Manchester & the Mountains —
the Magic of Vermont, the Sophistication of the City
No Vermont community has changed more dramatically in recent decades than Manchester. A summer resort since the Civil War, Manchester has also been a winter ski resort haven since mid-century when Fred Pabst, of the beer-making family, founded Big Bromley in 1936.After a stellar beginning (the first Vermont mountain to have TWO J-bar tows, soon followed by a third), it remains one of the oldest continuously running ski mountains in the country. Pabst designed Bromley’s trails to offer breathtaking views, a southern exposure (the only one in New England) and trails that all lead back to the base lodge. Today, Bromley remains family-friendly, has full boarding capabilities, a summer Thrill Zone. And all ski trails still lead back to the lodge!
Also nearby Manchester is Stratton Mountain, set on the highest peak in southern Vermont. Stratton Mountain offers an exhilarating skiing experience for beginner to expert with 92 trails and a 2,003-foot vertical drop. It is the place snowboarding began when local resident Jake Burton almost single-handedly started new sport.
Stratton Mountain offers the best of both worlds as old-fashioned New England hospitality meets state of the art snowmaking and grooming. It is the only mountain in the country with a Great Snow Guarantee!
Manchester is justifiably famous for it’s shopping, too. If you want to find a great deal in a lovely setting, Manchester is your town! 50 top-brand outlet stores and another 50 or so specialty shops and artisan galleries.
The region is also becoming a marvelous cultural center for the state with the spectacular Southern Vermont Arts Center, the Riley Rink at Hunter Park with sports and cultural events year round, and two of the state’s premier summer theaters, the Dorset Playhouse and the Weston Playhouse.
Manchester’s inns and restaurants are always gracious and welcoming and include a grand resort, the Equinox Resort & Spa. The white-columned, tower-topped, 183-room Equinox is as much a part of Manchester’s current appeal as it was in the 1850s, the era in which the town’s status as a resort was firmly established. Mrs. Abraham Lincoln and her two sons spent the summers of 1863 and ’64 at the Equinox, booked again for the summer of ’65, and reserved a space for the entire family the following season. The president, unfortunately, never made it.
Other presidents—William H. Taft, Ulysses S. Grant, Theodore Roosevelt, and Benjamin Harrison—came to stay at The Equinox. But it was Lincoln family that adopted Manchester Village and made it home. Robert Todd Lincoln, who served as Secretary of War under President Garfield, Minister to Britain under Harrison, and then president of the Pullman Palace Car Company, selected Manchester Village as his summer home. Here he built Hildene, the lavish mansion that’s now restored with world famous peony gardens and operates as a stunning example of a working “Gentleman’s Farm.” Other wealthy New Yorkers followed and opulent “summer cottages” are sequestered off River Road and nearby country lanes.
Manchester Center and Manchester Village both occupy the narrow “Valley of Vermont,” a fascinating geological region that is a narrow valley region between the Taconic Mountains on the west and the Green Mountains on the east. It runs roughly from the Brandon area at the northern end to Bennington in the south, a distance of 85 miles. Most of the rocks in the region are limestone or marble. Marble quarrying has always been important to the region. Mount Equinox, a stray peak from New York’s Taconic Range, thrusts up a full 3,800 feet from the village, rising dramatically behind its namesake hotel. Luckily the 1930s Work Progress Administration plan to carve ski trails on Mount Equinox never happened, and Manchester Village retains its serene, white-clapboard good looks. The hotel faces the Congregational church, gold-domed Bennington Courthouse, and a few shops.
Famous-name designer shops line the streets a short quarter mile north in Manchester Center. This was “Factory Point” in the 19th century, when sawmills, marble works, and a tannery were powered by the Battenkill River. Fears that the former Factory Point might become Vermont’s future factory outlet capital began in the mid-1980s, with the opening of a wood-and-glass shopping complex at the traffic heart of town. The strip malls, however, never materialized. Instead, the outlets fill old homes and house-sized compounds, blending nicely with shopping landmarks like the stunning new Orvis Flagship Store, a spacious building with an indoor/outdoor trout pond. This new flagship store is the perfect complement to this retailer which has been supplying the needs of fishermen and other sporting folk since 1856. Other upscale outdoors attractions include the Orvis Fly Fishing School, and the Land Rover Driving School.
The Green Mountains up within Manchester to 3,100 feet on the east, then roll off into heavily forested uplands punctuated by picturesque villages, all noteworthy destinations in their own right. Read About Our Member Towns.