This winter, skiers heading to Stowe in North America will find a new twist to an old favourite. The pretty Vermont village has had a facelift. All the old charm and character remains but improved facilities and a wide range of new-build property in typical New England style should attract a new generation of fans.
Vermont, known as the Green Mountain State, is all about the great outdoors, with rolling hills, steep mountain ranges and dense forests. It is the second-least populated US state, where residents have a reputation for an independent, alternative lifestyle. Advertising billboards on highways are banned and there are few fast-food outlets.
Of the 18 alpine ski resorts in the state, the best known is Stowe, on Vermont’s highest peak, Mount Mansfield. Summer tourists have been coming here since the 19th century, following wealthy families, such as the Roosevelts, Vanderbilts and Kennedys, to escape the heat of East Coast cities. When skiing became popular in the 1930s, Stowe became a true four-season resort.
“Stowe is a classic Vermont village with clapboard houses and a white church and steeple,” says Michael Langley of Spruce Peak development. “It has an understated elegance with a long-established fan base and is not some brash new kid on the block.”
This slow evolution kept the village’s charm but meant access to the slopes could be difficult. The opening of a much-praised transfer lift in December 2006 connecting Mount Mansfield and neighbouring pistes on Spruce Peak helped enormously, and this winter sees the opening of Spruce Peak at Stowe: a £200 million development including apartments, spacious town houses, custom-built villas and facilities, including a scenic 18-hole golf course, large spa, fitness centre, arts centre and restaurants and bars.
“With the opening of Spruce Peak, skiers in Stowe will have a true ski-in and ski-out resort,” says Langley. “It took seven years to pass the stringent planning laws in Vermont but we are proud of our green credentials. Spruce Peak has 2,000 acres but we will only build on 35 acres and have set aside the rest for a wildlife reserve.”
'British buyers generally want land and typical New England architecture'
Spruce Peak will include Stowe Mountain Lodge, a hotel made up of 139 apartments from studios of 525sq ft up to three-bedroom units of 2,000sq ft, priced from £224,000 to £746,300 (actual prices are in dollars). The Mountain Lodge is set next to the slopes in attractive wood-and-timber buildings and owners can put their units into the hotel-rental programme.
In a peaceful location further up the slope, there are 38 three- and four-bedroom mountain cabins costing from £1.2 million. These 3,000sq ft, three-storey houses are stunning, substantial homes with hot tubs, large wooden decks and well-finished interiors. Land plots of one third of an acre start at £970,200 for an 8,500sq ft house.
“Condos like Stowe Mountain Lodge, with great amenities and no maintenance hassles for owners, are a strong market in Stowe now,” says local agent Peggy Smith of Carlson Real Estate. “British buyers generally want land and typical New England architecture, and the good exchange rate is encouraging more to come. Rental return is strong here.”
Smith says two- to four-bedroom apartments costing £149,500 to £398,000 are most in demand. “Stowe Hollow, which has houses with three to 10 acres, is popular with British buyers,” she says. “Or you can pick up a three-acre plot of land near Stowe for about £298,600.”
Fellow agent Ken Libby, of Stowe Realty, has also seen an increase in British buyers looking for quality property. “Stowe is perceived as a solid, progressive community and the British like that,” says Libby. “They generally spend $1 million plus. That buys you a 5,000sq ft property with great views and the potential to let for at least 20 weeks a year at up to £399 a night.”
* Spruce Peak: www.sprucepeak.com
* Stowe Mountain Lodge: http:www.stowemountainlodge.com
* Carlson Real Estate: www.carlsonrealestatestowe.com
* Stowe Realty: www.stowerealty.com
* Discover New England: www.discovernewengland.org
* Buying costs include a 1.25 per cent transfer tax, £174 for survey, £398 to £1,493 for lawyer’s fees and searches and £1,493 to £4,478 to set up a local mortgage.
* BA, Virgin Atlantic and American Airlines all fly from London airports to Boston. Stowe is three-and-a-half hours from Boston by car.
* There are no restrictions on buying property as a UK citizen but you need a visa to stay more than 90 days at a time.
* The buying process is similar to the UK but once an offer has been accepted it is considered binding and a deposit of 10 per cent is paid.