Waitsfield is blessed with a certain geographic advantage. Tucked into Vermont’s picturesque Mad River Valley, the village bustles in the shadow of two of the state’s beloved ski areas: Sugarbush and Mad River Glen. But one needn’t know the difference between a schuss and a slalom before venturing to the high country. While outdoorsmen can truly indulge themselves here, Waitsfield also nurtures a thriving artists’ colony, making it a beckoning retreat for embracing winter’s last gasp or hibernating in the great indoors.
Perched on 245 rolling acres above Waitsfield, Inn at the Round Barn Farm (1661 East Warren Road, 802-496-2276, www.theroundbarn.com, $175-$295) bewitches guests so completely with its rustic charms that one half expects Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye to walk through the door. The converted 19th-century farmhouse, which features 12 immaculate rooms, many with exposed pine beams, is as light and airy as the inn’s signature cottage-cheese pancakes, served amid splendid views. A bit closer to the slopes is Tucker Hill Inn (65 Marble Hill Road, 800-543-7841, www.tuckerhill.com, $109-$299), another bed-and-breakfast jewel where the proprietors aim to please. All 18 rooms have country character, but reserve the “innkeepers’’ room, an oversize suite with a working fieldstone fireplace and cozy sitting area, for that extra-special occasion. The Featherbed Inn (5864 Main St., 802-496-7151, www.featherbedinn.com, $120-$249) lives up to its name, with authentic European featherbeds among the many enticements at this inviting homestead, complete with farm animals. Guests enjoy cocoa and homemade pies in the afternoon, and those searching for privacy will find it by booking one of the inn’s separate cottages. Meanwhile, 1824 House Inn (2150 Main St., 802-496-7555, www.1824house.com, $115-$155) offers guests an equally satisfying respite, where rooms come with both period furniture and wireless Internet access.
Greet the sunrise at Easy Street Cafe and Restaurant (6163 Main St., 802-496-7234, www.easystreetmarket.com, $3.50-$7.95), a local haunt that specializes in stick-to-your-ribs breakfasts like cinnamon sugar French toast and smoked salmon omelets. Warm up midday with the fiery homemade chorizo and smoked pork belly tacos at Mad Taco (2 Village Square, 802-496-3832, www.themadtaco.com, $7-$10), an improbable, if heavenly, find serving some of the freshest Mexican specialties in New England. Or embrace the cool and soothing climate at Mint (4403 Main St., 802-496-5514, www.mintvermont.com, $7-$13), where vegetarian specialties are lovingly prepared from scratch. On weekend nights, grab a red-and-white checkered table at American Flatbread (46 Lareau Road, 802-496-8856, www.americanflatbread.com, $11.50-$21). Housed in a rambling barn and centered around a gigantic, primitive wood-fired oven, the restaurant deserves its growing reputation for primo pizza, featuring toppings such as maple-fennel sausage and local goat cheese.
DURING THE DAY
Whether on or off piste, Waitsfield brings winter’s finest bounty to the table. Skiers can lay claim to first tracks at expansive and family-friendly Sugarbush (1840 Sugarbush Access Road, Warren, 802-583-6300, www.sugarbush.com, adult weekend lift ticket $88) or ride the famed single chairlift at Mad River Glen (57 Schuss Pass Road, Fayston, 802-496-3551, www.madriverglen.com, adult weekend lift ticket $66) to some of the most challenging runs in the East. The equine inclined should hoof it to Vermont Icelandic Horse Farm (3061 North Fayston Road, 802-496-7141, www.icelandichorses.com, two-hour ride $80) for snow-filled wildlife trail rides atop gentle, heavy-coated mounts. Alternatively, local outfitter Clearwater Sports (4147 Main St., 802-496-2708, www.clearwatersports.com, $55 per person) offers backwoods snowshoe tours daily for those looking to admire the Green Mountains on foot. In the village, the eclectic Madsonian Museum of Industrial Design (45 Bridge St., 802-496-2787, www.madsonian.org, suggested adult admission $1-$5) celebrates the streamlined beauty of everyday objects, from scooters to vacuum cleaners, with works by Frank Lloyd Wright and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Find creations from Vermont’s own at Artisans’ Gallery (20 Bridge St. 802-496-6256, www.vtartisansgallery.com), which sells pieces from more than 150 local painters, photographers, jewelers, metalworkers, and furniture makers. Or stop by one of the village’s many open studios to see inspiration strike. Chat with German-trained artisan Ulrike Tessmer at Waitsfield Pottery (4366 Main St., 800-496-7155, www.waitsfieldpottery.com), who produces an array of hand-thrown stoneware bowls and pitchers as well as her signature oil candles. Owned by husband-and-wife team Melanie and David Leppla, Mad River Glass Gallery (4237 Main St., 802-496-9388, www.madriverglassgallery.com) also invites sightseers to watch their glass cairns and Kyoto lanterns take shape.
The pace may slow in Waitsfield at night, but things stay cooking at Kitchen at the Store (5275 Main St., 800-639-8031, www.kitchenatthestore.com, $55 per person). The gourmet emporium holds intimate, hands-on culinary classes in its professional-grade kitchen with neophytes learning to prepare everything from local game to Cuban cuisine. Depending on the evening, Big Picture Theater & Cafe (48 Carroll Road, 802-496-8994, www.bigpicturetheater.info, tickets $5-$8) offers up live music, everything from folk to R&B, and a steady stream of independent and mainstream films from around the world. The après-ski crowd can also catch local music acts at Purple Moon Pub (6163 Main St., 802-496-3422, www.purplemoonpub.com, cover $3).