Vermont Snow Sports:
From Mainstream to Extreme
Reprinted courtesy of the Vermont Chamber of Commerce
Alpine Skiing and Boarding
Skiers and snowboarders choose from more than 5,700 acres of terrain, which is served by an efficient uphill transportation system of nearly 170 lifts. Vermont’s terrain can be accurately described in many ways: gentle teaching slopes; miles of novice and intermediate trails; wide-open boulevards for cruising; gladed terrain for intermediates to super-experts; steep mogul fields; narrow, twisting and technically-demanding trails and chutes; plus off-piste and back country. Most Vermont resorts have built and groomed facilities to accommodate “boarders,” with terrain parks and half pipes. Vermonters Kelly Clark of West Dover and Ross Powers of South Londonderry carried the gold in the halfpipe competition in the 2002 Winter Olympics at Salt Lake City.
Meet the locals, ski midweek. Take a midweek ski vacation and you’ll share our uncrowded slopes with locals who are happy to offer tips on a favorite trail or the best place to get homemade soup. Just don’t ask where to find untracked powder or they’ll become about as talkative as Calvin Coolidge. Midweek ski and stay packages offer exceptional value, lift lines are non-existent, and prime time dinner reservations are easy to come by.
Annual mountain snowfall averages 250 inches, and 70% of Vermont’s lift-served terrain is covered by state-of-the-art snowmaking. www.skivermont.com
Shortly after you head out on a trail with friends, you’ll quickly realize why some folks call cross- country skiing Vermont’s “quiet winter sport.” Capture the tangible sense of nature around you, away from sounds and congestion, and revel in your personal accomplishment, whether you’re poling across a glade or pushing over rolling hills. You pick your own pace; pause to check signs of small wildlife and realize this is some of life’s real meaning. Bushwhack through crust-packed unbroken snow, use set tracks or skating lanes. It’s your choice at some 40 Nordic ski centers throughout Vermont. With hundreds of kilometers of set tracks or thousands of acres of hills and valleys, develop your own style. Cross-country skiers can experience the Vermont winter countryside up close at more than 30 Nordic areas and touring centers. Trails wind through woodlands, fields, foothills and mountains. www.skivermont.com
Snowshoeing: Fastest Growing Winter Sport
Snowshoes have served as a transportation tool for hundreds of years. Like many other modern day recreational activities, snowshoe equipment evolved from a utilitarian need. Traders, hunters, explorers and surveyors all depended upon the snowshoe to carry out their trade. Through the 1800s and into the 1900s, snowshoeing began to take on a recreational orientation. Snowshoe clubs were organized with a strong social theme centered on racing and hiking events.
Snowshoeing remained a relatively obscure recreation activity until the late 1980’s when Tubbs Snowshoes introduced a new “modern day” snowshoe designed with lighter weight, technically advanced materials. This brought renewed excitement and interest in snowshoeing.
Snowshoeing has become the fastest-growing on-snow activity over the past several years, and it’s easy to see why: as simple as walking and easily accessible, snowshoeing is an activity just about everyone can enjoy.
There are several reasons for the sport’s increasing popularity: ease of entry – there’s no learning curve; it affords access to the outdoors, nature, hiking trails and backcountry; great way to stay healthy and in shape throughout the winter months; and it is a social activity – friends and families can participate together.
Whether a leisurely stroll or a rigorous jog, snowshoes offer an excellent low-impact workout that builds strength, endurance and aerobic capacity. Because the activity doesn’t place undue stress on muscles, bones, and ligaments, many summer cyclists, runners, triathletes and fitness enthusiasts turn to the sport in winter to maintain conditioning and diversify their indoor workout. www.tubbssnowshoes.com
Snowmobiling: Our Trails are VAST
Imagine a magical highway that suddenly appears every winter. One that goes through back country and snow-covered mountains, secluded valleys and friendly villages. That delivers eye-stopping vistas… and conveniently stops right at the door of your inn or motel. In Vermont, you don’t have to imagine it: it’s our winter world of snowmobiling. For more than 35 years, Vermont has been opening the doors to winter’s wonders with a remarkable trail system that now totals over 6,000 miles.
We set the standard for well-marked trails, readable maps, easy access to fuel stops, food and accommodations. Our many convenient trailheads mean snowmobilers can hook up to trails anywhere in the state. The Vermont Association of Snow Travelers (VAST), together with local clubs, maintains Vermont’s trail network with over 120 groomers to assure smooth riding. And when you hit the trail, you’ll find VAST’s 145 community-based clubs hold friendly events every weekend all winter long, from pancake breakfasts and chicken barbecues to spaghetti dinners, charity rides, radar runs and snocross races. www.vtvast.org
After a day on the slopes, watch a pair of Morgan or Belgium work horses be hitched to a sleigh and enjoy a relaxing ride through wooded trails. Tucked comfortably beneath warm, heavy blankets, you’ll unwind to the tinkling sound of sleigh bells and mentally capture what the days of early Vermont in winter were like when the horse and sleigh was the fastest way to travel over hills to villages. Many Vermont inns and farms offer sleigh rides at more than a score of locations around the state. www.vtchamber.com
Those specks inching up great frozen waterfalls are people. Ice climbers, to be specific. Vermont’s best places to climb the ice are Smugglers’ Notch, Bristol Cliffs, and Lake Willoughby/Mt. Pisgah, offering some of the best ice climbing in the continental United States, challenging expert-level climbers on several vertical floes of over 500 feet. Generally, the ice is “safe” by December; safe ice is solid blue and the ice climbing tools stick in the ice. Sound cool? Ice climber and photographer Alden Pellett recommends learning by hiring a safe guide or going with a very experienced friend. And what’s the attraction? Pellett replies, “The personal physical and mental challenges. Dealing with weather and cold temperatures. Keeping a cool head in potentially deadly situations. The wild ice formations and colors. The steepness, and exhilaration from realizing where you are.”
Calling all dog lovers! From the land of fjords and trolls, “skijoring” is a sport with Scandinavian roots combining dog mushing and skiing into one thrilling ride. Discover the excitement of flying over the snow under “dogpower.” Feel the synergy between you and your “best friend” as you work together down a wooded trail. Traditionally, Huskies or Malamutes are trained for skijor racing, but your own dog may enjoy it too. Vermont skijor champion Jim Blair, host of Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom Classic skijor race and owner of the pet-friendly Eden Mountain Lodge, will take you on a ride with one of his trained dogs and will even outfit your dog and teach you both how to skijor.
Camping in winter is not for the faint of heart, bearing almost no resemblance to the family summer camping vacations you remember. Skill and safety come first; food and water will freeze, trails will be buried deep below the snow. Frostbite, hypothermia, darkness and bad weather can come out of nowhere and can last forever. But the payoff is big. Billions of stars will dazzle you on a winter night-look long enough and you’ll catch one shooting star after another. The moon reflects off the snow, creating dark mottled shadows. Ice glistens on tree branches, framing tiny crystal sculptures on pine needles. Utter stillness and quiet surround you. Breathe Vermont’s clean air and celebrate the achievement of taking care of your very basic needs, miles into the winter forest.
Never heard of it? Not exactly an “extreme” sport, it’s not mainstream either, although you might find yourself trying to get out of the stream. Pondskimming is what Vermonters do to make a splash at the end of a long winter (technically, Spring): step in to your skis, fly down a steep hill of soft snow, and below try to glide over the surface of water to the opposite shore. Vermont ski resorts hold pondskimming competitions every April, and the costume is just as important as the skier’s style. Okay, so maybe you’ll need a touch of cabin fever!