Your Winter Bucket List

Short days, long nights, cold, snow—these early days of the season are the sweetest. It’s the time when we say hello again to the places that fuel our souls. This season, there are new reasons to get excited and the Green Mountains have more ways than ever to raise your adrenaline. Here’s a look at what’s coming up.

Bring On The Night

As the moon rises and the crowds thin, the lights come on and the party starts—both on and off the slopes. From the top of Bolton Valley, you can watch the sun set over Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks. Then, Tuesdays through Saturdays, keep skiing or riding until 10 p.m. In January, the Thursday night corporate ski bum league attracts some of the best skiers in the region. In nearby Richmond, Cochran’s Ski Area keeps the lights on Friday nights from 5 to 8 p.m. for the unbelievable price of $5. Starting in early January, Stowe’s Saturday Night Lights opens Gondolier trail for “non-competitive” skinning and skiing, with raffle prizes. Last, in central Vermont, Ascutney has applied for permits to light up the trails off its revived rope tow. The best part of night skiing? There’s usually an after-party. In honor of its 50th year, Bolton Valley hosts “Bolton After Dark,” on Friday and Saturday evenings with $19.66 lift tickets starting at 4 p.m., $2 flatbread slices and beer specials. Beginning in January,  Cochran’s hosts a family dinner on Friday nights.

Sign Up For Dawn Patrol

When was the last time you got first tracks? We don’t mean standing at the front of the lift line by 7:30, we’re talking about being at the top of the mountain while everyone else is still in their pajamas. You’ll have untouched powder, crisp corduroy and the assurance that your early alarm clock was worth it. At Sugarbush, join a group of 12 in the Lincoln Limo ($75 per person) and set off to the top the Slide Brook Wilderness Area or other stashes (see p. 19 for the full skinny). Or, strap on a pair of skins. Many resorts are now allowing skinning on limited trails before the lifts open. But be sure to check the resort’s policies and be careful to stay on designated uphill routes.

Skate To The Beat

Starting Nov. 26, Stowe hosts themed Saturday nights at its Ice Rink at the Spruce Peak with a DJ spinning, the Beer Garden in full swing and firepits blazing. Mark your calendars for December 17-18 when Olympic figure skater Nancy Kerrigan will show you how it’s done, literally, with both a skating performance and clinics. This past summer, Okemo also gave its Ice House rink an upgrade with a new IceMat system (the same that’s used in New York’s  Rockefeller Center, that will allow the resort to open the rink in November and keep it open, even if the temperatures rise.  If you’re into hockey, hang out at the Ice Haus at Jay Peak where teams from all over northern Vermont come to play and practice.

Get Fat (Biking)

It’s easy to see why Vermonters love fatbikes: the beefy five-inch-wide tires roll easily through crusty snow and ice on all kinds of trails. If you’re looking to try one, get a rental at Jay Peak’s Nordic Center ($65 for a full day rental and trail pass), the Rikert Nordic Center ($55 for a full day rental), at the Mountain Meadows Cross Country Center in Killington, Vt. ($65 for a full day), among other places. Also, be on the lookout for fatbike meet-ups throughout the winter at Rikert, the Trapp Family Lodge and at the mother of all fatbike events, Winterbike, on March 4 at the Kingdom Trails in East Burke.

Climb The Walls

This past summer, Stowe Mountain Resort put the crowning touches on its Spruce Peak Adventure Center with the Stowe Rocks climbing wall that rises 40 feet in front of four-story windows. The wall features are modeled after some of the climbs in Smuggler’s Notch and more than four dozen routes have varying degrees of difficulty. A two-hour intro course with all equipment is just $30 and season passes are also available. Over at Smugglers’ Notch, a 26,000 sq. ft. new Fun Zone is being finished this winter. When it opens next spring, it’s slated to have a double-sided 30-foot climbing wall (as well as a slot-car track, laser tag arena, mini-golf and and an arcade.)  Once you’ve learned the ropes indoors, try it on the Notch’s ice falls with  Burlington’s Petra-Cliffs during the annual Smugg’s Ice Bash, Jan. 20-22.

Don’t Forget: Santa Skis Free

Normally, if you dress up as Santa, you end up giving something away. At Bolton Valley, dress as Santa on Dec. 18 and you’ll get something: a lift ticket valid for the entire day. In central Vermont, head to Bromley on Christmas, where you can ski and ride for the day for just $25. You supply the costumes, but smiles and laughs are free.