It’s probably safe to say that there’s nothing quite like the Stone Hut on top of Mt. Mansfield. It was originally built by the Civilian Conservation Corps – the same men who cut some of the mountain’s original ski trails.
As the name implies, it was built from the mountain’s own stones and timber. There are wood bunks to sleep 12, simple wood furnishings and a massive stone chimney and hearth that surrounds a wood stove.
Burlington chiropractor Kevin Duniho has stayed in the hut a few times.
"It's a really special feeling to be on top of the mountain after all the operations have ended for the day and everybody’s gone down into the valley and the weather’s kind of nasty up there," he says. "It just feels great to be inside by the toasty wood stove with special friends."
The Stone Hut is owned by the Vermont Department of Forest Parks and Recreation and it's leased out for overnight stays throughout the winter. It’s accessible via chair lift at Stowe Mountain Resort or, for the more adventurous, by skinning or snowshoeing up the mountain.
At the time of last winter’s accidental fire the hut was unoccupied and being leased by Stowe residents Jake and Donna Carpenter – the founder and the CEO, respectively, of Burton Snowboards.
The nonprofit Vermont Parks Forever began accepting donations toward the rebuild last spring. The effort was Kickstarted by a $150,000 donation from the Carpenters.
Michael Snyder is commissioner of Vermont Forests, Parks and Recreation. He says the project came out beautifully.
"It's just a wonderful story of a big challenge overcome by Vermonters working together, and I'm really proud of it," says Snyder. "Beginning with our staff, but totally, absolutely including partners like the Mountain Company and these contractors who just were amazing."
Snyder says the project was completed with local materials and by local contractors. The total cost, from fire cleanup to furnishings, is about $370,000. Snyder says insurance covered most of that price tag, less a $100,000 deductible and about $30,000 in safety upgrades not required by code. And he says the private donations to the project exceeded the difference.
"They cover the deductible, they cover those costs not covered by insurance, and what that means is, when you get down to it, no public money required," he says. "And that’s really a beautiful thing, too."
With the project nearly complete, this week Forests, Parks and Recreation held its annual lottery to rent overnight stays at the hut this winter.
Susan Bulmer is Northeast Parks Regional Manager. Wednesday morning she presided over the lottery.
"The Stone Hut lottery is a process that we go through for this very popular lodging facility on top of Mt. Mansfield," she explains. "And people put in applications for as many night stays that they would like throughout the season. And this year it’s Dec. 1 through April 15 , so for a total of 136 nights of reservations."
The applications of more than 20 people who lost their reservation after last year’s fire were considered first in a special lottery. Bulmer says after those requests were filled, a second lottery was held for other applicants.
"We're very excited to be able to open up the Stone Hut after 10 months of a really quick process of going through insurance adjusters, through fire inspectors, through planning and design and permitting, to bidding out a contractor to rebuilding the Stone Hut and furnishing it," she says. "And now we’re at the point of doing the Stone Hut lottery."
Kevin Duniho submitted an application and is hoping to secure a stay this winter. He took the day off work to watch the lottery drawing at a state office building in Barre.
Stowe Mountain Resort hasn’t fired up its lifts yet, but Duniho says he’s skinned up the mountain about 10 times already this season. And he says he doesn’t think the new construction will detract from the Stone Hut’s appeal.
"I took a peek through the window the other day and it looks almost identical to the way it used to look," he says. "And I have a good feeling about it."
After the lotteries, all 136 nights were booked. Unfortunately for Duniho, they were booked before his number came up. But Bulmer says people who want to spend a night at the Stone Hut this winter may still have a chance.
"There might be a few people that cancel out," she says. "So there’ll be a first-come-first-served process that is only taken by telephone and that will start on Nov. 23."
Bulmer says details will be available by calling the Vermont State Ski Dorm.