By Roger Cox, Editor
This 125-acre estate, 5 miles from the village of Stowe, spills down a forested hillside on one side of the road before crossing over into the field beyond. The hotel comprises 68 rooms and several two- and three-bedroom townhouses, all of those on the elevated side. Despite the relatively small number of rooms, the property encompasses a broad array of resort amenities. Central to its appeal, at least for tennis players, are its 10 hard and clay courts, four of which are indoors and constitute the largest indoor complex of any resort in the Northeast. No less impressive, however, is the range of other diversions, including a 35,000-square-foot European spa, a well-equipped fitness center, an equestrian center, and summer children's programs. There are also options to golf, hike, and bike in the area. Tennis is only the beginning.
With over 10 tennis programs, Topnotch is the premier Vermont tennis resort. Nestled into the mountains of Stowe, Vermont, this is the destination for experienced tennis aficionados or novices. With seasonal outdoor and indoor hard courts, and USPTA-certified international staff, spa and luxury accommodations, Topnotch is ranked one of the Top 25 U.S. Tennis Resorts by Tennis Magazine. For more information, visit Topnotch Resort
Pro Shop: 802-253-6435
The resort has a long history of devotion to tennis, including at one time hosting the Head Classic, a men's professional tournament and, in 2007, a Fed Cup tie. That tennis mystique still contributes to its allure. During the early-July-to-early-September peak season the four Har-Tru courts below the hotel bustle with activity. The signature program is the Adult Tennis Academy, a two-hour morning program with a different theme each day: groundstrokes, net game, transition game, footwork. Those who find two hours too little can add another 60-minute session in the afternoon focused on point play. The academy aside, there are regular hour-long clinics, Cardio sessions, and 90-minute junior clinics for those 6-12. And for those who just want to play, the staff offers game matching, recruiting other hotel guests and local members. And in what is increasingly a sign of the times, Topnotch has lined four of its hardcourts—two indoor and two outdoor—for pickleball and backs those up with lessons.
Tennis Staff. Organizing all of this is director Simba Happy. A native of Zimbabwe, where he played his junior tennis and represented his country at international competitions, he later competed for Florida A&M University and remained on as the graduate assistant coach of the men's tennis team. He came to Topnotch in 2012, which means he's had a decade of experience catering to the needs of Topnotch guests and members. At Topnotch, he heads a staff of three pros and a pro shop manager.
Courts & Fees. There are two pairs of Har-Tru courts below the swimming pool between the inn and road. The pro shop is across the road at the indoor complex, where there are four hard courts—two of them lined for pickleball—a lounge area, and showers and lockers. Finally, there are another two outdoor hard courts, also linied for pickleball, among the townhomes behind the resort. Court Fees: $40/hour; complementary on the outdoor hard courts.
Spa & Fitness
Golf Courses. Topnotch does not have a golf course of its own; however, guests do have privileges at the exclusive Country Club of Vermont and the staff can arrange for guests to play on the 18-hole championship course at the Stowe Country Club nearby.
Spa & Fitness Center. At 35,000 square feet, the highly rated Topnotch Spa is central amenity. It offers 120 rejuvenating and skin-care treatments as well as a full-service salon, indoor pool, a whirlpool with cascading waterfall, and state-of-the-art fitness studios for daily classes, yoga and Pilates instruction, weight training and cardiovascular workouts, and personal training.
Horseback Riding. The equestrian center just across the road from the resort offers guided trail rides, instruction in both English and Western riding, a training ring for experienced riders, and pony rides for kids. It's open from mid-May to November. During the winter months, the equestrian center offers sleigh rides through the Vermont countryside.
Biking & Jogging Trails. Across Rte. 108 from the resort, near the indoor tennis courts and equestrian center, is the trail head for the Stowe Recreation Path. Begun in 1981, this 5.3-mile paved byway parallels Rte. 108 all the way into Stowe, providing bicyclists, joggers, and in-line skaters with their own traffic-free thoroughfare. The winding path crosses the Little River 11 times on the way from Main Street in Stowe to just beyond Topnotch. Along the way it passes century-old trees and affords views of quintessential Vermont village architecture, fields of wildflowers, covered bridges. and Mount Mansfield. And it's free. Bikes and in-line skates can be rented from the Nordic Barn Recreation Center.
And ... In addition to the indoor spa pool, there are two pools just outside, the larger of them open seasonally, the smaller one, which is heated, and its adjacent hot tub are open year round. Both pools are surrounded by flagstone decking and stonework. And in winter, there is skiing at nearby Mt. Mansfield.
The experienced resort staff keeps kids active and engaged throughout their stay, offering a variety of fun things geared specifically to kids. With family activities such as kite-flying, berry picking, arts and crafts, snowshoeing and evening bonfires as part of an ever-changing schedule, the kids will find plenty to do. The summer summer junior camps are also a favorite with kids ages 6-12.
The decor of the rooms has adopted a modern take on Vermont living: rich wood furnishings, marble baths, flat-screen TVs, Keurig coffeemakers (with Green Mountain coffee, of course), alarms with an iPod dock. The white louvers on the windows remain as do mountain views for many of the 68 rooms and suites. Alternatively, you can choose from some 22 privately owned two- and three-bedroom homes with fireplaces and fully equipped kitchens in a neighborhood just above the spa. Also: pet friendly.
The Roost, a modern lobby bar and restaurant, serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, capitalizing on its indoor-outdoor setting to offer a casual place to gather, not only for good food but also its lively bar scene, craft beers, and outdoor fire pit.
For comparison's sake, also check out:
If the amenities matter but you can forgo the tennis clinics, look at:
4000 Mountain Rd.
Stowe, VT 05672
Seasons. The inn is open year-round. The tennis program also operates year-round but attendance reaches its peak during the summer and fall seasons from July into September.
Travel Instructions. By Air: The nearest airport is Burlington International (BTV), roughly an hour's drive away.