Gardening with Sisler Builders

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Gardening with Sisler Builders
Matt’s granddaughter, weeding the peppers. The concrete blocks serve a couple of functions. Peppers like to cuddle. They do better when they are grown close together, close enough that the leaves touch when the are producing, and the holes in the blocks make that possible. Peppers like sulfur and magnesium so they are easier to feed. They get what they like with less influence on other plants in the garden, and of weeding is a bit easier too.

Summer time is gardening time in Vermont, and several Sisler Builder employees have the gardening bug. They enjoy working the soil, pulling weeds, and reaping the benefits of their labor. We went gardening with Sisler Builders employee, Project Manager Matt Rouleau, who has been gardening since he was a child, annoyed when his mother asked him to help with the weeding of her garden. Now it’s his summertime hobby. He derives great satisfaction from a well-tended garden and passing on his love of plants to his granddaughter.

Matt was happy to discuss his gardening obsession. “I call it my therapy. It relaxes me to go home after a day at work and play in the garden. It helps me unwind.”

Vegetables or perennials?

Gardening with Sisler Builders
Cherries ripe for the picking. Matt’s trees produce a sour cherry that makes the best pie ever. He pits and freezes the cherries for a fresh pie any time of the year.

I have a vegetable garden, but my favorites are fruit trees. I love working with plums and cherries. I just like the fruit, and I like that you have to bring each tree forward to the next year. I have planted one tree a year since I moved into my home. I also like blackberries, raspberries, and grapes. Did you know you can root grape clippings? I started growing them because my daughter-in-law wanted to make wine. I have a couple varieties of Vermont-hardy species.

Pest control.

To keep the wildlife out and the dog in, I have a five-foot-high stranded wire fence around the vegetable garden and a four-foot-high sheep fence around the yard. I’m mostly organic and don’t put anything on the food I am going to eat. I try to pick off beetles, cabbage worms, and other pests, but sometimes you just can’t keep up with it.

Seeds or starts?

I used to do a lot from seeds, but now I mostly buy starts. Tomatoes, sweet peppers, and jalapeno peppers for canning. The jalapenos are great in sandwiches. All the rest is from seed.


We have our own beef cattle and as a result have plenty of fertilizer. I rotate manure piles so that by the time I’m spreading it it’s usually four years old.

Gardening with Sisler BuildersMost important detail.

You have to pay attention to the soil. I test mine myself with a kit, like Rapitest Soil Test Kit. I like it to be fluffy and crumbly. I add peat and leaves if it gets too dense. I try to keep my blueberries and raspberries as acidic as possible by adding pine chips.

What about mulch?

I use chips for my berries. The veggie garden I weed and cultivate, but don’t mulch. I don’t mulch my trees, either. I just let the lawn come right up to them.

Gardening with Sisler BuildersFavorite hand tool.

A regular hoe. Sometimes I use a Mantis. You really have to do a lot of hand picking between the plants or the weeds will take over.

Favorite tomato.

Plum tomatoes for sauces and cherry tomatoes for the kids.

Gloves or not?

I never wear gloves.

What about flowers?

I have some lilacs and peonies, but I mostly grow annuals. Sunflowers are my favorites and I grow lilacs and snapdragons for my wife.




Enhanced Woodworking Capabilities

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Sisler Builders expanded and enhanced woodworking capabilities.
This American black walnut and stainless steel dining table was designed by the architect to be harmonious with the reclaimed black walnut floors on which it sits. Our build quality led to a collaboration with that architect for a number of other tables.

Our local economy is growing, and Sisler Builders is keeping pace with that growth. An exciting recent development is the move of our woodshop to a conveniently located, much larger space in Waterbury Center. We have seen a steady increase in the demand for high-quality wooden products that complement the buildings they are designed for, making them more beautiful, functional, durable, and occasionally whimsical. In response to that demand we have expanded and enhanced our woodworking capabilities.

Our new space is the result of a collaboration with a long-time friend and client, who had an under-utilized building he was willing to upgrade to meet our specific needs. Together we made the space easy to heat and suitable for our carefully thought-out woodworking facility. It has a state-of-the-art environmentally friendly dust collection system that allows us to collect raw wood dust in a trailer, and sheet goods waste with formaldehyde glue in a different bin to be disposed of properly. The raw dust is transported a short distance to Grow Compost, another local business, where they integrate it into their compost production. In keeping with our goal to reduce our carbon footprint, the equipment is powered by our landlord’s on-site solar farm.

Sisler Builders expanded and enhanced woodworking capabilities.
Our client wanted a unique front door and found the perfect solution. Glen Waller salvaged massive oak pieces from a nearby dam. We cut that wood, which had been stained by the water’s interaction with the ferrous iron bolts used to hold it together, into the veneers that face both sides of this door. Visually there truly is nothing else like it!

Our woodworking team, Seth Allen, Glen Waller, Craig Gants, and Jeremy Lindorff, spent many hours searching for used equipment at a reasonable cost. They purchased machines that optimize our shop’s production and enhance efficiency. We now have more milling capabilities with a 36-inch planer, a 54-inch-wide belt sander, a sliding panel saw, a larger radial arm saw for selecting lumber in the rough, a 16-inch joiner, a 24-inch cut-capacity band saw, and 2 large shapers. Glen, who is a locally renowned mechanical genius, modified a few of the more vintage machines to exactly suit our needs. It’s exciting to now see this older equipment smoothly humming along with new purpose.

woodworking capabilities
The staircase was designed by an architect who came up with the geometric pattern balustrade we fabricated in our shop and installed in another home. We carefully selected native red birch with stunning “flame” character for the newel posts, handrails, and the integrated bench. The remaining components are quarter-sawn red birch.

We enhanced our shop’s office with more powerful computing capability so we can generate Auto CAD drawings efficiently. This enables us to produce drawings for customer and architect review. Once the drawings have received final approval, they are immediately suitable for production, really streamlining our process and providing value to our customers.

When thinking about your next woodworking projects, please consider us. We have decades of experience and now we have enhanced capabilities. Our product range is diverse. We’ve done custom exterior and interior doors, furniture, built-ins, kitchen and bath cabinetry, mud rooms, and even a custom shuffleboard table. We are always enthusiastic about new challenges.

The new woodshop is located on Rt 100 just across from Sunflower Natural Foods. If you are in the area, please stop in to see the space and discuss your woodworking needs with us.

You can see more of our work at and reach the shop at or by calling Seth Allen at 802-760-9975.


Difference Between Composite Decking and Real Wood

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difference between composite decking and real wood

With summer not far off, many people are looking forward to spending warm evenings on their decks. Others are thinking about building a deck, and wondering what materials to use. At Sisler Builders we are often asked about the difference between composite decking and real wood. We do have an opinion.


We feel composites still have issues that make them less desirable than wood. They have resin, cellular PVC, and fiber-based fillers. The fillers expand, causing the boards to swell, which could affect drainage and runoff. The resins and PVC get uncomfortably hot in summer, so bare feet are not an option. Composites also lack dimensional stability, so they sag between structural members, leaving a warped surface on which porch furniture will wobble.


difference between composite decking and real woodWood decking comes primarily in three flavors, listed here in ascending initial cost: pressure-treated southern yellow pine, red cedar, and a tropical hardwood called ipe. Pressure treated is infused with chemicals to make it rot resistant. It lasts 20 years, but shrinks, cracks, and splinters, causing a rough unattractive surface. Cedar is beautiful but requires costly maintenance. Ipe (pronounced ee-pay) can be sealed, giving it a gorgeous teak look, but then needs resealing. We prefer untreated ipe which weathers to a nice medium gray, lasts 50 years, and long term is the lowest cost.

Also called Brazilian walnut, ipe wood is typically found in South America and some parts of Central America. It is one of the densest hardwoods available, three times harder than cedar. You can source ipe at most lumber yards, Lowe’s, and Home Depot, or order it online at Ipedepot.

Now that you have a clearer understanding of the difference between composite decking and real wood, you can get started on a new deck and be ready to enjoy the first warm days of summer!


Stowe Slugs at Jackson Hole for Slugs vs Moose

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Slugs vs. Moose “Give a hit, take a hit. Get in the game.” I remember an old hockey coach saying. I chipped the puck off the boards and into the zone, then braced for impact. I lean in for the contact with a small jump. Survived. And the game, Slugs vs Moose, gains momentum.

I play on a hockey team, the Stowe Slugs. We are the premiere old-man team in Vermont. There’s a league for non-contact hockey that guys out of college like to play, called the Catamount League. The pace is quick, but there’s no hitting allowed. We all know that we need to get up and work on Monday. The Slugs have won the Catamount League championship three years running.

Now, however, we were out in Jackson, Wy., playing contact hockey against their home-town team, the Jackson Hole Moose.

Jackson gets rowdy for hockey. They have games Friday and Saturday nights at 7 pm. In addition to hockey, there’s live music between periods, co-ed youths playing before they do the ice, local beer for sale, pizza, kids running around in fashionable red Moose Hockey sweatshirts with skate laces for neck draws. Typical attendance is 1,100 fans, an incredible turnout for a town of 10,000. It’s an all-around good time.

Slugs vs Moose Face-off

We were invited because I lived in Jackson for two winters and had the privilege of playing on the team. They are in their own league, the Black Diamond Hockey League, but they invite out-of-conference competition, like us—the Stowe Slugs—to come play. They provide lodging, transportation from the airport, a gear stash room at the rink, a pregame skate Friday morning, and discounted lift tickets to the Snow King ski hill in town. Again, it’s an all-around good time.

But, they play contact hockey. For some of the guys on the Slugs, this is the first game of contact hockey they’ve played in two decades. We are in it now, though.

The first play of the game, my center won the draw clean, and I, the right winger, backed out into space and moved up ice. The pass put me into the danger zone with their D-man, who stepped up to play the man. I chipped the puck past him and took the hit. My mind was in it.

After 5 minutes the Moose are up 2-0. The Slugs are working into the game, trying to catch their breath at 6,200-feet elevation, and playing their first full-length game. We warmed into the game slowly, 3-0, 7 minutes in. Dang.

Everyone got their second shift and settled in. Finally, 3-1 with 2 minutes left in the first. A well-executed breakout, a decent entrance to their zone, and a sloppy goal gave us hope.

The hockey games were back and forth. Lots of Vermonters on the ice. Much of their team is from the East Coast and many from Vermont. It’s good competition, with some former college players and a few ex-pro’s, but everyone goes to work on Monday. Jackson is so far away from real quality hockey, or professional sport of any kind, that the Moose are revered. Their youth program is a part of the Moose organization, so many of the players are coaches. This helps create the aura of good hockey. We put on a show for the fans and enjoyed the rest of the trip. There was one fight, stitches in the locker room post-game, hits, net-front skirmishes, goals, and celebrations. Everything you could want in a hockey game.

Slugs vs. MooseAll-around good time

During the days the team rented snowmobiles to go nine miles up a roadless back canyon to a hot spring, others went skiing at the world renown Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, some relaxed and went into the national elk refuge to see the elk, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, and bison. Did I say yet that it’s an all-around good time?

When it was all said and done, we lost both games by one. But really, we let them win. Because—as the ref said in explanation of a bad call—“no one is here to watch the Slugs win.” That said, our trip was a success.

Slugs return to Jackson!

The Slugs go to Jackson Hole for another round of Slugs vs Moose, February 1-2, 2019. Come join Slugs team sponsor Sisler Builders and other Stowe fans for some great hockey. Don’t forget your skis!


Sisler Builders’ Renovation Process

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Sisler Builders renovation process Building projects run most smoothly and cost effectively when there is a good team, open communication, and mutual trust. This house went through a significant renovation process, and, even though the owners were not entirely clear on what they wanted initially, the renovation process was successful, because it had the right ingredients.

Sisler Builders built the house in 2000 for a Realtor who worked extensively in Stowe. She and her husband wanted a house large enough to accommodate them and their grown children, who were starting families of their own. The main floor was designed for single-level living, with a master suite, open floor plan, cathedral ceilings, and tasteful accents. Kids’ bedrooms were upstairs, and the basement had a rec room and storage.

Sisler Builders renovation processWhen they put the house on the market 16 years later, prospective buyers, Frank and Sue Zilka, consulted with Sisler Builders before buying it. “We knew Sisler Builders had built the house so we contacted Steve and asked him to come take a look and see what he could do for us. We wanted it to be a gathering place for us, our three children, and their friends,” Frank explains. After a conversation with Steve, they bought the house and asked him to renovate it to accommodate their needs.

The renovation team consisted of the owners, builder, and interior designer. Communication was easy, fast, and non-contentious. At first, Frank and Sue just wanted to upgrade a few rooms to be more to their taste. “It had a Cape Cod-style interior and we wanted a more modern feel,” Frank says. “Then we got ‘builder’s creep’ and kept deciding to do more, Our intention was to spend six months a year in Stowe, so once we got rolling we decided to go for it.”

Nailing down the design

Even though it took Frank and Sue awhile to figure out what they ultimately wanted, by keeping communication open and offering suggestions based on many years of knowledge and experience, the project moved along efficiently.

Frank has a building background as well as a mechanical one, and knows how complicated a renovation process can be. He was impressed with how easy it was to work with Sisler Builders. “The house was completely torn apart, but it all came together within six months. Sisler Builders has an amazing crew and the project manager, Brian Irwin, was super to work with. Steve has great oversight of his staff and contractors and provided a premium, top-quality product.”

Sisler Builders renovation process“It was very easy to relay my visions to Steve,” says Sue, who grew up designing and building homes with her father. She was involved in building her family’s first house, and from there became interested in interior decorating. “Steve has knowledge and vision, too, so it was easy to work together.”

The original house had good bones, which also helped streamline the process. The majority of the renovations took place in the basement, where Frank and Sue wanted a bedroom suite with radiant heat and to change the office into a bunk room, with custom bunk beds based on Sue’s vision. “I drew my bunk bed idea on a napkin and we had a 10-minute meeting,” she says. “Steve got the idea right away. He talked to the finish carpenters and they took the idea and ran with it. That’s what you get with an experienced builder.”

Sisler Builders renovation processThe rec room was also completely revamped, and now has a stunning gas fireplace surrounded by a magnificent granite slab. The room was enlarged by incorporating the former storage room. All the floors were finished in the same antique heart pine flooring the upstairs has. “This might be my favorite room,” Sue says. “It’s soundproof, so you can’t hear anything else going on in the house. The granite slab is about 8 by 12 feet and has a beautiful grain. It took a lot to get it to Vermont, cut out a section for the fireplace, and get it into the basement. It’s magnificent!”

One eye on energy efficiency

Upstairs Sisler Builders upgraded the air conditioning, remodeled the bathrooms, enlarged the mudroom, and installed attractive wainscoting Sisler Builders renovation processthroughout the foyer. They also did some energy upgrades by changing the oil boiler to a high-efficiency gas-fired one, and did significant air sealing and insulation improvements.

Outside, they expanded the patio that is accessed from the walk-out basement, changed the deck support system to be more airy, added a staircase between the upper deck and the patio below, and installed a hot tub. The main-level deck was redone, with new Ipe decking and a transparent railing. A clever pan system with integrated gutters was installed under the new decking to protect the patio below. The exterior was completely repainted with fresh colors.

Sisler Builders renovation processThe end result is a comfortable haven to come home to after a day on the slopes. “It’s a real livable house,” says Frank. “The previous owners had a good vision and that gave us a good start.” Despite lacking a complete plan, the project ran efficiently, changes were easily incorporated, and costs were reasonable, because the optimum ingredients were in place: a good team, open communication, and mutual trust.

How We Build An Affordable Dream Home, Part Two

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Two months ago we posted Part One of “How We Make Dream Homes More Affordable.” We pick up here with Part Two, a home that had it’s own challenges, but with experience, knowledge, and creative solutions, we were able to build another affordable dream home.

Little River Overlook

A family from Virginia wanted a vacation home in a three-season-town. They also wanted airport accessibility and to be close to outdoor recreation. They were open to all options and were willing to buy or build, as long as the project was affordable. While visiting relatives in Montreal, they spent a weekend in Stowe and knew it was where they wanted to be.

“We started looking and found a property with a 1974 chalet on it. We bought that and an adjacent lot,” said the wife. “My husband loves designing houses, and he envisioned one to put on the property next to the chalet. We met with Steve Sisler and began by renovating the chalet first.”

Affordable Dream HomeWhen work began on the adjacent lot, the couple hired Cushman Design Group to design the house’s structure in partnership with the husband’s vision. The challenge was not the house, but the site. It is situated on a steeply sloping lot overlooking the Little River. We acted as the owners’ representative to work with surveyors, civil engineers, and town representatives to achieve adequate setbacks and a site that was feasible to build on. The initial design had sloped the house along the steep contours, which is expensive to build. Instead, we employed a simple retaining wall system that saved $25,000 in foundation costs.

Affordable Dream HomeThe dramatic three-level home has modern touches on the inside, including black painted kitchen cabinets, structural steel stair supports, and transparent cable balustrades. Tasteful details include partial Douglas fir timber frame, main living area paneling and trim, also of Douglas fir, Brazilian cherry floors at upper levels, a radiant polished concrete floor on Affordable Dream Homethe lower level, and exotic tiles in the kitchen and bathrooms. A screened porch is outfitted for grilling and the patio is situated for outdoor creek-side dining.

“The house is beautifully done,” said the wife. “We were in Virginia and we got weekly photos from project manager Shawn Thompson. Once in awhile we’d go up to see the progress. It went so smoothly and was a good experience. We love it all year round, but especially in summer.”

To see more photos of this home click here.

Rebuilding Stowe Street Apartments

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Sisler Builders is known for building stunning and unique custom homes that reflect the owners’ dreams and personalities. But they also do equally gorgeous renovations, rebuilds, and makeovers. One reason is to keep their employees busy between bigger jobs. Another is because they like bringing green building projects to their community. Also, it’s in Steve Sisler’s blood. His mother was involved in historic preservation. The enjoyment he experienced while working for her was the seed that grew into the construction company he owns today.

Rebuilding Stowe Street apartments Rebuilding Stowe Street apartments

One property they are in the midst of is rebuilding Stowe Street apartments in Waterbury. It’s a 200-year-old apartment building in dire need of a total makeover. They demolished it and are completely rebuilding it on the existing footprint. The new building will have five apartments. Three are designated for seniors on the bottom floor and will have handicap access, and two on the second floor will accommodate local families. Sisler Builders is making the building really green, with optimum insulation, solar panels, and super-efficient heat pumps.

Rebuilding Stowe Street apartments Rebuilding Stowe Street apartments

Rebuilding Stowe Street apartments Rebuilding Stowe Street apartments

Construction began in April and will be completed by mid-winter.

Here as an article that ran in the Waterbury Record about the Stowe Street construction project.

We will do another blog in the future showing the progress of rebuilding Stowe Street apartments.

Rebuilding Stowe Street apartments


How We Make Dream Homes More Affordable

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How We Make Dream Homes More AffordableExperience, knowledge, and creative solutions make dream homes more affordable.

Due to Sisler Builders’ extensive experience and knowledge, we have the ability to devise creative solutions for challenging scenarios and guide clients to quality, value-conscious choices, which result in cost savings during construction. We are also able to save money in the long run for our clients. When we build a house, we do it right the first time, so that 50 years later the building still performs well, without having major costly problems. We have been called in to fix other builders’ mistakes—rot, ventilation, insulation, air sealing, poor indoor air quality—that are avoidable. Whether it’s  engineering challenges, design guidance, energy efficiency, or product sourcing, we have the expertise to steer a project so that it is most cost effective. Here is one example of a house where, with our expertise, we were able to save the owners money while building their dream home.

How We Make Dream Homes More AffordableFamily Getaway

A skiing family took a vacation at Smugglers’ Notch Ski Resort and decided to visit Stowe. They fell in love with the town, the ski area, the people, and the fact that it was only a three-hour drive from where they lived on the coast of Massachusetts. A decision was made: Stowe was where they would vacation and where they would eventually retire. It was 2013 and real estate inventory was slim. They couldn’t find a suitable house, so they decided to build. They found a lot they liked, and they found Sisler Builders. The couple spent two years planning, and in 2015 they started the building process. The lot was located in Robinson Springs, a neighborhood near the ski slopes that consists of generally high-end luxury homes. This one was going to be on the lower end of that spectrum.

How We Make Dream Homes More AffordableThe site was difficult, with a steep grade on one side that required a massive retaining wall to create a level area to build on. The owners and Sisler Builders collaborated with Cushman Design Group. With our guidance we turned the steep grade to our advantage and placed the bedrooms in the window-rich basement level, rather than the usual second story above the main floor, reducing the overall cost. Sisler Builders and the owners detailed the rest of the house as they proceeded through the building process.



How We Make Dream Homes More Affordable How We Make Dream Homes More Affordable How We Make Dream Homes More Affordable

Thanks to our expertise, professionalism, and good communication the owners were comfortable working exclusively with us, avoiding design fees and saving additional cost by streamlining the process. The main level has timber frame accents, native maple flooring, a spalted maple dining bar and staircase handrails, and antique barn wood for the kitchen and bath cabinets and accent paneling. These tastefully implemented accents make the house special without breaking the budget. “For me, the process was all pleasure,” said the wife. “I had my own ideas and Sisler Builders had input and was easy to work with. I love the wood trim, the way the house smells, how cozy and warm it is. And I love the relationships we’ve developed with Steve and Sharon Sisler and project manager Brian Irwin. It was all so much fun to build my forever home.”

For more photos of this home, please click here.

In Part 2 of this blog we describe another house, “Little River Overlook,” where it was necessary to devise equally creative solutions for another challenging scenario.


Sisler Builders’ Crew With Kids

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By Kate Carter

At Sisler Builders we feel that in order to attract and retain hard-working, capable, and motivated employees we need to respect their busy lives. Our staff is comprised mostly of men. We call them crew with kids. Some are starting families, while others have grown children. It can be tough to juggle schedules to meet everyone’s needs. We know. We raised two boys. Meet five exceptional employees who appreciate a flexible schedule so they can be dependable dads, present for their kids.

Crew With Kids Seth and GirlsSeth Allen

Seth works in our woodworking department and has been with Sisler Builders for seven years. He has two daughters, Francis, age seven, and Coco, age five. His wife, Erica, is a freelance photographer and often travels for work. “Steve gives us the ability to tend to our kids. He knows family is important. Sometimes I have to take the kids to school and don’t get in to work until 10 a.m. and Steve is totally flexible about it.” Seth was recently diagnosed with nodular sclerosis lymphoma and has missed work due to chemotherapy and its side effects. His job building beautiful cabinetry and furniture is waiting for him to return full time. Seth is grateful and says, “Working for Sisler Builders turned out to be Crew With Kids Bryan and Finna pleasant surprise. Steve’s been good to me and my family.”

Bryan Kelley

Bryan is a project manager for a large house going up in Robinson Springs. He started with Sisler Builders two years ago, when he and his wife, Tara, moved to Stowe. Their son Finn is eight months old and goes to daycare most days. Juggling pick-up and drop-off times would be a problem if it weren’t for the flexibility Bryan’s job provides. “It’s awesome working for Sisler Builders,” Bryan says. “Family is important, it’s not an afterthought. It’s nice to know that my employer understands that. I’ve worked for companies where this was not the case. It’s great to have a fresh mindset.”

Crew With Kids Nate and JackNate Lewis

The new kid on the block, Nate has been working for Sisler Builders for just over a year. He’s been doing construction since he was 16 and is currently a site supervisor for a renovation project in Stowe Hollow. His wife, Chelsea, also works full time. They have a two-and-a-half-year-old son, Jack. “The company is understanding if I have fatherly duties to tend to. It’s an advantage, just understanding that when Jack is sick at daycare I will have to pick him up if Chelsea can’t.” Jack has been to his dad’s job site to see what he does all day. He likes it and looks forward to seeing the excavators. “The flexibility we have at Sisler Builders is an added bonus,” Nate says. “It’s a real advantage to be working for a company that cares about its employees.”

Crew With Kids Sivan and JuliusSivan Mesner

A carpenter at the Liftline project at Spruce Peak, Sivan has been with Sisler Builders for four years. His wife, Mandy, is a gardener; their son, Julius, is three. Mandy has taken Julius to see his dad on the job site. “Although he’s only three, he knows what I do all day,” Sivan says. Schedule flexibility is important to Sivan, especially when it comes to child care duties and also emergencies. “I come in late two days a week so I can drop Julius off at day care, and I make up the work another time. If Julius is sick at day care, I am able to leave and go help with that.” Sivan says Sisler Builders is a good company for work culture, flexibility, and varied schedules. “As long as we are producing results, we can have some freedom.”

Crew With Kids Shawn and LilyShawn Thompson

Shawn has been with Sisler builders for six years, moving through various jobs to where he is now, project facilitator. “I’ve known the Sislers for most of my life and have a special relationship with the company and the family. When Lily was born they gave her an ‘intro to carpentry’ toy tool set.” Shawn’s soon-to-be-wife Samantha does bodywork and has an unpredictable schedule, so Shawn especially values the company’s flexibility and commitment to family. “I am able to leave at a moment’s notice to pick Lily up at day care if she’s sick,” he says. Lily, age 2, is too young to understand where daddy goes everyday, she just knows he goes somewhere. “Her mom always tells her I’m at work and she replies, ҅daddy working.’ ”

Backcountry Skiing the Birthday Bowls

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Prepared for a day of backcountry skiingBy Luke Sisler

Clicking out of my skis on the notch road I replay the backcountry skiing run in my head. It was a bit after 4 p.m. and I had just finished work, hopped on the big quad at Spruce Peak, just before closing. It got me most of the way up to help drop me in the trees on the north side of Smugglers’ Notch. I now had to shoulder my skis and walk a few hundred vertical feet to the high point and get myself back to the house Sisler Builders is building at the base of Stowe Mountain Resort, where I parked my truck nine-and-a-half hours earlier.

Powder skiing in the backcountryIt was a good day. I watched the snow pile up, but I had things to get done. So, I put in eight hours of mechanicals, framing changes, light fixtures, and creating functional art. All the while planning my descent. They call the backcountry skiing area in Stowe the Birthday Bowls. All you do is go up the big quad at Spruce Peak and drop down the backside. It is a committing feeling walking out the gates and dropping away from civilization of a guaranteed lift to the top. So, most people don’t take the drop.

I enjoy it though. The walk up is therapeutic, the long runout is more time on skis. And in my opinion, more time on skis is good. This run down was exceptionally good. I had solid memories of a few quick face shots, a sweeping turn through pine trees, and hop down the short end of a cliff. The pow was soft, fluffy, and floaty. What more could I want?

measuring snowThere are some gnarly features in Vermont’s Smugglers’ Notch State Park. I aim to explore most of them, some other places in the greater Appalachians, too. Skiing in the backcountry, however, is serious business. I know Vermont has real mountains and Mansfield is one. In the past, people have died skiing the notch. I do not plan on being another of that statistic. My experience skiing in more documented avalanche terrain has taught me the way to avoid it is knowledge of terrain, respect for the mountain, realization of bigger things than yourself, and proper planning.

A few jubilant and committed pow turns into my descent it occurred to me that I am alone, and an injury here would be a real chore. My next few turns were a bit more reserved. I hit my groove and had a blast avoiding all the tracks I could. I love fresh snow and that particular winter was exceptional in that regard. This was the third of three storms that gave us three feet each. Quite the privilege!

No doubt my previous winter as a night janitor for Jackson Hole provided more time on skis, but pow skiing does happen in Stowe. It is here for us to go get. I’m happy to get it after a productive day at work or whenever I can.

Luke Sisler is a site supervisor for Sisler Builders, and an avid skier, hockey player, and mountain biker.