Vermont Winter fun part 2 — sledding

There’s no less expensive way than sledding to have an afternoon filled with fun.  All you need is some snow, a hill, and anything that slides.

At the October Country Inn, we keep a supply of simple plastic tub sleds in the shed for our guests to use.  The backyard provides the hill.

For more adventurous sledding, Mt. Tom, a local sledding hill just outside of Woodstock, will provide the thrills if you’re willing to put in the work.

Two late afternoon sledders trek up Mt. Tom

The Mt. Tom sledding hill is located just outside of Woodstock.  Started by Maurice Wood during the early 1950s, but later taken over by the Rockefeller family, the Mt. Tom ski area had two poma lifts, and seven ski trails.  It combined with the Suicide Six ski area in the 1960s, and for a dollar, you could get a combination lift ticket. The Mt. Tom ski area was closed in the 1980s to focus on Suicide Six.  Now, the former 500 vertical drop Mt. Tom ski hill is a favorite local sledding venue.

Just about anything that slides can be used as a sled, but the most common types are the disk type, toboggans, tubes, or runner sleds.  Of the runner sleds, the “Flexible Flyer” is the tried and true favorite.  Invented by Samuel Leeds Allen, the Flexible Flyer has been the most popular sled for over a hundred years.

X marks the Mt. Tom sled hill. Follow Route 12 north out of Woodstock. Park across the street.

However, due to the thin runners on this type of sled, it doesn’t perform as well as the other types of sleds in deep snow.  Once the snow is compacted however, runner sleds like the Flexible Flyer are much faster.

To reach the Mt. Tom sledding hill, take Route 12 north from the center of Woodstock.  Go past Billings Farm, and Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historic Park.  Mt. Tom is on your left.  Park in the lot across the street.

If sledding sounds like a fun thing to do, but you would really rather not slog uphill 20 minutes for every 30 second ride, local ski resorts offer lift server tubing parks for a nominal fee.  At Killington Ski Resort, they have a multi lane, lift serviced tubing park that is lighted to allow of night tubing.


Edie keeps a New England tradition alive at the OCI.

Edie pinning all three layers together in preparation for quilting.

You won’t find many rooms at the October Country Inn without one of Edie’s quilts draped over a chair, spread out on a bed, or hung on a wall.  A few years back, Chuck and Edie spent 3 November weeks on a friends and family tour driving from OCI to Seattle, down to southern California, and back to OCI.  During this 4,0000 mile journey, Chuck drove while Edie quilted.

Quilting is a tradition in New England, where warm bedding was needed to weather the cold winters.  In the early days, commercial fabric was very expensive. It was essential for most New England families to make maximum use of everything. Saving every scrap of fabric was a part of life for all households. Often, the quilt-makers creative talents produced many varied and uniquely designed quilts from these small scraps of leftover fabric.  Small pieces of fabric were joined

This pattern is called “Finally Fall.”

together to make larger pieces, called blocks, and these were sewn together to make a top layer.  This layer was stretched out and pinned to a bottom layer with a thick batting material in the middle.  The quilting consists of hand stitching the three layers together, usually in a pattern that matches the top layer’s pattern.

Quilting sometimes involved an entire community.   Quilting bees were a common way to cut down on the extensive amount of time it takes to do the quilting.    Groups of people would spread themselves

This pattern is called “Turn, turn, turn.”

around a single quilt and each work on one small area.  Quilting frames were often used to stretch the quilt layers, and maintain even tension to produce high quality quilting stitches. Quilting bees were important social events in many communities, and were typically held between periods of high demand for farm labor. Quilts were frequently made to commemorate major life events, such as marriages.

Although Edie has been sewing since she was 10 years-old, and is descended from at least 5 generations of quilters, she didn’t take up quilting until relatively late in life.  About 30 years ago, some friends invited her to join a quilting guild.  She’s been quilting ever since.

Once Edie decides on a pattern for a new quilt, and accumulates all the fabric, it takes her about 40 hours to cut out all the little pieces, sew them together into blocks, sew the

This pattern is called “Green Mountain Camp.”

blocks together to form the top layer, sew the bottom layer together, and pin both top and bottom layers together sandwiching the batting in between.  Now it’s ready to quilt.  This is where the process slows way down.  It takes on the order of 400 hours, spanning about a 6 month period, to hand quilt a queen-sized quilt.  Edie could reduce this time by a factor of 100 by machine quilting instead of hand quilting.  A casual observer may not even notice a difference between the two styles.  But Edie would never even consider such a shortcut.  It isn’t about the time.  It’s about the heart.  Obviously, for Edie, quilting is a labor of love.



A walk in the Vermont woods isn’t limited to Summers.

A two inch carpet of fresh new snow fell this afternoon.  Winter has returned to the October Country Inn.  Out comes the Winter gear: base layer clothing, gloves and mittens, boots, goggles and snowshoes.  Soon I’m swooshing along an oft trodden trail through very familiar woods, but it doesn’t seem familiar.  It’s different. I’m amazed how different such a familiar walk becomes when the woods are covered in snow.  It’s like a completely different trail in a completely different place.  In some ways, it is.

Modern aluminum frame snowshoes.

Snowshoeing is growing in popularity as those who love the outdoors rediscover this ancient form of snow travel revived by modern materials and design.  Modern aluminum frame snowshoes are light and easy to walk with.  Built-in cleats provide positive traction and prevent slippage on ice.   Snowshoes are inexpensive as Winter sports equipment goes, and don’t require any special kind of shoes.

There are many close by snowshoe trail options.  The October Country Inn is located on the Vermont Association of Snow Travelers (VAST) trail network.  This network of marked and mapped trails cover the state of Vermont, and connect with similar trail networks in adjoining states and Canada.  There is access to the Catamount trail near Pico ski resort.  The Catamount trail is a 300 mile cross-country ski and snowshoe trail that runs the length of Vermont.  The trail is marked with blue blazes as well as little signs displaying the Catamount logo and is easily followed.  Near Woodstock, trails to Mount Tom can be found at the back of Faulkner Park.  Trails to Mount Peg can be found at the trail-head behind the Woodstock Inn.

If snowshoeing is something you’d like to try, snowshoe rentals are available at most ski/snowboard rental shops.  Winter can be cold in Vermont, so dress in layers with insulated boots, gloves or mittens, hat, and goggles.  Walking poles or ski poles are helpful but not necessary.  Embrace Winter. Give snowshoeing a try.