Explore VT From These 8 New Basecamps

4.  St. Albans: A Town With a Ski Hill

You might think of St. Albans as a summer destination—a jumping off point to head out to the state park campgrounds on Burton, Knight or Woods islands. Or a place to learn to kiteboard, a launch pad for the Missisquoi Valley Rail Trail or as the site of The Great Race, a run-bike-paddle triathlon and a family-friendly tradition, usually held in conjunction with Bay Day over July 4 weekend.

Come winter, this Franklin County hub doesn’t slow down. Ten years ago, The St. Albans Messenger launched The Running of the Bells, a mile  run where participants attach jingle bells to their hats, shoes, gloves, coats, strollers, and wherever  as they move through the town and Taylor Park, lit up with holiday lights and decorations. This year,  the event is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on November 27, in conjunction with the town’s Holiday Extravaganza but has been moved down to St. Albans Bay. It benefits local families in need.

Hard’Ack, a little town-owned ski/ride hill with big heart.

The community spirit here is alive and well, as a trip to Hard’Ack Recreation Area, one of the few town-owned ski hills in Vermont, will demonstrate. The tiny ski area has been around since the 1950s but was recently purchased by the town, which opened the new Greg Brown Lodge last winter. On Friday and Saturday nights lights beam out across two trails for 700 vertical feet of skiing, sledding and tubing off a rope tow.

The Running of the Bells takes place the last weekend in November.

Thanks to donations from neighbors Jay Peak and Smugglers’ Notch, Hard’Ack also has a terrain park that features a rotating cast of rails and boxes and jumps. “We get folks who come up from Burlington to play around because it’s such a unique setting,” says Kelly Viens, St. Albans’ Parks and Recreation Director. It’s a family-friendly scene with some serious shredders of all ages and an annual Duct Tape Derby, often held during St. Albans February Winter Carnival.

With 4k of groomed Nordic ski trails, the ski area also sits adjacent to about six miles of snowshoe trails which move through birch and maple glades on the back side of Aldis Hill.

Of course, you can still head out onto Lake Champlain. St. Albans Bay and Missisquoi Bay are hot spots for ice fisherman after Northern Pike, according to the Agency of Natural Resources. In February 2020, St. Albans’ Mill River Brewing BBQ and Smokehouse launched the Clean Water Derby, a day of fishing for yellow perch for families on Missisquoi Bay.

And you can still ride the Missisquoi Valley Rail Trail – on a fat bike, by foot or on skis—some 26 miles from St. Albans to Richford, near the Canadian border, traveling across open farmland with stunning views of the Green Mountains.

Shop: Back Country Sports’ motto, “Where fishing is in our blood and hunting is in our soul,” says it all.  Lenny’s Shoe and Apparel carries Skida, Darn Tough and a variety of other outdoor apparel and footwear brands.

Eat/Drink: St. Albans has no shortage of watering holes. One of Vermont’s most recognized breweries and brewpubs,  14th Star Brewing Company is based here. But there are plenty of others with every type of food imaginable. Try 84 Main Bar & Grill, Catalyst Coffee Bar, The Drake Bar & Kitchen, Evelyne’s On Center, Feldman’s Bagels, Grazer’s, The or Grind Café. There’s also Jeff’s Maine Seafood, La Casa Bar & Grill, The Main Squeeze, Mimmo’s Pizzeria, Nelly’s Pub & Grill,  Red House Sweets, Tim’s Place Diner, The Traveled Cup or Twigg’s American Gastropub.

Stay: Back Inn Time is a B&B in a classic, tastefully restored Victorian manor house right downtown. St. Albans also has a number of chain hotels such as the Hampton Inn, in the downtown, and La Quinta Inn and Econolodge on the outskirts.

What the VOREC Grant Will Do: Using a $64,417 VOREC grant,  St. Albans City is partnering with the Northwest Vermont Rail Trail Council, Northwest Regional Planning Commission, and communities along the trail to install wayfinding signage along the 26.4-mile Missisquoi Valley Rail Trail.

More infohttps://downtownsaintalbans.com/

Next up: Montpelier  >>

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