CT a winter wonder with no rival
BY Linda Freeman
CORRESPONDENT | February 03,2013
Picture the state of Vermont – that quirky, top-heavy, vertical slice of the Northeast. Then take a fat, red marker and drop a squiggly line nearly straight down the middle from the Canadian border through Jay Pass, by Craftsbury, the Trapp Family Lodge, through Bolton Valley, over Camel’s Hump to the Lincoln Gap to Mount Tabor and on to the Massachusetts border near Harriman Dam.
There you have it. It’s not the Long Trail. It’s not the Appalachian Trail. It’s the Catamount Trail, divided into 31 sections, traveling through, by and over a mixed bag of varied terrain, 36 town governments, 200 or so private land owners, ski areas including 10 touring centers, bed and breakfasts, snowmobile trails, groomed trails, Green Mountain National Forest and untouched snow just waiting for you to make the first tracks.
It seems to be a recurring theme: folks who live in Vermont either move here because they love the scenery and the recreational opportunities or they stay here because they love the land and the lifestyle, either real or perceived. Thankfully, many who revere the natural attributes of the Vermont landscape also find time and energy to enjoy and preserve it.
Vermont’s lakes and streams, woods and trails are only as available as the stewardship is perpetual.
Beneath the façade of picturesque farms, quaint towns, “White Christmas” skiing and “Baby Boom” flannel shirts, lies a diverse region offering unlimited possibilities waiting to be experienced.
Adventures are often available because of the vision of one or several individuals willing to work in order to share. Amy Kelsey resides in Underhill and only recently stepped into the tracks of Jim Fredericks who departs to make yet more tracks, but in snow. Kelsey, the Executive Director of Catamount Trail Association, tells of the beginning. “In 1984, three UVM students, or recent students, shared a vision and got to work,” she said. Three hundred miles later, the Catamount Trail is done. But, as is so often the case, the work goes on as stewardship takes on the role of trail upkeep, maintaining appreciative relations with landowners and running the business of the association.
The Catamount Trail is used only in the winter and is not meant to compete with the other Vermont treasures such as the Long Trail. Offering almost unlimited opportunities to ski or snowshoe, the trail itself is both challenging and inviting to all levels of skiers and athletes. “The Catamount Trail is a free, recreational resource and opportunity that is available for all to enjoy,” Kelsey said. It’s Vermont’s gateway to backcountry skiing.”
With the growing popularity of backcountry skiing, new enthusiasts may wonder where to go, how to improve their skiing abilities, where to find others with similar interests and, for the more proficient, how to find areas with plummeting downhills, lactic acid climbs and some intense adrenaline rushes. Kelsey advises that the southern sections are a bit easier and flatter up to Stratton where the trail becomes more hilly. “Near Rutland there’s a bit of everything,” Kelsey said, “with a new section of really fun trails. Then from the App Gap up to Stowe it’s challenging backcountry including the Bolton area and from Stowe north it’s variable.”
Visit the website www.catamounttrail.org. Not only will you find a very long trail, you will find programs, groups, scheduled outings, advice, suggestions, training and ways to connect. If you take the next step and join the CTA, you will have the inside scoop on newsletters, health and sports related articles, equipment suggestions, instruction, discounted rates at events and a Rewards Booklet with enough coupons to keep you busy year-round.
“I feel strongly that the best way to encourage people to care for and work to protect the Catamount Trail is through positive experiences on the Trail, whether skiing, snowshoeing, or maintaining the trail in the off-season,” Kelsey said.
Recently, speaking with Kelsey over coffee at Red Hen Bakery, I became so excited about the possibilities offered that I wanted to jump in my car and rush home for my skis. I felt an immediate connection with the trail and the association. First there was the familiarity with some of the areas through which the trail passes. When I paged through the winter newsletter, I found an article on boots and bindings by the guy who got me hooked on this stuff, Kip Roberts. I became so distracted glancing at the special events of the winter of 2013 that I kept missing what Kelsey was saying to me. A lLadies Nordic ski expo at Trapp Family Lodge; a backcountry ski festival at Bolton Nordic Center with lessons for tele-skiers and newbie to advanced backcountry, tours, equipment demos and, of course, food; a Nordic and telemark clinic at Pico Mountain (Feb. 3) for novice and intermediate groups; the Pemi White Mountain Overnight Traverse (March 9-10) for the advanced; the 5th annual Trapp to Bolton Backcountry Race and Tour (March 10); Maine Huts & Trails, and more. See what I mean? “The CTA offers a broad array of ski tours and instructional events each winter that are designed to be fun, informative, and affordable,” Kelsey said.
Explore on your own or join others. “Our tours are a little bit of everything,” Kelsey said. “They are volunteer-led, rated on degree of difficulty, free day tours mostly on the trail. Some are about history and hidden spots you might not otherwise get to.” Mostly on weekends, the tours provide “an easy way to become familiar and not be out by yourself. You have company and support. Someone else does all the organizational legwork and you just ski.”
I must admit, until I got an email pointing me in the direction of the CTA, I didn’t even know the trail exists. Now I do and I intend to go find it.
“There’s this resource here,” Kelsey said. “It’s Vermont. It’s part of our recreational infrastructure.”
For some, aspects of Vermont like the Catamount Trail represent why we came here in the first place. And why we stay.