Trails and Tours for Snow-shoes and Skis

January 14, 2010  
Filed under Health & Wellness, Travel

By Phyl Newbeck

Let’s face it – the snow is going to fall whether you like it or not, so the trick is to get out and enjoy it. While many prefer the adrenaline rush of downhill skiing, others may opt for the peace and serenity of cross-country skiing or snowshoeing. For those who would like a helping hand to guide them over the trails, Vermont offers a number of options:

❄ The Touring Center at Stowe offers two kinds of guided snowshoe trips. On Wednesdays and Saturdays, the Center provides tours of easy to moderate terrain, ending with lunch at the Fireside Tavern. On Saturday evenings, guides lead moonlight tours beginning at 5:30 p.m. Snowshoers can stride along the streams of Ranch Valley and enjoy a cup of hot cider at the hut near the end of the trek.

❄ At Trapp Family Lodge, members of the legendary von Trapp family lead daily tours through March 15. The theme of the trip, difficulty factor and equipment needed depends on which member of the family is leading the tour.

❄ Smugglers Notch offers a wide array of guided snowshoe tours, as well. While many are geared for families with children, there are other regularly scheduled treks on the Nordic center’s trails providing information on local history and wildlife. Additionally, there are weekly Saturday night trips into the Notch, and twice weekly backcountry treks starting at the top of Morse Mountain (accessed via the chairlift). Smuggs also hosts a thrice-weekly guided cross-country ski tour to visit a pristine and undisturbed beaver pond.

❄ Bolton Valley Nordic Center offers two-hour snowshoe treks every Saturday on both groomed and backcountry trails with guides from Petra Cliffs.

❄ Ole’s Cross Country Center in Warren has hired naturalist Carol Thompson to lead weekend snowshoe tours at 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Tours can also be made by appointment. In addition, Ole’s will be hosting moonlight snowshoe tours on Jan. 31 and Feb. 28. The speed and duration will be determined by the group and can range from a leisurely two-mile stroll to an athletic four-mile trip.

❄ Moonlight snowshoe trips are very popular. Catamount Family Center in Williston will also lead moonlight treks on Jan. 30, and Feb. 27, beginning at 8 p.m.

❄ Craftsbury Outdoor Center in the Northeast Kingdom offers weekly, guided snowshoe and ski tours for center members and those staying overnight at the lodge. Additionally, they run five week-long Elderhostel programs called Exploritas in January and February. Exploritas provides daily guided tours and instruction for experts, as well as novices. Three of the weeks include music and dance, another includes poetry and film, and the last incorporates yoga.

❄ For those looking for a multi-day adventure, Sojourn Bicycling and Active Vacations offers four six-day cross-country skiing and/or snowshoeing tours in January and February. Pamper yourself with five days of outdoor adventure and four nights of lodging and food. Winter enthusiasts will spend two nights at the Blueberry Hill Inn in Goshen, two at Topnotch Resort in Stowe and a final night at the Edson Hill Manor in Stowe.

❄ Two companies, Wonder Walks in Bristol and Bredeson Outdoor Adventure (based in Connecticut) provide custom guided snow-shoe treks. Wonder Walks will create trips of three, four or five days duration covering either the Green Mountain National Forest’s Moosalamoo region or trails in and around Stowe. Bredeson Outdoor Adventures offers an Inn-to-Inn guided snowshoe tour in Stowe from March 5 to 8, but they can also be hired to provide custom packages throughout the winter for both cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Both companies take care of food and lodging, which are included in the package price.

❄ Less luxurious, but free of charge, are the cross-country ski tours offered by the Catamount Trail Association. Over the course of the winter, guides will lead 29 single day tours, one week-long tour, and two tours which take place over three-day weekends. The outings range from easy treks to those requiring strong climbing skills and backcountry equipment. One of the easy routes is a Feb. 27 three-mile trek on rolling terrain from the West Hill House to the Mad River Barn in the Mad River Valley. A step up from that is the easy/intermediate trip planned for Jan. 24 in Stowe, which travels four miles through the Weissner and Gameroff Woods. A longer easy/intermediate trip of seven miles, taking place on Feb. 20, travels from Blueberry Hill Ski Area to the Rikert Ski Center in Middlebury, mostly through backcountry terrain.

❄ For those interested in heading out on a defined route without a guide, Country Inns Along the Trail in Brandon offers two options: the Touring Cat and the Wild Cat. Both options are offered in January and February and involve multi-night stays at local inns with a shuttle for those who do not want to ski the full distances. The Touring Cat includes skiing in Brandon and Chittenden, and hearty meals by the fireplace at the Blueberry Hill, Churchill House and Fox Creek inns. The Wild Cat involves the same inns and similar terrain, but is designed for those willing to break trail and cover eight to 13 miles a day.

Gaining Wisdom, Growing Older: A Guidebook to the Future

January 14, 2010  
Filed under Aging Parents

Aging is inevitable, no matter how hard people try to stop or turn back the clock. This fact of life has become problematic for governments and citizens around the world as each struggles to provide care for their aging populations. In his book, “A New Wrinkle,” Dr. Eric Shapira prepares his readers for the future and what to expect.

“A New Wrinkle” serves as a guide for those who similarly find themselves caught between their parents and their children, on the horizon of both taking care of their parents and continuing to raise their own children.  The book encourages readers  to conquer life’s challenges by learning from the personal stories of others. Everyone will deal with the effects of aging in their lifetime and many will be forced to make decisions on the care of their loved ones. Dr. Shapira advises his readers on how to examine their own lives and strategically plan and confront any challenge at hand. It is a perfect guide for anyone handling a life-changing transition, facing the aging process or caring for elderly family members.

Visit Dr. Shapira’s Web sites and for more information.

A Snowbird’s ‘Financial’ Packing List

January 14, 2010  
Filed under Money

By Jennifer R. Luitjens

Although significant snowfall is arriving a bit late this year, the annual migration of snowbirds to southern locations is still certain to occur, if not already.  While veteran snowbirds likely have their packing routine down to a science, it may be prudent to review some items which may not make the obvious list, but which are essential in the event of an emergency.

List of Important Names & Numbers
Perhaps the mere existence of a mobile phone can satisfy this item, but it may be helpful to have a back-up list as well, particularly if you want to include telephone numbers for parties not on your phone’s contact list, such as utility companies and neighbors.

Advance Directive or other health care proxy
A properly executed Vermont Advance Directive should be honored by another state, so it should be portable. However, it must be available to even be considered!  There are several options – you may (a) have the document on you at all times; (b) have an ID card on you which acknowledges the document and indicates its whereabouts; (c) provide your named agent(s) with an original or valid copy; or (d) register the document for free with Vermont’s Advance Directive Registry.  The Registry is still a fairly new offering for Vermonters and allows residents to store their directives on a secure electronic database for ease of access in an emergency.  Once the document is registered, the registrant will actually receive a wallet ID card as well as instructions for accessing the database and making changes. For more information, see

Durable Power of Attorney
As with the Advance Directive, the ease of access to a financial power of attorney may be helpful in an emergency.  Because of the power of this document and the potential for its abuse, this may not be something appropriate to carry around or to even provide in advance to your agent.  However, it may be prudent to advise your agent of its location or with the name of your attorney who has a copy.  Another consideration for traveling snowbirds is the ease of its use outside Vermont.  While all states have some form of Power of Attorney, the laws regarding its signing formalities and enforcement do vary.  Again, Vermont documents should be honored in other states, but sometimes it helps ease the process if the document also satisfies the laws of the “foreign” state. For example, our law requires only one witness and a notary public, whereas some other states require two witnesses and a notary.  To make the foreign state more comfortable honoring a Vermont document (which they may not realize is valid), it may make sense to conform to the other state’s laws as well.  In some instances, it may be appropriate to actually execute two documents – one for each state.  Bottom line:  if you spend a fair amount of time in two states (like many snowbirds do), you should consult with attorneys in both states to ensure you are planning properly for an emergency in either state.

While this list is certainly not exhaustive, it should highlight some items to better prepare snowbirds for their months away from home. And while you’re gone, we’ll try to enjoy the snow and keep our envy in check!

Jennifer R. Luitjens is Certified as an Elder Law Attorney (CELA) by the National Elder Law Foundation, a non-profit organization accredited by the ABA. She lives in Jericho and practices in South Burlington with the Jarrett Law Office. This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute comprehensive or specific legal advice. The author stresses the need to engage appropriate legal and financial professionals when devising your individual estate plan.

Horace Williams: Producing a Life in Motion

January 14, 2010  
Filed under Arts & Entertainment

By Susan Green

Some lives proceed in a relatively straight line. But there are people, like Horace Williams Jr., who zigzag wildly while reaching for their share of the American Dream.

Now approaching 60, this quintessential jack-of-all-trades produces music and film in the crazy-quilt of a home he constructed from scratch on a steep South Starksboro hillside. Williams dubbed his basement business Little Castle Studio, an homage to the stone quasi-Tudor house with gingerbread flourishes that he’s still completing after three decades of residency.

“This place comes from my childhood fantasy and doodling in high school,” Williams suggests.
Much of that childhood was spent in his native Connecticut, although the family briefly relocated to Strafford, Vermont. Williams was 13 and back in southern New England when his father, a builder, died of cancer. His wife then struggled to raise their five children. (A sixth sibling was born years later.)

At 14, Williams became a vocalist, keyboard player and guitarist. “I made my living hodge-podge, helter-skelter in various bands for the next eight or ten years – country rock, Top 40, Jimi Hendrix, Motown,” he recalls. “Just trying to keep the bills paid.”

A University of Connecticut electrical engineering student with a B average, Williams quit school during his sophomore year. “I had an epiphany,” he says of his disillusionment. “People in simpler professions have more humanity. I decided to make a break in my inertia.”

This indisposition to motion was soon the focus of his subsequent job at Space Electronics, which did consulting work for the military. He remained there for two years, doing “patent drawings for a moment-of-inertia measuring device,” Williams explains, a scientific process relevant to “anything that spins.”

He put an ad in the paper as a cabinetmaker but, at age 19 or 20, “I got shanghaied by a counselor to spend a week at a church camp in Northfield. That became another epiphany. It changed my outlook.”

Vermont teens appeared to be better-behaved than their peers in Connecticut, where he returned after the bucolic interval. But the Green Mountains beckoned. “I wanted to be where the air and water are clean, where people still give a hoot about each other.”

So, in the mid-1970s, “I loaded all my stuff into a van and with a Shell credit card, drove back north. I turned around on a dime, with no prospects and no money. I just wanted to be deliberate about my choices.”

Although his financial situation required a nomadic lifestyle, Williams jumped at the opportunity to invest in a patch of South Starksboro land along with three friends. “It took three years to convince a bank to loan me $7,000 to begin building. By then, two of the original four had dropped out. I wound up with eight-and-a-half acres for myself. The remaining friend lived at another house nearby but he has since moved on.”

Williams did not exactly stay put, however. In 1976, a girlfriend studying in Los Angeles lured him to California, where he continued to hone his skills with a home-remodeling company. A year later, it was back east full-time and these days, he shares the cozy Little Castle with wife Flor, a 16-year-old stepson and a biological daughter who’s seven.

Music surfaced as a career again when Williams and fellow musician Bill Lauf organized four “walking concert tours” in 1980. “You walk from gig to gig,” he says.

This endeavor was sparked by “Vermont is Afire in the Autumn,” composed by Lauf. “I thought that’s a tune someone should record and release in the fall,” he notes. “And I’d always had a fantasy of following the peak foliage.”

With the song getting significant radio airplay, the peripatetic duo set out on a 220-mile, 17-day trek from North Troy to Jacksonville. En route, they performed three or four shows a day at churches, grange halls, colleges and high school auditoriums.

“It was such a cool thing to do, we decided to go again in 1981 and 1982,” Williams says of trips — Sherbrooke to New Haven and Montreal to Manhattan — that covered 390 miles and 429 miles, respectively.

A final 1984 hike from Swanton to Pownal was solo for Williams. “On the first two, we lost money. The third year we broke even. I only went a fourth time because my first marriage had broken up and I needed to clear my head.” Ironically, it was the only journey to turn a profit.

As the 1980s drew to a close, Williams – who had been producing albums at other sites — created his own studio. “My focus is acoustic-based music — bluegrass, country, classical, jazz, singer-songwriters,” he says. “In 20 years, I’ve done about 200 CD projects.”

And now, one feature-length film. Since 2005, he’s been editing, doing audio post-production for and sound design on “Birth of Innocence.” It’s a work-in-progress documentary by Mac Parker, a popular Addison storyteller who stopped performing ten years ago to work on this cinematic meditation that’s a bit like the philosophically-inclined “Koyaanisqatsi” or “What the Bleep Do We Know.”

In a small screening room adjacent to his recording studio, Williams provides a sneak preview of the footage. It begins with dreamlike pictures of the universe taken by the Hubble spacecraft, followed by random images: A churning body of water, a snowy mountain, an arresting face, a field, a forest. Parker has added periodic, somewhat inspirational narration.

“There’s a real thirst for this kind of experience,” Williams contends. “It’s not selling a belief system. He’s offering a pipeline to do something on your own terms. Some of Mac’s financiers are dyed-in-the-wool Vermont farmers, no-nonsense folks who never go to the movies. We showed them a rough cut and they got it right away. They understand stillness. These are pragmatic people who wake up before sunrise, who’ve birthed a calf.”

Williams never birthed a calf, but he’s arguably a hardscrabble guy who has followed the zig and zag of a life less ordinary.

Vermont Events 2010

January 14, 2010  
Filed under Arts & Entertainment

Brookfield Ice HarvesT: Brookfield – January 30, 2010

The 31st annual Brookfield Ice Harvest recalls the history of ice harvesting through a talk, demonstration and hands-on competition for young and old. This great family event includes food, dog sledding and many other features. Route 65. For details, call 802-276-3959.
Chosen F-F-Frozen Regatta: North Hero – February 13, 2010
Head up to the Champlain Islands for this annual event. Winter bikes and other non-motorized, non-sailed contraptions race around Lake Champlain at this event, which is part of the Great Ice in Grand Isle winter carnival. 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. For details, visit

Vermont Maple Open House Weekend:
Statewide – March 26-28, 2010

The annual statewide maple festival will be held at sugarhouses throughout Vermont. It is an opportunity for the public to visit one or more “sugarhouses” throughout the state. Activities will include the opportunity to watch maple syrup being made (weather permitting) and sample maple products. For more information, visit

Vermont Maple Festival:
St. Albans – April 30-May 2, 2010

The annual festival will feature entertainment, maple exhibit hall, antiques, craft and specialty food shows, cooking demonstrations, sugarhouse tours, face painting, a pancake breakfast, fiddling and youth talent shows. For more information, visit

Vermont Open Studio Weekend: Statewide – May 29-30, 2010
Open Studio Weekend is a statewide celebration of the visual arts and the creative process in which Vermont artists and craftspeople invite the public to visit them in their studios during Memorial Day Weekend. More than 285 artists and artisans will be participating. For more information, visit

Burlington Discover Jazz Festival: Burlington – June 4-13, 2010
Enjoy a unique mix of concerts, dances, jams, street parties, cruises on Lake Champlain, workshops and more at the 27th Annual Burlington Discover Jazz Festival. Various locations in Burlington. For more information, visit

Annual Strolling of the Heifers Weekend: Brattleboro – June 4-6, 2010
See the stars of the annual Strolling of the Heifers Parade – 100 flower-bedecked bovine beauties – begin strolling up Main Street on Saturday at 10 a.m. on Main Street. The parade will be followed by a festival of music, food and more. For more information, visit

Vermont Days: Statewide – June 12-13, 2010
All Vermont State Park day areas, state-owned historic sites, and the Vermont Historical Society Museum in Montpelier will be open at no charge. June 12 is free fishing day. For more information, visit

Vermont Quilt Festival:
Essex Junction – June 25-27, 2010
Enjoy over 500 beautiful quilts on display at the Champlain Valley Expo, shop in more than 80 booths and choose from over 80 classes and lectures with noted teachers. For more information, visit

Quechee Hot Air Balloon, Craft and Music Festival: Quechee – June 19-20, 2010
The skies over Quechee will be filled with colorful hot air balloons during this family-oriented event which includes food, arts and crafts, more than 50 artists and artisans, and live entertainment. For more information, visit

Tunbridge World’s Fair: Tunbridge – September, 2010
Where the past, present, and future meet up for four days of the fair. The 138th World’s Fair features working antique displays, horse, pony and oxen pulling, horse racing, exhibits, free shows, midway, food and more. For more information, visit

South Hero Applefest & Craft Show: South Hero – October 9-10, 2010
Vermont’s largest apple festival includes free entertainment, music, flea market, cider pressing contest, crafts, petting zoo and plenty of apples. South Street. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, visit

Wassail Weekend:
Woodstock – December 2010

For more than 25 years, Wassail Weekend has allowed people to enjoy a Wassail Parade, house tours, holiday activities, food, music and more. For details, visit

Walk of the Santas: Dover – December 2010
A Santa charity walk, valley wide scavenger hunt, arts and craft fair, gingerbread house exhibit, Santa sleigh rail jam and more. For more information, visit

First Night Burlington and Montpelier: Burlington and Montpelier – Dec. 31, 2010
Enjoy performances and events at these annual substance-free, New Year’s Eve festivals in the cities of Burlington and Montpelier. For more information, visit