwise, Montréal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International is a two-and-a-half-hour drive away; and Boston Logan is a road-trippable three hours away.
There are Amtrak stops at both Waterbury-Stowe and Burlington, each about a 30-minute drive from the hotel, which sits at the tip of its east-coast route; however, the ride to New York City is a leisurely seven to eight hours.
A car will come in handy; just watch those mountain passes after a few cider doughnuts. There’s free parking at the hotel.
Worth getting out of bed for
Bluebird Tälta Lodge is surrounded by thickets of trees, a landscape which looks like a pencil drawing in the winter snow, but explodes into painterly color come fall. It’s a hideaway – or more accurately, ‘place to sleep after being outside all day’ – for all seasons, with its own biking pump track and a hot tub you could even wallow in when icy. When the famous Green Mountains are more white, head to Stowe Mountain Resort, where alpine skiing first came to Vermont, less than a 10-minute drive away. In winter it’s the place for skiing and snowboarding, with instructors and runs for all abilities, but there are other-weather activities: the climbing wall at Stowe Rocks; summiting Mount Mansfield; hikes along the Sterling Pond Trail, Haselton Trail, the Mansfield ridgeline, and the adrenaline-needing Cliff Trail; scaling sheer faces with Sunrise Mountain Guides; taking in the scenery from the gondola SkyRide (with a waffle at the summit to celebrate); or follow the zigs and zags of the Auto Toll Road (first built up the mountain in 1923), for panoramas of Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks. In the opposite direction, Stowe is also less than a 10-minute drive. Start by the long white spire of the community church; pick up folk art, handmade ceramics and jewellery at Remarkable Things at Stowe Craft; fudge, maple candy so sweet you might hallucinate, and paper bags full of retro sweets from the jars at Stowe Mercantile; and curl up in Stowe Free Library’s gazebo with one of their many tomes. On Main Street there’s the Vermont Ski and Snow Museum for a slalom into the town’s ski history; and see its artistic side at the West Branch Gallery and Sculpture Park, and contemporary arts center the Current. Itching to get back out there? There’s still the Stowe Recreation Path which you can step onto direct from the hotel; canoeing, kayaking or SUP-ing up the Winooski River or Waterbury Reservoir; fly-fishing; go along the Mad River to bathe in popular swimming spot Warren Falls; pound trails through Smugglers’ Notch State Park; ride a horse, zip-wire, mountain bike, or dog sled… After all that, you deserve a little treat – take the Wonka-esque tour of the Ben & Jerry’s factory (yes, there are tastings), to pay your respects at the flavor graveyard, and see new favorites get made. Swing by Burlington to see the world’s tallest filing cabinet (because, why not?) and it’s not ‘FA, a long, long way to run’ to see the (Von) Trapp Family Lodge (now a resort, but where the famous, fleeing Austrians are buried) but it is fun to trek there on snowshoes.
There’s no restaurant at the lodge, so you’ll need to fend for yourselves, by which we mean, pop into Stowe. The Bistro at 10 Acres has a terrace with expansive views (in summer), and its 19th-century dining room is an equally appealing proposition in winter, for cider-glazed pork ribeye with smoked polenta, chicken in the house’s maple-bourbon glaze and Vermont-cheese platters. Idletyme Brewing Company is the ideal place for, well, idling away the afternoon over fried pickles and cheddar fritters, stacked sandwiches and burgers, and mac and cheese many ways, plus colorful flights of home-brewed beers. Edson Hill is on the fancier end of food, with a stylish white-walled, stone-floored dining room, superlative views: on the menu are watermelon gazpacho with Maple Farms feta and candied jalapeño; duck prosciutto with herby ham and toasted parmesan; truffle tagliatelle and Maine lobster rolls.
Lodge guests get a discount at the Round Hearth Café, just a short stroll away, a quaint spot admired for its grilled sandwiches (hot pastrami with caramelized onions and gouda, balsamic blueberries and brie…), with its own antique store and a large indoor fire pit. And, Vermont has many sweet spots to hit, including Cold Hollow Cider Mill for cider both soft and hard, and cider doughnuts freshly fried, fudge, biscuits, scones, and ‘just like mom’s’ apple pie; and Nebraska Knoll Sugar Farm, for jugs of homemade maple syrup and maple candies.
Cork Wine Bar specializes in natural and biodynamic bottles, and holds regular tasting sessions (alfresco in summer). However, Stowe’s speciality lies in brewing, and there’s quite the beer crawl ahead of you. The Alchemist makes cult can Heady Topper as well as popular Focal Banger IPA; the Von Trapp Brewery & Bierhall will have you slapping your lederhosen in glee after a few lagers; Burlington Beer Company has a wide, refreshing range (including goses and stouts) in cool-looking cans; and Long Tail Brewing Co has small to large batches covering fruity wheat beers, summery ales, juicy IPAs and even CBD-infused seltzers.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this no-frills-thrills hotel in ski-loving Vermont town Stowe and unpacked their thermoses and plaid scarves, a full account of their ‘climb every mountain, then ski down it’ break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Bluebird Tälta Lodge…
Save up all your best torchlight ghost stories, stock up on snacks, and learn the campfire chords for ‘Wonderwall’ (actually, that last one isn’t essential): Bluebird Tälta Lodge feels like going back to camp in sleeker, more grown-up style, with added local ales from the Alchemist or Long Trail Brewing, and alfresco hot-tubbing. Set in ski-mad Stowe, less than a 10-minute drive from its mountain resort, most guests come to powder up (all rooms have a modular wall for hanging kit and a locker), but after the melt, you could wear out several pairs of Gore-tex boots following the mountain trails and Stowe Recreation path the hotel touches on; climbing rock faces; horse riding, mountain biking, or bashing over the hotel’s pump track… Summer pursuits can take you down river in a canoe or on an SUP, through forests on horseback or zipline, and peacefully fly-fishing. There are also folk heroes to discover at the Trapp Family Lodge (former home of the Von Trapps); and Ben & Jerry’s at their factory and tasting room; and in Burlington there’s the world’s tallest filing cabinet. Whether the highs you opt for are sugar- or adrenaline-based, Tälta Lodge welcomes you with a fire to sit by, community-involving parties and all the cosiness of camp.