Friendship and farmland are at the heart of the Strafford Nordic Center.
The 700-acre cross-country ski area is located on two adjoining Upper Valley farms and operated by three lifelong friends – Jeremiah Linehan, Rett Emerson, and Earl Ransom.
The base lodge, trail head, and scenic trails are located at Rockbottom Farm, a working organic dairy farm and home to Strafford Organic Creamery. Additional trails are hosted on the adjacent Tamarack Hill Farm, known for its high-level equestrian training and challenging terrain.
Ransom owns Rockbottom farm, Emerson owns Tamarack Hill Farm, and Linehan is an accomplished Nordic skier. Put the three of them together and the result is one of the most unique cross-country ski centers in Vermont.
A Passion for Nordic Skiing, Preserving Land
In an effort to accommodate a need for local Nordic trails and to use the land to its fullest potential, the three worked together to restructure the two farms and create the Strafford Nordic Center with 30 kilometers of trails in 2012.
Linehan, 40, used to cross-country ski on snowmobile trails in Strafford when he was a boy. As a baby, he rode the trails while perched in a backpack carried by his older brother. After the family moved to Alaska when he was 10, Linehan pursued Nordic racing and went on to compete extensively around the country and in Europe.
When he returned to Vermont with his wife, Hilary, the couple purchased property in Strafford. They made 10 kilometers of trails for friends and families to enjoy on their land. “Then I started looking at grooming equipment, and I could not justify buying a snowcat” for his backyard ski trails, says Linehan.
That’s when the idea of using the two farms for an official ski area originated. “Both farms don’t use the land in the winter, and it was a way to optimize the land,” he says.
All the trails at Strafford Nordic Center are existing farm use trails, logging trails, and hay fields. The ski lodge is housed in a 800-square-foot apartment attached to the main farmhouse at Rockbottom Farm.
Operating Strafford Nordic Center on a Working Farm
The trio, who met sometime around kindergarten, find a way to work together and still be friends. Linehan manages the center, Emerson grooms the trails (they groom after every snowfall with a snowcat and other equipment), and Ransom takes care of logistics.
“It’s been good. We all communicate really well. We try to avoid problems before they happen, and the relationships are still good,” says Linehan.
While the fields are free of any farm activity in the winter, Rockbottom Farm continues its milking and ice cream making operations through the ski season. Skiers will likely see cows and day-to-day farm operations while visiting the ski area.
“We were a little concerned what people’s perception would be with a farm operation also being a ski center. But people really enjoy it,” Linehan says, adding that Nordic skiers of all abilities will find trails to enjoy. “We have everything from very flat areas with practice loops to hills for racers. We have a little bit of everything for everyone.”
**If You Go: Strafford Nordic Center is located at 53 Rockbottom Road in Strafford. Open daily (except Christmas) between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Rentals are available. Biathlon training/clinics are held every other weekend, and fat bike demos are offered on weekends.