2016 Black Diamond Awards: The Seven Best Events in Vermont
From the packed streets of Burlington’s Vermont City Marathon to gritty, gravel grinding rides on the remote and rugged dirt roads of the Northeast Kingdom, if you’re looking to go the distance, get dirty, set a new personal record or just have fun there’s a Vermont event for you. In this category, readers selected their favorite events: the tough, the fun and the just plain wacky.
Most Competitive Event: Circumburke
Every fall, cyclists and trail runners head to East Burke for a tough cross-country race through the forests and hills in the Northeast Kingdom and around Burke Mountain. Distances in two divisions include 20-mile and 26-mile races on singletrack, ancient logging roads and double track. The event also includes an enduro component for riders to test their downhill skills. Along the way, you’ll get foliage views from Burke, the White Mountains and Victory Bog. This year’s race is scheduled for Oct. 22. Runners-up: 2. Vermont 50 Mountain Bike Race, 3. Spartan and Death Races, 4. Stowe Derby, 5. Tough Mudder.
Best Festival: NEMBA-fest, East Burke
When the New England Mountain Bike Association holds its annual festival at the mountain bike mecca that is Kingdom Trails in East Burke, there’s no better place to be. A day at NEMBAFest starts when you roll out of your sleeping bag and head to the dining tent for a pancake breakfast. Then grab your bike and hit the trails or pick up a demo for a lap. In the evenings, catch live music and enjoy the food trucks and beer tent. But don’t stay up too late—you’ve got another full day of riding in the morning. Runners-up: 2. Burlington Beer Festival, 3. Vermont Mountain Bike Festival at Ascutney, 4. Grand Point North in Burlington, 5. Hop Jam at Bolton Valley.
Best Running Race (Under 13K): Santa Run, Burlington
Santa suits, running shoes and an Irish pub— these are the ingredients for our readers’ favorite 5K race that’s held each December. Starting on Burlington’s Church Street, runners follow a rolling course through Burlington with only one tough hill up Battery Street. Your Santa suit is supplied. As an added bonus, Ri Ra’s hosts an Irish breakfast at the restaurant following the race. Runners-up: 2. Mother’s Day Fun Run, Burke. 3. Corporate Challenge, Montpelier. 4. Stowe 8-Miler, 5. Catamount Trail Series.
Best Running Race (13K or longer): Vermont City Marathon, Burlington
The Vermont City Marathon continues to hold its place as our reader’s favorite and for the May 29, 2016, event organizers have altered the route for better safety and a more organized finish. But if you haven’t tried any of the runners=up, please do so: there are few better ways to see the most beautiful parts of Vermont. Runners-up: 2. Middlebury Maple Run Half Marathon, 3. Leaf Peepers Classic Half, Waterbury 4. Covered Bridges Half Marathon, Quechee 5. Mad Marathon, Mad River Valley.
Best Road Biking Race or Tour: Long Trail Century Ride
It was a close call between Addison County’s Kelly Brush Ride, the Long Trail Century Ride and the new, super-tough Gran Fondo. But Vermonters’ top pick for a road biking event this year is the Long Trail ride. Challenge yourself on 20-, 60-, or 100-mile routes through the quiet roads of central Vermont while fundraising for Vermont Adaptive Ski & Sports. Stick around for the post-ride party and barbeque at the Long Trail Brewery – you’ve earned it. This year’s ride is scheduled for June 25. Runners-up: 2. Kelly Brush Ride, Middlebury, 3. Vermont Gran Fondo , Ripton, 4. Green Mountain Stage Race, Burlington, 5. Rasputitsa, Newport.
Best Mountain Biking Race or Tour: Circumburke
Mountain bikers looking for a challenge picked the Circumburke for its rugged and remote terrain in the forests and hills around Burke and Umpire Mountain. The race is scheduled for Oct. 22. But don’t miss these gut-busting and fun runners-up. Runners-up: 2. Vermont 50 (Ascutney), 3. Frozen Onion, Montpelier. 4. Leaf Blower, Stowe. 5. Killington Up and Down.
Wackiest Event: Santa Run
Put a bunch of runners in Santa suits (complete with beards), send them off on a 5K run around Burlington, promise them breakfast at the end and you’ve got reader’s favorite wacky event. But there’s plenty more so consider the runners up which might have you floating pumpkins in Lake Champlain or doing a polar plunge: Runners-up: 2. Pumpkin Regatta, Burlington. 3. Penguin Plunge, Colchester. 4. Sugarbush Annual Dog Parade. 5. Duct Tape Derby, Mount Snow.