These Quaint Eastern Villages Overflow With Ski Country Charm

by Dan Giesin | January 17, 2024

There are few songs in the world that conjure up the simple joy and wonder of a winter’s day outing than “Sleigh Ride”. Who hasn’t heard that annual holiday ditty and broken into a small smile, thinking about jingle bells, snow-covered woods and cozy curl-ups by a well-stoked fire?

That warm, old-timey feeling is particularly acute when winter descends on the woods, mountains and fields of the northeastern region of North America, and the villages of upper New York, New England and Quebec practically overflow with gemutlich during the cold and snowy months of the year.

The epitome — perhaps even ground zero — of this phenomenon is Stowe, Vermont, with its white-washed tall-spired church, cozy inns and taverns and Trapp Family wholesomeness. The place oozes so much of that “Sleigh Ride” charm it almost seems Disney-esque. Luckily, the world-class ski hill up the road keeps it from being too much of a cliche.

But everyone’s been to Stowe … or at least has heard of it.

Presented for your consideration are a handful of other lesser-known ski towns that weigh in pretty high on the charm scale.

Jeffersonville, Vermont

Not too many miles north of Stowe lies this quiet, low-key town that relies more on farming than skiing to make it go. But don’t let Jeffersonville’s agrarian vibe fool you: It’s a great place to hang for a bit while checking out the slopes at nearby Smuggler’s Notch. The delightful 158 Main restaurant and bakery is a laid-back establishment with fresh, locally grown food. There are also three examples of a quintessential Vermont structure — the covered bridge — in the neighborhood: Poland (nee Cambridge Junction), Grist Mill and Gates Farm bridges. 

Knowlton, Quebec

Considered one of the prettiest towns in the Eastern Townships, if not all of the province, Knowlton is a shopper’s delight, with many boutiques and antique dealers in residence. The village, which once was rated No. 4 in the Weather Channel’s top 10 leaf-peeping destinations in North America, is also a quick drive to each of the region’s four ski hills: Mont Sutton, Mont Orford, Ski Bromont and Owl’s Head.

Lake Placid, New York

Although “discovered” as a go-to vacation getaway by Manhattan’s one-percenters in the late 19th century and the site of two Winter Olympic Games (1932 and 1980), Lake Placid has managed to retain its up-country charm; the pedestrian-friendly town with its European ambiance has even been deemed “an Instagram-worthy winter wonderland.” It’s also basecamp for the challenging terrain of Whiteface Mountain.

Jamaica, Vermont

Named after the Natick language word for beaver (and no relation to the Caribbean island), Jamaica has managed to retain the charm and characteristics of an old Vermont village. Because the town has no franchises, branch stores or outlets, it’s been said that if you remove the cars Jamaica, which takes pride in its collection of well-preserved buildings, it would look the same as it did a century ago, long before the nearby ski resorts of Stratton, Mt. Snow and Bromley were in existence.

Sugar Hill, New Hampshire

The spectacular views of the White Mountains of New Hampshire and the Green Mountains of Vermont allowed the area that is now Sugar Hill to become a fashionable Victorian resort. It still retains some of that late 19th century vibe, but it is now legendary for the numerous maple groves and vast lupine fields that meld with the town. Loon, Cannon and Bretton Woods ski resorts are each less than 25 miles away.

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