Kick, Glide, and Claim Your Prize | Stay Active This Winter With 10 Nordic and Backcountry Events

Skiers return from their trek around the summit of Camel’s Hump. Photo by Sarah Galbraith.

Whether you’re out there for fame and glory, to do your personal best, or to make new friends and have a good time, Nordic skiing is a great way to get outside in the winter. The scenery, fresh air, and shared experiences will be so rewarding. Nordic skiing is one of the best ways to enjoy our wintertime outdoor environs and an excellent way to get your heart rate up. Whether you’re a seasoned competitive athlete, new to Nordic skiing, or you just like being in the outdoors with friends-, there are some great Nordic events for you to check out this year.

Following is a list of Nordic events separated into two categories: competitive and noncompetitive. Many of these events support good causes, and all of them will introduce you to the wonderful fans, volunteers, friends, and families that make these events—and Nordic skiing—special.


Feeling fast and fit? Why not put your skis to the snow and see how you stack up against your personal goals, and your peers? If you’re unsure whether you’re ready, try volunteering at one of these events and determine your readiness for next year.

Winter Trails Day
Jan. 12, 9 a.m.
Grafton Ponds Outdoor Center
Cost: Free
Why ski it: The folks at Snowsports Industries of America know you are going to love snowshoeing and cross-country skiing once you try it. That’s why they have organized Winter Trails Day, a national chance for beginners to try a new winter sport. This day of free on-snow gear demos and instruction is geared for the complete beginner. Join the friendly staff at Grafton Ponds Outdoor Center or one of several other sites around the state or country. Stay tuned to the Grafton Ponds website for more details on this upcoming event.

TD Bank Eastern Cup Nordic Race
Jan. 12–13
The Mountaintop Inn & Resort; Chittenden, Vermont
Cost: $35 per race for NENSA members or $45 for nonmembers; $10 extra per race for late or day-of registrations; online registration can be linked to from the NENSA website and closes at 5 p.m. on Jan. 10.
Info: (search “Eastern Cup Nordic”)
Why ski it: The TD Bank Eastern Cup Series features many of the country’s best cross-country skiers. But this series is not just for the elite: Athletes of all speeds can compete. The season opener for this series was heldat Craftsbury in December, and there will also be race weekends around the Northeast, including Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe February 2–3. See the event website for additional dates, times, and locations.

Tour de Trapp 30K or 15K Freestyle Race
Jan. 19, 10 a.m.
Trapp Family Lodge; Stowe, Vermont
Cost: $30
Info: Register on or that day
Why ski it: This race offers the options of one, two, or team relay. A post-race awards ceremony with complimentary beverages for the racers is held in the Trapp Family Lodge Brewery/Bakery.

Mountain Top’s Paintball Biathlon draws a large crowd each year. Photo courtesy Mountain Top Inn.

Annual Paintball Biahtlon for Bill Koch Youth Ski League members
Jan. 27, 8 a.m.
Mountain Top Inn & Resort, Chittenden, Vermont
Cost: TBD, check website
Why ski it: Paintball biathlon combines the sports of Nordic skiing and target shooting with paintball markers. Unlike traditional biathlon, where competitors are penalized for missing the targets by skiing a penalty lap, skiers in paintball biathlon are rewarded with time deductions for each target they hit. Midway through each lap, the skiers visit the shooting range where identically sighted paintball guns await them to take their shots before skiing off for another lap. The adult and high school race will take place at a later date.

32nd Annual TD Bank Craftsbury Marathon
Feb. 2, 9/9:30 a.m.
Craftsbury Nordic Center; Craftsury Common, Vermont
Cost: $60 full distance; $30 half; register at by Jan. 30.
Why ski it: With more than 1,000 competitors of all ages, this is the largest Nordic ski event in the East. In 2013 the race will be a point-to-point format, with 25K and 50K options, starting at Highland Lodge in Greensboro and traveling on a thoroughly improved race course to Craftsbury Common via the Outdoor Center. Legendary feed stations litter the course. There will be a post-race meal, raffle drawings, and awards. Sponsored in part by Vermont Sports.

Onion River Sports Maple Onion 15K Nordic Race
Feb. 23 (tentative)
Morse Farm Ski Touring Center; East Montpelier, Vermont
Cost: $10 preregistration; $15 day-of
Why ski it: The details on this year’s Maple Onion are still being worked out as of printing time, and the actual date is dependent on weather and conditions. Stay tuned to the Onion River Sports website or stop in and visit ORS staff in downtown Montpelier for more information. You can be sure this race will include a fun course, which will wind through open fields and maple sugarbush. Registration includes a raffle, lunch, and prizes.

Northeast Rando Race Series
March 17, Feel the Magic at Magic Mountain; Londonderry; cost is $15 or free for seasons pass holders
March 24, Reach the Sun at Bromley Mountain; Peru; cost is $20 or free for seasons pass holders
Both Locations: 9 a.m. registration; 9:30 mandatory pre-race briefing; 10 start; RSVP on Facebook or on race morning
More info:
(This is a three-part series with the first race at Berkshire East in Charlemont, Massachusetts, on Jan. 27.)
Why ski it: Randonnee racers challenge themselves by skinning up the mountain, then descending as fast as possible, and repeating this over multiple up-down laps. The course is not marked, so it is essential for racers to get to know the mapped course before the race. (Links to online maps can be found in the event write-up on the NE Rando Series Facebook page.) This series offers two race distances, and racers can use their entry fee toward a lift ticket at the respective mountain for a mellower afternoon of lift-served skiing. You know, to rest those legs. Links to online race rules can also be found on the Facebook event pages.


Not a racer, but still up for a challenge? These events are not timed, but that doesn’t mean they are not worthy of bragging rights. It’s not every day that you’ll glide from Bolton to Richmond or circumnavigate Camel’s Hump. And the Backcountry Ski Festival highlighted here will help you work on the skills needed to make these impressive treks.

Get Out and Backcountry Ski Festival
Jan. 27, 10 a.m.
Bolton Valley Nordic Center; Bolton, Vermont
Cost: $45 Catamount Trail Association members/$60 nonmembers
Why ski it: This festival, hosted by the Catamount Trail Association, is a daylong treasure of information, gear demos, and skills clinics all hosted on the beautiful groomed and natural trails at the Bolton Valley Nordic Center. Skiers can learn from experts how to improve their telemark technique, and beginners can learn how to backcountry ski. The day is capped off with snacks and beverages, but plan to bring your own lunch or purchase it at the Nordic Center deli. Proceeds benefit the CTA.

Camel’s Hump Challenge
Feb. 10, 7:30 a.m.
Camel’s Hump Skiers Association; Huntington, Vermont
Why ski it: This high-country traverse is approximately 25K, or about six to eight hours of skiing, and brings skiers around the summit of one of Vermont’s highest and most beloved mountains, Camel’s Hump. This is a demanding and rugged ski tour that rewards the skier with dramatic scenery. While this is a backcountry tour (read: ungroomed), the trail is broken ahead of time by a group of volunteers. The day includes a warming, food stop around midway, and upon returning to the start/finish, homemade chicken noodle soup. This event benefits the Vermont Alzheimer’s Association.

Bolton to the Barns Ski Tour
Feb. 16, various start times
Bolton Valley Nordic Center in Bolton, Vermont, to the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps’ Monitor Barn in Richmond, Vermont
Cost: $55/$25 for students or VYCC alumni; registration is waived for those who raise $200 or more in sponsorships
Why ski it: This Nordic event for experienced skiers traverses the hills of Vermont with two course options, an 11-mile “Crew Member” route or the longer “Crew Leader” route, which adds on 2.5 hours of skiing and starts earlier than the Crew Member. Proceeds benefit VYCC programming, and participants are encouraged to seek sponsorships for this event—skiers who raise more than $200 can skip the registration fee. This day of skiing is capped off with a complimentary beverage, crepe, chili, and live music.


Sarah Galbraith

Sarah Galbraith of Plainfield skis, bikes, hikes, swims, and camps her way through Vermont’s mountains in all seasons. After an adventure, she can often be found with friends, beer, and food.