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Skiing

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Notchview Ski Area Now Offers Rentals, Food from Old Creamery

My favorite place to cross-country ski in Massachusetts, the Notchview Ski Area in the Berkshires, is now offering ski rentals and lunch. Run by the Trustees of Reservations, Notchview is the largest Nordic ski area in the state, with 40 km of trails covering 3,200 acres. Grab your skies and go counter-clockwise on the Circuit Trail, passing meadows and skiing under a tunnel of snowed-under pines. The web of branches keeps you snug within the forest, protecting you from wind. After passing a small shelter, turn onto the Whitestone Trail and enter a winter wonderland of uprooted trees and branches arching over the serpentine path. A downhill run brings you back to the main lodge, invigorated by the fresh smell of pine and the exercise. To top it off, the place I usually head for lunch after visiting Notchview, the Old Creamery in Cummington, is now supplying sandwiches, soups, and hot and cold drinks at the new café. The perfect ending to a perfect outing. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/22/14 at 11:00 AM
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Monday, December 09, 2013

Cross-Country Ski Hut-to-Hut in Carrabassett Valley, Maine

Even as New England ski areas make it more and more enticing to venture their way, adding an array of exciting activities like tubing and ziplining, many of us want to avoid the crowds. We savor the opportunity to get lost in the wilderness, breathing in the scent of pines in relative quietude. Add a sport that will wipe away the worries of the world and you’ll quickly remember why we treasure New England. This week, I’m going to discuss 5 ways to get lost in the New England wilderness this winter. 

 
Maine Huts & Trails is a nonprofit organization determined to build 12 backcountry huts over 180 miles of trails in the remote western mountains of the state. A year ago, they unveiled their fourth property, Stratton Brook, overlooking the 4,000-foot peaks of Carrabassett Valley. When the 180-mile route is complete, it will be the longest groomed ski trail in the country. But there’s no need to wait. This winter, you can choose to stay at one of their four comfortable lodgings and go out on daily excursions, or opt for self-guided or guided cross-country ski trips that lead from one hut to the next. Each of the four huts is spaced about 11 miles apart, so people can reach it within one day of cross-country skiing or snowshoeing. The ultimate adventure is a four-night, five-day package that includes 50 miles of skiing and spending each night at a different property. All meals, shuttle for gear, and lodging are included in the price ($414 for members, $474 for nonmembers). Nightly rates at the huts start at $79 for members, $94 for nonmembers, including lodging and meals.
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/09/13 at 11:00 AM
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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

What’s New in New England Skiing

Just in case you missed my blog for Liftopia last week, here’s the scoop on what’s new at New England ski areas. With an additional $43 million of improvements for the 2013/2014 ski season, Jay Peak once again leads the pack with regards to changes in the region. Over the past three years, the northern Vermont ski resort has spent more than $200 million to build the 176-room Hotel Jay, open the largest indoor waterpark in Vermont, and add an indoor skating rink for ice skating and hockey games. New this year is the Stateside Hotel and base lodge with restaurants and locker rooms, a rental center, 84 new mountain cottages, and a complete revamping of the resort’s entrance.
 
Bill Stenger and Ariel Quiros, owners of Jay Peak, purchased nearby Burke Mountain in 2012. Expect to find a flurry of changes at Burke over the next two years. Phase I (a $98 million investment) will see construction of two hotels modeled after the lodgings at Jay Peak, including the 116-suite Hotel Burke.
 
Killington plans to unveil their $7 million Peak Lodge this December. Sitting atop the highest lift-served peak in Vermont, at 4,100 feet, Peak Lodge will feature exquisite views of the snow-capped Green Mountains. Killington has also teamed up with Okemo, Pico, and Mount Sunapee in New Hampshire to offer a new season pass, “4.0 The College Pass.” Available to all undergraduate and graduate students for $369 plus tax through December 15, 2013, The College Pass will offer unlimited skiing and boarding at all four resorts. If you plan on skiing Okemo, check out their new 2,200-feet long intermediate glade. 
 
The big news in New Hampshire skiing this year comes from Waterville Valley, which was just granted a long-term special use permit by U.S. Forest Service to undergo its first major expansion in more than three decades. Over the next few years the terrain will be developed on Green Peak, and will include construction of about 44 acres of ski trails, glades and a high-speed detachable quad chairlift. This summer in Henniker, Pats Peak installed a new triple chairlift as part of their Cascade Basin Expansion. The new area consists of 4 new ski trails as well as a new glade. Over at Bretton Woods, further expansion was completed at the recently opened Mount Stickney area. Nordic terrain was added offering cross-country skiers early and late season snow at higher elevations. 
 
See you on the slopes! 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 11/13/13 at 11:00 AM
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Friday, November 08, 2013

Ski Red, British Columbia

Due to its remote locale and the fact that Whistler overshadows all the other exceptional mountains in BC, you might not have heard of Red. But take my word for it, you will. A new quad chairlift will start running this winter off Grey Mountain, adding 22 new runs and a whopping 1,000 acres of skiing placing Red at pretty much the same scale as Breckenridge and Jackson Hole. But size doesn’t necessarily matter when it comes to skiing this beaut. Close to 7,000 feet high and rarely another skier in view, you’re certain you were planted on Red by helicopter or cat. You can ski the entire mountain, front and back, with exceptional intermediate and advanced terrain off the Motherlode Chair. Red’s claim to fame, however, is all the backcountry trails that weave through the trees on neighboring Mount Roberts and Grey. And those 360-degree views from the top. Sweet! 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 11/08/13 at 11:00 AM
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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

College Students Ski Killington, Okemo, Pico, and Mount Sunapee with New College Pass

Hey all you undergrads and grad students in the New England area, listen up! Okemo, Killington, Pico, and Mount Sunapee just announced a new partnership and launch of their “4.0 The College Pass”. Available for $369 plus tax through December 15, 2013, the pass offers unlimited skiing and boarding at all four ski resorts for the upcoming ski season. Since Killington already has the lifts running as of last week, what are you waiting for? The pass also allows you to bring 5 college buddies for 50% off lift ticket price. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/29/13 at 10:00 AM
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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Dripping Sap

Maria von Trapp, the woman who inspired The Sound of Music, is no longer with us, but Trapp Family Lodge continues to flourish thanks to one of the finest cross-country networks in the northeast, comfy lodging perched on a hillside in Stowe, Vermont, the launch of their microbrewery, and a restaurant that serves a tasty wiener schnitzel. Mid to late March, during the heart of the maple sugaring season, is my favorite time of year to visit Trapps. When it comes to sugaring, the family does it the old fashion way, picking up the sap in buckets with a horse-drawn sleigh or via cross-country skis and delivering it to the sugarhouse to boil off the water and create Vermont’s “liquid gold.” The 1200 taps produce 300 gallons of syrup annually and the season lasts from mid-March until mid-April. Join in on the fun each Saturday, when you can cross-country ski, snowshoe, or grab that horse-drawn sleigh to the sugarhouse for a traditional Sugar-on-Snow party. The hot syrup is tossed on the white snow to create a chewy maple taffy, served with donuts and dill pickles. If you’re in the area tomorrow, March 13, Trapp Family Lodge will be offering a Maple Sugar Snowshoe Tour from 2 to 3:30 pm. Enjoy a 1.5-mile snowshoe through the woods, then learn about the process of making maple syrup at their sugarhouse. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/12/13 at 12:00 PM
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Thursday, February 07, 2013

Skiing and Luging Le Massif

With a height at the summit of only 2,645 feet, you would think Le Massif would be a pretty mellow mountain. And you’d be wrong. With the largest vertical drop east of the Canadian Rockies, more than half of the 53 trails are black diamond or expert.  That still leaves more than enough trails for beginners and intermediates to savor the expansive view of the St. Lawrence River that stands in front of you. Start the morning with a nice blue groomer like La Petite-Riviere, and at mid-mountain switch to the green L’ancienne, which snakes through the trees to the edge of the ski area. The vista from here is amazing. You can see the town of Baie-Saint-Paul and the snowcapped mountains in the background. Out to sea are the icy waters of the St. Lawrence and the island across from Baie-Saint-Paul, L’isle aux-Coudres. More experienced skiers should take advantage of the morning sun to head to the southern slope and sample steeper blacks like La Fenomene. Only the truly gifted should attempt the triple black diamond La Charlevoix. That’s where the Canadian national ski team comes to practice their downhill and slalom runs.
 
Le Massif also offers guests the rare chance to go rodeling or luging down a 7.5-kilometer trail on the northern face of the mountain. The exhilarating two-hour trip starts with a snowcat ride to the top of the trail, where you’re handed a small sled. Then you start cruising downhill, curving around banks, and sweeping over hills, all with that same glorious view of the St. Lawrence. I took the luge tour yesterday and it was a blast! You use your feet to brake and turn, stopping to walk uphill over streams and to take a break for a drink at a warming hut. The actual time on your sled is probably around 45 minutes, which went far too quickly. On that gondola ride back to the top, you’ll have the urge to sign up for the next luge tour and do it all over again. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/07/13 at 11:00 AM
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Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Taking the Train to Charlevoix

Mention the Charlevoix region to a Quebecois and they’re bound to sigh, thinking of the mountains and long inlets that dot the shoreline of St. Lawrence Seaway northeast of Quebec City. Home to the classic Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu, built in 1929, it has long been a summer retreat for families from Montreal and Quebec City who come to the region to fish for salmon, hike in national parks, and kayak next to beluga whales. Lately, it has earned its reputation as the foodie capital of the province, known for its farm-to-table restaurants, locale cheese, pates, and microbrews. Then there is the abundance of arts and culture in Charlevoix. It was in the small arts community of Baie-Saint-Paul that Guy Laliberté, Daniel Gauthier, and others formed a theater troupe in the early 1980s called “The Stiltwalkers of Baie-Saint-Paul,” entertaining summer crowds with their juggling, fire breathing, music, and dance. Laliberté and Gauthier would soon co-found Le Cirque du Soleil. Gauthier would sell his share of the company to Laliberté in 2000, but he certainly didn’t turn his back on the Charlevoix region. 
 
In 2002, Gauthier would buy a struggling ski resort with majestic views of the St. Lawrence Seaway and the largest vertical drop east of the Canadian Rockies, Le Massif. In September 2011, Gauthier unveiled a new train from the outskirts of Quebec City traveling 140 kilometers northeast to La Malbaie. This past June, Gauthier’s 145-room Hotel La Ferme opened in Baie-Saint-Paul. Thus, having spent over $300 million, Gauthier has created a lasting legacy in the region. 
 
I’ll talk about Le Massif and Hotel La Ferme in upcoming days, but first I want to describe the magnificent train ride. I boarded the train at Montmorency Falls, the towering waterfalls just outside Quebec City. Blue skies peered into the double-decker train as I sat back in my comfortable seat and awaited a breakfast of mushroom frittata, yogurt with blackberries and blueberries, a maple caramel pastry and hot chocolate croissants for dessert. It was a leisurely ride alongside the icy St. Lawrence River, passing small towns and their requisite church, including the massive basilica of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré. At Le Massif, we stopped for 15 minutes to allow day skiers the chance to retrieve their equipment and venture onto the gondola for a day of skiing, before the train picks them up on the return trip. Soon, we were at our final stop (in winter), the town of Baie-Saint-Paul.
 
The train works with many local outfitters, who can take clientele on a food or art lover’s tour of Baie-Saint-Paul, or snowshoe along the St. Lawrence shoreline like I did. Wisely, I decided to spend several nights in the region to ski and luge Le Massif and check out all the art galleries in town. Not to mention, the stylish Hotel La Ferme is a gem of a resort, soon to garner many architectural awards and make the top hotel lists of many international travel publications. But remember, you heard it hear first! 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/06/13 at 12:00 PM
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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

See Mount Rushmore in Winter and Then Ski Terry Peak

I’ll be devoting all next week to visiting America’s National Parks in winter, my favorite time of year to go since traffic is at a minimum. But to get us in the right frame of mind, I’m going to start with that iconic granite sculpture, Mount Rushmore. Approximately 3 million people a year visit the faces of Washington, Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt, and Honest Abe. Come winter, visitation drops from highs of 5,000 a day in summer to less than 100 people daily. That’s a lot more wiggle room. And just like Yellowstone is an hour away from the ski area, Big Sky, the Black Hills of South Dakota is home to Terry Peak. With a vertical rise of 1,100 feet and an elevation over 7,000 feet, more snow falls on Terry Peak than anywhere else in the region. New this winter is the Gold Corp Express, Terry Peak’s third high-speed quad chairlift. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/15/13 at 01:00 PM
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Thursday, October 11, 2012

New in New England Skiing

We might be at the height of fall foliage in northern New England, but snow has already fallen on the summit of Killington and Stratton Mountains in Vermont. Here, in Boston, we’re expected to receive our first frost this Saturday. So it’s not premature to talk about the upcoming ski season. Big news out of Vermont is that Burke Mountain in the Northeast Kingdom has been purchased by Jay Peak. Expect the same growth that Jay has experienced over the past five years, like a new hotel and water park. In Mad River Valley, Sugarbush and Mad River Glen have teamed up for the first time to offer a “Ski the Valley” package. It includes access to both peaks, plus extras like free appetizers, free snowshoe treks, movie tickets, and yoga classes throughout the Valley. At Bretton Woods in New Hampshire, the ski resort has started its expansion over to Mount Stickney. A new T-bar will drop skiers off at a gladed area offering steep drop-offs for hot-doggers, groomed terrain for intermediates who want to play in the trees. There’s also a new log cabin being built on the summit of Stickney, where a wood stove will keep skiers warm between runs. This is the first phase of a $70 million expansion that will link Stickney with Bretton Woods’ excellent 100 km Nordic trail system.  


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/11/12 at 12:00 PM
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Longtime Boston Globe travel writer, Steve Jermanok, dishes out his favorite travel locales and provides topical travel information that comes across his desk.

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