Your Winter Bucket List

Short days, long nights, cold, snow—these January and February days are the sweetest of the season. It’s the time when we say hello again to the places that fuel our souls. It’s also the time to plan your adventures so you can make the most of the snow. 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 sunset over Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks. Then, Tuesday through Saturday, keep skiing or riding until 10 p.m., with $19 lift tickets and live entertainment from 9 p.m. to midnight on Friday nights.  From January to March, the Thursday night corporate ski bum league attracts some of the best skiers in the region. Looking to get your skinning fix with friends? Try the Nor’East Skimo Race series, every Tuesday night under the Wilderness lift through March 5. In nearby Richmond, Cochran’s Ski Area keeps the lights on Friday nights from 3 to 8 p.m. for the unbelievable price of $5. In central Vermont, Ascutney lights up the trails off its revived rope tow for a weekly Thursday night citizens’ ski racing series. The best part of night skiing? There’s usually an after-party. At Cochran’s, that’s a family-friendly affair as, beginning in January, the ski area hosts a family dinner on Friday nights. Meals go at $6 per kid and $12 per adult, with a rental setup for the evening at $10.

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 ($85 per person) and set off to the top the Slide Brook Wilderness Area or other stashes. Or, strap on a pair of skins and head to Bolton Valley for the Catamount Trail Association’s Dawn Patrol series, with a skin up Wilderness liftline for either a sidecountry tour or a run down fresh corduroy on the trails—all before work. Many resorts are now allowing skinning on limited trails before the lifts open. But be sure to check resorts’ policies before you go and be careful to stay on designated uphill routes.

Skate Into the Night

Try some open-air skating at Stowe’s Ice Rink at Spruce Peak, which the mountain offers with firepits blazing. In summer 2016, 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 have allowed 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. For more places around the state where you can skate outdoors into the winter, try this story.

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 Feb. 22 at the Kingdom Trails in East Burke. For more great fatbiking events across Vermont, check out this story from our sister publication, Vermont Sports Magazine

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 the 26,000 sq. ft. Fun Zone has a double-sided 30-foot climbing wall (as well as a slot-car track, laser tag arena, mini-golf 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. 24-26.

Updated Jan. 16, 2020.