by Marti Mayne
February, 2014 will probably go down in the record books for snow accumulation in Boston and throughout New England, and the day our family set out on assignment from EasternSlopes.com to cover the Robert Frost Mountain Cabins and skiing in Middlebury, VT was no exception. You know if they give the winter storm a name, it’s bound to be a doozy and winter storm Nika was no exception. Our 4.5 hour trip to the Robert Frost Mountain Cabins turned into 8 hours as we crawled no more than 20mph for nearly four hours on Interstates in blinding snow. While you don’t want to be travelling over the Middlebury Gap road on ice-covered roads at night, the silver lining for this trip was the chance to see the most beautiful view of the big dipper, bright and beautiful in the night sky when the snow finally stopped and the moon rose.
For Moms of traveling families, where you stay can make or break the trip. A good kitchen, room to spread out and enough beds for everyone to be comfortable is key. For the teens, it’s all about the electronics. Give my husband a roof over his head and he’s generally happy anywhere. The Robert Frost Mountain Cabins filled the bill for all interested parties in our family and no doubt they will for every family.
Take a right off of Route 125 at the Ripton General Store and put the car in low gear. You’ll find the Robert Frost Mountain Cabins well marked about four miles up a road less traveled. Beautifully set on 122 acres of wooded land, the five cabins are a treasure of sustainability for the eco-friendly traveler and perfect for visits year-round.
Built from local trees on the property, cut and milled personally by co-owner Marty Kulczyk, and built by a local artisan joinery expert alongside Marty’s watchful eye, the cabins are a study in local sustainability. Their design comes from a building method developed by the Cold Climate Housing Research Center in conjunction with the University of Alaska. Build-in-place insulated panels fashioned locally and sheathed on site provide extra insulation, and straw bale insulated walls are planned for future cabins, offering an excellent, easily obtainable and chemical free option. In addition, 88 of the 112 acres on which the Robert Frost Mountain Cabins stand are in a state-approved forest management plan with restricted development. The cabins sit in just seven acres, leaving the rest of the land for open space and trails.
Indeed Marty and his wife, Carol, are committed to creating an environment offering maximum enjoyment of their special mountain retreat, while ensuring privacy. More than once while we talked, Marty shared “this is our home too, we want to share our lifestyle with others, while also maintaining it”. For this reason, more cabins are being planned, but not so many that privacy can’t be assured. The resort offers up plenty of common space, including a loft barn and a welcoming campfire pit. The Kulczyks are tuned in to the fact that over-use of these facilities will lead not only to wear and tear but a lack of privacy lessening the outstanding memories for the singles, couples and families who share them.
Open the door to your cabin and the first thing you’ll spy is the Swedish reading nook. Throughout our visit, every moment we were there, one member of the family was found snuggled up there. The fully applianced kitchen allows for in-home cooking. Be sure to bring all the necessary ingredients; while the Ripton Country Store is at the bottom of the hill, a larger grocery store is at least 20 minutes away. Meanwhile the kitchen offers up everything from toasters, coffee makers, and locally roasted coffee to pots, pans, utensils and most importantly, a heavy duty wine opener! The free wi-fi for the kids was all it took to keep them happy!
Each of the cabins feature a bedroom with a queen bed and another with twin beds, making it ideal for a family of four. The futon in the living room can accommodate an additional two people if necessary allowing a comfortable place for three couples or a larger family. The subtle earth tones were appealing to my husband, and the kids found the adorable snowmen and whimsical brown bear statue a nice touch. After a day of travel and then a day of mountain fun, the Tempurpedic mattress toppers meant sleep came easily and comfortably! The screened in porch with a large dining table will be perfect for warmer weather dining, and the charcoal grills right outside each porch make grilling so easy.
There are presently five cabins on Robert Frost Mountain, With each cabin comes additional new designs and features. Straw will be utilized as an eco-friendly natural insulation in future cabins, and subtle design differences maximize the usage of space. A trail loop has been added to the property, winding across the meadow and through the woods, and snowshoes are available in the Loft for guests’ use. After a day of skiing and snowshoeing for us, we waited until the next morning to explore the trails. When we awoke to a bluebird day with sun sparkling on the snow on the trail, we had to take a winter hike, making this the perfect trifecta of trail exploration for our trip after skiing at the Middlebury Snow Bowl and Rikert Nordic Center.
The list of extras at Robert Frost Mountain Cabins is extensive. Starting within the cabins, you’ll find complimentary coffee and a home baked breakfast item delivered once during your stay. Eco-friendly containers of shampoo, conditioner and soap are found in showers. Flat screen TVs with DVD players are included along with free wi-fi in each cabin too. And an ample supply of flashlights for evening exploration hang in the entry way too. In the summer, guests make use of the Park (charcoal) grills outside each cabin. Walking sticks are found outside each cabin. Head over to the loft where you’ll find snowshoes for guests’ use, along with a large TV and satellite access for those who don’t want to miss the game or get their news fix (no satellite access in the cabins). In the loft is a complimentary laundry for guests to use, plus fitness equipment and a nice compliment of board games and DVDs to borrow too. Add complimentary hot chocolate, coffee and tea to the list and its no small wonder that we ever got our kids to leave here!
Throughout the year, the Robert Frost Mountain Cabins attract reunions of Middlebury College alumni, family reunions, couples traveling together and romantic stays too. There are a number of pet-friendly cabins too, allowing every member of the family to stay in comfort. The secluded setting offers a back-to-nature retreat far from the maddening city crowds, yet within 20-minutes of Middlebury, VT's restaurants, shops and the college. While we were there for a winter stay, I'm sure that spring, summer and fall offer equally enticing and changing scenery. Any time you go, you can be sure you'll be glad you took the road less traveled to Robert Frost Mountain Cabins.
To read more about the great skiing and snowshoeing nearby, plus the entire family adventure visit EasternSlopes.com here.
When You Go:
Robert Frost Mountain Cabins, 2430 North Branch Rd., Ripton, VT 05766, 802-388-9090, www.robertfrostmountaincabins.com. Open year round. 5 cabins available (as of mid-March)
If you wish to ski or snowshoe...
Vertical Drop: 1000′
Summit Elevation: 2720′
Number of Trails: 17
Open daily from 8:30am – 4:00p, on weekends and 9:00am – 4:00pm on weekdays throughout the ski season. Located 13 miles east of Middlebury on the scenic route VT-125 in Hancock, VT. Directions: Click here, Addison County Transit Resources (ACTR) runs regular shuttle service between the town of Middlebury and the Snow Bowl from Christmas Eve until March 1st, with weekend service continuing until March 31st.
Contact: 802-443-7669. Info: http://www.middleburysnowbowl.com.
50 km trails, 5 km snowmaking.
Season: open daily from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm, November – March, weather permitting. Contact: 802-443-2744 , http://www.rikertnordic.com/.
Directions from Boston:
Start out going North on I-93 to I-89 North. Merge onto I-89 N. Take the VT-107 exit, EXIT 3, toward VT-14/Bethel/Royalton. Continue on Route 107 West for approximately 10 miles. Turn right onto VT-100. Continue on Route 100 North for 11.8 miles. Turn left onto VT-125 and follow for 11.8 miles. Turn right onto Lincoln Rd. Follow Lincoln Rd for 3.69 miles. Turn left onto North Branch Rd. Follow North Branch Rd for 1.04 miles. Robert Frost Mountain Cabins is on the left at 2430 North Branch Rd. Tip: follow these directions, NOT your GPS, or you may end up on roads you wish you weren't on!