12 Hours In: Burlington, Vermont

Our friends at Two Sticks and a Board show us around Vermont's biggest little ski town
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Mar 13, 2015 | By Mollie Busby

s we sat in our hotel room watching the weather radar, the truth sunk in — our flight home from Boston was not going to happen. My husband, Sean, and I found ourselves stranded in early February, and within hours, had turned an unfortunate winter travel delay, into a spur-of-the-moment ski expedition north to the Green Mountain state: Vermont. 

A little travel hack? If you can swing the time off and the rental car extension costs, airlines are typically happy to rebook your flight out of a new destination if it takes you out of the "stranded" location. In our case, Delta was more than happy to rebook our flights out of Burlington instead of snow-pummeled Boston. And out of it, we got a few days in Vermont's largest city, home to more microbrews than you can drink, nationally renowned cheddar cheese, and some of the best East Coast ski slopes you can find.

Essentials for a Day in Burlington

Your ID. One of the main reasons we were so stoked to visit Vermont? The plethora of tasty brews. The state is ranked second for most microbrews per capita by the Brewers Association. We arrived with our IDs in hand and an appetite for pints (plural).

A warm parka. Don't forget the "ice coast" reputation — this is Vermont in the wintertime! If you're adequately prepared in the wardrobe department, you'll spend more time skiing and less time shivering. 

An olloclip lens. Who has time for fancy camera shots on the mountain? Instead, tuck one of these slick olloclip lenses into your jacket pocket and capture shots of your epic adventure without the extra baggage. 

Easy access to tunes. For us, this trip involved a lot of driving. If your car doesn’t have a USB hookup, opt for a speaker that will do the job for you, like this gem from Goal Zero.

An unstinkable tee. We're all familiar with it — the stench that comes along with travel and skiing. Stay fresh with a sweat-wicking Merino wool top from Icebreaker. 

Best Place to Beat a Hangover

Whether you're arriving on a plane or on the road, a meal at the Skinny Pancake is the ticket for an early morning pick-me-up with a local twist. With locations in downtown Burlington and the Burlington International Airport, the Skinny Pancake specializes in, well, skinny pancakes — crepes.

The Skinny Pancake's menu has delicious options packed with local ingredients for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. All of their meats are sourced locally, and classic Vermont cheeses and veggies dominate the menu. Even better? If you're feeling like some hair of the dog is in order, they have a slew of local brews on tap.

In the morning, we recommend the the Breakfast Monster, with local eggs, Cabot cheese, spinach, caramelized onions, roasted red peppers, and house-made basil and sunflower seed pesto. For lunch or dinner, order the Déjà Vu, with Vermont apples, sausage, cheddar, and a side of maple syrup.

Local Movers and Shakers

As soon as we decided to visit Vermont, friends were telling us about Heady Topper, the infamously elusive American Double IPA that has become a trademark of the Burlington area. Brewed to bitterless perfection, Heady Topper is the brainchild of the Alchemist brewery — whose sole project is brewing this one beer, so you know they do it well. To add to the allure, you can’t walk into a storefront and purchase this ale. Rather, you must find it at a local retailer in the area.

After Tropical Storm Irene demolished the Alchemist Pub and Brewery in 2011, the folks at Alchemist were left with only their cannery. The brewery now produces 180 barrels a week, and its retailers are known for selling out before you can say, “Ready for a Heady?” Start your search for this ale upon arrival (if not before) and don’t rest until you’ve found it.

Best Place to Burn Off Breakfast

Sean and I opted to drive the hour and a half northeast to one of Vermont's largest and most famed ski resorts, Jay Peak, for a rip on some East Coast slopes. While the town of Jay is a blip on the map, Jay Peak Resort is a behemoth to behold, with impressive amenities like a water park and indoor surfing for those days when conditions aren’t prime. An insulating cloud layer — aptly dubbed by locals as the Jay Cloud — is said to offer consistent snow conditions, and at its more northern location (we were actually picking up Canadian cell towers) it typically gets more snow than other resorts in the state. Anyone with a love of tree skiing with love Jay's limitless gladed terrain.

Looking for skiing closer to Burlington? Hit up Smugglers' Notch, where the family-friendly atmosphere and wide-open groomers make it ideal for a more relaxed ski adventure, especially for those still learning the basics. And you can't beat free hot cocoa and an open fire pit in the Village to warm your insides after a long day on the slopes.

Best Place to Up Your Insta-Game

For an awe-inspiring view, stop by the shore of Lake Champlain. Bordering his massive body of water spans 120 miles from New York to Vermont and into Quebec. Although swimming isn’t recommended in the winter — and probably isn't possibe, since the surface is frozen over in a thick layer of ice — take a walk along the lakeside, take in a few deep breaths, and appreciate the view. 

Where to Impress a Date

Maybe it's just us, but nothing says love like pizza and beer. Whereas Sean is a simple man who only orders a pepperoni pie wherever he goes, I like a little variety. Luckily for us, American Flatbread delivered both — with a selection of its own craft beer to boot.

With a warm lodgey atmosphere, red checkered table cloths, and a wood-fired oven, this downtown Burlington spot's ambiance was classic pizzeria with style. If you're not in the mood for one of American Flatbread's nightly specials, try the Punctuated Equilibrium pie — local goat cheese, roasted sweet red peppers, kalamata olives and herbs — and pair it with a pint (or two) of Zero Gravity Craft Brewery's T.L.A. IPAs.

For a nightcap just a block away, pop into the Farmhouse Tap & Grill for more local brews in a casual, modern atmosphere. [H]

Mollie Busby is a skier girl married to a splitboarding beardsman who lives in a remote yurt in Whitefish, Montana. She gets stoked on powder turns, international travel, and yoga.
Follow her adventures on Instagram and find more of her stories on TwoSticksAndABoard.com.

Images ©: 1. Happy Vermont; 3. Cookbook Archaeology; 4-6. Mollie Busby; 7. AAA Travel