This past Monday morning I met my friend Gary in the parking lot of the Stratton Mountain Resort. The plan was to leave his truck at Stratton and drive mine to Kendall Farm Road in Winhall for the start of a nine or so mile tour that would take us over the backside of Stratton. The tour would follow the old International Paper logging road as well as parts of the Catamount Trail. For this endeavor we decided to roll with our telemark setup and skins.
We headed out on the trail at around 9:30 a.m. and it was a picture-perfect morning. The sun was shining, there was a solid base with around four inches of dust on top. Nordic skis would’ve definitely worked for an out-and-back or an end-to-end of the IP road, where you end up finishing at Kelley Stand Road (Arlington/Wardsboro) on the Stratton side. The terrain is a gradual uphill climb (but nothing crazy) and then it levels out. The thing that I’m always reminded of when I’m out here in the summer mountain biking is how remote it is. This was my first time out here in winter and the amount of wildlife tracks we saw was amazing!
A couple hours in, we reached the junction of the Long Trail, and it started to snow. We took a left and ducked into the woods and started climbing. Not too long into our ascent we ran into two people on snowshoes on their way down who were doing the Stratton Pond loop.
The trail winds gradually up the mountain for about two miles and the conditions weren’t bad. The snow wasn’t that deep, and the blazes were easy to spot, and we ended up following some fox tracks for quite awhile but never crossed paths. As we got closer to the summit the trail did became pretty icy and windblown. We stopped just below the summit to get into warmer jackets and hats when another girl on snow shoes was making her way down the mountain. It was really cool to see other people outside enjoying the playground around us!
From the fire tower on the summit it was about another mile to the ski trails. The snow on the summit was really good and it was snowing pretty hard as well. We took off our skins put on some goggles and made our way down the hill. The conditions were fantastic! Lots of powder was to be found on the side of the trail. We talked about going and earning some turns at a local spot, but with the size of the blister I had acquired on my heel, and Gary having to meet his kids at the busstop, we called it a day.
A darn good day at that.