Somewhere You Have Never Been Before…
Whether having visited the Northeast’s favorite mountain community on countless occasions or experiencing what many feel is the quintessential New England village for the first time, going somewhere you have never been before socially, emotionally, physically and spiritually creates a balance and sense of wellness that can promote the confidence and resilience essential to navigating the current uncertainties we are braving together. While racing down snow-covered slopes as you showcase your downhill abilities is considered by most alpine enthusiasts to be an incomparable adventure, Winter 2020/21 in majestic Stowe, Vermont invites you to reimagine what it means to ski & ride by partaking in back country & Nordic skiing, snowshoeing and fatbiking as well as dogsledding, snowmobiling and tobogganing. So, let us turn that snow globe upside down, appreciate the crisp, clean air and the endless blanket of sparkling powder winter brings along with an understanding of how it allows us to see our surroundings anew, as sometimes a love that is missing is right in front of us; ours to discover and explore.
The backcountry terrain found off-piste in and around Stowe, the ski & snow capital of the East, is rocky, rugged, steep, and wild, featuring epic scenery, loaded with majestic mountain views and stunning valley vistas. An example of one such backcountry run is Bruce Trail which was initially carved out of the rugged Green Mountains in the 1930’s but has never been included in the Mount Mansfield trail map. This hidden gem starts at the top of Toll Road after 1800 feet of climbing, so you will need skins for “uphill skiing” and also the ability to channel your inner hardcore athlete as this is a challenge not for the faint of heart. Known as one of the best descents of Mansfield, you will experience steep drops and a double fall line with gorgeous wooded areas that open to stunning glades and towering pines. Backcountry skiing is best enjoyed by hiring a certified guide and is the optimum way to make the most of your experience in the surrounding mountainous landscape; and many programs can be tailored to your needs and abilities. Prices can vary depending on expedition duration, the size of the group or party and what aspects of the trip are included.
Preeminent Rental Establishment: Pinnacle Ski and Sports
Best Trail: Teardrop Trail
The pristine patchwork of farmland, fields and forests in Stowe supports the largest, most diverse Nordic trail system in the United States and is ranked as the top cross-country skiing destination on the east coast, including over 3,000 acres of conserved land and open spaces. Pastoral Stowe offers more than 120 kilometers of groomed ski trails and more than 100 kilometers of backcountry skiing, with trails for every ability–from perfectly groomed tracks to smooth wide skating lanes to fine, untracked back-country skiing. An example of one such Nordic trail system can be found at Trapp Family Lodge which is ranked the #1 Best Cross-Country Ski Resort in North America. Trapp Family Lodge Outdoor Center is the largest cross-country ski center in Stowe, featuring 37 miles of groomed trails and 62 miles of backcountry trails suitable for skiers of all ages and abilities. Cruise the lower trails such as Sugar Road or Fox Track and then enjoy lunch at the Austrian Bier Hall or climb to the upper, more challenging trails with a stop at Slayton Cabin for a delicious homemade lunch. Lesson and rental equipment are available at the touring center.
Preeminent Rental Establishment: Trapp Family Lodge Outdoor Center
Best Trail: Cabin Trail
The diverse terrain in and around Stowe makes it easy for those new to snowshoeing to enjoy the sport at their leisure, challenging themselves only as much as they feel comfortable. If you are just starting out, you may want to begin with a snowshoeing tour from local tour guides Umiak Outfitters or Trapp Family Lodge. On the flip side, if you feel comfortable setting off on your own with only a map to direct you, visit the Green Mountain Club, the largest hiking organization in the state, as they offer a wealth of information for visitors interested in snowshoeing. Snowshoes can be rented from several locations in Stowe, including Pinnacle Ski & Sports, Trapp Family Lodge Outdoor Center and Umiak Outfitters. The perfect spot to begin exploring is Stowe’s nationally acclaimed Recreation Path, which winds its way over the course of 5.5 miles and leads snowshoers through snow-blanketed meadows and serene forests throughout their journey. The “Rec Path” also crosses the West Branch River ten+ times on storybook-style wooden bridges, injecting a magical and nostalgic element to a snowshoeing adventure while allowing users to acclimate to snowshoes before tackling more challenging terrain.
Preeminent Rental Establishment: AJ’s Ski & Sports
Best Trail: Stowe Recreation Path
In most parts of the United States when spring, summer and fall mountain biking season has come to an end it is time to retire your trusty two-wheeled steed until the following year—but not in Stowe, as fatbiking is here for the winter season! What is a fatbike? An off-road bicycle with oversized tires, typically 3.8 inch or wider, designed for low pressure to allow riding on soft, unstable terrain such as snow or sand. Fatbikes are built around frames with wide forks and even wider rear stays to accommodate the wide rims required to fit theses tires—and they are easily the most fun you can have when the trails turn pure white! Fatbikes are a party on two wheels, and If you enjoy the thrill of mid-season, dryland rides, just drop the temps a bit, up the fun factor a lot and you have fatbiking! Couple the rush of a new activity with the brisk, clean winter air racing past you—and no endless waiting in long lines at the lifts—and you may have just found your new favorite cold weather obsession. Guests of Sun & Ski Inn and Suites that demo or rent a fatbike at Ranch Camp receive a 10% discount and the personal knowledge that they are engaging in a spiritual experience that is not only cathartic but uniquely epic!
Preeminent Rental Establishment: Ranch Camp
Best Trail: Cady Hill Forest
Let man’s best friend take you on a tour of the snowy woods and icy lakes surrounding Stowe, an unforgettable once-in-a-lifetime experience best shared with loved ones and a wonderful way to create treasured memories that will last a lifetime. An interactive outdoor adventure, dogsledding in for all ages and abilities as you learn how to handle, harness and hitch a team, all the while enjoying the scenic beauty rush by once your trek is underway. As Stowe is one of the few environments in the continental United States conducive to dogsledding, it is advisable to book early as the demand for this magical experience is so high that most dog sled tours in Vermont are fully committed weeks or even months in advance—be sure to book your reservation as soon as you make the decision! Being pulled by a team of sled dogs is exhilarating, but you will be traveling at a rapid pace through Vermont trails, so it’s important to stay warm and comfortable. Clothing layers are ideal, so don’t forget a warm hat, neck gaiter, gloves or mittens, warm dry socks and insulated boots. If your hands and feet are prone to getting cold, consider purchasing hand and toe warmers to add heat to your gloves and boots.
Preeminent Rental Establishment: Eden Dog Sledding
Best Trail: Eden Mountain
There is no more exhilarating or thrilling way to get around Stowe’s idyllic countryside and rolling hills than by snowmobiling, a popular winter activity of locals and visitors to the majestic Green Mountain State. A gripping adventure through the high country of Vermont, guides will take you through lush forests to view some of the most pristine, untouched vistas of Mount Mansfield and Smugglers Notch State Park few will ever witness. The Vermont Association of Snow Travelers (VAST), together with local clubs, maintains Vermont’s snowmobile trail network with over 120 groomers and a typical snowmobile season in Vermont runs from December 1 through April 1. Stowe’s go-to guide service is Snowmobile Vermont based out of Umiak Outdoor Outfitters and maintains an up-to-date fleet of 550cc Polaris snowmobiles, all featuring heated handle grips along with insulated helmets and snowmobile specific boots for riders and passengers. Cruising through fresh powder as you thumb the throttle, enjoy crisp mountain air blasting in your face and find yourself off the beaten path and deep into the woods as you rush past pine, aspen and sugar maples—there is nothing better…
Preeminent Rental Establishment: Snowmobile Vermont
Best Trail: Mount Mansfield State Forest
The most childish of winter sports has come full circle and takes everything you thought you knew about sledding and turns it on its head. Lighter and more agile than you remember, say hello to performance sledding 2020-style! Umiak Outdoor Outfitters has made available to those willing to dare Marshall Hill behind Stowe Elementary School, the Rush Tube, the Mad River Rocket and for those looking to recapture their youth, basic sled rentals that will remind you that your tailbone is still semi-intact. The Rush Tube is a classic circular design inflatable tube reminiscent of a plastic disc sled, but with more comfort and a heavy-duty bottom and tough construction. Not to be outshone is the Mad River Rocket, with control and maneuverability not unlike your automobile. Kneel on the sled, steer by leaning as you execute sharp turns and get ready to fly… And, the aforementioned old tried and true plastic toboggans and sleds—one or both of you will not be coming back in one piece as this time-honored, fairly steep sloped town sledding hill boasts little dips and jumps devilishly constructed by the nearby elementary schoolchildren.
Preeminent Rental Establishment: Umiak Outdoor Outfitters
Best Trail: Marshall Hill