Nordic Skiing in Stowe, Vermont
Alpine (downhill) skiing has long been a significant draw for visitors to Stowe, Vermont in the winter. What might be less known, are the fantastic trails and landscapes available for Nordic (cross-country) skiing. For those who have taken up Nordic skiing, there is a great passion for the sport from people who seek a great workout, solitude in the woods and even some downhill thrills. During these times of physical distancing there is also the advantage of not having to wait in lines or ride ski lifts.
Stowe, Vermont has a variety of options and terrains for every Nordic ski lover from homegrown trails out the backdoor and nearby fields to professionally groomed and tracked trails at established Nordic ski centers. Here are our favorite spots around Stowe for this time-honored sport and recreational activity.
Smugglers’ Notch is a road that traverses between Mount Mansfield and Spruce Peak and crosses over to the neighboring town of Jeffersonville. In the winter it is closed because of the narrow turns around large boulders that are impassible with a snow plow. Drive as far as you can up towards the mountain and the road will stop at a parking lot. Head straight ahead up the road for a gradual incline towards the peak of the road. You may not notice the incline on the way up, but the way down will bring you faster back to the parking lot than expected. Smugglers’ Notch Road is perfect for skiers itching to get their first Nordic experience of the year. Due to the higher elevations it is possible to ski at Smugglers’ Notch when other trails and centers are not yet open for the season.
Stowe Recreation Path
We love the Stowe Recreation Path because it is literally right out the front door of the Sun & Ski Inn and Suites. In the summer the path is meant for biking and walking. In the winter when the path is covered in snow it can be a great (and free!) option for Nordic skiing. For a longer ski take a left on the path to enjoy at least five miles of the winding trail alongside the river and over bridges. You will catch some views of Mount Mansfield along the way. For a shorter ski, head to the right, ski to the center of Stowe, and stop for lunch on Main Street. The best time to ski the Recreation Path is right after a snowstorm. Our local Stowe Nordic Club lays fresh classic ski tracks regularly after a good snowfall.
Edson Hill is a small gem in the Nordic ski offerings in Stowe, Vermont. The Heath Family created a trail network in the 1950’s behind the historic Edson Hill Inn (formerly Edson Hill Manor). Edson Hill offers a smaller breadth of trails than the other larger Nordic centers but trails are groomed. Edson Hill is perfect for visiting skiers looking for a ski-in/ski-out experience at a luxury boutique Inn. Finish your day of skiing with a drink and après ski at the cozy Tavern at Edson Hill.
Sterling Forest is a great option for Nordic skiers looking for a bit more adventure and untouched terrain on un-groomed trails. There are options for both beginner skiers (Maple Run) and more advanced (8 Bridges). Sterling Forest trails are open to the public and primarily managed by the Stowe Land Trust, the local land conservation non-profit, but also borders and crosses private property made available by the generosity of private land-owners. It’s a wonderful multi-use area with a vibrant local following of not only Nordic skiers but walkers, fat bikers, back-country skiers and snow mobiles. Feeling really adventurous? Hop on the Catamount trail for an epic day-long ski from Sterling Forest to Trapp Family Lodge. Be sure to do your research for this trip, dress adequately, and bring plenty of water and snacks.
Stowe Mountain Resort Nordic Center
The Nordic center at Stowe Mountain Resort is professionally maintained and groomed with 30 miles of available trails. There are a wide range of trails for all abilities with both flat and steeper inclines through rolling hills and alongside brooks. A trail pass is required.
Trapp Family Lodge
We’ve saved our favorite and most consistent Nordic ski hot spot for last. If you want a guaranteed all around experience for Nordic skiing, this is the place to be. The Trapp Family Lodge Outdoor Center has 40 miles of trails for all abilities. We love these trails because of the variety and availability of trails throughout the winter. Even during the times of difficult or less ideal Nordic ski conditions, there is always the main loop available on Sugar Road and Fox Track. We long, though, for the peak conditions after a fresh snow storm with snow still sitting on the tree branches when we can enjoy a longer and more challenging ski to the Slayton Cabin and returning down Chris’s Run. There are also multiple options for enjoying a mid-ski meal or après ski (Slayton Cabin, the Bier Hall, or the Kaffeehaus).