Monday, February 28, 2011

Innkeeping Notebook, Winter 2011

Snapshots and Anecdotes from the Auberge This Winter:

One morning not too long ago a guest came downstairs and said this: “I just noticed a drop in the water pressure. You might want to check to see if there’s a problem somewhere.” Some innkeepers might warm to a statement like this from a concerned guest, but not me. In my mind I said to myself, “Oh, really? Are you the water pressure police? Do you travel the countryside monitoring the aqua flow from small inn spigots?” On the outside I smiled and told him I’d go check it out. I grabbed a flashlight, and though there was some nagging doubt somewhere inside me, I went downstairs. The water pressure coming into the house was fine, but I could hear water running through the pipes. Still, I wasn’t convinced. But I decided to make a pass through the unoccupied rooms just to humor myself. I opened the door to Room 1 and looked into the bathroom. Water was shooting from a wall, filling the bathroom floor.

A lot of things went through my head.

I ran downstairs and shut the water off to the house. Then I opened some faucets to drain the pressure out of the pipes. Then I went into the bathroom in Room 1 and mopped up the floor, ripped the vanity from the wall, tore open a hole in the floor, and saw that both the hot water and cold water pipes had failed at an elbow solder. I gleefully noted that it wasn’t my solder.

Six hours later, after repairing the plumbing and re-installing the vanity, I turned the water on. Everything was tight; no leaks.

You have no idea how good that beer tasted.


One weekend we had some late check-ins to Room 7. The funky thing about Room 7 is that it has a back door which opens onto the staircase leading to my bedroom. That means that if the people in Room 7 are, ahem, loud, we can hear them. The people who checked into Room 7 were loud (but they weren’t “ahem” loud; they were party loud). Sometime around midnight, I awoke to voices in Room 7. I listened for a while and determined that after their long drive, they were unwinding with some drinks. Time dragged on; they got louder. I heard someone say something about going in the hot tub. That was enough to get me out of bed. I dashed downstairs, locked the door to the back deck, where the hot tub is located, and slapped a “Hot Tub Closed” sign on the door. Then I went back to bed, straining to hear the sounds of running water over their voices.


We have been blessed with repeat customers. Sometimes we have so many repeat guests trying to stay with us at the same time we have to shuffle their room assignments around. Sometimes we turn away business because we have so many repeat customers staying with us. Sometimes we introduce our repeat customers (whom we refer to as “frequent fliers”) to each other when they’re here at the same time. It’s kind of weird, because each of them feels like they’re the only frequent flyer we have. They circle around, eyeing each other cautiously. It’s a little like introducing your mistress to your wife.

Not that I’d know what that’s like.


The resort at the mountain added something like 400 luxury hotel rooms slopeside as part of its new development. These were supposed to be high-end rooms, going for several hundred dollars a night. But they’ve been dumping rooms at lower rates on the market--not as low as our rates, but low enough to drive the mid-priced resorts to cut their own rates. Now we’re competing with some of those bigger places, who are dumping their own rooms as they compete with the resort at the mountain. It’s a race to the bottom, but we’re not entering. One of the dumbest things a business person can do is panic. Another dumb thing is to abandon your business model.


It didn’t seem like it snowed a lot this winter, but it did. The effect was cumulative. By the end of January we’d had a boat load of snow. We got pounded on Candlemas (Groundhog’s Day to the secular among us), and then, a week later, we received a heavy, wet snowfall on Saturday night. While I was out front shoveling, I heard a creaking noise, and I turned just in time to see my front porch roof collapsing under the weight of snow and ice. I’d tried to scrape it clean, but two quick snowfalls did it in. Depending on the insurance settlement we receive, I’m going to recuse myself from this building project. I rebuilt the deck below it, now it’s time to share the wealth with a local carpenter.


The nicest surprise this winter has been our Saturday night fondue dinners. Each Saturday night we offer our guests the option of dining with us. We serve a genuine Swiss fondue dinner in ancient, enameled, cast-iron pots rescued from the Restaurant Swisspot, a Stowe institution for over 30 years that closed its doors a few years ago. Dinner begins with a house salad, then fondue is served with crusty bread for dipping, as well as a selection of vegetables. Desert is chocolate fondue with fresh fruit. Dinner for two, including tax and tip, is $50. BYOB. Thanks to all who have enjoyed this relaxing and unique dining experience at the Auberge.


Winter isn't over until April around here, and the best skiing in in March. Call for our Sunday through Friday special Ski & Stay for $93 PP DO.