There are few places in the Northeast where you can find a higher concentration of world-class athletes per capita than Craftsbury. There are two reasons for this. For starters, Craftsbury (which comprises Craftsbury Village, Craftsbury Common, East Craftsbury, Collinsville and Mill Village) has a year-round population of under 1,200 that’s spread out over 36 square miles of rolling hills, fields and small villages.

Skiing the trails at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center. Photo by John Lazenby.

On any given day there you might run into a former World Cup Nordic skier skating the trails at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center or, come spring, an Olympic oarsman sculling the length of Big Hosmer Pond.

You might also see families skiing trails that lead to Caspian Lake or snowshoeing on The Nature Conservancy’s Barr Hill Preserve. Or you might find a crew of Sterling College students fatbiking or bucking up firewood as part their community projects or sustainable agriculture classes. The college, based right in Craftsbury, is known for its focus on ecology, sustainability and outdoor education.

Just north of Craftsbury Village on the shores of Big Hosmer Pond, the Craftsbury Outdoor Center has been welcoming top athletes, as well as recreational skiers, cyclists, runners and rowers to its campus and trails since 1976.

In 2008, former Olympic rowers and co-founders of Morrisville’s Concept2, Dick Dreissigacker and Judy Geer helped purchase the center and turned it into a non-profit with the mission of promoting excellence in lifelong sports such as rowing, Nordic skiing, biathlon, cycling and running.

What draws so many elite athletes to the Craftsbury Outdoor Center is, of course, the training opportunities, top-tier coaches and a state-of-the-art gym. However, the 105 kilometers of carefully groomed trails are  a draw for beginners and experts alike. The trails cross open meadows with big views, wind up and down the forested hillsides and connect to Greensboro and to Caspian Lake.

Keith Woodward, himself a multi-time age group world champion in duathlon, has been grooming Craftsbury’s trails since 1976 and in 2019 he and the grooming team worked with University of Vermont geology professor Paul Bierman and students on a study on how to save snow. Craftsbury stockpiled snow (preserving spring snow under an insulated blanket covered with wood chips) to get it ready for an early winter start.

Between the reserved snow and snowmaking, the Center has been able to kick off the season reliably in mid-November.

By early February, when Craftsbury usually hosts its famous marathon and 50K races, the snowpack is thick. Note that  this year the event won’t be held but Craftsbury has planned a series of Sunday citizens’ races (see Calendar).

You don’t have to be a top athlete to stay at Craftsbury Outdoor Center. The Center has cabins, cottages and a dorm-style building with rooms for singles or doubles and serves up three meals a day featuring fresh local produce (some of it grown on premises) to its guests.

Craftsbury Outdoor Center isn’t the only skiing in the area. You can ski the Craftsbury-groomed trails all the way to Greensboro and connect to trails on 136 acres owned by The Highland Lodge, a classic 1860s inn that Wallace Stegner featured in his book Crossing to Safety, written after he spent time in Greensboro.

Shop: The Craftsbury General Store has gifts made by local artisans such as pottery, candles, wooden bowls, yarn, paintings, and jewelry.

Eat/Drink: In Craftsbury, the Black Bird Bistro has over-the-top grilled cheese sandwiches such as a Veggie Hipster, made with Jasper Hill Cave-Aged Cheddar, broccoli rabe pesto, avocado and green onion aioli.  In addition to regular deli fare such as pizza and sandwiches, The Craftsbury General Store  has been offering international specials for weekly  Wednesday takeout dinners such as Swedish Meatballs, Hawaiian Huli Huli or Vietnamese Pho. If you prefer traditional deli sandwiches and chips head to the C-Village store. Don’t miss a stop to Hill Farmstead Brewery in Greensboro, where visitors line up to buy the small-batch brews that are consistently rated among the top beers in the world. 

Stay: Craftsbury Outdoor Center has cabins, cottages and dorm rooms in clean, minimal rooms on the trails. Lodging comes with three farm-to-table meals using locally sourced food. Highland Lodge  is offering its cabin rentals and pre-packaged meals for Friday and Saturday nights, as well as its lodge rooms.

What the VOREC Grant Will Do: As part of a town-wide effort to build on Craftsbury’s reputation as a winter-trails destination, a 2020 VOREC grant of $26,750 will be used to create an official Craftsbury Trails brand, maps, kiosks, and wayfinding signs.

Next up: St. Albans  >>

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