Best Sports Towns, Trails, Gyms, Bars and More — Black Diamond Awards

What’s the best sports town in Vermont? The best trail system? The best après bar? Here’s what our readers said in the 2018 Black Diamond Awards.


Sure, Burlington is the largest city in Vermont and you’d expect it to win by sheer size. But if you consider what’s going on in the Queen City, it’s hard to argue that it’s not one of the best sports towns, anywhere. In the last few years we’ve seen the bike path rebuilt,  connecting downtown to the Champlain Islands just a short ride away.

The A-Dog Skate Park was completed and now, next door, the architecturally stunning new Community Sailing Center opens this spring. A new marina is in the works and the owners of Wind N Waves purchased the waterfront Blodgett building and plan to make that a watersports center for SUPs, kiteboarding and much more.

Then, last month, PetraCliffs announced it was buying the space next to City Market and putting in an expanded climbing gym. BTV just keeps getting better. Runner-ups are pretty cool too: Stowe, with its growing mountain bike network, miles of cross-country trails and, of course the alpine skiing and riding was second and East Burke/Burke, home of Kingdom Trails and Burke Mountain, third. 1. Burlington 2. Stowe 3. East Burke


With five locations in the Burlington area (Essex, Williston and South Burlington) The Edge Sports & Fitness won best gym. More than just a place to work out, the Edge has classes and experts who can help with every aspect of fitness ranging from physical therapy to nutrition, OCR training to Zumba.

And with indoor tracks, tennis and squash courts, pools, and spin studios it’s hard to imagine a sport you wouldn’t do there —although The Swimming Hole’s pool and PetraCliffs’ climbing wall are pretty hard to beat. 1. The Sports & Fitness Edge 2. The Swimming Hole 3. PetraCliffs.


No question, Kingdom Trails’ 100-plus miles of trails are among the best in the country. And this mountain biking mecca is getting better. Trail manager CJ Scott works with more than 10 people, a staffing budget of $150,000, and many more volunteers to build and maintain trails each summer. Last summer, a new 2.3-mile trail, Ware’s Davis, expanded into a new area between Burke Hollow Road and Darling Hill Road ,and work was done to clear out a new swimming hole.

Executive director Abigail Long (formerly Executive Director of the Leadville Trail 100 Legacy) was chosen from more than 100 applicants this past fall.  And WinterBike keeps going strong (March 3, 2018) and growing the winter cycling season. KT was also the site of two of our readers’ favorite mountain bike trails, Sidewinder and Tap ‘n Die. But top honors in the “Best Trail” category went to Florence, the super-flowy trail in Stowe’s Cady Hill system. Cady Hill trails also took second overall (despite the devastating wind storm that closed them early last fall) with Ascutney Trails was third. 1. Kingdom Trails, East Burke 2. Cady Hill, Stowe 3. Ascutney Trails, West Windsor


With new mountain biking trails, SUP and kayak rentals readily available, cabins, remote campsites and nary a house to be seen from the water, Little River State Park won for best state park, once again. However, remote and quiet Green River Reservoir was close behind, followed by Burton Island. There’s a theme here: waterfront camping can’t be beat. 1. Little River State Park, Waterbury 2. Green River Reservoir, Morrisville 3. Burton Island, St. Albans.

Sam von Trapp rides at the Trapp Family Lodge, voted Best Lodge.


If you’re not planning on pitching a tent, the best place to check is the Trapp Family Lodge. With an increasing number of events right there (this summer, watch for the return of the Catamount Ultra plus some new ultra-running races), 65 kilometers of running and Nordic ski trails, backcountry skiing, summer concerts and a private network of mountain bike trails, Trapp Family Lodge is hard to beat. And then there’s the von Trapp beer and bierhall. Check in, run yourself silly on the trails, down a Helles then tuck in beneath a fluffy white duvet with views across the moonlit Worcester Range. Burlington’s Hotel VT (which has cruiser bikes guests can borrow) was also a favorite as were the cabins and farm-fresh meals at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center. 1. Trapp Family Lodge 2. Hotel VT 3. Craftsbury Outdoor Center


The Matterhorn wins just about every “best après-ski bar” contest out there, be it from national magazines, USA Today or local papers. And it deserves it. The vibe owners Charlie and Louise Shaffer have built there has been going on strong for decades and the fresh sushi roles and wood fired pizza make this far more than just a great place to drink. But in Stowe,  newcomer, Doc Pond’s has become a contender for best watering hole, thanks to the ever-changing eclectic beer menu and owner Eric Warnstedt’s (of Hen of the Woods fame) passion for good simple food and vinyl you can rock out to. Waterbury’s Prohibition Pig is also nearly as famous among the sports set and a must-stop for anyone headed north or south on I-89 who wants a great burger or smoked meats  and a cold beer brewed on premises. 1. Matterhorn, Stowe 2. Doc Ponds, Stowe.3. Prohibition Pig, Waterbury


Vermont is home to some of the top-rated beers in the world and tiny Hill Farmstead, in Greensboro, produces many of them, so no wonder Hill Farmstead won Best Brewery. But not far behind is the emerging von Trapp Brewing, which is turning out award-winning Austrian-style lagers and serving up seasonal specials in its giant bierhall–conveniently located at the bottom of the mountain bike and cross-country trail systems.  Classic Long Trail Brewing earns third with its increasingly sports-appropriate brews such as Sick Day (logo features a snowboarder) and Flyin’ Ryan, named in memory of extreme skier Ryan Hawks. 1. Hill Farmstead 2. Von Trapp 3. Long Trail


When Ed Rovetto moved to Stowe in 2000, he brought with him family recipes for hand-tossed New York-style pizzas. The Rovetto family already owned 10 pizzerias up and down the East Coast and Stowe seemed like a good place to start another one. Flash forward and Piecasso has become a “destination” pizzeria. People come for specialty pies, such as the Portabello (made  with mushrooms, Vermont chèvre, mozzarella, spinach and fresh basil) or the Piecasso (mozzarella, ricotta, broccoli). But they also come because there’s always something going on, whether it’s a trivia contest (Wednesdays) or ski and snowboard movies (Thursdays). Not far behind is local favorite American Flatbread, with venues in Warren, Burlington and Middlebury and Folino’s in Shelburne. 1. Piecasso 2. American Flatbread 3. Folino’s

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