In a world of boutique everything, there something to be said for the retro magic of going big.
Big got a bad wrap after the consumerist heydays of the 1980s. Over the years, big became associated with the artificial. Big meant unapproachable, uncomfortable or worst of all, unprepossessing. Today, small is a synonym for authenticity.
But outside New York City, in the untamed mountains that jut above the trees of upstate New York and Vermont, scales shift. In the shadow of a mountain peak, big becomes small. In the punishing cold of winter at 44 degrees north, big means safety and comfort. In a land where roads close for the season and cabin life gets feverish, big means neighbors and community all season long.
In the ski town of Stowe, VT., an all-inclusive resort has sprung up in the valley below Mt. Mansfield, Vermont’s tallest peak, that proves nature’s power to re-contextualize.
Dubbed, Spruce Peak, the ski-in/ski out community of a some 350 condos, rooms and houses looks like a frantic construction zone when viewed from Google Maps. But with much of the building now finished — there are still some 150 residences in the pipeline — Spruce Peak’s personality is pure small town.
Built around a central square, used for entertainment and farmers markets in the summer and ice skating during the winter, Spruce Peak mixes housing and institutions in a sort of New Urbanist style. Roughly northeast of the square, the Alpine Clubhouse — where dues range from as little as $4,800 to $150,000 — is a winter bastion for spent mountain junkies in need of a leather arm chair and a glass of Yakima Valley red. Spinning roughly clockwise, the “Adventure Center” provides rock climbing, mountain zip lining, and, most importantly in a family-oriented destination like Stowe, a massive supervised children’s activity area where you can escape your offspring as needed. At 3 o’clock, townhouses and cabins sit in front of the Cottage — an intimate fining-dinning spot for club members — and the resort’s golf course. To the south, a 400 seat Performing Arts Center attracts PBS-approved artists like James Taylor, Mary Chapin Carpenter and the Three Tenors, as well as theater, year round.
But perhaps the most striking, and certainly the largest portion of Spruce Peak is the Stowe Mountain Lodge, which straddles the entire lefthand flank of the square. The lodge is the heart of the resort with reception, guest services, the spa, fitness center, pool, main dining room — called Solstice and overseen by chef Jackie Cochran — and lots of sprawling residences. It’s a busy place where valet’s shuffle luxury cars, kids play and guests wait for guests in fireside seats. It may soon become even busier.
“Spruce Peak itself is actually a tiny enclave,” Sam Gaines, Spruce Peak Realty Director of Real Estate Development told LLNYC. “The explosive growth could be attributed to many things, including the recent Vail announcement.”
That “announcement” is a reference to a $50 million deal that went down earlier this year.
In February, Vail Resort entered an agreement to acquire the operations of Stowe Mountain Resort from Mt. Mansfield Company, a subsidiary of AIG, which will continue to handle the real estate sales at the resort. The move will effectively halve the price of ski pass at Spruce Peak, and is expected to attract the larger community of skiers who already have a relationship with Vail.
And naturally, they hope that will also be a boon for real estate. Private houses at the resort are currently listed for around $5 million a piece and there is at least one $20 million property on the grounds. Elsewhere Club Residences are fetching $1,000 per square foot, while hotel condominiums start at around $200,000.
Stowe has long been Vermont’s premier ski destination, but with enormous investment flowing in from enormous companies, winter mansions piling up like snow banks and the elite of Boston, Connecticut and New York jetting in, small town resources are getting a luxury upgrade. Big just doesn’t translate to cheap in 2017.