A Non-Skier Finds Quaint, Quirky Fun In Vermont


I hate winter.

Thank you, but I'll pass on the slopes, rinks and trails. The lure of cocoa at a lodge can't compare to a pina colada on a Caribbean beach in February.

So the thought of spending some time recently in central Vermont filled me with the dread of winter.

I like Vermont, in theory. After all, it produced Ben and Jerry's, Cabot cheese and Bernie Sanders. But I was pleasantly surprised that I liked discovering there's more to winter in Vermont than skiing, skating and sledding.

It's now become one of my favorite destinations for weekend escapes. It's just over two hours straight up I-91, from Hartford, Conn., to Hartford, Vt. — to what is called "The Upper Valley."


  Covered bridge.   Nothing more iconic New England than a covered bridge against a wintry back drop, this one in Quechee, Vt. (Frank Rizzo)

Covered bridge. Nothing more iconic New England than a covered bridge against a wintry back drop, this one in Quechee, Vt. (Frank Rizzo)


This winter, I met a friend at the Norwich Inn, a cozy, fireplace-friendly spot in Norwich, Vt., on Main Street, and so atmospheric in low-key charm that I expected to see Bob Newhart behind the registration desk.

But the chain-store-free town center has much more than a quaint inn appeal. Next to the inn is the funky Dan & Whit's — it's motto is "If we don't have it, you don't need it" — where you can get groceries, hunting supplies, quilt thread, long underwear or coyote urine, and plenty of local color.

Just down the street on Saturday mornings is a bounteous farmers' market at Tracy Hall, where more than 100 venders offer cheeses, dried meats, crafts, mushrooms, home-baked goods and a cornucopia of condiments, led by the state's nectar — maple syrup.

Further down the road and across the Connecticut River, a quick visit to Dartmouth University in Hanover, N.H., gave us that college town buzz. There's always something happening at the Hopkins Center for the Arts, which is next door to the sublime Pine restaurant at the stylish Hanover Inn. (While over the border, we dropped into a state package store where discounts are sizable.)