Tag Archives: skiing

Fresh Tracks

 

While winter slept stubbornly through the early days of December, my friend and I spent our Saturday scraping the icy slopes of Sugarbush.

We arrived late in the morning and found the elements at the base of the mountain caught in a fierce war.

The muddy earth and wilting meadows were battling snowfield troops down the slopes from their wintery kingdom.

James Gaudreault, B-Side. Rime ice clinging to summit trees.

Despite the fake snow blowing from cannons, the woods and far edges of the lower trails clung to the earthen fall palettes, refusing to allow skiers more than a few icy routes down to the lift.

Before we set out, we hobbled down the iron steps to pick up our ski passes, clinging to the handrail as our early season legs tripped along.

After a brief wait among the few hungry enough for those scarce early winter tracks, we climbed back up the gauntlet of stairs and rode our first lift to the peak.

The contrast in climate between elevations can be magnificent, especially during the first weeks of winter. In minutes, the stubborn grassland and rushing streams gave way to a sheet of white coating the trees and wooded glades.

All the energy and warmth of the base is locked in an icy cast of winter placidity. We pushed off the lift only halfway to the summit, already in a different world.

James Gaudreault, B-Side. PJ whittling while the food stews.

Our skis’ worn edges struggled to find purchase in the ice on the first few turns. As we moved through the groups of skiers, we found that the best snow lined the trail’s edges in thin strips.

After a few decent runs we turned our attention to the summit hidden above us beyond the rolling clouds.

The Heaven’s Gate lift brought us closer to winter; each foot of elevation added a new layer of drift to the trees and trails below.

As we rounded the peak, we were transported to a spot above the clouds. Each fir tree lining the crystalline hills was coated in its own shell, drooping under the heavy ice.

Before adventuring down the more promising summit trails, I shed my skis and clambered to the top of the lift  to rest and look around.

In the warmer months when snowless slopes call for hiking, I have to work for every inch of altitude. Hiking demands an appreciation for the mountain views; every rock, root and stream I pass is a milestone in my climb. I feel a certain intimacy with the rock beneath my feet.

James Gaudreault. B-Side. Skiers starting down Jester.

Each time the trees part and give way to the rolling hills and adjoining peaks, I have no choice but to stop and look. In winter, as I sat there on the summit, I made the resolution to sit and reflect every mountain day, regardless of the season.

Later in the afternoon, our unconditioned legs wobbled. We watched others filter into the lodge to spend their paychecks on fries, but we unclipped our skis and took to the woods instead.

We walked off-trail to a spot among the trees. With a stacked pile of birch tinder and dead twigs, we fired up a wood-burning stove and cooked a mountain feast.

PJ Solomon, B-Side. Tending to the food.

Every meal tastes better on the mountain, and this one was no different.

As we ate, we discussed our adventures so far, planned a few more runs and basked in the glowing contentment that always follows a day in the clouds.

The snow was sparse, the day was short, but the reward of just getting out was unmistakable.

Meandering Stowe’s Main Street & Beyond

        Sometimes, you just need to take the day and get out of town. After a long week of running from Colchester to College Street, walking down a different Vermont Main comes as a much-needed change of pace. On a relatively balmy, brilliantly beautiful January afternoon my friend Eva and I headed southeast on I-89 into the mountains to Stowe.

        For skiers and riders, Stowe has an obvious appeal; the resort has 460 acres holding 98 trails and 11 lifts. But for those who prefer to admire the trails snaking down Mount Mansfield from afar, Stowe’s Main Street establishments offer a cozy change of pace from hanging out at Bailey/Howe.

IMG_9544
Main Street, Stowe, Vermont. MAGGIE RICHARDSON. B-Side.

        The road to Stowe is predictably gorgeous, from the first 180-degree vista of the Green Mountain peaks near Williston to the cruise up Route 100 snugly situated besides Mount Hunger.

     On either side of the road nestled in pine forests sit local, artisan cheese and wine shops, craft breweries, and outdoor gear outfitters in typical Vermont fashion.   

        As the road snakes into town, it passes snow-coated golf courses etched with Nordic tracks, fly-fishing creeks, and charming saltbox chalets. Downtown Stowe greets visitors with historic inns, white-steeple churches, and general stores stocked with everything from canned tuna to children’s books.  

        Approaching Stowe, you’ll first come up on the Vermont Ski and Snowboard museum housed in a classic white clapboard town hall.  Here, you can learn all about everything from snow bunny fashion to slope maintenance through the years of Vermont ski history.

Make a left turn and you’ll swing up to the sprawling Stowe Resort by way of mountain road as it meanders over covered bridges and past small shops and markets.

Black Cap Coffee, Stowe, Vermont. MAGGIE RICHARDSON. B-Side.
Black Cap Coffee, Stowe, Vermont. MAGGIE RICHARDSON. B-Side.

        Just down the street, Black Cap Coffee sits warm and welcoming on the corner of Main & School streets. The painted red brick café is homey and bright, filled with paintings and pottery by local artists. Black Cap roasts excellent coffee in-house, and its baristas can whip up a killer maple latte.

        If you’re hungry for some savories, head to Jamie’s on Main. The staff is lovely and so is the food—you can stay and hang out or grab a to-go snack for the mountains.

IMG_9542
Main Street, Stowe, Vermont. MAGGIE RICHARDSON. B-Side.

After we’d had our fill of good coffee and Stowe sightseeing, Eva and I headed a few miles up the road to Putnam State forest. The quiet woods, hidden amongst gorgeous mountain estates and small family farms, are filled with waterfalls, young pine forests, mountain streams and stunning views.

        We got out of the car and tramped along the lowland marsh trail up Moss Glen Falls: snowed-over and frozen, but with clear blue water still rushing underneath. In the summer months, the falls get plenty of visitors but in the middle of winter you’re likely to be alone in the woods.

        Grabbing hold of protruding roots and scooting slowly past ice patches, we reached the top of the waterfall and looked out west. The evergreens frame flawlessly a delicious view of Mansfield’s western slopes and the valley in its shadow.

Putnam State Forest. MAGGIE RICHARDSON. B-Side.
Putnam State Forest. MAGGIE RICHARDSON. B-Side.

        From the falls, you can wander deep into the forest on a well-kept trail covered in pine needles in the summer, and packed snow in the winter. Or, you can head back down the hill, get in the car and explore the country roads, harmlessly trespassing through some beautiful backyards.

Putnam State Forest. MAGGIE RICHARDSON. B-Side.
Putnam State Forest. MAGGIE RICHARDSON. B-Side.

        Whether you’re skiing or not, spending a day in Stowe is a treat. It’s just far enough away from the campus routine to feel like an adventure, and there’s plenty to do whether you’re pining for a quiet woodland hike, locally roasted coffee, or a snapshot of smaller-town Vermont life.