New owners refashion Vt. Mountain Top Inn By Nadine Godwin / March 25, 2003 Share 1 -- CHITTENDEN, Vt. -- The Mountain Top Inn & Resort here is well into its first winter season under the management of new owners, Steve and Lauren Bryant, a pair who were determined to upgrade a property where quality had slipped under its previous ownership. The resort, which builds a major part of its business around outdoor activities on a year-round basis, sits on 345 acres adjacent to the Green Mountain National Forest, and besides cross-country skiing, winter activities include snowshoeing, ice skating, sledding and sleigh rides.The property is about eight miles from Rutland, Vt., and 11 miles from the better-known Alpine ski center, Killington. (The property offers discounted lift passes to Killington, too.)Its more than 50 miles of cross-country trails, suitable for all skill levels, wind their way over the resort's terrain and into the national forest -- and it has been my ski center of choice for well over a decade.The makeover at Mountain Top Inn, so far, has meant a total redesign for some luxury rooms, a makeover in the dining room and the launch of the Petite Day Spa and a fitness center. The Bryants also have focused on services, with an upgrade to staffing, Steve said, and an emphasis on fine dining with the skills of Culinary Institute of America-trained chefs.The inn has a history: The original building was, in the 1870s, the barn for a turnip farm. In the early 1940s, it was used as a private guesthouse, then converted by its next owners, beginning in 1945, into a proper inn.President Eisenhower visited in 1955, and guests can sleep in his room.The same family owned and maintained the inn for 50 years, including a reconstruction after a mid-1970s fire. Quality slipped under the 1995 buyers, who gave up on the inn last year.The Bryants, who had owned and renovated the Inn at Weston, Vt., were the winning bidders, with a number of silent partners, when the Mountain Top Inn went up for auction last April.The inventory of about 50 units includes 35 rooms of varying sizes, scenic views and in-room features; six rooms in three cottages (where pets are welcome for a fee) and a number of privately owned two- and three-bedroom chalets for which Mountain Top Inn provides booking services.Since their takeover, the Bryants have promoted aggressively, and one device is a series of three promotional packages, redesigned for each season. In each season, however, there is one package each focused on families, romance and outdoor activities.In the "outdoor" category, the current special, the Nordic Ski & Snowshoe Deal, available through March, starts at $99 per person, per night, double, and includes a country breakfast, a daily group ski lesson, ski or snowshoe pass and use of the inn's sledding, ice skating and fitness room facilities.The property specializes in a range of equestrian activities in other seasons and stables 35 horses. Winter ski trails provide the paths for trail rides beginning in the spring.Room rates range, in ski season, from $155 to $325, with higher peak rates during holiday weeks. For the private chalets, it is necessary to call for quotes.Commission for travel agents is 10%, except when selling the packages, which pay 5%, Steve Bryant said.To book, call (800) 445-2100. The Web address is www.mountaintopinn.com.