Seeing past the powder

Outside of the Green Mountains, when someone says “Vermont,” skiing is usually only one or two words away. This stereotype is reinforced by the town of Stowe — only 45 minutes away from UVM. Stowe has become one of the most sickeningly quaint and stereotypical ski towns in Vermont. During the leaf and ski seasons, the town caters to rich flatlanders that want to experience the rugged landscape while sipping martinis at a five-star resort. Stowe used to be an actual mountain town, based on logging and milling, instead of a hollow façade. It was founded in 1763, almost 30 years before Vermont became a state and well before tourism existed here. Exactly 100 years later, the Mount Mansfield Hotel was built.This behemoth, able to accommodate 450 people, was seen as the most pretentious hotel in Stowe and solidified the area as a haven for tourism. From then on, Stowe steadily grew into the money machine we know it as today. With no fewer than 30 hotels in a five-mile radius, Stowe can become one of the most highly populated areas in Vermont at the peak of ski season. This incredible influx of people cuts both ways. The town, and much of Vermont, is completely reliant on tourist dollars. It feels at times like the Green Mountains have traded in their rustic charm for a snazzy logo and a new pair of skis. If the residents of Stowe aren’t driven away by the traffic, they are forced away by the ever-rising property taxes.The cost of living alone forced many out of their homes at the foot of the mountain.  Stowe isn’t the only town in Vermont guilty of pandering to tourists. The city of Burlington is also seen by many as a ski and tourism town. In fact, most of Vermont’s economy is tourism-based. It would be impossible to revert back to Vermont’s pre-tourist age of logging and trapping, but the whole state shouldn’t sell out completely, either. I ask everyone who visits or lives in this winter playground to take a harder look around. Try some of the less touristy activities and get to know some of the people who call this place home.It will soon become obvious that Vermont has so much more to offer than a $400-a-night room and some fresh powder.