Alexandra Fraser flies East to experience two holidays in one – a fun-filled week of skiing, and pure luxury in the Big Apple.
These days, it’s all about making your holidays count.
Every year the same articles spring up on my newsfeeds. ‘See how you can get 56 days of annual leave out of 25 this year!’. ‘Capitalise on your bank holidays for maximum fun in the sun!’ and so on and so forth until the mathematics boggles the mind. Holidays can’ t just be one thing anymore – they have to be action-packed adventure, relaxing and detoxing, new experiences and old favourites all at once. For something to be worth leaving the house (and country) for, it has to be pretty special.
Stratton, Vermont has the mileage for such a trip. A hop, skip and a four-hour road trip over stunning highways and byways from JFK Airport, the quaint resort sits at the bottom of a lone mountain overlooking wide expanses of good honest American wilderness. A world away from the sparkling metropolis at its fingertips, it’s the perfect place to while away a weekend, and simultaneously tick three states off your bucket list (if you take the scenic route through Connecticut, which I recommend you do).
Stratton Village itself is a fairytale-inspired step back in time, right down to the friendly staff who scan your pass at the bottom of each lift (no electronic gates here, although there’s talk of them being added at some point soon). Colourful buildings and wide arches spring right off a greeting card onto streets easily traversed by ski boots, complete with a clock tower to guide you back to the bottom of the main gondola. There are boutique stores, cosy cafés and the obligatory Irish Pub — as well as a ski rental shop right at the base of the lifts which stores your equipment overnight. No tripping over akimbo poles in a cumbersome trudge back to your room after a day on the slopes.
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The cheerful simplicity of the village hides a deep understanding of what people, especially families, want out of a ski holiday. Stratton tops the lists for safety, with a dedicated speciality clinic right in the resort to deal with any bumps, bruises or breaks you might sustain on the slopes. That being said, it’s unlikely that you’d need to avail yourself of its use. With a single peak and all slopes leading to one of two main lift centres, it’s difficult to find yourself either lost or out of your depth on the mountain — unless you actively aim for the challenge.
The layout is another point in Stratton’s favour if you’re travelling with a mixed-ability group. The super-skiers in your party will be able to complete two ‘triple black diamond’ loops of the mountain in the time it takes those who are less confident, or simply taking in the views, to wind down the entire mountain on (my person favourite blue run) ‘Gentler Ben’. And you all get to meet for a bite to eat at the end.
After a long day of skiing, there are several restaurants at the base of the mountain with delicious menus and good wine lists — that is if you don’t want to cook up a baked camembert in your own self-catered accommodation. While you’re looking at your dining options, be sure to reserve one evening for a snow-mobile trip to the top of the mountain. Ride over sleepy slopes with a dedicated guide (who will stop in all the best photo spots), and enjoy the feeling of being on top of the world with rolling vistas for miles.
Stratton also benefits from being on the roster of the newly-relaunched IKON Pass. The Pass is a real life saver for those who jet off to the mountains at the first sign of snow, allowing holders unlimited access to all of the mountains under their remit (among them several closer to the UK, including perennial favourites Chamonix and Zermatt). If you’re after some high luxury after the gentle hospitality of Stratton, an IKON Pass will see you across the country in Colorado, enjoying Deer Valley (of recent Gwyneth Paltrow fame) or up to Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
- For more information about Stratton, Vermont, please visit stratton.com
- Ikon Pass offers access to 50+ authentic and unique mountain destinations across the Americas, Europe, Japan, Australia and New Zealand, and is on sale now for the 23/24 season. Get unlimited access to Stratton with the Ikon Pass and Ikon Base Pass. Ikon Pass starts at $1,159 (£930) for the Winter 23/24 season. Ikon Base Pass starts at $829 (£665) for the Winter 23/24 season. For further information on all Ikon Pass products and pricing, please visit: ikonpass.com.
- A week’s accommodation at Trail House Lodge during Ski Season, Sunday to Saturday starts around $1,200 (£965) for a studio, or from $3,000 (£2,414) for a one bedroom apartment.
From ski slopes to skyscrapers
The best thing about a skiing trip to Vermont? After a few days of action-packed ski holiday you can lose yourself in the city that never sleeps for a shopping, sight-seeing whirlwind of well-spend holiday days.
If New York is a once-in-a-lifetime trip for you, then you have to go big before you go home. For me, that meant spending two glorious days at the genuinely iconic Plaza Hotel, an edifice to gentle sophistication sitting right on the corner of 5th Avenue looking out over Central Park.
Perhaps one of the most famous destinations for weddings in the world, The Plaza does not disappoint for those looking to spend a few days in quiet luxury in the Big Apple.
New York holds joy for anyone who enjoys anything. My top hits for two days are as follows.
The Empire State Building
For a skyline view of the city go for Top of The Rock over the Empire State Building. At $44 a trip, it’s a little pricey, but the views are worth it – and you’ll get to actually see the Empire State Building while you’re at it. Splurge an extra $2 for the viewfinder guide, or make sure that you have a decent map app on your phone to match the iconic sights of New York to their spot on the horizon. Look out for the Brooklyn Bridge and take your time cooing over Central Park.
A proper New York bagel
If you’re after breakfast, try Liberty’s Bagels just off 5th Avenue two streets in from Central Park. Delightfully busy and teaming with taste, it’s the perfect spot to grab the perfect morning meal on the go.
You have to visit, if only to say that you have. Don’t linger.
The Museum of Modern Art
MoMA is iconic for a reason. You can book tickets in advance, but even if the queue stretches around the block it will move quickly, and they have easy-to-access ticket machines in the atrium. Look out in particular for work by Ansel Adams and Monet, though it’s worth checking out their list of artists on display before you visit to make sure that you don’t miss out on your favourites.
Award-winning writer John Lewis-Stempel's soul is moved both by the art and the science of the snowflake.
The Tate Modern's first-ever exhibition focusing solely on Picasso concentrates solely on a single year in the life of this