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A Tank Away

Ludlow, Vt., offers great skiing, charming inns, and lively nightlife

Guests at Governor’s Inn in Ludlow, Vt. , warm up amid two fireplaces in the parlor and a Victorian aura everywhere.

PAMELA WRIGHT FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE

Guests at Governor’s Inn in Ludlow, Vt. , warm up amid two fireplaces in the parlor and a Victorian aura everywhere.

In the past, we tended to speed through this somewhat rustic burg in southern Vermont on our way to Okemo Mountain Resort. No doubt, Okemo, the popular ski resort, was — and still is — the main attraction in this hard-working area. But, in recent years, Ludlow’s gotten bigger and better, with a sprawl of new restaurants and shops and a laid-back, friendly, outdoorsy vibe. Today, this 150-year-old mountain town is worth more than a mere pass-through.

STAY

Step into the Governor’s Inn (86 Main St., 802-228-8830, www.thegovernorsinn.com, $159-$299) and you’re immediately transported to a bygone era of Victorian elegance and charm. A pair of splendid fireplaces flanks the front parlor, and rooms, full of lace, lush bed linens, and ornate furniture, offer a comfy oasis. The rambling, old-fashioned Echo Lake Inn (2 Dublin Road, 800-356-6844, www.echolakeinn.com, $189-$279), about 10 minutes from downtown, has a slew of room styles, from nest-like, single bedrooms to condos, most filled with antiques (think cast iron beds and chenille spreads). The inn’s cozy, award-winning dining room is a longtime favorite, and the downstairs tavern, with stone walls, bar, and pool table, is a fun place to hang out. If you’re looking for simple, value-packed lodging, you won’t go wrong with the family-owned Timber Inn Motel (112 Route 103 South, 802-228-8666, www.timberinnmotel.com, most rooms $89-$159), with ultra clean, knotty pine-paneled rooms, an outdoor hot tub, and ski shuttle bus stop right out your door.

DINE

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It’s no wonder The Downtown Grocery (41 South Depot St., 802-228-7566, www.the
downtowngrocery.com, $14-$34) has created such a stir. This lively bistro, grounded in a farm-to-table, head-to-tail ethos, serves shockingly good dishes, such as the house-made braised duck ravioli with Vermont marscapone cheese, pheasant cassoulet, and crispy pork trotter (but only if a fresh pig was delivered that day). If you’re craving red meat, head to Sam‘s Steakhouse (91 Route 103, 802-228-2087, www.samsteak.com, $14-$45), with a classic menu of steaks and chops, and a huge salad bar. The something-for-everyone menu, big portions, and reasonable prices

Pamela Wright for The Boston Globe

The Wine and Cheese Depot in Ludlow hosts tastings and has more than 500 wine labels for sale.

draw a loyal following to DJ’s (146 Main St., 802-228-5374, $16.95-$23.95), despite its somewhat dreary, throwback atmosphere. For hearty Italian fare, consider Bella Luna (68 Route 100, 802-228-6666, $13.95-$17.95), offering unsurprising but tasty dishes, like their homemade meat lasagna, pasta Bolognese and veal Parmesan. Join the locals for diner-style breakfast at The Hatchery (146 Main St., 802-228-2311, www.thehatcheryvt.com, $3.50-$11.50); if you’re in a hurry to get to the slopes, you can’t beat the $2.99 bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich to go. You’ll find a hipper, coffeehouse ambience at Java Babas (57 Pond St., 802-228-7810, www.javababas.com, most sandwiches $6.95-$7.95), with breads, bagels, muffins, and house-made sandwiches, soups, and salads.

DURING THE DAY

There are 650 acres of snow sliding terrain (119 trails and nine lifts) at Okemo Mountain Resort (77 Okemo Ridge Road, 802-228-4041, www.okemo.com). Don’t ski or snowboard? Check out Okemo’s Mountain Coaster ($13 driver, $9 rider), a twisting, stomach-lurching, roller-coaster-style ride through the woods; slide down the slopes at the resort’s multi-lane Snow Tubing Park ($12 an hour), or take the two-hour Sawyer’s Sweep Zipline Tour ($79). You can cover some ground in the backcountry on a speedy, guided ride with Snow Country Snowmobile (96 Winery Road, Proctorsville, 802-226-7529, www.snowcountryvt.com, $75 an hour, $25 passenger). It’s worth spending a few hours in town browsing shops, like the Wine & Cheese Depot (46 Depot St., 802-228-4128, www.thewineandcheesedepot.com), with weekly wine and everyday cheese tastings, and a smart selection of more than 500 wine labels, and the Depot Street Gallery (44 Depot St., 802-228-4753), showcasing the works of more than 120 artists. Blue Sky Trading Co. (160 Main St., 802-228-2280, www.blueskyvt.com) is full of Vermont-made jewelry, soaps, syrups, trinkets, and T-shirts.

AFTER DARK

Some of the liveliest après-ski action takes place at Tom’s Loft Tavern, right at the base of Okemo Mountain (300 Mountain Road, 802-228-5638). The loud, packed, come-as-you-are hole-in-the-wall is a great place to kick back and meet new friends, with a great selection of beer and surprisingly good bar food (don’t miss the chicken wings, considered the best in Okemo Valley). You’ll also find lots of local action at The Killarney (44 Pond St., 802-228-7797, www.killarneyvt.com), decorated nearly floor to ceiling with patches from police and fire departments across New England and beyond. The pub hosts open-mike and trivia nights and live bands playing original and traditional Irish music. Food is decent pub grub and Irish fare (burgers, meatloaf, bangers and mash, and shepherd’s pie), and there’s about 15 beers on tap and more than 30 bottle selections. For a really cool experience, take the Snowcat Groomer Ride ($39) at Okemo Mountain Resort. You’ll ride a big ’cat as it claws its way up and down the dark slopes, stopping at the summit for a nighttime view across the valley. You can also combine a ride on a snowcat with a five-course dinner at Epic Restaurant ($125).

Diane Bair and Pamela Wright can bereached at bairwright@
earthlink.net
.
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