The Catamount Trail Offers Easy Access to Vermont’s Backcountry
December 01, 2020
Vermont backcountry skiing will be a popular option for outdoor recreation this winter.
For those looking for alternative ways to get outside in the snow, backcountry skiing along Vermont’s Catamount Trail offers something for everyone, including beginners.
“The woods in the winter are a really special experience,” says Matt Williams, executive director of the Catamount Trail Association. “It’s incredibly quiet when the snow is deep, and there are some incredible places in Vermont to explore.”
What is The Catamount Trail?
The Catamount Trail, which is North America’s longest backcountry ski trail, runs the entire length of Vermont. Used for backcountry skiing and snowshoeing, the 300-mile trail is the brainchild of Steve Bushy, Ben Rose, and Paul Jarris, who in the 1980s worked to develop a Vermont winter ski route that extends from the Massachusetts border to Quebec.
Over the past few years, backcountry skiing has experienced an increase in popularity across the country and in Vermont.
“The definition of a typical year has changed so dramatically for backcountry skiing in the past 10, and particularly five years,” Williams says. “In my lifetime as a backcountry skier, the sport has evolved and changed a lot. For the last number of years, we have seen use really skyrocket and grow exponentially in the backcountry.”
The Catamount Trail includes trail sections that run through towns, forests, and remote backcountry areas. The association also has chapters, including Dutch Hill Alliance for Skiers Hikers (DHASH) in southern Vermont and the Rochester & Randolph Area Sports Trail Alliance (RASTA) in central Vermont.
While backcountry skiing might seem like an extreme sport, Williams says that’s not the case. Most of The Catamount Trail, except for managed backcountry zones, is suited for Nordic ski equipment and features terrain similar to classic cross-country skiing.
“The thing that gets the most media play and attention are people jumping off cliffs and skiing really extreme lines or in really deep powder,” Williams says. “But there’s a huge range of terrain out there, and it’s really easy to find the niche that you find the most fun. And that’s what it’s all about.”
You can learn more about The Catamount Trail—as well as resources for skiing, program information, tours, and events—by visiting catamountrail.org.
Happy Vermont Podcast: Vermont Backcountry Skiing Along The Catamount Trail
Matt Williams, who grew up on a sheep farm in Sharon, returned to Vermont in 2018 to lead the Catamount Trail Association. In this episode, he talks about what makes The Catamount Trail special and offers advice for people looking to experience backcountry skiing for the first time.
-Images of Vermont backcountry skiers and Matt Williams are courtesy of The Catamount Trail Association.