Free Range Skiers | Vermonters Are Ditching Passes and Commutes for Trips Out the Back Door

Photo by Brian Mohr.

Whether it’s the cost of a pass, the time it takes to get to and from the mountain, or an aversion to riding lifts, there are plenty of reasons why ski areas aren’t for everyone.

But that doesn’t mean skiing can’t be for everyone. You just have to get creative, spend some time exploring—and look out your back door.

Take Adam Sevi. He’s an engineering professor at Norwich University, who lives with his wife, Marcy Sevi, a nurse, and their two daughters, in Northfield. Adam and Marcy embrace their backyard hills by enjoying coffee-hour runs before breakfast with the kids—and whenever time allows.

Photo by Brian Mohr.

“If you are balancing family, a job, and skiing,” Sevi says, “there simply isn’t time to be behind the wheel.” So the couple takes advantage of their local surroundings. “While these mountains may be small, the backyard mountains are there to be enjoyed every day.” Adam even commutes to work on his skis.

The Sevi’s good friend, Forrest Twombly, a carpenter from Roxbury, and his partner Liva Coe, also make the most of their backyard.

“I love being able to go anytime you’ve got an hour, or even half-an-hour,” Twombly says. “There’s no better way to start your day. … A morning run puts the rest of life in perspective. And a lunch-hour run or sunset tour can equally push your reset button.”

For Twombly, however, choosing backyard skiing over lift-served skiing is more than just a matter of scheduling. “There is also a certain purity to backyard skiing, especially solo, because it’s just you, the snow, the mountain environment,” he says. “There are no motors, traffic, morning radio, lift lines, chit chat, etc. Maybe because it’s not such a communal experience, it can become a very personal one. It’s healthy and therapeutic to be alone, self-reliant, and have complete freedom for an hour here and there.”

But as much as Twombly enjoys his solo ski outings, he loves to share the backyard skiing experience with others. “It’s skiing that’s accessible to anyone with some old gear and a sloped pasture, and getting the local kids and their parents out harkens back to the days when many farms and villages had a rope tow. As the resorts have become more and more expensive, fewer of our neighbors can or will enjoy it.”

Backyard skiing, says Twombly, reminds us that anyone can ski.

Sevi has gained a few other perspectives.

“Seeing some tracks in the yard while washing dishes or brushing your teeth allows some mind space to be back out there, with the wind, snow, trees, ski.”

Sevi also enjoys “the concept of organic skiing—skiing that didn’t need a major industrial load to occur. Granted, skis are manufactured products that require a sophisticated supply chain behind their manufacture,” he says. “However, no lifts, no car, skinning out the garage and then right back in at the end is a small contribution to limiting our footprint as skiers.”

Brian Mohr

Brian Mohr

Brian Mohr and Emily Johnson of Moretown own Ember Photography and publish AdventureSkier.com. They can be reached through their website, EmberPhoto.com.