Living in Stowe, Vermont
April 4, 2011 9:16 AM   Subscribe

Anyone live in Stowe, Vt?

Considering a move. I telecommute so will be able to live anywhere. I'm certainly not poor, though not independently wealthy either. Housing costs shouldn't be a problem. Just very interested in what life is actually like up there.

I live in NYC now, grew up in Nebraska / Wyoming.
posted by mtstover to Home & Garden (20 answers total)
I lived in the town next to Stowe and know a lot of people that live there.

Do you have specific questions?

Overall, living in small town Vermont is nice, but you have to deal with the fact that you're limited in your choices for things like grocery stores, gyms, doctors, etc. You can drive to Burlington or Montpelier/Barre for "stuff" but especially in the winter, it can be challenging.
posted by k8t at 9:30 AM on April 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

My aunt and uncle live there now and have for 20+ years, raising 7 kids.

It used to be your typical small, New England town. Then the ski resorts came in and that changed things a bit.

Longtime residents are a bit frustrated with some of the stuff the ski resorts have brought in --- including weekenders who insist that the river is private property and the kid shouldn't be allowed to play in it behind their houses. It took a couple of explanations from police officers that the river is public property, as is the land surrounding it and that certain parts of the land next to those houses are also public property that allow the pathway for people to get to the river before the weekenders would back off harassing the kids.

Also, a huge rise in property taxes because of both the ski resorts and the incoming people building fancy houses.

But overall, it's still a good place. Very pretty. Not far from Burlington if you want to head there for a night out or a day. Stowe is small town New England, for sure, though, so if you're not a small town type of person, you probably won't like it.
posted by zizzle at 9:34 AM on April 4, 2011

Oh, and obviously, job availability is a huge problem. There are just very few jobs in Vermont generally.
posted by k8t at 9:36 AM on April 4, 2011

Oh, to give you an idea of how small, one of my cousins was the valedictorian for a class of less than 50 students, I believe it was.
posted by zizzle at 9:37 AM on April 4, 2011

Not to get a political debate going, but... the huge rise in property taxes was probably due to Act 60, which said that over a certain level, towns have to share those taxes with the rest of the state. The idea was that towns like Stowe that have high property values (thanks to ski resorts, for example) could afford fabulous schools on low property tax rates but other parts of the state where the land had very little value, could barely afford to keep basic school services going at very high property tax rates. So, Act 60 came in to redistribute the wealth. This pissed people in "wealthy" towns off because most of the residents in the "wealthy" towns aren't wealthy.

To sum - Stowe probably has higher property values compared to other areas of Vermont and will have likely raised their property taxes after that law went through in the late 90s. The ski resorts aren't the reason the tax rate is high, they're the reason the property value is high. High property taxes all the same, I guess.

I am not from Stowe, so please, actual current Vermonters, correct me if I am wrong. (I grew up in a "gold" town in Chittenden county, so I could easily be misunderstanding.)
posted by maryr at 9:54 AM on April 4, 2011

This pissed people in "wealthy" towns off because most of the residents in the "wealthy" towns aren't wealthy.

If we could not start this discussion in this thread, I would very seriously appreciate it.

I live about an hour south of Stowe and my friend recently left the job of being the Stowe librarian. She and her family lived in Morristown which is one town further north. You should probaly consider if it's the cachet of Stowe that you like [the tourist community, the restaurants, the shops, the skiing] or if it's just the general location because living outside of Stowe would give you a serious drop in cost-of-living (if you buy a house) but still some proximity to all that stuff.

My issue with Stowe as someone who visits there is that one of the things I love about Vermont is the emptiness. That not only is it lovely here but there aren't that many people so things like parking, traffic and general noise/crowdedness isn't an issue. I'm willing to put up with a lot of other inconveniences (lack of cultural stuff, homogeneity of culture to an extent) to get that. Stowe has more cultural stuff but not much in the way of a hetereogenous culture. And it also has parking and traffic hassles. And it's a bit of a hike to get on to the interstate. So if you're familiar with living someplace snowy and remote this is no big deal. If you're used to not having to get into your car just to see a movie, this might be jarring.

Stowe has a terrific library that itself had a bit of a culture-divide problem. There was basically a split between old timers who saw the library as a place to keep books that shouldn't cost too much money to keep running, and people who saw it as a community space where you'd have a lot of computers and newfangled digital stuff and etc. Trying to figure out how to make both sides of that equation happy was a sort of thankless battle.

I am also one of those people who has a "work from anywhere" job and I've been quite happy to have situated myself in rural Vermont. It's important, I think, to have or create a connection to the community in addition to whatever other work you have, so you might want to think about how to do that in Stowe or anyplace else. Vermont can be sort of isolating otehrwise because people tend to keep to themselves, mostly in a good way, but in a way that can be tough to break into sometimes if people don't know you. Feel free to MeMail me for more general Vermont questions if you have any.
posted by jessamyn at 10:13 AM on April 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

I live in Burlington, which is very close to Vermont. (That was a joke.)

From your question it's not clear what it is about Stowe, specifically, that makes you consider it. If you're looking for a ski town with expensive property, then that's a good place. But if you're looking for the quietude and peace of rural life, pick some other place a little further away. It'll be much cheaper at least.

Jessamyn is right that it's culturally homogeneous. Mostly that means lilly white. But there's a nice range of political and social views among us white people.

You may also consider Burlington, or somewhere else in Chittenden county. Burlington's a That's the invisible tax you pay for the view of the lake and the Adirondacks. Other towns in Chittenden county tend to be just like any other suburb, in my experience.

Vermont's a pretty great place. You should definitely move here. We could use your tax dollars and civic engagement.
posted by boghead at 10:49 AM on April 4, 2011

Apologies - I did not mean to get too political.

If you plan on visiting Burlington (or Boston or Montreal) often, you'll probably want to stay near I-89. The St. Albans area, north of Burlington, is quite nice if you want a small city/town (12K) and Lake Champlain.

But yeah, if you want a "Vermont" experience, you're best of staying out of Chittenden county, (save maybe St. George). I've always described where I grew up as a suburb without an urb.
posted by maryr at 11:09 AM on April 4, 2011

Thanks -- let me give some clarity on needs:

1. Schools (2 kids, 1 starting kindergarten and one who will in a couple of years.) I live in Westchester NYC now so the schools are great.

2. Skiing. I want to be on the mountain as many days as I can in a year. Minimum 30 to reach my happiness goal.

3. Space / country. I grew up in the country, so want the ability to have a few acres, ride my motorcycle, let my kids have go karts, etc.

4. Proximity to "something" -- probably what most would consider yuppified. A decent library, farmers market, high density of college educated people. Not population but more state of mind. Really what I'm talking about here is a sense of community and ability to get involved in something.

Note - taxes don't bother me. I currently pay 20K a year in taxes to live in a VERY small house, so I'm not scared by much! I would probably very much be considered one of those "damn richies" who want to move in and is willing to pay through the nose for real estate... but I consider myself a pretty chill guy.
posted by mtstover at 11:22 AM on April 4, 2011

1. Schools are good, but because it is rural, you're limited in some respects. There aren't as many options for extracurriculars or gifted/talents. Also, lots of kids are bused in from more rural parts of the district, even at the elementary level. I know that my VT rural friends with kids found it a PITA to haul their kids to and from friends houses.

2. Sure, Stowe will do that for you, but pretty much anywhere you live in VT will do that for you. MANY employers provide their employees with passes to various mountains and some employers don't mind that people come in late because they took a few turns in the AM.

3. Sure

4. You'd probably want to be closer to Burlington for the first part of your question. In terms of a sense of community, yes you'll get it in different forms in VT communities. Stowe is smaller than Burlington, but both have "community."

If I were you, I'd look into Richmond and look at Bolton as your home mountain. It isn't super duper skiing, but it is closer to Burlington and people are generally happy with the schools there.
posted by k8t at 11:27 AM on April 4, 2011

I guess I'm going to play the role of dissenter here.

I live in (and love) Vermont, and have for most of my life. I detest Stowe. Not as much as Williston (a little slice of New Jersey in VT), but I still go out of my way to avoid it. It's pretty much tailored for tourists and tourism (and the large amounts of $$ they bring into the state): Cheesy art galleries and gift shops, overpriced, terrible restaurants, "Resorts," and no real culture to speak of.

For what you're looking for, I'd be more inclined to point you in the direction of Richmond/Jonesville or the Waitsfield/Warren area. Both are close to Stowe, but couldn't be further away when it comes to "feel."

Feel free to memail me if you want more info from an opinionated Vermonter, or if you're in the area and are looking for food/drink/recreation recommendations.
posted by brand-gnu at 11:37 AM on April 4, 2011

Have you considered Middlebury? I haven't been there in a while but friends there liked the schools and the community.
posted by mareli at 11:50 AM on April 4, 2011

A decent library

This is going to sound weird but this may wind up being one of the more limiting factors, but I'm a Vermont library expert/snob. Stowe has a terrific library. So does Sherburne which is where Killington is. Burlington has a great library but it's super busy and more like a city library [lots of signs warning you to watch your stuff, cameras trained on the restroom doors to watch for crime etc]. Rutland has a great library but is a bit far from the mountains. Woodstock has an awesome library and has Suicide Six nearby and is cute and quaint without being quite as overrun by tourists as Stowe.

I'm super partial to the Waitsfield/Warren area that brand-gnu mentioned [and share his feelings about Stowe personally] but the libraries there are teeny, not open very often. Middlebury and Bennington areas might be more up your alley, easier to get to New York [if that's something you care about, it's a solid eight hours to get there by train from where I live] good sense of community etc.
posted by jessamyn at 11:55 AM on April 4, 2011

If you pass the interview, Jessamyn and I will let you live in Randolph. If we don't have everything you want, then you obviously want too much!

Stowe=Middlebury=Burlington=Woodstock=Manchester= Random Town in Connecticutt. Ick.
posted by FauxScot at 12:21 PM on April 4, 2011

I spent about three years in Vermont in Northfield which is just a little bit away from Montpelier. But I dated a girl in Stowe for much of that time. Here are my random observations in no particular order.

1) I like skiing. I do not like starting my car for an hour most mornings just to get it going. Which was necessary when whole weeks would pass with -20 to -30 windchills outside in the early AM.

2) There are quite a few good restaurants in Burlington

3) Montreal becomes your local road trip for bursts of "major" city culture

4) I have a good degree and significant experience. I was subsisting up there moneywise by working three jobs none of which included health insurance.

5) Black ice. More than you'd expect.

6) There's a period in the year where you can smell maple syrup anytime you take a road that goes through any part of the state that's wooded.

7) I have never enjoyed a labor day parade more than when I was in VT.

8) The amount of unprosecuted drunk driving that went on amongst the locals in Stowe when I was there was significant.
posted by rileyray3000 at 12:53 PM on April 4, 2011

I agree with much of the above. Stowe, Woodstock, Manchester, and to some extent Middlebury have that rarified, hoity-toity air. Their entire downtowns are devoted to catering to...well, people from Westchester County. That's not to say you shouldn't cross them off outright - they still have much to offer.

I also agree that you should look at Richmond or Jonesville or Warren or Waitsfield. Or Huntington. Richmond and Jonesville are 15-20 minutes south of Burlington on 89 and Warren and Waitsfield about 30 minutes away from Stowe on Route 100 (which is gorgeous, by the way).

Check out some places further north too. Fairfax has a reputation as a sprawling bedroom community of Burlington, but there's an effort there to build up the town center. Fletcher may also be a good choice.

You say you want some space and country air - you shouldn't have a problem as long as you're not feeling grandiose. Town selectboards put a lot of time and energy crafting zoning laws to keep Vermont looking pretty and quaint. It's the main reason you can tell immediately when you cross over into NH.

Oh hey! Also: I have a friend who's selling a house in the country in Fletcher sometime soon. Feel free to contact me and I'll put you in touch.
posted by boghead at 12:59 PM on April 4, 2011

I lived in Stowe and Morrisville (just north of Stowe) for a while, now live in Randolph (born here, didn't have to interview)
What I liked about Stowe:
access to recreation- bike path, skiing etc
reasonably good, but small library
generally healthy/active local folks
What I didn't like:
trying to navigate for work/daily activity around tourists on the Mountain Road
hard to figure out where to get involved in the community as a single professional.
having to go everywhere by car
I'm chiming in for Randolph- not far from Killington, Pico, Stowe or Suicide Six, great schools, library and small, involved community. Also close to Hanover,NH and Burlington.
You may also like Waterbury or the Richmond/Underhill/Jericho area.
Good luck, feel free to contact me for some more opinions -still mud season here so I'll try not to be grouchy!
posted by bookrach at 4:43 PM on April 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

I know some people will not agree with me, but I would suggest considering some of the communities right in Chittenden County that have all the amenities you're asking for.

I live in Essex Junction (just east of Burlington) and we have great schools and libraries, lots of highly educated community members (IBM community), an hour away from Stowe/Smuggler's Notch to the North or Sugarbush/Mad River Glen to the South for skiing. There are areas where you can get homes with land in the country (Essex town), but are within 15 minutes of Burlington and all the amenities you want. We have a farmer's market in the center of the village every Friday June-Oct., parades, outdoor live music concerts every week in July, and other community events.

We do have higher taxes than some communities, but I think we get lots back for what we pay. And there are lots of opportunities to get involved in community affairs if you're interested. You can check us out online.
posted by garnetgirl at 5:05 PM on April 4, 2011

Add Jericho to your list if you're OK with being an hour from the slopes (Stowe, specifically - Bolton is closer).

Yes, there are more flatlanders than other town, but neither Middlebury nor Burlington are "Connecticut". Fun fact: Lots of of towns in Connecticut are not "Connecticut".

If you want your kids in the Essex School system, but you want country, you want Westford. (When the hell did EJ become a village again? I thought it became a city. And why did they even try to make Five Corners look scenic? It had two gas stations, FFS.)
posted by maryr at 8:42 PM on April 4, 2011

First of all, I have to agree with brand-gnu. I'm not going into it, but stowe ain't all that.

I spent the early part of my childhood in a far flung corner of the NEK and moved to Chittenden county in late elementary school. I really recommend the Bolton/Jonesville/Jericho/Richmond/Huntington area (all one school district). Here's why:
- Its the easternmost part of Chittenden county, and IMO much different and "rural-feeling" from Williston and Essex. But you are very close to Burlington (no more than 50 min from the fartherst point at the tip of underhill or Buel's Gore, 25 min from Richmond)
- Close to many ski mountains. In Jericho/ Underhill there's smuggs which can be as close at 15 min away. In Richmond and Bolton there's Bolton, and in Huntington there's sugarbush and mad river.
- It's a great school district (I say as an alum). The towns are an interesting mix of backwoods and newer wealth, largely because of IBM in essex/williston. The schools all get very good ratings.
-It's got the space you need. Growing up me and many of my friends lived on 20+ acres and we sure weren't rich. I think it's gotten a bit more expensive but there is land to be had here.
-Burlington would be the "yuppiefied" destination you describe. Crazy busy farmers market, art galleries, theater, live music. etc.

I would probably very much be considered one of those "damn richies" who want to move in and is willing to pay through the nose for real estate... but I consider myself a pretty chill guy.
Then you would be welcomed with open arms. The few people that actually have hostility towards outsiders are the older newcomers, if that makes sense. I really hate the idea in VT that a person's worth as a resident is determined by how long they've lived here.
/end tangent.
posted by pintapicasso at 9:19 AM on April 5, 2011

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