STOWE, Vt. - You can't blame people for stubbornly trying to keep their favorite swimming holes private. Who needs tourists and other outsiders flocking to those back road gems great for relieving modern stresses?
But there is one in northern Vermont that's no secret and is especially popular in winter because it is indoors.
The Swimming Hole fitness center, which opened in 2001, features two swimming pools in a modern red barn complex complete with silos. It was the brainchild of a group that formed around the mission of building a nonprofit community pool for families in the area.
Located on a country road between the town's main drags of Routes 108 and 100, and steps from the Stowe Recreation Path, the club is unpretentious and laid-back. Besides the 25-meter lap pool and smaller children's pool, the facility offers an array of fitness machines and classes.
The pool is the home of the Stowe Swimmers Swim Club, winners of the 2006 state championship. Locals and visitors mingle poolside, with four of the eight lanes always open for lap swimming, according to Charlotte Brynn, The Swimming Hole's executive director.
The main pool, heated to 82 degrees, also hosts aqua fitness classes with shallow and deep water aerobics. The children's pool, 86 degrees, echoes the hoots and hollers of kids twisting down the water slide, anticipating the cascade from a water bucket drop, or dancing around the sprays from a pair of fountains.
Brynn, a native New Zealander, is probably the only one in this ski-resort town who works in shorts and flip-flops year-round. She points out that her attire is made possible by the fact that "it's always 80 degrees in here."
For tourists, the facility is always a rainy day alternative in winter or summer. Brynn says the club is a draw for visitors looking to maintain their regular fitness routines, kick-start a new one during vacation, or for families seeking a swim or a little exercise together.
The facility has several types of workout rooms. A 700-square-foot cycling room hosts spinning classes, with a couple of heavy punching bags and speed bags in the back for those looking to unleash their inner Ali.
The cardiovascular fitness room is lined with treadmills, more bikes, and even a stretching cage designed to unwind the knots from that drive to ski country or after that knee-jarring bump run down the front of nearby Mount Mansfield. The airy octagon-shaped weight room is equipped with free weights, strength-training machines, and a bank of four flat-screen TVs under a high ceiling. There are no saunas or whirlpools.
Nonmembers must pay a daily fee to use The Swimming Hole. For an additional fee, they can take classes - yoga, Pilates, meditation, tai chi, BOSU, circuit - in the cheery program room. Available for consultations are nutritionists and personal trainers.
Personal trainers? Now you will truly never know what you might find at a Vermont swimming hole.
Marty Basch, a New Hampshire-based writer, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.