4 Vermont Outdoor Centers Worth Your Time This Winter
December 18, 2020
In 1969, year-round Vermont outdoor centers weren’t on Tony Clark’s radar. Back then, Clark was hard at work creating a network of cross-country ski trails on his inn’s property in Goshen and on adjacent U.S. Forest Service land.
For decades, the trails were part of the legendary Blueberry Hill Ski Center, which were maintained on Clark’s dime through an agreement with the U.S. Forest Service.
With 45 kilometers of trails that were initially developed for winter use only, the Addison County center evolved into a year-round trail network used by hikers, runners, mountain bikers, skiers, and snowshoers from New England and beyond.
Today, those trails are still very much in use, only now they are part of the Blueberry Hill Outdoor Center, which was recently established as a non-profit to provide continued access to the Moosalamoo National Recreation Area in the Green Mountain National Forest.
Vermont outdoor centers, which offer year-round trail access, are an option for anyone looking to get outside this winter on cross-country skis, snowshoes, microspikes, or fat bikes.
Shari Brown, who runs the Blueberry Hill Inn with Clark, her ex-husband, spent the past several months establishing the outdoor center as a non-profit with help from the couple’s daughter, Britta. The non-profit status allows Blueberry Hill to raise money and accept donations to maintain operations (the suggested donation for a day-use pass is $10).
“It was not sustainable for Blueberry Hill to keep doing it the other way. This is a labor of love,” Brown says. “Tony is still out there working on the trails, and he calls it his legacy. It’s just something he loves doing. We choose to do this because we want people to have access to the trails.”
Four Vermont Outdoor Centers Worth Visiting this Winter
Vermont outdoor centers offer everything from cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and fat biking in winter to mountain biking and trail running in the summer. If you’re looking for new places to get outside this winter, here are four Vermont outdoor centers to explore.
Blueberry Hill Outdoor Center
-courtesy of Blueberry Hill Outdoor Center
Description: The Blueberry Hill trail system includes a long climb and descent over the shoulder of Romance Mountain and expansive views of the Green, Adirondack, and Taconic Mountains from the south side of Hogback Mountain. The trail system includes a segment of the Catamount Trail and also connects with the trails of the Moosalamoo National Recreation Area as well The Long Trail.
What makes it special: Blueberry Hill trails once played a large part in the New England ski racing scene in the 1970s and 1980s, with races attended by locals, collegiate skiers, and Olympians. Though many cross-country ski centers and race venues have since transitioned to wider trails groomed for both skate and classic skiing, the joys of narrow, ungroomed winding trails recall a fundamental way of being in the woods in winter.
Restrictions: Outside of State of Vermont travel guidelines, reservations are not required at Blueberry Hill Outdoor Center. Rentals (adult only) are available on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Location and contact information: 1245 Goshen Ripton Road, Goshen; 802-247-6735; www.blueberryhillinn.com/about-outdoor-center.
Opening Day: December 19, 2020
Grafton Trails and Outdoor Center
Description: Located in Windham County, Grafton Trails and Outdoor Center is a gorgeous place to go snowshoeing, fat biking, cross-country skiing, or tubing.
What makes it special: The Windham Foundation, which owns Grafton Trails and Outdoor Center, is the steward of 1,200 acres of protected land in Grafton. The foundation opens much of its land to public use, including the Grafton Trails and Outdoor Center.
Restrictions: In addition to State of Vermont travel guidelines, reservations are required and a contact tracing system has been implemented.
Location and contact information: 783 Townshend Road, Grafton; 802-843-2350; www.graftoninnvermont.com/grafton-trails.
Opening day: December 18, 2020
Craftsbury Outdoor Center
Description: The Craftsbury Outdoor Center, founded in 1976 by Russell Spring, is known for its scenery, trails, athletic training opportunities, and rustic Vermont vibe. In the winter, the Orleans County non-profit center offers Nordic skiing, snowshoeing, fat biking, ice skating, lessons, and more. As soon as there’s enough snow this season, the center plans to open all 105 km of its ski trails.
What makes it special: As a world-class Vermont outdoor center that grooms top athletes and attracts Olympians to its races, Craftsbury started small and with a degree of uncertainty. But the Spring family’s vision eventually came to fruition in one of the most rural corners of Vermont.
Restrictions: The ski lodge will not be open this season. In addition to State of Vermont travel guidelines, reservations are required, and a contact tracing system has been implemented.
Location and contact information: 535 Lost Nation Road, Craftsbury; 802-586-7767; www.craftsbury.com.
Opening day: December 12, 2020
Catamount Outdoor Family Center
Description: Offering cross-country skiing, fat biking, snowshoeing, clinics, and more, the Catamount Outdoor Family Center includes a variety of trails covering about 20 miles in one of the prettiest places in Chittenden County.
What makes it special: Catamount Outdoor Family Center began as a cross country ski center in 1978 as a way to utilize a unique 500-acre property in Williston. The center, now a non-profit, is a popular place for camps, mountain biking, and races. Scenic views of Camels Hump are an added bonus any time of year.
Restrictions: No indoor facilities will be open this season. Outside of State of Vermont travel guidelines, there are no other restrictions. Guests are responsible to self-screen for COVID-19 symptoms.
Location and contact information: 592 Governor Chittenden Road, Williston; 802-879-6001; https://catamountoutdoorfamilycenter.org.
Opening day: Trails are currently open for hiking and fat biking. Check the website or Facebook for trail updates.
-courtesy of Grafton Trails and Outdoor Center; main image by Tiffany Soukup/Shutterstock