Dream Towns: Stowe, Vermont

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The tallest steeple in Vermont backed by the state's highest peak is virtually Stowe's emblem. And it has a kind of leveling effect: Like many ski towns, Stowe has grown. Following the (ski) bum rush of the late '60s, the boomers (who came primarily to ski) settled in, raised kids, and made some money. They did it, though, with an evident reverence for a town with deep roots and century-old steeples.

If restored farmhouses now tend to harbor everything from notably worthy restaurants to blues clubs to offices of dot.commandos, Stowe is still a working town, albeit now one where a farmer's fields butt up against a screenwriter's. Trophy houses are inevitable-even here-but they tend to get swallowed up by Stowe's hills and hollows.

Stowe's done tourism since the 1850s, skiing since the 1930s. With a long-run perspective, it shows only a few signs of theme-park surrender to downcountry dollars. There's a genuine nonchalance about glitz: A few years ago, locals decided that squiring Julia Roberts around in a cruiser was not in the police chief's job description. It contributed to his ouster. A significant number of residents, if called upon, can shuck professional shells to tend bar, wait tables, or pound nails. On powder days, look out: From one end of the social spectrum to the other, Stowe seethes.


BUSINESS MOST NEEDED: a massive grocery store.
DON'T FORGET TO PACK: X-C skis for the East's most varied free-heelin'.

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