Skiers have long known the joys of Vermont Winter. They have enjoyed the exhilarating sport here in the Green Mountains ever since a fellow named Bunny Bertram created a rope link system powered by an antique Model T Ford engine at Gilbert's Hill (now Suicide Six) in Woodstock. That was in 1934 and the modern ski industry was born. Right here.
Stowe, with it's soon to be world famous "Front Four" (National, Lift Line, Starr, and Goat), arrived on the scene about the same time. The rest, they say, is history. Next came "Big" Bromley in Peru, Pico Peak near Rutland, and, by the '50s, Killington and Mount Snow. The story of Vermont skiing goes on and on.
Today, skiers and snowboarders can ski and ride to their heart's content at 17 - count 'em - ski resorts throughout the Green Mountains. Each has its own flavor, charm, and degrees of difficulty. Most are family-oriented, and some carry the partying into the wee hours of the night.
Some are small with an old-fashioned, relaxing atmosphere. Others are mid-sized, loaded with plenty of on and off-slope amenities for families, couples, and individuals. Then, there are the truly big ski areas, several world-class, where you can literally ski without ever heading down the same trail twice.
Want to learn to ski? Vermont's ski schools, led by certified members of the Professional Ski Instructors of America, are renowned for getting you going quickly, while having lots of fun in the process. You, the kids, even grandma. Age doesn't matter. Just a few lessons will get you hooked.
Follow SnoCountry's current Vermont snow condition reports right here on Vermont.com. Click on a resort for more details. It's Vermont Winter.
It wasn't just skiing that has roots in Vermont. Snowboarding, as we know it today, began when a young man named Jake Burton Carpenter started manufacturing fiberglass snowboards out of his garage near Stratton Mountain in 1979. He was perfecting a wooden snow toy called the Snurfer invented by a guy named Sherman Popper in the 1950s.
Stratton was the first mountain resort in the country to embrace the newest snow sport that developed a culture of its own, not unlike skateboarding. Of course, Jake is the namesake of the market-leading Burton Snowboards Company, with its headquarters in Burlington.
Today, participants who ski or snowboard co-exist together on all of our mountains, all observing a national Skiers and Snowboarders Responsibility Code. Snowboarders make up 40 percent of all of us who slide down mountains these days. There are about 20 percent of us who ski and ride. Snowboarding lessons are offered at Vermont's ski schools with professional snowboard instructors.
Look for terrain parks at most resorts. These are fun places on the mountain slopes where riders - even relative beginners - can learn and practice tricks. Parks are filled with jibs (everything from rails to park benches to fly over) to jumps (often made entirely out of snow and are platforms to perform grabs, twists, and spins into the air) and verticals (half, quarter, and super pipes that form a downhill trough with vertical lips on each side).
Stratton and Burton team up each March to host what has become what many consider the most exciting snowboard event in the world - the U.S. Open Snowboarding Championship. The event regularly draws as many as 25,000 spectators, with the Saturday halfpipe competition always the highlight.
Snowboarding in Vermont. Ride it.
Is snowmobiling your passion? The Vermont Association of Snow Travelers (VAST) maintains a "vast" network of scenic snowmobile trails totaling more than 5,000 miles. VAST set the standard for well-marked trails, readable maps, convenient fuel stops, and comfortable accommodations.
The VAST network is maintained by over 120 groomers. Eighty percent of the VAST trails are on private land, so staying on those trails is very important. Snowmobiling on these private lands is indeed a privilege to be respected.
It's extremely easy to access VAST's trails. You will need a valid trail pass, state registration, and insurance. You also can take a guided, even customized, tour from one of Vermont's many snowmobile tour operators. You do not need to re-register in Vermont if you are already registered in your home state or province, but you must join a local club and purchase a trail pass. There are more than 40 clubs in all regions of the state.
There are two types of trails. Corridor trails extend up and down and across Vermont. Take short loops or ride as much as 100 miles a day. Corridor trails are maintained by the local clubs with financial support from VAST. Just look for the green tags. Secondary trails (look for orange tags) are generally for local club use or as feeders between corridor tails.
There are several snowmobile dealerships in the state, where you can buy new or used snowmobiles, rent equipment, and find tour guides.
Snowmobiling in Vermont. Ride it.
There simply cannot be a better place on the planet to enjoy cross country skiing.
Here's why: gliding across pastures, fields, and through the woods on cross country skis is as serene or exciting as you want it to be.
Liken it to a leisurely stroll, a jog, or a full-scale workout. Besides, "snow traveling" is the oldest sport on skis, dating back to the Scandinavians over 4,000 years ago.
The beauty of cross country skiing is you are well off the beaten path. There are more than 40 touring centers in the state, some attached to wonderful old New England inns, such as the Grafton Ponds Outdoor Center and The Grafton Inn. Others are standalone recreation sites, and some located at alpine ski resorts. Some touring centers offer miles and miles of groomed and un-groomed trails (measured in kilometers), and others with a few comfortable loops across a meadow or easy jaunts into the woods.
There are several forms of ski touring and most centers in the state encourage both "classic" and "skate" skiing. Classic, or traditional cross country skiing, is typically done with the skis in a track on groomed trails using a kick and glide motion. Skate skiing is more aerobic in nature and generally is done on wide open-groomed trails using a V-step and glide motion. Touring centers have plenty of skis of both types for rent and ski shops make both available.
Learning to cross country ski is relatively easy. The old saw, "if you can walk, you can cross country ski", is a bit of an exaggeration. But, the good news is that one or two lessons may be all you need to get your glide on. The learning curve is quick and the injury rate low.
Cross country skiing is easier on the family pocketbook than its downhill cousin. Why? Because there are no lifts involved, a traditional alpine "lift ticket" is not needed. That drives down operators' costs and you are the beneficiary. You only need to purchase a trail pass. Plus, you can glide for free if you don't want groomed trails and can find fields or places to ski without trespassing. Equipment and clothing also are less expensive.
A word about cross country skiing and fitness: Yes, many exercise physiologists agree that cross country skiing is the world's best aerobic fitness activity and there's plenty of research to back up that theory. But, if you are a newbie to the sport, well, don't sweat it. The sport is perfect for picking your own speed. Stop and smell the snow on the roses anytime you want. Cross country skiing. Glide it.
You can choose to unwind or windup after your day in one of the most relaxing and romantic places in the world. Classic inns, candlelit dinners, lodging to fit any style or budget, and plenty of nightlife for those who still have the energy for it.
We have a saying here about the weather: "If you don't like the weather, just wait five minutes." That's why so many skiers and riders like to dress in layers that can be added or shed as the weather dictates.
Just as you'll want to be prepared for any sport done outside, you'll want to be ready for whatever Mother Nature tosses your way. Most winter days are pleasantly cold, but there are times when the old girl abuses that privilege. The sun pokes through beautifully once March rolls around, offering a truly delightful spring skiing experience.
Wait until you see the sun or moon sparkling on the fields of snow. The photograph in your mind of the street lanterns in a small Vermont town never will go away. It's easy to say, "I love you" in Vermont Winter.
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