Sick of the same old winter activities? Vermont Sports researched the best new things to try when the snow finally hits.
While the state gets ready for the snow to arrive, it helps to have a list of new things to try this season. Make this season the best ever by trying these nine not-to-miss items:
1. Go backcountry, tour the Catamount Trail
With 300 miles of trail stretching from one end of Vermont to another, you’re usually never too far from Vermont’s famous Catamount Trail. The 31 sections cover a variety of terrain suitable for a range of skill levels and travels through 135 miles of public land including Green Mountain National Forest, Vermont state land and town owned parcels. Some 200 generous landowners have given permission to let the trail pass through their property. You can download maps from the Catamount Trail’s website (www.catamounttrail.org) and use the trail to explore. In winter, favorite modes of travel are snowshoeing and backcountry touring.
2. Nordic ski at 5 different areas!
While Vermont is home to 18 alpine ski resorts, the state’s Nordic ski areas are even more plentiful, though lesser known. Get to know a handful of them this winter! Pick five from the state’s 24 areas and make it a point to get out and take a tour. Among the state’s most prominent Nordic ski areas are Stowe’s Trapp Touring Center, Craftsbury Commons Touring Center, Rikert Touring Center (near the Middlebury College Snow Bowl), Mountain Top Touring Center (Chittenden), Ollie’s in Warren (near Sugarbush), Bolton Valley Tour Center, Kingdom Trails near Q Burke and several others. For a complete list, look for Nordic ski areas at the Vermont Ski Areas Association.
3. Dinner on the mountain
Looking for a new dining experience? Head to Killington’s Ledgewood Yurt, which is accessed by a snowcat-drawn sleigh. You’ll ride up wrapped in warm, woolen blankets into secluded woods to the Ledgewood Yurt where you’ll be in store for a one-of-a-kind dining experience. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to dining adventures in Vermont. For years, Stowe’s Cliff House at the top of the Mount Mansfield gondola has been serving special dinners for guests throughout the year; and Sugarbush’s Alyn House puts on an adventure that encourages you to ski up for dinner, dine and head back down afterwards with headlamps or by the light of the moon. Plus, many others… check out your favorite resort for other activities that give having dinner out a whole new meaning.
4. Zip lining
Located a short distance from some of Vermont’s best resorts, zipline parks like ArborTrek at Smugglers’ Notch or TimberQuest at Magic Mountain offer self or guided tours through the canopy of Vermont’s forests at the height of foliage. This year, Stowe began work on its own zipline off Mount Mansfield’s gondola with eight lines reaching a height of 73 feet above the ground. When completed next year, it’ll be quite the adventure.
5. Go Dogsledding
This winter, hit the trail on a sled pulled by 18 furry new friends. Outfitters all around the state can have you out dogsledding, skijoring and more in the Green Mountains, a perfect way to spend an afternoon or evening. For a list of outfitters near you, try the Vermont Outdoor Guides Association at www.voga.org.
6. Sled a notch
When the snow falls, a handful of Vermont gap roads or state forest roads close down to cars, but remain wide open for those looking for early season skiing, snowshoeing or sledding. Bring your sled, jack-jump or cross country skis to Hazen’s Notch in Montgomery; the Lincoln/Warren Gap Road; Smugglers’ Notch, accessible from Jeffersonville and Stowe; or Whiteface Notch in New York for a full and fun day. For sleds, give Umiak Outfitters a call in Stowe or Burlington, Clearwater Sports in Waitsfield, or Outdoor Gear Exchange in Burlington, among others.
7. Winter racing
While we all can’t be the next Lindsay Jacob-Ellis or Nolan Kasper, the next best thing to skiing glory might be the regular “ski bum” races at ski areas all over Vermont. Make a team or sign on as a free agent for the Ski Bum Series at Killington or participate in the Valley League at Mount Snow. For Nordic skiing, check out the Craftsbury Outdoor Center for clinics and races including the Craftsbury Marathon from Greensboro to Craftsbury, scheduled for January 31. For those looking for a little more challenge, be on the look out for the New England Rando Race Series, scheduled for January 25 at Berkshire East; February 28 at Mount Greylock; March 14 at Magic Mountain and March 21 at Bromley Mountain.
8 Cat skiing
When the big storms move in, you’ll want to climb aboard the “Lincoln Limo” at Sugarbush and hitch an early morning ride for 90 minutes of superb skiing before the lifts open. With seating for 12, the Piston Bully cat gets you access to pristine powder and untouched corduroy well before anyone else, with guests meeting at 6:30 and that first run by 7 a.m. If you want to know the dates they run, consider the motto: “When it’s snowing, we’re going.”
9. Earn your turns
Beat the crowd and the get the first tracks on the mountain with an early morning uphill trek for the best snow of the day. You’ll need skins on the bottom of your skis or split-board and you’re sure to get your blood pumping on your way up the hill, but the peace and quiet – not to mention the impeccable snow – will be worth it. This winter, Killington and Pico continue the uphill travel system developed last season with conjunction with local skiers and riders. Be sure to check your favorite mountain for an uphill policy.