In the idyllic resort town of Stowe, Topnotch keeps vacations active, local and luxurious. Jane Ammeson
My Vermont morning begins on a patio with a cup of locally roasted coffee named after the nearby hills. The sun brightens the Green Mountains on what will be a busy day at Topnotch Resort and Spa, a sleek resort in Stowe, Vt., on land that was once a dairy farm.
My entire breakfast at Norma's — a rather ma-and-pa-diner name for Topnotch's upscale restaurant — is made from locally sourced foods, including the pale yellow butter swirls for my house-made croissant and, later, at dinner, the to-die-for fresh ear of corn slathered with a spicy mayonnaise.
This eat-local mantra is stamped on this part of Vermont like the differing shades of light and dark greens mark the mountains. Organic animal and vegetable farms and small cheeseries, chocolatiers and dairies dot the countryside.
"It's about quality and supporting local food producers," says executive chef Mark Timms. In fact, he worked with the owner of Mount Mansfield Creamery, which specializes in artisan-aged cheese, to create an Alpine variety carrying the Topnotch name.
I could tarry here for hours sampling food, but I have a few calories to burn before dinner.
Fortunately at Topnotch, getting active is easy. Although I haven't played tennis for many years, I take a private lesson at the Topnotch Tennis Center, ranked by Tennis Magazine as No. 1 in the Northeast and among its Ten Best U.S. Tennis Resorts.
As we work on ground strokes, the pro, one of about 10, all of whom are USPTA/PTR certified, helps me correct an awkward backhand. "It's all about muscle memory," he tells me, noting that I need to reintroduce myself gradually back into the game as my muscles relearn lessons from long ago.
Retraining muscles makes me sore, so my next activity, a gentle horseback ride aboard Suzi Q, a trail horse who has been at the Topnotch Equestrian Center for 18 years, seems perfect.
We follow an hourlong path that meanders across a wooden covered bridge, crosses the West Branch of the Lamoille River, climbs Luce Hill past patches of shamrocks and weaves through wavy grasses dotted with pink yarrow and painted daisies.
To relax after the tennis and riding, I head to the pool. Actually, Topnotch has two: one for families and one, on a higher tier, for adults. The setting is spectacular: Torches line the walkway, and a long sheet of water flows from the upper level to the one below.
The pools, lined with a blue green colored slate — quarried in Vermont, of course — retain the warmth of the day. And as I float on my back, I can see the tip of Mount Mansfield, which at 4,395 feet is Vermont's highest peak.
I end my day much as it began, sitting on Norma's patio near the outdoor fire pit with its flicker of flames highlighting the garden art on the grassy hillside. I am tired in the exhilarating way of time well spent but have energy enough to eat a lobster roll and hand-cut fries sprinkled with truffle essence while watching the Green Mountains fade into dark.