The New Backcountry: Vermont’s Secret Stashes

Get your fat skis out: around the state, volunteers are working to chart new backcountry and sidecountry terrain.

For the hard-core Vermonter, skiing isn’t just about heading to the resorts—it’s also about getting up before dawn and venturing into the backcountry to find some fresh powder.  In October of 2015, Vermont became the first place in the country where local skiers worked directly with the National Forest Service to map out an area for backcountry skiing. It’s the next logical step in a growing movement toward creating backcountry ski zones on both public and private land around the state.  While we are not going to give away the GPS coordinates to our very favorite stashes, here are a few good places to look for sweet untracked. See our latest story for new updates.

Braintree Mountain Forest, Braintree, Vt.

Located in the heart of the Green Mountains, Braintree Mountain Forest is 1,500 acres spread out across four peaks near the towns of Randolph, Braintree and Rochester.  In the last year, volunteers with the Rochester Area Sports Trail Alliance (RASTA) worked with  trail builders and foresters to create a several lines with 1,000-foot vertical drops. RASTA has also raised $9,286 to develop four more glades, renovate a cabin and create a parking area. 

Goshen Mountain, Goshen

In October, the National Forest Service approved a plan to develop four backcountry skiing glades totaling approximately 210 acres on land in the Green Mountain National Forest in the towns of Goshen, Rochester and Chittenden. The plan calls for the glades be accessed from two parking areas on Route 73 near the top of the Brandon gap. The Long Trail, can be used to access all four of the glades, which run from the top of Goshen Mountain eastward to the Bear Brook drainage.The four zones include beginner to advanced terrain, with drops of 1,200 feet. It may take a year to approve, though, so leave your handsaws at home for now. 

Mount Ascutney, West Windsor

Located in  West Windsor, the former Mount Ascutney ski area sat idle for the past five years. No longer. A new nonprofit, Mount Ascutney Outdoors has plans to install a rope tow at the base and maintain a community ski area. The uppermost portion of the mountain will remain open to skiers willing to hike or skin for their turns.

Hogback Mountain, Marlboro, Vt.

Near the town of Marlboro sits Hogback Mountain and a small cluster of peaks, including 2,418-foot Mount Olga, site of the ski area that closed in 1986. Starting in 2013, the Association began a ten-year plan to restore one trail every two years, starting with the 3,000-foot Meadow trail. This fall, the Association begins work on another novice trail, the 1,700-foot Great White Way. Three more trails are planned for trimming by 2021.

Mount Willoughby State Forest

Meanwhile, up in the Northeast Kingdom, a group of skiers has organized what they hope to be the catalyst for building a backcountry network in the area around Lake Willoughby. Working with state forest officials and the Vermont Backcountry Alliance, the Northeast Kingdom Backcountry Coalition plans to pursue glading opportunities in the Willoughby State forest, using old logging roads, existing hiking trails and an old Nordic ski area. 

Photo by Jeb Wallace-Brodeur/Mad River Glen