Recently, Realtor.com came out with its list of the most affordable ski towns in the country. Of the top 10, three were in Vermont. Based on their median home prices, Killington, West Dover and Ludlow all made the list. And many other Vermont mountain towns could have as well.
“In Vermont, you can get some of the best value for your money compared with other ski towns in the U.S.,” says Rich Caplan, the principal broker with Hermitage Deerfield Valley Realtors in West Dover. “Out West,” he continues, “you can’t touch anything for under $500,000. Here, we have some really nice inventory in that range.”
But what prices alone don’t take into account is just how sweet life is in our mountain towns or how living here can change a person.
“I wanted to be out in nature,” says Suzanna Derby, a Korean-American from Greenwich, Connecticut who built her dream home at Stratton. After living there for five years and hiking, skiing or snowshoeing the mountain, Derby, age 45 at the time, set out to climb Kilimanjaro. By the time she was 50, she’d summited the highest peaks on every continent.
June Anderson grew up in Connecticut and spent weekends skiing at Okemo. After she married, she introduced her husband Wendell to snowboarding. The couple and their two children eventually bought a house near Sugarbush and moved up full time. “We had no idea the schools were so good here,” she says. “And in many ways I’m thankful we are 40 miles from the nearest TJ Maxx. It’s a better environment for children to grow up in.” The Andersons just bought their second Vermont home and are turning it into both their home and a stunning modern art museum, the Bundy Modern.
Joe and Jennifer Garrity met while at St. Michael’s College in Burlington and ended up building their dream ski home just 10 minutes from the slopes of Smuggler’s Notch on a 49-acre parcel of land they bought for $250,000. “Coming from Westchester County, N.Y., it was amazing to see a parcel of land like this that’s so affordable. We have views of Mount Mansfield, trails, meadows and stands of old growth pine. It’s really a three-season playground‚ the only time we are not here is mud season.”
Here’s a peek inside three family’s dream ski homes and the stories behind them.
A Mountaineer’s Retreat
Suzanna Derby’s timber-framed home off Stratton Mountain is like a luxurious, five-bedroom tree house. In the living room, a wall of glass rises nearly two stories and looks out at the treetops, the glass itself is inset with wood “branches.” The tree theme is picked up in intricate iron leaves that rim the doors of the two fireplaces and slabs of wood that form the headboards in the master bedroom.
When Derby’s sons feel like “camping out,” they can retreat to a glass-roofed, screened-in gazebo that houses a fire pit with a spiral stone chimney and a spit and grate for grilling over open flames. In the main house, there’s a “swimming hole,” a recirculating current lap pool.
“I wanted my children to grow up with nature: it gives you wholeness in your heart,” says Derby.
Her two boys, Spencer, now 25, and Simon, 16, were passionate about skiing, riding, swimming and anything outdoors. Stratton was an easy drive from Greenwich, Ct,, where they live full-time and that’s where she decided to build her dream home, 10 years ago.
The home sings Derby’s song. “I like timber frames and the fact that they are so organic, they don’t even use nails,” she explains. “We looked for natural, local stone for the fireplaces, too,” she adds. The fireplace rises two stories in the living room, facing a wall of windows. The chimney backs up to the kitchen where another smaller fireplace crackles brightly just in front of a bar facing the central work area.
The home was also the start of another dream. At age 45, Derby took a trip around the world with her two sons. As they flew over Mount Kilimanjaro, “the man next to me on the plane pointed the mountain out and said, ‘You know, people climb that,“ she recalls.
“I am athletic and I skied and snowshoed, but I never had any dream of climbing,” she continues. But something had struck a chord. When she got home, she Googled ‘climbing, Kilimanjaro.’’’
That year, she not only summited Kilimanjaro but set her sights on climbing the highest mountain on every other continent. Derby trained by running or snowshoeing up and down Stratton and taking avalanche and winter survival courses on Mt. Washington.
In five years she did indeed tick off every summit. “Everest was my 50th birthday present to myself,” she says.
That was four years ago. When she came back from Everest, though, she realized that she was ready for another phase of her life. Her marriage ended and the house, jointly owned, is now on the market, listed with Sotheby’s Four Seasons for $1,895,000.
Derby may look for another place in Vermont. “I have so many good memories from here—playing with boys at this secret swimming hole down by the river, going for Swiss fondue, and there are always festivals here, always something going on.”
The Bundy Modern: Living in a Museum
From its start on Route 100 just south of Waitsfield, Bundy Road is a long slog up through a stand of giant pines. At the top of it: a plateau, a few stands of birches, a reflecting pond and a stunning piece of modern architecture known simply as “The Bundy.”
“It kind of makes you gasp when you see it,” says June Anderson. Anderson, her husband Wendell and their two children had been living in another house just off the slopes of Sugarbush when the Bundy came up for sale. “People told us we were crazy to buy it but we knew exactly what we wanted to do,” says the former realtor whose husband, Wendell built high-end homes in Connecticut before the couple moved north full-time.
The 5,000-square-foot steel, brick and glass cube was built in 1962 by Harlow Carpenter, the wealthy Harvard-educated architect. At the time, it was tribute to a new design aesthetic being promoted at Harvard by Le Corbusier (who designed Harvard’s Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts) and Walter Gropius.
Over the years, the building underwent multiple iterations as a gallery, theater, museum and residence.
And it saw neglect. The sculptures, which stood on podiums around the yard, were sold for a song. “One person I know bought one for $100,” says June Anderson. “I don’t think people realized the value of what was here.”
The Andersons did. The couple bought the Bundy in 2014 and set about restoring it. “We loved the open space and the light and had an instant idea of what we wanted to do with it.”
A storage room was opened up with a window and, with the addition of some Ikea cabinets, turned into a kitchen. “We didn’t have a lot of money to put into this,” June says, “but we had a vision.” The great room with its 24-foot-tall brick walls and slate floors became a gallery where the couple host exhibits from noted Vermont artists and opens the house to the public on weekends. The current exhibit shows the vibrant nudes and abstract oil paintings on canvas of Blake Larsen (with price tags in the $20,000 range).
The back of the house is divided into living quarters. Everywhere there are views; a giant round skylight over the master bed opens to the stars. A floor-to-ceiling window facing the stairs gives a view of a waterfall that cascades off the flat roof when it rains. The living room looks across the reflecting pool toward stands of birch and the trails of Sugarbush.
The land around the house opens onto the trails of Ole’s Cross Country Center. “We may be the only ski-in, ski-out modern museum in America,” jokes June.
Birchwood: A Tribute to Local Craftsmanship
For this year’s Super
Bowl, Joe and Jennifer Garrity will do what they’ve done nearly every year for the past decade: get a group of college friends together, ski Smuggler’s Notch as hard as they can and then invite everyone back to the house to watch the game in the giant media room/home theater.
The house, known as Birchwood, is not just any house.
“We get 35 people watching the game,” Joe says. “And we’ve had probably as many as 50 people sleeping here, crammed in the bunkroom, four bedrooms and all over.”
When Joe and Jennifer Garrity started talking at a bar in Burlington in the late 1970s, the two St. Michael’s College students had no idea that nearly 30 years later they’d be building their dream home 10 minutes from the trails they skied as students.
The couple were living outside New York where Joe worked for Deloitte Touche when they got a call from a college friend. “He said there’s a piece of land up here you gotta see,” Joe remembers. The Cambridge, Vt. parcel was 49 acres of old pine forests, rolling meadows and three ponds, set high on a knoll with Mt. Mansfield as a backdrop.
“We fell in love with the land instantly,” Joe said. “We could envision trails running through the old growth pine, and views of Mt. Mansfield, and western sunsets.” And when it came time to build, they wanted a house that would feel a part of the landscape.
“Nearly everything about the house is local,” says Garrity, who worked with architect Sam Scofield of Stowe. The timber framing was done by Jeffersonville’s North Woods Joinery, which used fir and spruce that grew near the site for the posts and beams. Thirty-five tons of local fieldstone went into creating the massive Rumford fireplace and chimney. Reclaimed fir from the old Johnson high school gym—some, 150 years old—was used to make the treads on the stairs. Richly colored carpets were woven by Vermont artisans. A local potter threw the lamps in the living room.
Local craftsman Larz Allen molded the wrought-iron chandeliers in the living room and created a copper shade to drop down over the fireplace to prevent drafts. The design on the shade mimics the view of the mountains from the windows opposite. Kim Deetjen, with the Burlington firm Truex Collins, helped with the interior design. “She put us in touch with the best local talent,” says Garrity.
For years, the couple commuted from Westchester, N.Y. Two of their children went to college in Vermont and the house served as a crash pad for them and their friends as well.
“Now that the kids are grown and off on their own, we don’t come up much and we finally decided it was time to put the house on the market,” says Joe. This past December he listed the house with LandVest for $1,795,000. But the Garritys are not in any hurry to sell. “I think we may have a few more Super Bowl parties,” Joe says.