Vermont's Winter Scene: Where Arts and the Alpine Define the Landscape
As if stunning vistas and the joy of an exhilarating winter sport weren’t enough, today's ski resorts and communities also offer a cultural immersion that is equal parts pride and pleasure. While Vermont's ski resorts are well known for après beer and cozy fireplaces, they're also exhibition halls for Vermont artists. Tastefully outfitted lodges and local apres bands are just the beginning; a deeper look at the resorts’ "Made in Vermont" vibe reveals mountains of art to be discovered.
Vermont mountains are well known for historic "firsts." As home to the first ski lift, the first ski academy, the first resort to offer snowboarding and the first Nordic ski center, Vermont is also understandably home to several winter Olympians, new and legendary. These pro athletes are in excellent company, too, as Vermont ranks third in the nation for artists as a percentage of the workforce.
“The tremendous presence of the arts and artists is undeniably part of what has sculpted Vermont’s creative culture,” Kira Bacon, Vermont Arts Council communications manager said. “The arts should - and arguably do - have the same allure as the state’s beloved landscape, its beer and food scene, and its skiing.”
Skiers and riders come to Vermont for its legendary terrain, and for many, when the lifts stop, the arts begin. It’s common and welcome to see visitors sporting “helmet-head” at concerts and galleries. A short drive along mountain access roads will reveal local makers, museums, performing arts centers and hubs for some of the state’s dozens of arts organizations.
Explore Vermont’s Mountains of Art with this sampler of arts and après arts activities:
The Base Lodge at Stratton Mountain Resort has the distinction of artful illumination. The lodge’s hand-forged lighting and chandeliers are made in Castleton by Hubbardton Forge, the nation’s oldest and largest commercial forge. Also onsite, ski photography icon, Hubert Schriebl’s works are regularly on exhibit. You may also hear local favorites, the Bondville Boys performing at Grizzly’s.
Once you’ve explored the glades of Stratton, head into Manchester to visit some of the town’s many arts offerings, including the state’s largest sculpture park at the Southern Vermont Arts Center and the Museum of the Creative Process at the Wilburton Inn.
Another southern Vermont artists’ enclave and cross-roads junction for nearby Mount Snow skiers is the town of Wilmington along the arts-rich Molly Stark Byway. In a town with one stoplight, visitors are impressed to see Jim McGrath Gallery and Studio, Ann Coleman Gallery, Quaigh Design Centre and Gallery Wright Sticks & Stones Studio.
That Okemo Mountain Resort brims with so much original artwork is not happenstance; art is a personal passion of Co-owner Diane Mueller, herself an artist with a lifelong commitment to the arts. “It’s important that the experience people have here is related to who we are,” said Mueller. “Featuring local artists is really important.” The resort features exclusively New England artists’ works, including artwork for Jackson Gore’s 284 rooms and public spaces, as well as a commissioned series of paintings by Vermont Artist Donald Saaf located at Solitude Village. Photos are available.
After mastering moguls at Okemo or Killington, stop by Rutland’s Chaffee Art Center or head to the Paramount Theatre for nationally known entertainers appearing in an exquisitely restored 1912 opera house. Also along Route 4, the Crossroad of Vermont Byway, there’s The Carving Studio and Sculpture Center and Quechee Club, a private ski resort that hosts an Artisan Fair with more than 20 Vermont artists in late November and a new art exhibit monthly through ski season. See oil landscapes by Norwich based Artist Kate Emlen, now through November.
At Rikert Nordic Center, the trails lead through forests, old farm fields and to many writers’ delight, also to the historic Robert Frost Cabin. While skiing in this Vermont Poet Laureate’s footsteps, it’s easy to understand the inspiration this area has offered to so many visiting writers, students and skiers.
Surrounding Rikert and Middlebury Snow Bowl, the region is brimming with arts offerings. Meet Artist and Ski Coach Jean Cherouny for a private printmaking or painting workshop, peruse group class offerings at Middlebury Studio School, visit the Middlebury College Museum of Art or catch a show at the Mahaney Center for the Arts.
Sugarbush Resort partners with Burlington Paint and Sip to offer apres arts during busy holiday weeks and the resort’s events calendar also offers special arts events like Snow Drawing with Sonja Hinrichsen. You’ll regularly see exhibits of the works of Photographer Sandy Macys in the Gatehouse and Farmhouse Lodges.
The Mad River Valley is home to several dynamic arts spaces. Visit the Artisan’s Gallery to see the works of 150 Vermont artists and make time for the robust Vermont Festival of the Arts Headquarters and Gallery.
At Bolton Valley Resort, avid skier and in-house Artist Natasha Bogar's local landscapes "canvas" the resort. She offers BYOB Paint Nights throughout the season. Her landscapes, many of which are original works for sale, feature local and beloved vistas and villages. And while technically not a ski town, Burlington, just 20 miles away, offers dozens of arts venues and opportunities to purchase arts “Made in Vermont,” like Burlington City Arts, the Flynn Center and Frog Hollow State Craft Center to name just a few.
At Stowe Mountain Resort, the Spruce Peak Performing Arts Center’s calendar of national acts is likely the best known arts offering. But locally crafted features are also found in the details. Within Stowe Mountain Lodge, functional art items like custom-made lamps by Simon Pearce, pottery by Miranda Thomas and furniture by Charles Shackleton offer comfort and artistic integrity. There are also classes for arts enthusiasts, like Furniture Making with Turner Mill Timbers; where students learn basic woodworking to produce log furniture that they take home at the completion of the course.
After accumulating vertical at Stowe Mountain Resort, participate in a workshop or see the latest exhibit at Helen Day Arts Center or visit the West Branch Gallery & Sculpture Park. A contemporary space, its sculpture park is open - and intriguing - in all seasons.
At the foot of the resort, Jeffersonville village has been a haven for landscape painters for the last century. Visitors will see plein air artists along the roadsides, particularly in autumn. In town, the Bryan Memorial Gallery and Visions of Vermont Gallery offer exceptional opportunities to appreciate and purchase the works of local artists. New in town, Maple Ridge Center for the Arts is a place for artists of all ages to learn and play.
If Vermont’s peaks and arts have piqued your interest, visit VermontArtsCouncil.org. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in visiting Vermont mountain towns for arts and alpine immersion this season. Visit SkiVermont.com and tune into #VTarts and #SkiVermont on social media.
Images are available: Here’s a small selection.