Seven winter events not to miss

If you’re looking to test your mettle or just want to try something new, here are seven new winter sports or sporting events to stir your interests.

The Smuggs Ice Bash: Jan. 23 – 25

Where: Smugglers’ Notch, Stowe/Jeffersonville, Vt.

For ice climbers, the annual Smuggs Ice Bash is an opportunity to compete, learn and meet other climbers and experience the thrilling sport of ice climbing. The weekend kicks off with a dry-tooling competition at Petra Cliffs Climbing Center in Burlington and then heads to Smugglers’ Notch (accessed from the Stowe or Jeffersonville side of Vermont 108 for clinics, demos and multimedia presentations.) This year, climber Will Mayo will present a talk on growing up in Vermont, climbing all over the Northeast and how finding a local climbing community helped him prepare him for first ascents and other climbing milestones. For more information, see


North American Marathon Distance Skating: Jan. 31 – Feb. 2

Where: Newport, Vt.

If ice skating is more to your liking, consider going the distance with this marathon event in the Northeast Kingdom. This winter, Kingdom Games and Marathon Skating International will maintain a 700-meter track on Lake Memphremagog for races from 1K, 5K, 25K and 50K. The weekend wraps up with a 25-mile skate the length of the lake to Magog, Quebec. These are long skates, not hockey skates, so be sure to check it out at


Polar Bear Challenge at Shale Hill: Feb. 7

Where: Benson, Vt.

Ever thought of doing an obstacle race, but didn’t because you wanted something tough, but lower key? Then consider a 10K race with over 65 obstacles in the dead of a Vermont winter. The Polar Bear Challenge at Shale Hill in Benson, Vermont is one of the tougher winter races in the state. Founder and owner Rob Butler has put together a course that will be as much a mental challenge as a physical one. In addition to walls to surmount, ropes to climb and carrying challenges to complete, you can look forward to freezing temperatures, snow, mud and lots of ice to add to the challenge. Bragging rights this year go to whoever can complete the most laps.

For more information, go to


Swim in a frozen lake: Feb. 21 – 22

Where: Newport, Vt.

The folks at Kingdom Games have been coming up with biking, swimming and running events since 2010 and refuse to take winters off. This winter, the United States Winter Swimming Association and Kingdom Games have partnered to host the Inaugural United States Winter Swimming Championships in Newport on Lake Memphremagog in two 25-meter swimming lanes cut in the ice. The water temperature of the lake is expected to be around 32 degrees Fahrenheit, and the likely air temperature will range from 0 to 25 degrees. The organizers plan to offer championship races over the following distances: 25, 50 and 100 meters. Interested? You can learn more at


Winterbike festival at Kingdom Trails: Feb. 27 – March 1

Where: East Burke, Vt.

Just because there’s snow on the ground doesn’t mean the bikes have to go away. Take the knobby 5-inch wide tires of a fat bike for a spin at the fourth annual Winterbike at Kingdom Trails in East Burke. As in years past, this event will include demos, local products and brews, group rides, fat tires, fresh tracks and hot toddies. New for 2015, the festival has been expanded to a full weekend of fun. It starts Friday, Feb. 27, for a pre-registration party, ride and race; then ride all day Saturday before the Winterbike Dinner Gala that evening; then stay an extra day for Sunday morning group rides.

This event is part of Mountain Bike Vermont’s Le Grand Fat Tour, a series of fat biking rallies in Vermont and Southern Quebec. For more information on this and the rest of the series, see


Peak 2015 National Snowshoe Championship: March 7

Where: Pittsfield, Vt.

The Aimee Farm in Pittsfield is home to some of the hardest races in the country in every season of the year. The National Snowshoe Championship in March is no different. This winter, the weekend of snowshoe races will include distances of 6 miles, half-marathon, marathon and 100 miles on a rugged 6.5-mile loop course with a gain of 1,200 vertical feet. The 100-mile race has a 34-hour time limit – no exceptions. For more info, see


“The Magic” Randonnée Race – March 14

Where: Magic Mountain Ski Resort, Londonderry, Vt.

Here’s a ski race that tests your speed going both up and down the mountain. Randonnée – or simply “rando” – ski racing hearkens back to skiing’s early years, when skiers challenged the mountain both up and down, without the help of chairlifts. Using climbing “skins” with alpine touring, telemark bindings or even split-boards, racers start at the base of the mountain at Magic Ski Resort, ascend, then descend on marked trails. This race at Magic gains and loses over 6,000 vertical feet. For more info see

Evan Johnson

Evan Johnson is the staff writer for Vermont Sports Magazine. The native Vermonter enjoys steep and deep skiing and wandering all over the state by Subaru. Find him on Twitter at @evanisathome.