Gear & Beer That Make Winter Easy

Winter in Vermont means we don’t stay indoors, we just change up our gear. If you’re up for a hike these new tools are going to get you to the summit and back and keep you dry when you get back.

gear-dgforcedryGlove & Boot Dryer

There are a number of heavy duty boot dryers you can get for alpine ski boots. But if you want something smaller and simpler — say for Nordic or hiking boots or gloves—DryGuy’s Force Dry ($50) is smaller than a shoebox and weighs just 3.2 pounds, making it somewhat portable if you’re headed out for a ski weekend. It doesn’t heat up to the point where it can damage materials and it’s swivel nozzles can direct the airflow to the toes or fingers.

gear-yaktraxsummit-bottomCrampons Made For Summiting

If you’re hiking without snowshoes (or plan to traverse icy or rocky terrain) you’ll want  to strap on a pair of YakTrax’s New Summit ($90) crampons. These are not your run-of-the-mill grippies that you might slide on over a running shoe but heavy-duty ice-eaters. Normally, that might translate to lots of chains and teeth, and yes, these have welded-steel chain links and 3/8-inch carbon spikes. But the rubber outer band and segmented sole plates make them very user-friendly. That, combined with the dial-in Boa closure system, give these a great fit, no matter what boot you strap them on.

gear-atlas_spindrift_25_sidetopBackcountry Snowshoes

If you think one snowshoe can’t do it all, think again. While we love Dion snowshoes for running and racing, and Tubbs makes a great all-around snowshoe, the new asymmetrical Atlas Spindrift ($249.95) is what you want climbing mountains or hiking up technical terrain. Some of the things we love about this new model: Its serrated t-frame edges and cross-bar just below the heel really dig into hard snow and provide traction on ice. The  crampon just under the toe digs in like a shovel. It’s enough to make you feel like Spiderman when going uphill and the heel risers pop up easily and then snap  back down with a tug back. At 3 pounds 10 oz it’s light, too. But perhaps our favorite feature if you’re headed off for a backcountry snowboard adventure or just don’t plan to wear the snowshoes all day is the Pack-Flat binding. Its urethane straps do pack down nearly flat and strap in fairly simply. You can also order replacements should they break or snap in the cold.

A New Brewery Atop New Backcountry

Some of the newest backcountry ski glades in Vermont are being developed off Hogback Mountain (site of a former ski area, which closed in 1986) in Southern Vermont. And the best news, there’s now a cold microbrew waiting for you at the summit. The Wilmington Valley’s only microbrew, Beer Naked Brewing was originally part of Pizzapalooza (scheduled to reopen this winter.) But last July, partners Jason Petrelli and Sara Jasinski purchased the historic Skyline Building at the top of Hogback. There, you can now settle in at the bar and order one of brewmaster John Watson’s latest concoctions on tap, such as the seasonal hearty Maple Brown Ale or the Bombshell Blonde, a Belgian blonde golden ale that’s a thirst-quencher.  The brewery is only open Thursday through Sunday, from noon until six (though closing times seem to vary) and offers tastings and growlers to go. There are a few snacks and follow Beer Naked on Facebook to find out when there’s live music. Or just skin (or drive) up the mountain in Marlboro.

Top photo: Brews at Beer Naked Brewing