Trails and Tours for Snow-shoes and Skis
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.