Lonely Planet Writer

Just back from: Vermont, USA

Orla1 Orla is all smiles in the snow © Mark Read / Lonely Planet

Orla Thomas, Features Editor of Lonely Planet Traveller magazine, recently returned from the US state of Vermont, where she was researching a winter feature for the mag.

Tell us more… With photographer Mark Read (markreadphotography.co.uk), I spent five days exploring what is arguably New England’s prettiest state. Always picturesque, during my visit it also benefited from a blanket covering of snow.

In a nutshell… One local described winter life in Vermont as like ‘living in a snow globe’, and I have to agree. Everywhere you look there are tree branches bowing under piles of the white stuff, covered bridges and church spires thickly iced with powder, and huge fields turned pristine white by flakes that just keep on falling.

Quintessential experience? Driving Vermont’s Route 100 – this road trip offers relentlessly pretty views, taking you through the Green Mountains and some of the state’s loveliest villages. Be sure to factor in a stop in the classy mountain resort of Stowe, where well-heeled Bostonians and New Yorkers come to ski and hang out in the abundant cosy inns.

Orla3 The postcard perfect town of Stowe © Mark Read

Good grub? Too right. Vermonters pride themselves on their thriving local food scene – find the best places to eat through the Vermont Fresh Network (vermontfresh.net). The pick of the bunch is Waterbury restaurant Hen of the Wood, which serves imaginative small plates and a brussels sprout side dish that’s quite mind-boggling in its deliciousness. Vermont also has more craft breweries per capita than anywhere in the US, and artisanal cheese-makers like Jasper Hill Farm are the rightful heir to the dairy throne currently occupied by another thriving local business – Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.

Any souvenirs? Yes, mostly liquid. As well as as much maple syrup as a 20 kg baggage limit allows, I also brought back several cans of the famed local beer Heady Topper. This super-strong IPA has a fantastic, almost citrusy flavour, and is only sold locally. It’s so popular that queues regularly form outside the factory of its brewer, The Alchemist (alchemistbeer.com).

Orla2 Husky sledding through Eden © Mark Read

Fave activity? Undoubtedly, husky sledding, just outside the aptly-named village of Eden. Expert musher Jim Blair prides himself on running an ethical operation (edendogsledding.com), and has an amazing affinity with his pack of Alaskan huskies. The dogs are boisterous, affectionate and full of energy, so keen to run that they start up a chorus of yapping and howling as soon as they’re harnessed to the sledge – only falling silent as they start to race you across the snow.

Bizarre encounter? Five minutes into a horse-drawn sleigh ride at Mountain Top Inn (mountaintopinn.com), one of our fellow passengers dropped to his knee and proposed to his girlfriend. Thankfully she said yes, otherwise the remainder of the ride would’ve been quite unbearably awkward!

Orla Thomas travelled to Vermont with support from Vermont Tourism (vermontvacation.com). Lonely Planet contributors do not accept freebies in exchange for positive coverage.