Bluebird Tälta Lodge
$, Mountain Oasis
You could easily whiz past the roadside motor lodge nestled at the foot of Stowe's Mount Mansfield. Its dark, modern exterior blends into the kaleidoscopic scenery in Stowe's charming downtown, especially during Vermont's peak foliage season. This camouflaged aesthetic is purposeful: The hotel exemplifies the changing landscape of roadside motels, promoting a new style of American road tripping, one with an eye on great design. The lodge is part of Bluebird, the new hotel portfolio run by New England-based hospitality company Lark that aims to ditch the motor lodge stereotype (think: neon vacancy signs, dingy interiors, and zero customer service) and replace it with an affordability that doesn't sacrifice style, comfort, and the get-up-and-go spirit of car windows down, music at full blast, and spontaneously going where the path takes you.
Tälta, the Swedish term for "camp," befits the tone of the property, which opened last October and quickly established itself as a home base for adventure-seeking explorers who want equal access to Stowe's adrenaline-fueled mountains and natural beauty as well as with the town's lively brewery and restaurant scene. Formerly the very cheesy Mountaineer inn, Tälta offers a contemporary spin on the '60s-era mountain lodges that popped up as skiing was becoming more popular in the United States, as was an après-ski culture. Spacious rooms are designed in a minimalist, Scandinavian style with plush beds, streamlined furniture, and modular gear walls for hanging adventure accessories. The amenities exceed expectations: A year-round indoor pool and sauna are warming after the slopes, while the lobby, with its modular low-slung furniture, concierge-slash-bar, and roaring fireplace, is a lively hub for mingling with other travelers. During the summer and fall, a spacious lawn adjacent to the west bank of the Little River is dotted with fire pits, and a pump track is set up for mountain bikers to perfect their bank turns.
I set out for Tälta Lodge a week after its opening in mid-October, when the leaves had just started changing in my Brooklyn neighborhood. As it turned out, I was five days late for prime leaf peeping (Vermonters take their color peaks very seriously), but just in time for Stowe's fall glory. My ebike tour ended with a flight of local brews, afternoon hikes beneath the trails had me dreaming of future ski excursions, and the colorful road trip through Vermont's Rte. 100 reminded me of the joys of belting "Life Is a Highway" with the windows down.
At a Glance
The Vibe: A cozy mountain base camp for the modern adventure set.
Standout Detail: While many area hotels are seasonal or cater only to leaf peepers, the lodge operates year-round. Its central location makes it easy for any season's calling.
This Place Is Perfect For: Road-tripping families, adventurous couples, and city dwellers looking for a quiet escape with activities at their fingertips.
Rooms: 51 rooms are designed with Scandinavian functionality in mind. Modular gear walls accommodate bike helmets, ski jackets, and backpacks, while large private patios with Adirondack chairs allow for peaceful downtime. Tälta partnered with Vermont-based textile brand Skida for custom pillows and blankets — a nice local touch. The king suite is outfitted for up to four guests, with a plush king bed, dining table, sectional sofa, and queen-sized pull-out. Seven pet-friendly rooms have easy access to the large lawn near the river.
On Site: Year-round indoor pool, sauna, and bike pump track, along with a storage room and cleaning station. In the winter, skiers have access to on-site ski lockers with boot dryers. After a day of leaf peeping or mountain swooshing, afternoon après starts at the large outdoor fire pit near the river, with nightly s'mores at the ready. A downstairs lounge and game room provides plenty of space for families or groups to hang in the winter.
Food + Drink: While there is no on-site restaurant, the lobby doubles as a small provisions market with cold brew, craft beer, and snacks for hikes.
What to Do Nearby
Stowe and the surrounding Green Mountains are beautiful in every season, though especially in the warmer months when the "come for the winter, stay for the summer" vibe permeates the ski town. I took an ebike and brewery tour (wow, was I grateful for the extra push after a few pints) with Lamoille Valley Bike Tours along the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail. We stopped at Rock Art Brewery, Lost Nation Brewery, and Ten Bends: It was an easy commute among them along the 93-mile trail that spans the breadth of northern Vermont from the Connecticut River Valley to Lake Champlain. To get out onto the mountains during any season, look to Sunrise Mountain Guides, the best in the business, for ice and rock climbing, backcountry skiing, snowshoeing, and mountain biking tours for all levels.
Stowe has an impressive roster of restaurants, with several serving classic American fare made with local ingredients, which includes a lot of maple syrup and cheese. My weekend highlights included Idletyme Brewery for the great roasted chicken, fish dishes, and samplers of their on-site brew (Zog’s Pale Ale, Helles Brook Lager, Fest Maerzen). Stowe Cider (also a short drive from the lodge) has daily live music and creative cider tastings — peach habanero was my favorite. The extensive vinyl collection and cozy interiors at Doc Ponds, run by two chefs formerly of Stowe's fine dining sweetheart Hen of the Wood, fuses music into their more casual American fare.