10 Super Cross-Country Ski Adventures In Vermont

Vermont is known for its sharp cheddar cheese, sweet maple syrup and a few other culinary niceties such as Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. The cross-country skiing menu is about as varied. The Green Mountain State has everything from neatly groomed trails along golf courses and by weathered barn doors, to untamed backcountry sliding down rugged mountains. Choose one from the list and enjoy.

Trail: Overland Cross-Country Ski Trail
: Mount Mansfield State Forest, Underhill Center
Distance: 1.2 miles one-way
Highlight: A moderate backcountry ski in the shadows of Mount Mansfield.
Trailhead: From Interstate 89 north, take exit 15 east. Travel through Essex Junction, Essex Center and Jericho. In Underhill Flats, turn right at the 13.2-mile mark on River Road. In Underhill Center, at 16.4 miles, turn right on Stevensville Road and follow it about a mile to a skier parking area on the left. The Maple Leaf Farm is a landmark. Stevensville Road continues about another mile to the trailhead for Nebraska Notch, but is only suitable for four-wheel drive vehicles.
Description: Thanks go to the Civilian Conservation Corps, which built the Overland back in the 1930s. The long, winding and mostly wide descent is the reward after skinning up. The Overland crosses a couple of brooks and drainages and is a throw back to three-pin days.

Skis that need wax or not will take skiers through the Vermont woods. Marty Basch photos

Trail: Sam’s Run
Location: Craftsbury Outdoor Center, Craftsbury Common
Distance: 7.2-mile circuit
Highlight: Rolling hills and steep descents through northern Vermont farmland
Trailhead: From Hardwick, follow Route 14 north 8.4 miles and turn right on TH 1 (sign for Craftsbury Outdoor Center). Follow TH 1 about four miles and make right on TH 7. Travel TH 7 for 1.3 miles and turn right on TH 12 (Lost Nation Road). Follow it to Craftsbury Outdoor Center. The way from Route 14 is well signed.
Description: Ski through open fields, by maples and along a flowing river. Sometimes hilly, but the beauty of cross-country skiing is ripping down the nicely groomed boulevards after those pushes. The trail also undergoes a bit of a personality change. At the onset, wide-open fields dominate the scenery. Then the route heads into the forests, playfully twisting its way back to the touring center.

Trail:Slayton Pasture Cabin / Haul Road Loop
: Trapp Family Lodge, Stowe
Distance: 7.2 miles round-trip
Highlight: The hills above Stowe are alive with skiing, and warming up in a forest cabin.
Trailhead: From Interstate 89, take exit 10 and follow Route 100 north seven miles to Moscow Road. Turn left. Follow Moscow Road 1.6 miles to Barrows Road and turn right. After two miles, turn left on Trapp Hill Road and follow it one mile to the Trapp Family Lodge.
Description: There is something satisfying and homey about stopping in a rustic log cabin in the woods to rest and re-fuel with hot drinks, soups and snacks. Just before the midway point, the Slayton Pasture Cabin provides that and also a porch for bird watching, too. Instant vistas await users of the network as the Green Mountains over Lake Mansfield is the backdrop for the ski center.

Trail: Hogback Mountain Loop
Location: Blueberry Hill Nordic Center, Goshen
Distance: Nearly 4-mile loop
Highlight: Hilly circuit out the door of a resplendent inn. What goes up must come down!
Trailhead: From Brandon, follow Route 73 east four miles to Forest Road 32 and turn left. Drive four miles to the Blueberry Hill Nordic Center.
Description: The loop begins with a gentle dip behind the blue inn built in 1813, crossing a brook and then heading upward through the woods. The trail system is constructed in a way so that there are a series of climbs with plateaus. That way there is a flat respite as a reward with every effort.

Trail: South Ridge Loop
Location: Mountain Meadows Cross-Country Ski Center, Killington
Distance: 5.4 miles round-trip
Highlight: Roller roaster ride for skate skiers looking to fly
Trailhead: From the intersection of Routes 100 and 4 in Killington, follow Route 4 one-quarter mile east past the access road to Killington. Turn left on Thundering Brook Road to Mountain Meadows.
Description: Make sure your seatbelts are fastened. The undulating loop dances up, down and around through the woods, by rounded mountains, past huge boulders and includes a half-mile downhill with exhilarating hairpin turns.

Trail: Grout Pond Loop
: Stratton
Distance: 4.8 miles round-trip
Highlight: Distant alpine ski slopes are part of the view from the frozen pond
Trailhead: From Waldeboro (Route 100), turn right on the Arlington-West Wardsboro Road (sign points to Stratton.) Travel through West Wardsboro and the small town of Stratton 6.5 miles to the Grout Mountain Recreation Parking Area on the right. Along the way, the road becomes Kelley Stand Road (Forest Route 6).
Description: The loop around Grout Pond is like a pizza with your favorite toppings. Throw in a tiny slice of Vermont’s state-long cross-country trail, add a handful of small rolling dips, toss in views of alpine slopes, sprinkle on some pristine pond vistas and shake in a dab or two of warmth at a trailside cabin and shelter, and voila, you’ve got a tasty adventure.

Trail: Big Bear Loop
Location: Grafton Ponds Nordic Ski Center, Grafton
Distance: 4.7-mile circuit
Highlight: Warm up in a cabin and gaze down upon the smoke from wood stoves in a charming southern Vermont village.
Trailhead: From Interstate 91, take exit 7 and follow Route 11 west about 12.3 miles and turn left in Chester on Route 35 south. Travel on Route 35 south for 7.4 miles and turn right on Main Street (Route 121) in Grafton. Follow it for a few hundred yards and turn left on Townsend Road. Grafton Ponds is down the road about three-quarters of a mile.
Description: Though the Big Bear Loop is labeled more difficult, it is only because of a couple of steep, short pitches climbing up to the cabin. Also, the trails at Grafton are extremely wide, making it a winter playground for skate skiers. Skiers need not worry about skiers barreling down as they climb. The loop is one-way.

Trail: Little Michigan / Stone Place Loop

The cabin along the Big Bear Loop at Grafton Ponds Nordic Ski Center in southern Vermont makes for an excellent lunch spot or rest stop along the way.

Location: Landgrove
Distance: Four miles
Highlight: Ungroomed experience through national forest land with rolling hills
Trailhead: From the junction of Routes 100 and 11 in Londonderry, travel on Route 11 west. Proceed .5 mile and turn right on Landgrove Road. Follow Landgrove Road 4.2 miles and turn left on Little Michigan Road. One-half mile later, turn right on Forest Road 10. A sign will point to Danby. The trailhead is .2 mile down on the left.
Description: Wiggle through the evergreens like a playful puppy initially. But that puppy grows up rather quickly and takes a snap at you from time to time with a few heart-stopping pitches and narrow shots through the trees.

Trail: Chickering Bog Loop
: Calais
Distance: Two miles
Highlight: Stone walls and a bog in the quiet Vermont woods
Trailhead: From Montpelier, follow Route 2 east 6.5 miles to East Montpelier. Then travel on Route 14 north to North Montpelier. From the River Bend Store, continue on Route 14 for about a mile and turn left on Lightening Ridge Road (marked with a sign for the Calais Elementary School). About 1.5 miles down the road, a green post with the initials “TNC” marks the trailhead on the lefthand side.
Description: For the most part, the loop trail is flat. But, the trail does dip and rise on occasion. The trail is blazed in white. The undulating sections might make it a more difficult ski. A couple of log bridges cross wet spots.

Trail: Stowe Recreation Path
: Stowe
Distance: 5.5 miles one way
Highlight: Sample small town life with Mount Mansfield views
Trailhead: From Interstate 89, take exit 10 and follow Route 100 north about 11 miles into Stowe Village. Route 100 becomes Main Street and the Recreation Path leaves from the Stowe Community Church.
Description: Constructed in the early 1980s, the long white greenway in winter is a multi-use trail for cross-country skiers, snowshoers and walkers. The small-town atmosphere of Stowe is felt along the path, which meanders between the flowing waters of the West Branch River and Stowe’s commercial Mountain Road (Route 108).

Marty Basch is the author of the award-winning book, “Winter Trails Vermont and New Hampshire” (Globe Pequot), which details some of these and other snowy treks in the two states.

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