Look at this winter two ways: On the one side, you’re stuck in Vermont. On the other side, you’re stuck in Vermont – and
there are a ton of things you can do. This winter, plenty of events are still going on from candle-lit snowshoe romps to avalanche workshops to ice climbing to an igloo building class. Think of this quarantine time as a chance to try something new. How many of these things can you check off your bucket list?
1. Bag the Big 10 in Winter
For a few weeks in early winter, hikers who headed for the summits were treated to this awe-inspiring site: a sea of clouds punctured by an archipelago of Vermont’s highest peaks. Summiting in winter has serious risks – you should be prepared with crampons, file your hiking plan with a friend and carry necessary safety and rescue gear. But the rewards are often spectacular views, ice formations, alpenglow (if you go early or late) and lunar-like landscapes. Winter is also a good time to bag 10 of Vermont’s highest peaks without the crowds of summer and fall. For half of Vermont’s highest peaks, you can cheat and take a lift at least partway up. In order of height, they are Mt. Mansfield, Killington, Lincoln Peak, Mt. Ellen, Pico, Jay and Stratton. Camel’s Hump, though, is probably the most stunning hike and both that and Mt. Abraham have views west to Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks. The last of the Big 10, Mt. Equinox near Manchester, has a road leading to its summit that’s closed in the winter – making it ideal for skinning, snowshoeing up (or sledding down.)
2. Camp Out
Winter camping, especially as the days grow longer and milder, is something that can qualify as either Type 1 or Type 2 fun, depending on your preparations. Ski in, snowshoe or fatbike, if the trails are packed. Many of Vermont’s state parks are officially closed in the winter, but with a permit, their lean-tos and cabins are open on a first-come, first-served basis—often with fire pits and picnic tables there and ready for you. The same is true for many of the shelters on the Long Trail. That said, keep in mind that many of these shelters don’t offer the same level of warmth as cozying up in a tent. If the conditions are right, explore some of the parks that are packed in the summer, such as Burton Island, Green River Reservoir, Champlain Islands or Ricker Pond. See vtstateparks.com
3. Learn TO Build an Igloo
If you want to learn how to build an igloo from an expert put February 13 on your calendar. That’s the day Norwich’s Montshire Museum is hosting an “Igloo Build.” Dr. Bert Yankielun, engineer and author of the book How to Build an Igloo and Other Snow Structures, will be on hand to offer a Covid-safe demonstration, as well as instruction on the structural secrets of building with snow—from making an initial snow angel to placing the final block on the dome and sawing your way out.
4. Romp or Race on Snowshoes
Grab or demo snowshoes and sign up at Onion River Outdoors for their annual Montpelier Snowshoe Romp, a half mile lantern-lit loop, along with hot chocolate, ice cream and a warm fire. It takes place in Hubbard Park on January 22 from 6 pm, to 8 pm. Want something harder? Sign up for the sixth annual Face Race up Suicide Six of Feb. 2. Race up a black diamond and down a blue square run for 1.6 miles of “fun.”
Even harder? Peak Adventures’ Snow Devil Ultra in Pittsfield on March 13 has races that range from a 5K to a marathon, with a 100-miler starting the day before.
5. Learn to Ice Climb
While places such as Smuggler’s Notch and Lake Willoughby have become ice climbing destinations, there are plenty of spots around Vermont where even beginners can learn and practice climbing the blue ice that forms on so many of Vermont’s cliffs and crags. Sign up for a class. Petra Cliffs and Adventure Spirit operate out of Burlington and Rutland’s Vermont Adventure Tours also offers introductory courses with all the equipment.