2017 Black Diamond Awards: The Places We Love

What’s the best in Vermont? We asked, you answered. This year, we got more replies than any year since our survey started in 2011. For a full list of winners see And 2017 Black Diamond Winners Are…


Kingdom Trails in East Burke regularly ranks as one of the best mountain bike destinations in North America. It’s no surprise that the mountain bike Mecca with more than 100 miles of trails and killer terrain takes top spot in our list of favorite places to mountain bike in Vermont. The trail network continues to grow as a year-round destination with fatbike trails (including 25 kilometers of groomed trails) and events such as Winterbike (March 4-5), the Circumburke Challenge (October, 2017)  and the New England Mountain Bike Festival (June 16-18).  

Winner: Kingdom Trails. 

Runners Up: Millstone Trails, Barre; Cady Hill, Stowe; Catamount Outdoor Center, Williston; Mad River Valley/Blueberry Lake Trails, Warren; Fellowship of the Wheel Trails, Hinesburg. 

Waterbury Reservoir and Little River State Park are two of your favorite places to spend a summer day. Photo by Jesse Schloff
Waterbury Reservoir and Little River State Park are two of your favorite places to spend a summer day. Photo by Jesse Schloff


Take Lake Champlain out of the picture (which we did) and the question, “what’s the best lake in Vermont?” becomes a little tougher to answer. But not so tough our readers didn’t come back with a resounding vote for what many believe is the best-kept secret in Vermont:  Green River Reservoir. The quiet, remote reservoir just north of Hyde Park is closed to motorized traffic, largely undeveloped and features paddle-to campsites along its coast and islands. At night, the only noise you’re likely to hear there are the calls of loons or the slap, slap of beaver tails and the only lights, from the stars above. Waterbury Reservoir, though was a close second and Little River State Park, with its reservoir access and new mountain bike trails won for Best State Park and Best Campsite.

Winner: Green River Reservoir. Runners Up: Waterbury Reservoir, Lake Willoughby, Blueberry Lake, Silver Lake, Lake Dunmore. 


It’s hard to think of Vermont’s largest city as a sports “town” but when you consider all that it offers, it’s also difficult not to be impressed. In the past year, the Queen City has seen dozens of upgrades. On the waterfront, a new skatepark was completed in 2015. The bike path that leads to the Champlain Islands was rebuilt with picnic and rest stops along the way. In late February, Burlington was awarded a National Parks Service grant to add 12 acres of land to extend the bike path and add a community garden. Last fall, Burlington’s Community Sailing Center announced two, million-dollar grants that will allow it to build a permanent home: a 22,180-square foot facility to be named the Pomerleau Waterfront Campus and Raymond P. Sullivan Sailing Education Center. Finally,  last summer the long-standing plan to build a 160-slip marina was approved by City Council. So if you think Burlington’s a great sports town now, wait a year or two: it’s only getting better. 

Winner: Burlington. 

Runners Up: East Burke; Stowe; Waitsfield; Middlebury; Bennington.


Where do you love to work out? As with bike shops, everyone has a local favorite. But the folks in Lyndonville are especially passionate about Fortitude Fitness, the overall winner. Fortitude specializes in personal training and fitness programs, and its website features testimonials and photos of those it has helped to lose  weight and get into better shape. Classes focus on obstacle course training, barbells, yoga and youth programs and can be coupled with nutrition counseling. The brainchild of self-confessed “fat-kid turned fitness entrepreneur” Ben Warstler, the Lyndonville gym is the place to go if you want a total body makeover—and the motivation to do so. 

Winner: Fortitude Fitness. 

Runners Up: Edge Sports and Fitness, Burlington; Upper Valley Aquatic Center, White River Junction; The Swimming Hole, Stowe; Sugarbush Health and Recreation Center, Warren; Vermont Sun, Middlebury. 


stowe-mtn-lodge-lifestyle_15-social2Vermonters love our staycations. Afer all, in how many other states does a “deer camp” qualify as a second home?  But we also like to have a little luxury. So, when asked what the best hotel/lodge in the state was, the majority of our respondents said “Stowe Mountain Lodge.” The hotel at the base of Spruce Peak not

only has ski-on access, an outdoor skating rink and pool but also a world-class spa, the new Adventure Center with Stowe Rocks climbing wall and the Spruce Peak Performing Arts Center nearby. 

Winner: Stowe Mountain Lodge, Stowe. Runners Up: Hotel VT, Burlington; Trapp Family Lodge, Stowe; Hotel Jay, Jay Peak; Red Clover Inn, Mendon; Pitcher Inn, Warren. 

For a full list of who won in each category, click here

SKIING & RIDING: Best Ski/Ride Area; Toughest Trail, Best Ski Area Events; Best Backcountry

PLACES WE LOVE: Best Mountain Bike Trails; Best Lakes, Parks & Campsites; Best Sports Town; Best Fitness Center; Best Hotel/Lodge

GEAR: Best Ski Shop; Best Bike Shop; Best Vermont-Made Product; Best Car for Outdoor Adventures

EVENTS: Toughest Event; Wackiest Event

APRES: Best Pizza, Best Apres Bar; Best Bartender; Best Brewery

PEOPLE WHO MADE A DIFFERENCE: Best Photographer; Most Inspiring Athlete – Male; Most Inspiring Athlete – Female; Outdoors Person of the Year; Person or Organization With the Greatest Contribution to the Outdoors