Thriving Sutton, shining example of conservative growth
By M. Helmuth Starhemberg
Two things tower over the town of Sutton, the Roman Catholic church and the storied ski mountain which just celebrated its 50th anniversary this year. But Sutton has so many nuances, it is hard to explain in brief. There is of course Mont Sutton, the ever growing skiing center which keeps improving its trails and activities every year, there are hiking trails so varied in lenghth and difficulty that one hiker said: "If I spend five months here I could possibly do them all" In summer there are hundreds of kilometers of roads well enough groomed for bicycling and there is the big bicycle race in July which attracts people from as far as Europe. Add to that the annual Swiss festival, the biggest outside of Switzerland, the local galleries, boutiques and restaurants, it would take a book to describe them all.
"It's a little bit like the line from the movie Field of Dreams", muses town councillor Louis Dandenault, "Build it and they will come". The ski mountain was built 50 years ago and "they" came, later tourists discovered hiking and cycling and a new attraction is the 100+ acre site of "Treetop adventures. But, we have to be careful of what we build because we must always remember that our infrastructure of roughly 4,000 people can only absorb a certain amount of growth". He jokingly spoke of a French fable in which a frog inhales and inhales and puffes itself up to be the biggest animal on the farm. "He exploded" laughted Dandenault. "Any town that is almost totally reliant on tourism which in turn is dependent on the weather, should take care to make sure that it knows where to stop building new condos, new hotels, new restaurants. It is an incredibly delicate balance and everyone here is in one way or another affected by tourism. Contractors and electricians, restaurant owners, the Bed and Breakfasts and the people who work there are directly affected by a bad month of rain"
Sutton has built again in the past few years. Downtown has undergone a dramatic change when all the ugly telephone and Hydro poles disappeared with lines now running under the newly paved sidewalks and the beautifully paved road which is now complete right to the Richford Vt. border.
A great attraction outside of the sporting activities are the local artists. There are galleries, there is the annual "Tour des Arts" which brings thousands into town, there is the Jazz festival and weekly entertainment at the Salle Pelletier. And gourmands will have a heyday here with some of the best chefs in the townships competing for clients nightly. The food offerings range from the dominant elegant French fare to Italian and even Indian. And the boutiques offer anything from a bathrobe made from bamboo to outdoor gear. A new bicycle shop has just opened in town and seems to be doing well as is the local bakery.
Sutton's river which originates on the mountain runs through the center of town but hikers can follow its trail upriver and see a magnificent waterfall, a swimming hole or they can catch themselfes a brook trout.