If you want to spend a full day on the trail, lake or road, gear shops around Vermont have what you need. These aren’t just places where you find your energy gels, changes of tires, and get your skis waxed: these are also some of the best resources around for local knowledge on trails, conditions, events, gear and training. Many have weekly rides and runs and organize popular events year-round. Here are some of our readers’ favorite spots for great gear and advice on how to use it.
Best Alpine Ski/Snowboard and Backcountry Gear Shop: Outdoor Gear Exchange,
While the Outdoor Gear Exchange, or “OGE” as it’s known in Burlington, is already a top choice for the latest in camping, backpacking and climbing gear. But it is equally loved for its extensive consignment section in the downstairs portion of the shop with lots of high quality, pre-loved gear. OGE also received the highest marks for ski and board tuners, boot-fitters and backcountry and Nordic ski knowledge. Runners-up: 2. Alpine Shop, Burlington, 3. Alpine Options, Warren, 4. Ski Rack, Burlington, 5. Basin Sports, Killington.
Best Road Bike Shop: Ski Rack, Burlington
One of Vermont’s best outdoor towns is home to some of the best outdoor stores, with Ski Rack leading the way as a top pick for road bikes and maintenance. It’s been open since 1969 at the corner of Main and Pine streets. The shop’s technicians are experienced in modifications, repairs and customizations and professional fitters can pick out the right frame for your body. Runners-up: 2. Onion River Sports, Montpelier, 3. Outdoor Gear Exchange, Burlington, 4. Earl’s Cyclery, Burlington, 5. West Hill Shop, Putney.
Best Mountain Bike Shop: Onion River Sports, Montpelier
Tucked away on quiet Langdon Street in downtown Montpelier, Onion River Sports has been central Vermont’s mountain bike resource since 1974. In addition to the full service tuning, the shop is known for an extensive calendar of skills clinics, group rides and community events throughout the year including century rides, races and even winter rides like Frozen Onion. Runners-up: 2. Outdoor Gear Exchange, Burlington 3. Ski Rack, Burlington 4. Stark Mountain Bike Works, Waitsfield, 5.Green Mountain Bikes, Rochester.
Best Running Gear Shop: Ski Rack, Burlington
At the Ski Rack Run Center, you get video of your gait, a chance to run on a treadmill, personal fit analysis and even a great 30-day return policy on running shoes—even after you’ve worn them. Plus, the store hosts run clinics and talks by the regions top athletes. Runners-up: 2. Onion River Sports, 3. Fleet Feet Sports, Essex Junction, 4. Outdoor Gear Exchange, 5.
Best Fishing and Watersports Shop: Orvis
When it comes to picking out fishing and watersports shops, Vermont Sports readers appreciate a Vermont original. Founded in Manchester by Charles F. Orvis in 1856, the company is America’s oldest mail-order outfitter and longest continually-operating fly-fishing business. Today, the company leads fly fishing trips to Argentina, Canada, Belize and beyond, but you can still swing by their Manchester store for the basics in fly-tying, a guided excursion on the local water or if you just need some extra tippet. Runners-up: 2. Umiak Outfitters, Stowe, 3. Outdoor Gear Exchange, 4. Clearwater Sports, Waitsfield, 5. Middlebury Mountaineer.
Best “Sports” Car: Subaru
The Subaru is about as Vermont as it gets. Drive to any trailhead or parking lot and you’re bound to see at least three, replete with bike or ski racks and Thule boxes and overflowing with wet clothes, kids, dogs and the fixings for a Saturday afternoon barbeque. They’re tough, all-wheel-drive cars for the Vermont winter and don’t mind going the distance over some nasty roads. The only downside: you might have a hard time remembering which one is yours. Runners-up: 2. Toyota, 3. Jeep, 4. Lexus, 5. Audi