DSCN0446I was reminded that the colors we see in the spring are almost the same as the ones we see in the fall. Yellow that hasn’t turned green yet, Maples are red again with brand new life. Pines are the green shadow of everything as the horizon pitches and rises against the backlit evening sky. And there is still snow glowing white against the darkening mountains. This is my welcome to Stowe’s Weekend of Hope, a generous outpouring of support from the whole community for cancer survivors and the people who love them. It is like a cloud of optimism has settled over the valley, and life affirmation is the music in the mountains.

I stayed at Topnotch for a few days around this event. I am tempted to say the “new” Topnotch as there have been huge and distinctive renovations to the buildings. My hesitation is about the fact that these elegant upgrades have actually made one important old thing new again, the welcoming that Topnotch has been famous for since the family opened the doors. First impression includes mountain filled views for sure, but I give very high marks to the people you meet immediately. Every person will greet you as if they had been waiting happily all day just to see you, just you. The effect of that when you stay at Topnotch is, that for this small bit of time you are part of into an elegant, relaxed community loving life in the mountains. The building kind of evaporates from your mind leaving a kind of seamless  transition from inside to outside where there are open spaces, pines, and restless horizon lines beckoning you.  I would not want you to get the impression that I missed the beautiful rooms, the two very nice, very different restaurants within, or the spa. Oh the spa! More later on that.

The reason I was in SDSCN0439towe only adds to the charm of Topnotch in my mind, because they and other businesses go all out for this Weekend of Hope, a thing unto itself an amazing production. For three days the town rallies to house, feed, entertain, teach and support cancer survivors and those who love them.  On Friday there are over a dozen different fun, healing, enlightening events and seminars for visitors from 8AM until 10PM. On Saturday between 7AM and 11PM there are over 40 events ending with two types of dance parties! There are several breakfasts, lunches and dinner gatherings through the day, and most of it is free. How about that.

DSCN0437Among other things, I participated in making flags with words and drawings for two people I loved who lost their battle. The next morning my two, and hundreds of others waved proudly in the breeze and stirred the hearts of us all at the closing ceremonies. Just out of curiosity I asked on Saturday how many people had registered and was told over 900, but that was an estimate because there were many others who did not register, just came at the last minute. All were welcome. How about that.

Hedonist that I am, I managed to squeeze in two spa treatments and a bit of shopping into the days. Breaking through the walls of the life that I was leaving behind for a while, I signed up for their signature treatment called Saucha. It is 75 minutes of gentle scrubbing, followed by a soft rub down and then massage, then an herbal wrap that detoxed my skin while hydrating away the winter dryness. Margo mixes her own oils and lotions, fresh and lightly scented to your taste. All of this pampering left my skin feeling perfectly fresh and my mind ready to detach from routine and explore the town of Stowe with fresh eyes and a relaxed attituDSCN0223de.

Now that my body was so fully pampered and relaxed, I decided to continue the trend at the spa the next day. Book in hand I went down to the lovely spa and met Kersten who gave me a Carita Lagon Facial. Her artistry with cleansers and lotions was magic and I was ready to face another beautiful day exploring Stowe. The nap was still on for the day, but after lunch at the legendary Whip restaurant in the Green Mountain Inn on Main Street.

Inside the Green Mountain Inn on Main street lies a historic and enchanting restaurant called the Whip, named after the collection of antique buggy whips left by tavern  patrons over the last 100 years. I guess they relied on their horses knowing the way home while they dozed in the seat after a few pints. The restaurant part has been upgraded since then offering wonderful home made comfort food, but they have kept hDSCN0248istoric reminders such as Poutine. This is a Vermont or Canadian specialty depending on which side of the border you are standing on. Each side points the finger at the other as its creator because it is the most delicious, fattening and addictive frontal assault on your cholesterol that you will find north of the Mason Dixon line.

Some of us wandered down the mountain road, stopping at stores with wonderful names like “Well Heeled” and “Green With Envy”, each one filled with a diverse selection of goodies. The most fun of all was on Main Street in Stowe though. The Mercantile is an old fashioned collection of vendors, just like the good old days.

The Vermont Ski and Snowboard Museum is a throwback vision of the industry all the way to the 10th Mountain Division. It has old style lifts hanging from the ceiling that made my childhood shoulders ache and wore out the leather mittens that I hadn’t seen in years. It even raised my primal fear of the dreaded “J” bars which, wDSCN0245hen you are a 40 pound kid, lift you off your feet as soon as the attendant lets go, and often leaves you facing backwards as it sways you up the steep slope! The stuff of nightmares for a 10 year old! Much more fun through the filter of hindsight. To recover we went over to the Laughing Moon Chocolate and indulged in that! You watch through a window as they make hundreds of yummy things, and of course one must indulge, it would be so rude not to!

Hard to believe that after such a day around town, we could be ready for dinner, but ready we were. Nobody wanted to leave Stowe the next day, so we decided to commiserate on our departure by a few rounds of competitive DSCN0251shuffleboard at the Roost, a cozy gathering spot of a pub right off the newly renovate lobby at Topnotch. It serves “pub grub” with style to the couches surrounding the fireplace, and within monitoring distance to the shuffleboard table. In summer it exits out the back to a lovely ramada bonfire space with benches surrounding it. Their menu includes a page of custom cocktails that we sampled, each one more distinctive than the last. Fortunately the elevator to our rooms was just around the corner.

Stowe is charming in its mix of historic old haunts and shiny new interesting diversions. There are so many things to see, do, taste and simply sit still and enjoy in those mountains that it requires more visiting. Every time I visit though, I will hear those hills alive with the sound of hope. How about that.

the Green Mountain Inn (www.greenmountaininn.com)

The Vermont Ski and Snowboard Museum (http://www.vtssm.com)

Laughing Moon Chocolate (http://www.laughingmoonchocolates.com