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story KATHY BUCKWORTH
The hills are alive with the sound of...CANADIANS?
Every winter, Mississaugans load up their skis, snowboards and kids and head down to Vermont for some (ironically) unparalleled Alpine and Nordic skiing.
With top-notch resorts like Stowe, Smuggler’s Notch, Jay Peak, and Killington, only an eight- to ten-hour drive away, the appeal of the Green Mountains is easy to understand with verticals in the range of three to four thousand feet, combined with an abundance of snow and the draw of the New England experience.
Although it is the only New England state (Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Hampshire) without Atlantic coastline, Vermont is quintessential New England. The Green Mountain State more than makes up for its lack of oceanfront with its breathtaking mountain views, winding rivers, sprawling farms, covered bridges and quaint picturesque towns.
Burlington, Vermont's largest city (population 39,000), is located on the shores of Lake Champlain (named after French explorer Samuel de Champlain who claimed Vermont as part of New France in 1609). It overlooks vistas of the Adirondack Mountains.
It is also the sister city of Burlington, Ontario and the pair, in fact, share annual cultural exchanges. Burlington is the state’s cultural centre, home to several colleges including UVM (the University of Vermont) and the birthplace (in 1978) of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream - a company that buys it’s milk from Vermont dairy farmers who agree not to use any growth hormones on their cows. They relocated to Waterbury, Vermont - close to Burlington and Stowe - and a tour of their facility is highly recommended.
Here are a few Green Mountain State destinations to inspire you to gear up for a road trip.
There are three connecting mountains at Smuggs, with a 2610 foot vertical rise. There are 78 trails ranging from gentle cruisers for beginners, to the East’s only triple black-diamond trail. Over 1,000 acres of terrain include glades and terrain parks blanketed by an average snowfall of 24 feet every year. But it’s not just the skiing and boarding that brings families back year after year. It’s what’s offered “off the hill” as well.
Karen Boushie, the public relations Director for Smuggler’s Notch is proud of the resort’s commitment to the beautiful natural surroundings they inhabit. “In keeping with the Resort’s commitment to environmental stewardship through nature-focused programs that combine learning and fun, Smugglers’ canopy tour will incorporate information presented by the tour guides about the local flora and fauna, ecology and natural history. The canopy tour will run year-round and be a great new addition to our activities, responding to the increasing interest we’ve seen in adventure programming.”
Boushie explains their latest feature: “We’re in the final stages of negotiating a contract for the development of a zipline canopy tour that would be in place for this winter. The zipline canopy will be located in a scenic valley near our cross-country ski and snowshoe trails. Participants on the 2.5-3-hour tour, the first of its kind in Vermont, will ride more than 4,000 feet of cable on eight sections of zip line, cross suspension bridges and rappel from trees. Scenic lookout and tree platforms in a mature forest consisting of stands of hemlock, white birch and sugar maple will yield stunning views of the Resort, Mount Mansfield and the Green Mountains.”
In addition, Smugglers offers their famous “Snowsport University” - a kids’ FunZone (indoor playground), an indoor pool and hot tub and family friendly activities every night of the week. There’s something for all ages, including a Teen Zone and a Daycare for the younger ones.
The tiny village includes family as well as adult only restaurants, a lounge, and of course, the ubiquitous (at least in Vermont) Ben & Jerry’s ice cream stand. Smugglers is also enthusiastic about using new technology including a Flaik GPS system which tracks a skier or rider’s route, distance, vertical height and speed - all of which can be reviewed daily or cumulatively. Social media is also in use with updates via Twitter and Facebook about conditions, events and news being communicated on a constant basis.
“Jay is a nice laid back resort with some amazing skiing. It boasts the most snow in Eastern North America, but the crowds are manageable. They often have good deals for Canadians (including taking our money at par). It has also been a favourite of Montrealers for years.” says Alison Bittle-Fair of Mississauga. With a vertical of 2,153, the two peaks at Jay offer 76 trails, glades and chutes (20% novice, 40% intermediate, 40% advanced) and they have fantastic packages for families who want to stay in their own condo (kitchens included). They have also recently greatly improved their offering to skiers with a whopping $13 million invested in the past year.
“Topping the list are increases in snowmaking coverage, an enclosed beginner lift, a new Nordic centre, an indoor ice arena, a parking garage, a state-of-the-art ticketing system, and a new groomer. The enhancements are part of the resort’s ongoing $140 million revitalization effort.” says their CEO Bill Stenger.
Unique to Jay is their newly opened Ice Haus, which features an NHL-sized rink with room for 700 spectators. Skaters and fans will find a heated snack bar with beer and wine, a rental and repair center, a retail shop, and four locker rooms. The Ice Haus will also offer skating lessons, hockey games and curling tournaments and lessons.
Off the hill, the golf course’s Clubhouse that just opened in June, will serve as the headquarters for the new Nordic Centre. Guests will have easy access to an extensive network of cross country and snowshoeing trails as well as a full selection of Nordic and snowshoe rentals. The Clubhouse Grille restaurant and bar will be open all winter long offering American-style fare and a heated outdoor deck with a fire pit.
The Trapp Family Lodge, Stowe
Not all skiing is of the downhill or vertical kind in Vermont. Nestled above the town of Stowe, visitors to the Trapp Family Lodge have been enjoying both racing and back country cross country trails for years. Located on 2400 acres of beautiful Vermont countryside, the family made infamous by the Sound of Music chose this location because of its startling resemblance to the Austrian countryside. Now run by Johannes von Trapp (one of the Baron von Trapp and his second wife Maria’s three children, who joined the original seven offspring) and his son Sam, the history of their family’s journey out of Europe and into America is an inspiring backdrop to one of the region’s most beautiful locations.
Their Nordic race track is homologated (certified) by the International Ski Federation, and as such, is proud to be hosting the NCAA Championship Cross Country races in 2011. Visitors can also take a guided ski or snowshoe tour with a Trapp family member (check website for dates/availability) and there are special ski events including ski clinics for women with wine and cheese in tow. They are one of the only cross country ski lodges to make their own snow (a new development with the involvement of Sam and his wife Kristin, both certified cross country ski instructors).
At the end of a long trail, guests can enjoy a beer brewed in the Trapp Lager microbrewery onsite (also served in 76 bars and restaurants across the state). There are Maple Walks, where sap is gathered for their sugaring operation, which now boasts 1200 taps producing an astonishing 280 gallons per year. Family bonfires and sing-a-longs are a regular staple in the wintertime as well.
With a state-of-the-art exercise centre, which offers yoga classes (Sam’s wife Kristin is a certified instructor), massages, classes for kids, an indoor pool and traditional weight equipment, skiers can stay in top shape off the hill as well. A “Kids Club” is also offered for those potty trained and the lodge has expanded to accommodate 800-1000 guests serviced by approximately 280 employees.
A fire in 1980 destroyed the original family home-turned-lodge, but much of the family memorabilia and photographs were stored separately and survived to be put on display in the new building which opened in 1983. The gift shop features some Sound of Music souvenirs (including a Goat that sings “Lonely Goatherder, much to Johannes’ dismay, rumour has it), and a book called “The World of the Trapp Family,” which Sam happily included the following inscription to my daughter: “To Bridget, I hope you enjoy my family’s story.” We certainly did.
Killington Resort is massive - the largest in the East and stretches across seven mountains: Killington Peak (4,241’with a vertical drop of 3,050’), Skye Peak (3,800’), Ramshead Peak (3,610’), Snowdon Peak (3,592’), Bear Mountain (3,295’), Sunrise Mountain (2,456’) and the recently added Pico Peak(1,967).
The resort boasts 190 diverse trails served by 29 lifts, the world’s most extensive 600-acre snowmaking system and 250 inches of annual snowfall. Outer Limits is the steepest, longest mogul slope in the East! Killington is known for its diversity of terrain, providing skiers and riders of all ability levels a choice of wide-open groomed cruisers, narrow classic New England runs, moguls, steeps and trees. The Killington Region has many other activities including cross-country skiing, rock climbing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, dog sledding, spas, shopping, fine dining and nightlife. GL
|TOP A sleigh ride in Stowe, Vermont
A family frolicks in the deep snow at Smugglers’ Notch
The Trapp Family Lodge, Stowe, VT
Photiques, Ltd. photo by Jerry Leblond
Swishing down the gondola at Killington
Photiques, Ltd. photo by Jerry Leblond
A family takes on a picturesque blue run
at Smugglers’ Notch