Wednesday, February 11, 2015
Wednesday, February 11, 2015
With six feet of snow on the ground in Boston, you can only imagine what the skiing’s like in nearby New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine. In fact, a friend in Vermont just told me yesterday that this is the best snow he’s seen in 20 years. New Hampshire and Maine are also reporting exceptional skiing conditions. So if you have no plans yet for February school break, head to the mountains. Temps are expected to plummet this Friday and Saturday, so you might want to visit Okemo and ride on their new heated 6-passenger bubble chairlift. Or visit Jay Peak, where you can take several runs before bringing the kids indoors to their vast water park. If you need inspiration, here’s “Why I Ski the East.”
Thursday, March 05, 2015
Vermont’s best whitewater run can be a zoo during the two days a year (the end of April and September) when the Army Corp of Engineers release the waters of the Ball Mountain Dam. The rest of the year, it can get a little dry, but it’s still a scenic run though the Green Mountain with far less congestion. The river used to host national kayaking championship races. The upper reaches are runnable only by experienced paddlers with solid Class III skills, yet the stream widens and slows down as you head towards the Connecticut River, allowing novice kayakers to do their thing. Good swimming holes and fishing are found at various points all along the West, including Jamaica State Park, about 2.5 miles down the river from the dam. Zoar Outdoor offers trips on the West River for rafters. Cost ranges from $88 to $100.
Friday, May 22, 2015
Tennis players and mountain bikers of the male persuasion, take note. The Topnotch Resort is now offering a guy’s getaway that includes a two-night stay at the upscale property with breakfast daily, a local Vermont brew and pretzel amenity delivered to the room after check-in, a burger and beer dinner at The Roost, and a $100 resort credit per room to be used towards tennis, spa treatments or food/beverage. Consistently listed among the top 10 tennis resorts in America, Topnotch offers daily tennis instruction by seasoned pros at the property’s six outdoor courts and four indoor courts. Surrounding the property is also a good 50 miles of stellar mountain biking trails like the technical singletrack, Kimmer’s Trail. Afterwards, you’ve earned your 80-minute deep tissue sports massage at the spa. You can also play a round of golf at the highly touted Country Club of Vermont. Rates start at $279, per person for two nights, double occupancy.
I’m off to Phoenix Monday to Wednesday, back with a new blog on Thursday. Have a great Memorial Day Weekend and keep active!
Tuesday, July 21, 2015
In September 1996, a relatively new magazine called Men’s Journal gave me an assignment to write a story on mountain biking in Vermont. I biked with extreme skier John Egan in the Mad River Valley before heading north and meeting Jeff Hale, a route designer on a network of singletracks he was calling the Kingdom Trails. On a spongy mat of trails dusted with pine needles, we cruised past century-old barns and small, dilapidated sugar shacks lost in the countryside and I immediately saw the potential for an off-road biking route in this sylvan slice of the state. Well, the Kingdom Trails has exploded, with more than 60,000 visits just this past year.
I see the same potential for Carrabassett Valley, Maine, especially when fat wheelers realize that NEMBA has teamed up with Maine Huts & Trails to create a mountain biking hut-to-hut network. We left Stratton Brook Hut this morning on a sweet trail cut last year into the deep forest, Oak Knoll. The dirt was smooth with high banks around each turn on zigzagging switchbacks. At the Stratton Brook trailhead, we met up with Jon Boehmer who knows a thing or two about mountain biking, having lived in that legendary mountain biking town of Crested Butte, Colorado, for 6 years.
Boehmer is excited to show us some of his favorite singletrack runs, many that branch off from the Narrow Gauge Pathway, a rail trail that hugs the Carrabassett River. Grassy Loops is a nice warm-up on soft dirt through a meadow of high grass. Meade is a gem of a trail that lines the banks of the river, bopping up and down around tall pines and over roots and rock bridges. Sargent and Crocker Town are more technical runs, with short uphill and downhill turns thrown into the mix. Boehmer also took us to the nearby Sugarloaf Outdoor Center, where you can rent bikes and venture onto their vast network of trails that loop around lonely ponds, with that mountain view always looming in the background.
We rested our legs on a downhill run on the Narrow Gauge while watching families swim in the boulder-strewn river. Then had our last taste of singletrack that connects with the Maine Huts Trail and led uphill on a tough climb to the Poplar Stream Falls Hut. Lisa and I said goodbye to Jon and thanked him for a memorable day of riding. To top it off, we walked down to the waterfalls and watched the water careen down the craggy old rock into a cool pool of water. There was no one else enjoying this serene scene. Well, at least not yet, but word will spread.
Monday, September 21, 2015
Mid-September to mid-October, when the summer crowds are gone and the snow has yet to drop, is my favorite time of year to cruise around America. This week, I’m going to delve into some of those blessed routes. First up, a fall foliage drive on Route 100 in Vermont.
Don’t believe the Vermont fall foliage hype? All it takes is one drive on Route 100 from Killington to Stowe to understand the allure. Traveling along the ridgeline of the 4,000-foot Green Mountains radiating with its verdant robe of multi-hued maples, you can’t help but sing its praises. Be sure to stop in the farming community of Rochester for the requisite “cows and meadow” photo and the historic village of Stowe to find one of the numerous freshly painted white steeples. Along the route, you’ll want to visit the Cold Hollow Cider Mill for your jug of cider, out-of-the-oven doughnuts, and genuine maple syrup. Nearby is the Ben & Jerry’s factory, where you can take a tour, sample the wares, and find out how the duo started their celebrated business. Spend the night at the Stowe Mountain Lodge, at the base of Vermont’s tallest peak, Mount Mansfield, and you’ll have the opportunity to take in the fall foliage while playing a round of golf.
Monday, September 28, 2015
Vermont might be gearing up for the fall foliage crowds, but the real party starts on Saturday, November 7th. That’s when Roots on the Rails, known for its train rides out West that feature live music performances, is staging its first Vermont trip. The round-trip train ride, which is four-hours each way, will climb over the Green Mountains, past covered bridges, villages, farms and gorges while guests listen to folk and indie rock artists perform 45-minute sets. The line-up includes Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Syd Straw, Winterpills, and the Meadow Brothers. The rest of the weekend package includes performances and receptions off the train at locations in Bellows Falls and Saxtons River, with lodging at the Saxtons River Inn. Packages for the weekend run from $429 to $889 per person and space is limited to 60 patrons.
Monday, October 05, 2015
Any avid road biker will tell you that Addison Valley, Vermont, is easily one of the top five biking destinations in North America. The backcountry roads have very little car traffic, great uphill climbs and downhill runs, and around every bend is another dairy farm, massive red barn, white church steeple, and glorious vistas of Green Mountains and Adirondack Mountains separated by the waters of Lake Champlain. Head there within the next two weeks and those views will be even more breathtaking when rural roads radiate with colors comparable to Monet’s finest Impressionist works. If you want a local to design your route based on mileage, go on a self-guided bike tour with Country Inns Along the Trail. Depending on your ability, they will design itineraries from 15 to 60 miles a day, with most bikers averaging 25 to 30 miles. You simply leave your car at the first inn and they will transport your luggage to the next night’s lodging, extending the trip as long as you like. Price starts at $155 a night per person, including lodging, dinner, breakfast, and transport of luggage. They also design hiking inn-to-inn routes.
Wednesday, October 21, 2015
Skiers will want to know that two Vermont hotels are about to open in the state. The Taconic, the first Kimpton property in Vermont, will make its debut in Manchester. The hotel has 87 rooms with views of the Taconic and Green Mountain ranges, three standalone cottages, an indoor/outdoor restaurant, and a large wraparound porch. It’s a great option for folks who want to ski at nearby Stratton or Bromley, a 30-minute drive. In Stowe, Lark Hotels purchased Ye Olde England Inne in late 2014 and is now ready to unveil the 30-room Field Guide.
Tuesday, January 12, 2016
One of the main reasons I gave Stowe top billing in this month’s Yankee Magazine cover story on New England’s top winter towns is due to the creation of Stowe Mountain Lodge. The most sybaritic ski-in/ski-out resort in New England, the 312-room Stowe Mountain Lodge has the feel of a ski lodge in Jackson Hole, especially when you enter the lobby with its towering two-story high ceiling. The resort uses indigenous wares everywhere you look, so there’s real Vermont birch twisting around the columns and Lake Champlain marble on stairs leading to the après-ski bar, Hourglass. They have been on a serious building spree since their inception, creating 36 holes of golf, a stylish spa with heated outdoor pool in winter that rewards you with views of the mountain you just conquered, and the Spruce Peak Performing Arts Center.
Having just spent the weekend with the family at the resort, I was excited to see the latest changes. A skating rink has opened behind the property near a branch of the popular Burlington creperie, Skinny Pancake. Behind the skating rink, construction workers were hard at work atop a new building that when complete in March will feature a climbing wall and recreation center for kids, along with 19 new condominiums (all sold out). Next door is another new wooden building with large stone chimney in the center that will soon transform into a wine bar. On Saturday afternoon after a day of skiing, kids were making s’mores around fire pits outside as adults swigged their Switchback Ales at the Hourglass bar. The place was a buzz of excitement as a world class ski-in/ski-out resort should be.
Friday, May 06, 2016
The latest addition to Kimpton Hotels in New England, the Taconic in Manchester, Vermont, has just announced an adults-only summer camp that takes full advantage of its locale. Offered during two sessions, June 23-26 and August 25-28, adults can participate in such activities as a guided hike in the Battenkill Valley, kayaking and tubing down the Battenkill River, a glassblowing class at Manchester Hot Glass, kite-making and flying at the Southern Vermont Arts Center, afternoon escapes to secret swimming holes in the area, a picnic lunch at Hildene, the Lincoln Family Home, and yoga on Taconic’s expansive lawn. Since this is an adults-oriented summer camp, also expect s’mores, scotch, and sing-alongs by the campfire. Your camp counselor will even deliver bugle wake-up calls and “lights out” warnings. The cost to attend Camp Taconic is $1,400 for one person or $2,100 per couple, which includes accommodations for 3 nights and all meals and activities.
Wednesday, August 10, 2016
On a bike tour with Bike Vermont years ago, my brother and I watched as a guy, distracted by cows, flipped his bike over and broke his tooth. He said he hadn’t been on a bike in five years. Don’t make the same mistake. With many bikers heading out on fall foliage biking trips in the next month or two, now’s the time to get ready. Even if it’s a “No Experience Necessary” excursion, you should try the sport beforehand and be in somewhat decent shape. Don’t wait until the last minute to condition. If you plan on taking a week-long biking or walking outing, begin aerobic activity four to six weeks in advance, two to three times a week. And make sure you’re on the right trip by asking what level of fitness is required? Is this hike an obstacle course better suited for Marines, a stroll in the park, or somewhere in between? How many hours a day are we on the bike? You want to find an adventure that ideally suits your ability and prior experience in the sport. Brochures are not always accurate so it’s imperative to speak to a human being. If you’re looking for a particular destination or recommended outfitter, ActiveTravels is here to help.
Tuesday, October 04, 2016
The two weeks prior to Columbus Day is one of my favorite times of the year to be in New England. The temperatures are still reasonably warm, in the 60s during the day, and the leaves have changed color. Anywhere in Vermont will do nicely, thank you. But I love Addison Valley, known for its web of backroads ideally suited for road biking. The network of roads that branch off from the Basin Harbor Club are particularly enticing. Head south on Button Bay Road to Arnold Bay Road and you get exquisite vistas of Lake Champlain, with the Adirondacks standing tall in the backdrop. Venture onto Basin Harbor Road, turning right on Jersey Street, and the smell of manure is wafting in the air as you pass numerous dairy farms, eventually arriving at the Panton General Store. Continue on Panton Road and you see the backbone of the Green Mountains. This fertile valley was meant to be seen on two wheels at a reduced speed, especially during fall foliage.
Monday, November 07, 2016
Thursday is the annual Boston Ski Show, when I meet reps from ski areas around New England, Canada, and the Western US. Last week’s news that 14 ski areas including Jiminy Peak in Massachusetts, Loon Mountain and Mount Sunapee in New Hampshire, Okemo Mountain in Vermont, and Sunday River and Sugarloaf in Maine have been sold to a hedge fund manager in New York will certainly be the hot conversation topic, but there’s a slew of other noteworthy topics at ski resorts around the country that I want to discuss this week. We’ll start with Vermont.
Killington Resort is bringing Alpine World Cup skiing back to the eastern US for the first time in 25 years when the Audi FIS Ski World Cup takes place November 26-27. Giant Slalom and Slalom races will put the best female technical alpine skiers against one another on the infamous New England steep trail, Superstar. Brand new this winter at Stowe Mountain Resort is the opening of an 80-million-dollar Adventure Center. Located at Spruce Peak and adjacent to Stowe’s new outdoor Ice Skating Rink, Stowe’s Adventure Center is home to all Stowe’s children’s programs. The building will includes a day care facility, an indoor climbing center called Stowe Rocks, and family-friendly dining. Over at Burke, The Burke Mountain Hotel and Conference Center opened its doors on September 1st. The 116-room hotel is situated mid-mountain and provides a true ski-in ski-out experience. Suites range from a standard studio to three bedroom with onsite amenities including a pub, restaurant, heated pool and hot tub, fitness center, and arcade.
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