I just today returned from a long weekend with friends in Stowe. A group of us got together and rented a house right on the slopes of Mount Mansfield, Vermont's highest peak. Ostensibly, it was to ski, but none of the group were really skiers. Some had never done it before and those of us who had were just dabblers. I personally haven't been for a few years. When you aren't a connoisseur of snow conditions, going before the season hits high gear is ideal when it comes to cost control and crowd avoidance. Mostly, the purpose of the trip was just for us all to escape the confines of our own living rooms for a few days.
In this particular instance, it was no big deal. I have a long list of stuff that I like about skiing, and skiing is actually at the very bottom. Much higher are hot alcohol drinks, snowy landscapes viewed from the windows of fireplace-warmed rooms, and seeing lots of people in knit hats and bulky coats (I find people more palatable when they are bundled up, for some reason).
Sometimes I think that ambiance is all I want out of life, and the snow really helped make the weekend the success it was. In fact, it didn't stop snowing the entire time we were there. Fortunately, it wasn't the risk-your-life-to-get-provisions or spend-hours-digging-out-vehicles kind of snow. It was predominantly a fine, light, constant sprinkling, with less than an inch of accumulation over the course of three days. It was as if some cosmic two-year-old had gotten a hold of the planet and just wouldn't stop shaking it.
I'd been to Stowe before, but never in December and never while it was snowing. It's nice any time of year, but during Christmas, everything is festooned with lights and evergreen garland and that, combined with the snow, made us feel all peace on earth-y and good will toward man-y. I think I might have actually said hello to passing strangers on more than one occasion while walking the streets. In another day or two, when the glow from the trip wears off, I'll be mortified about that.
We ate at a 180-year-old restaurant called The Whip, took pictures that will end up as future Christmas desktop wallpaper, made our way through the warren of quirky shops that hide behind the simple building facades that line the main street, and did all the stuff we all used to hate our parents for spending family vacations doing.
At night, the slopes were closed, but you could go out on the balcony and listen to the sound of snow makers blowing and watch the tank-like snow groomers visible only by their intense headlights make their way down the mountain trails like army cavalcades in apocalyptic movies. The lodge areas below were warmly lit, and every once in a while a random light turning on high up in the world would remind us that it was not a night sky that filled our windows, but a dark, looming mountain.
Obviously, there isn't a narrative of any kind to this post (sorry), nor is there any Doogie-Hauser-style moral to be gleaned from it. All I know is that when you're sitting around a fireplace, tipsy on hot-buttered rum served in Christmas mugs and having a serious hour-long conversation about Santa Claus, then somewhere a Christmas angel is getting its wings.