Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Sugarhouse

This weekend (April 27-29, 2012) is the 46th annual Vermont Maple Festival, an event that celebrates Vermont maple syrup with a parade, "Sap Run", sugarhouse tours, maple syrup competitions (who has the sweet job of judging that?), crafts and antiques fairs, and more. Visitors to this festival will learn that a sugarhouse is a central part of maple syrup production...after the sap has been collected from the trees in the early spring, it requires hours of boiling in order to reduce the watery sap into sweet syrup...and this process (as it has been for generations) is done in a sugarhouse.  Maple syrup production is a fascinating process...from the "tapping" of the 40-to-one (sap to syrup) the precise timing of the sap flow and the immediate boiling required for the best flavor...and the wonderful tradition that says that steam escaping from a sugarhouse's rooftop cupola is a welcome signal for visitors (since someone is inside keeping watch over the lengthy, solitary boiling process).

The long history of the Vermont sugarhouse, like the long history of Vermont skiing, is pretty sweet indeed.  And while many visitors can tour a Vermont sugarhouse, here's one you can actually sleep in!   The Ski House of the Day is the sweet, adorable Sugarhouse at Sheady Acres, just five miles down the road from Jay Peak, (which is open this weekend!)Vermont:

The Sugarhouse was designed and constructed (lovingly by the owners of Sheady Acres themselves) to resemble a real Vermont Sugarhouse, in which the cupola on top would open to let the steam escape if sap were actually boiling inside. (Even though there is no sap boiling here, I'm told that this Sugarhouse can get steamy it is considered the "honeymoon sweet" here).

Built in 2009, the Sugarhouse is 14 ft X 18 ft (plus a private covered porch), made almost entirely of authentic Vermont timber products including recycled maple and pine plank flooring, as well as locally harvested and gorgeously finished white cedar and pine.  Although new, the Sugarhouse connects to Vermont heritage since it was built utilizing mostly local, recycled, and re-purposed materials such as the marble corner sink in the bathroom originally from the owner's childhood home (in Enosburg, VT), the wood in the bathroom from a wooden toy factory (in Montgomery, VT), and the exterior pine from a local mill.  Under all that snow, the roof is metal, as on most working sugarhouses.

The Sugarhouse at Sheady Acres greets visitors with the smell of local Vermont white pine and cedar...if you want to add the scent of maple you can enjoy some Vermont maple syrup in the sweet miniature kitchen area.  The kitchen even includes a pine-slab counter-top which was given to the owners as a wedding present from a local ski-shop owner (who got it from a gigantic pine tree on his property!):

The spalted maple interior trim in the Sugarhouse is from trees cut down and milled on-site.  The woodwork inside this Sugarhouse creates a beautiful, warm and inviting interior.  But even more than that, I think that the way this house was constructed with so many meaningful items, each bringing a story of its own, is what really creates an absolutely beautiful, warm, uniquely inviting and special place.

The rooftop cupola is a unique detail (specific to sugarhouses) which expands the ceiling and lets natural sunlight flow into this Sugarhouse.   The Sugarhouse also has a romantic antique claw-foot tub...perfect to soak in after a day of spring skiing on Vermont sugar-snow.

The owners tell me that even though the other four cottages are special in their own way, the romantic Sugarhouse (far left below) is the sweetest of all of their five uniquely themed houses that comprise the 25-acre Sheady Acres:

And an unexpected bonus...there's even an outdoor hot tub in an open but protective lean-to structure (about 150 ft from the Sugarhouse) where you can relax apres-ski and gaze at the acres of snow-covered trees:

Enjoying some freshly made Vermont maple syrup....spring skiing at Jay....apres-ski relaxation in this hot-tub...sweet dreams in the doesn't get much sweeter than this!

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