Quechee Ski Hill: Affortable fun near Woodstock, Vermont.

Ski lift at Queechee Ski HillSnow covered hills and meadows defines Vermont winters, and offers another universe of options for outdoor play. Many of October Country Inn’s winter weekend guests come to ski or snowboard at one of several local resorts catering to this dynamic activity.

Some choose big-mountain venues, such as Killington or Okemo, where you can ski all day and never cross your tracks, but also pay top-dollar for a lift ticket, struggle to find parking, and share the mountain with many, many others. Or, some choose a smaller, local hill, such as Suicide Six, or Quechee Lakes. These smaller venues don’t offer quite the double black diamond thrill as the bigger mountains, but still offer quality skiing and snowboarding without many of the logistical problems of finding Ski trails at Quechee Ski Hillsomewhere to park within walking distance to the lifts, and are generally much more family friendly, and considerably less expensive. Let’s take a closer look at Quechee Lakes.

Winter fun just east of Woodstock, Vermont

Grown from picturesque rolling farmlands, The Quechee Lakes Landowners’ Association was established in the winter of 1970. It’s a homespun Vermont village community just east of Woodstock that’s part of Quechee Village, a small town rich in heritage. Everything about it is a demonstration of the well-known fundamental Vermont culture. Quechee Lakes began close to half a century ago.  Its vision is to host families at a premier four-season resort community. The Quechee Club, with its wide open post and beam architecture overlooks the Ottauquechee River.  It is well-known for two of Vermont’s most acclaimed golf courses.  The courses are converted into more than 10 miles of top-notch Nordic trails in winter months. It also includes ice skating facilities, a sledding hill, horse-drawn sleigh rides, and the Quechee Ski Hill.

A great spot for the whole family.

Horse drawn sleigh.

Take a sleigh ride to the base lodge.

Quechee Ski Area features generally novice and intermediate terrain, with upper mountain trails emptying into open slopes. A centerpiece of winter recreation in the development, the Quechee ski area opened with a double chairlift for the 1970-71 season. A T-Bar was added half a decade later, serving novice lower mountain terrain. The original double chairlift was replaced with a new quad chairlift in 2005. Today, the Quechee Ski Area operates with three lifts, a quad chairlift, a T-bar, and a handle tow, 13 trails, a terrain park and some woods skiing when conditions permit.  There is also a big focus on snowmaking and grooming. Uphill travel via backcountry ski, or snowshoeing is also available. Quechee Ski Area is open on Friday, Saturday and Sunday as well as winter holiday periods. Lift ticket prices are nearly a third less expensive that the big mountain venues.

By |2021-01-07T10:45:35-05:00February 22nd, 2019|Winter Fun|

Uphill ski travel: Spend less, earn your turns.

Two young women cross country skiing across a gentle hill with the sun just peeking over the background hills.

Two uphill skiers reach the top.

As we at the October Country Inn well know, lift-ticket prices at ski resorts have been costly for some time.   Lately, lift-ticket prices have dramatically increased.  It’s no surprise that backcountry skiing and riding is the fastest growing segment of the snowsports industry. It’s easy to gear up for backcountry.  There is widespread availability of Alpine Touring gear (ski bindings that have both a free-heel setting for uphill travel, and a fixed-heel setting for downhill travel).  Additionally, splitboard sales have greatly increased.  A splitboard is a snowboard that splits into two halves like two skis. It has a central binding positions for uphill travel, and can then be joined back together with binding positions shifted to each end for downhill travel.  Consequently, “wrong way” travel on local ski slopes is becoming commonplace.  

Most ski areas allow uphill travel on specified trails.

Photo of a skier in the foreground and two snowboarders in the background sliding through the forest in deep snow.

The downhill part of the trip is the payoff.

If you’re new to backcountry skiing or riding, take advantage of a ski area’s controlled environment. Groomed trails are easier to safely check equipment, practice technique, and develop physical conditioning before heading into more wild backcountry terrain.  Fortunately for our guests at the October Country Inn, all of the nearby ski resorts allow uphill traffic.  Each also has differing rules and restrictions.  For example, Killington and Pico Ski Resorts both require an “uphill travel pass” that is free for season pass holders or $20 for the season.  Killington also designates certain routes be followed. Other local ski resorts, like Okemo and Magic Mountain, don’t charge for uphill travel and have less restrictions on trail use. Also, most ski area’s are tolerant of trail use during off hours, including night-time use.  Many ski areas allow dogs as well.  Before venturing off, check a mountain’s uphill policy on their website.

Start at a ski resort, graduate to backcountry.

Photo of four cross country skiiers walking up a snowy hill at night.

Uphill ski travel isn’t always limited to daylight hours.

Even if backcountry isn’t your thing, ditching the chairlift—besides being a lot less expensive—provides a different perspective of a mountain that you have skied for years. How about a late night run under a full moon,  or early morning laps with your dog?  Or, start at Killington’s Ramshead Lodge, travel uphill alongside Header, Easy Street, and Swirl.  Go past the top chairlift station and up Old Swirl to the top of Ramshead Peak.  Duck into the woods toward Pico Peak for a brief downhill to the Pico Peak interconnect trail.  Convert to uphill again and climb the interconnect trail to the Pico Mountain ski area.  Convert back to downhill mode and head to the base lodge where you can catch the local shuttle for a ride back to Killington.

By |2021-01-07T15:03:28-05:00January 8th, 2019|Winter Fun|

Snowskates: Skateboards for the snow.

It’s Winter once more at the October Country Inn, and it looks like there may be a lot more A snowskater carves some turns.snow to play in than last Winter.  We love to play in the snow.  There are so many ways: alpine, telemark, or cross-county skiing, sledding or tubing, snowshoeing, fat-tire biking, snowmobiling, snowboarding.  Add snowskating to the list.  Snowskates come in many varieties but are distinctive in that the rider is not attached to the deck.  No bindings.

Bidecks are the way to go.

It's a skateboard for the snow.The two most common types of snowskate are the single deck and the bideck. For mountain riding, the bideck is the way to go.  This snowskate has a top skateboard deck which the rider stands on and a lower ski deck, which is in contact with the snow. Bideck snowskates were reportedly invented by a Stevens Pass (Washington) local named Steve Frink in 1994. Ridden in much the same way as a skateboard, bideck snowskates are gaining in popularity.  The device itself is way less expensive that a snowboard alone, and you don’t need bindings or special boots.  The savings is attractive, and you can ride these things anywhere you can ride a regular snowboard.

Like snowboards at first, many ski resorts won’t allow snowskates.

A snowskate on display.Unfortunately, some ski resorts don’t allow you to ride snowskates on their trails.  It’s kind of like the opposition to snowboarding that initially occurred.  Killington, our home mountain, falls into the “does not allow” category.  For all their bluster about being the “Beast of the East,” and a place for adventure, turns out they don’t walk what they talk.  Killington was also slow to allow snowboarding.  I guess leadership at Killington is still of the old-school variety. However, you can ride them at Stratton or Jay Peak if you don’t mind a little travel.

By |2021-01-07T18:34:13-05:00June 22nd, 2017|Winter Fun|

Splitboarding: Vermont backcountry for snowboarders.

Earning your turns. A splitboard in tourning mode.

Earning your turns. A splitboard in tourning mode.

When the sun arcs low across the horizon, and snow covers the land, cross-country skiers have long had the extensive Vermont backcountry all to themselves.  No more.  The woods are now open to a fast growing segment of snowboarders–splitboarders.  Since the October Country Inn is conveniently surrounded by Vermont’s Green Mountains, and I don’t ski, but really enjoy snowboarding, I couldn’t resist it when I discovered a Burton Fish splitboard on sale at the nearby First Stop Ski Shop and Board Barn.  I was soon fully equipped with a splitboard, Spark RD Magneto bindings, and Sabertooth crampons, Voile climbing skins, Black Diamond collapsible poles, and a Burton splitboard specific backpack.

The splitboard is gaining in popularity.

On the top. Splitboard halves ready to become a snowboard.

On the top. Splitboard halves ready to become a snowboard.

As things go, splitboards are pretty new.  It all started in Utah in the early 1990s when Brett “Cowboy” Kobernick’s buddy cut an old snowboard in half down the middle with a hand-held hacksaw and said “wouldn’t it be cool if we could somehow put these back together.”  It wasn’t long after that Cowboy, laid up from his ski resort job with an injury, took the two snowboard halves down to his basement, and used whatever he could find to put them back together.

Birth of the splitboard.

Although crude in the extreme, Cowboy kept thinking about how to make it better.  He got Mark Wariakois, owner of Voile, a backcountry ski equipment company, to let him use the shop’s equipment.  The splitboard was born.  It took a while to catch on, but new lightweight bindings and hardware have made the modern splitboard mandatory for any powder loving snowboarder.  I now count myself among the splitboard converts.  My first splitboard adventure was somewhat clumsy.  I stuffed my backpack with climbing skins, poles, Powerbars, and Gatorade, strapped on my Burton Fish, and took Killington’s Ramshead quad up the point short of peak where the chair ends.

Splitboards open the backcountry to snowboarders.

Photo of a splitboard rider on his way downhill through the trees on a snowy afternoon.

The turns you earned. The splitboard in snowboard mode.

I split the Fish into its halves, changed the bindings into  touring position, put on the climbing skins, assembled the poles, and began the half mile ascent to the top of Ramshead peak.  Although walking thorough the deep powder with the split skis was relatively easy, I soon discovered that when the grade got steep, I started sliding backwards.  It took a bit of experimenting, and not a little floundering, but I was able to get up the grade.  Note to self: investigate climbing technique.  It was a beautiful February day and I was really enjoying being alone on Killington’s Ramshead Peak during the middle of the day.  Once on top, a quick conversion, remove the climbing skins, put the halves back together, switch the bindings to snowboard mode, and enjoy the trip down in untracked powder.  It was a short trip but I’m hooked.

 

By |2021-01-09T15:42:08-05:00March 24th, 2015|Winter Fun|

Snowmobiling: Another snowtravel option.

Snow is piling up around the October Country Inn.

Snow is piling up around the October Country Inn.

We’re about half way through February and the snow continues to pile up around the October Country Inn.  Snow’s an important component if you like to play in it.  And, that’s what our Winter guests usually like to do.  Fortunately, the October Country Inn is perfectly situated.  Besides endless acres of public forestland, there are three downhill ski resorts, four nordic ski centers, and an ice skating rink all within a short drive.  October Country Inn is also situated close to a public snowmobile trail.  Many of our guests arrive on their snowmobile, stay the night, and have a hearty breakfast in the morning before getting back on the trails.

Snowmobiles are called “sleds.”

Snowmobilers exploring the winter woods.Riding snowmobiles, called “sleds” by enthusiasts, is a popular wintertime recreational activity.  There are 225,000 miles of groomed and marked snowmobile trails in the U.S. and Canada developed by volunteer clubs working with local government and private landowners.  In Vermont alone, there are over 5,000 miles in the Vermont Association of Snow Travelers (VAST) trail network.  VAST, like similar organizations in other states and provinces, develops and maintains this trail network for all to enjoy.  All the trail networks of the various New England states and abutting Canadian provinces connect to each other and make long distance snowmobile touring a possibility.  And there are many that take advantage of this possibility.

We’re very close to VAST trails.

October Country Inn is very near a snowmobile trail.

October Country Inn is very near a snowmobile trail.

Just last Tuesday, we got a call from Mark.  He and his three buddies had ridden their snowmobiles from their homes in Connecticut, and were on their way to Canada.  They had taken a week off work for this adventure, and by the time they arrived at the October Country Inn Tuesday night they were more than half way there.

We’ll take care of you.

After a good nights sleep, a hearty country breakfast, and a quick trip to the local snowmobile shop for parts, they poured over their maps, picked their route, donned their snowmobile pants, jackets, and helmets and were on their way.  I’m sure they’ve reached Canada by now, or they are very close.  Like for Mark and his buddies, the possibilities are endless.  More than once, some hearty snowmobilers have made the trip from Alaska to northern Maine.  All you need is desire, a snowmobile, a sense of adventure, and lots of snow.  Stop at the October Counry Inn along the way.  We’ll take care of you.

By |2021-01-09T15:44:46-05:00February 19th, 2015|Winter Fun|

Adaptive snowsports: Pico ski resort wants everybody to have fun.

Alpine skiing for the blind.

Alpine skiing for the blind.

All of the New England states except Vermont have declared a state of emergency in preparation for Winter storm Juno.  But, here at the October Country Inn, we watch the snow fall with glee.  Because, in Vermont, more snow means more fun.  And fun in the snow is for everyone, even those not physically fit and functional.  For example, the disabled enjoy snowsports due to specialized equipment and/or techniques, Morover, if you fall into this category, come to nearby Pico Mountain Ski Resort, home to Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports.

Each individual is different.

Monoskis open up a whole new world for paraplegia.

Monoskis open up a whole new world for paraplegia.

Firstly, adaptive snowsports adapts equipment, instruction, and accessible support systems.  Secondly, it d0es this for snowsports enthusiasts with physical, mental, or developmental disabilities.  In short, it’s goal is to provide the freedom of skiing or snowboarding in the least restrictive manner possible.

Vermont adaptive works with amputees, paraplegia, and quadraplegia.  It also includes those with visual or hearing impairment, autism, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, Spina Bifida, stroke, or traumatic brain injuries.  Naturally, each lesson Vermont Adaptive teaches is tailored for the individual.  Equipment and teaching techniques are constantly changing and evolving as technology advances.

Pico has a new Adaptive snowsports facility.

Adaptive athlete snowboards.Founded in 1987, Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports has been located at Pico Mountain Ski Resort since 1999.  They now have a new, state-of-the-art, 6,000 square foot facility.  This new facility greatly expands Vermont Adaptive’s ability to offer adaptive ski and snowboard clinics for all ability levels

Students may book lessons as individuals or as part of a group.  Family members or friends of the Vermont Adaptive students are invited to participate.  If interested, they can learn the adaptation needed to help their skier or rider achieve as much independence as possible.  Clinics are by appointment only and include a lift ticket, private adaptive instruction, and adaptive equipment.  Call (802) 786-4991, or visit Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports.

By |2021-01-10T11:01:55-05:00January 27th, 2015|Winter Fun|

Kinds of snow: More than you thought there was to know.

Fresh powder. This kind of snow is the holy grail for Vermont Winter fun.

Fresh powder. The holy grail for Vermont Winter fun.

Now that we’re well into Winter here at the October Country Inn, we routinely check the thermometer, and look out the window to gauge the kind of snow, before we venture outside, the best way to dress, and choice of footwear for the activity we plan to undertake given the differing types and conditions left by our most recent snowfall.   Although commonly said, it turns out that Eskimos do not have over one hundred words for kinds of snow. They probably have about as many words for snow as Vermonter’s do. After all, Vermonter’s have ample opportunity to contemplate the many ways that Winter’s moisture falls to the ground, and accumulates there, during the months from December through March.

Snowfall forms on dust in the air.

A photo of a lone tree on the crest of a snow covered hill whose branches are covered in hoarfrost, a type of snow.

Hoarfrost adorns a lone maple.

Basically, kinds of snow are formed when dust particles in the air act as a nucleus for condensation. Water vapor condenses on the dust, and as the droplet grows and is cooled, it freezes into an ice crystal. The crystal grows heavier as more water vapor condenses, and begins to fall. As it falls, continued condensation changes the crystal’s shape. The crystals clump together into snowflakes as they fall out of a cloud into warmer air.

Atmospheric conditions, such as the amount of supersaturation and temperature of the air, affects how snow crystals form, and what happens to them when they fall to the ground. Freshly fallen, unpacked, symmetrical six-sided snowflakes are called powder.  Freshly fallen snow can also become hoarfrost when it lands on a surface whose temperature is colder than the surrounding air. Graupel is the name for snowflakes that become rounded, opaque pellets, with a texture softer and more crumbly than hail. Finally, when water vapor remains more liquid, it either freezes into balls of ice before it falls to the ground as hail, or as freezing rain that falls as liquid rain and then forms a thick coat of ice on every surface it touches.

There are many kinds.

Close uo photo of grapple, a kind of snow that forms into small granular spheres.

Graupel.

Apart from the kinds of snow, snowfall can also occur in different ways. The intensity of snowfall is determined by visibility. Light snowfall occurs when visibility is over 1 kilometer (0.62 miles). Moderate snowfall occurs when visibility is restricted to between 0.5 and 1 kilometer. When visibility is less than 0.5 kilometer, snowfall is considered to be heavy.

A snowstorm occurs when large amounts of snow fall. Snowfall can be further described as a blizzard, when subfreezing temperatures and strong wind last more than 3 hours; a flurry, when snow falls for short durations with varying intensity; a squall, when snowfall is brief but intense; or a snowburst, when snowfall is very intense for a brief period. Then, once snow is on the ground, the snowpack can acquire many different characteristics, and formations. New snow is recently fallen and the original form of ice crystal can be recognized.  When it can’t be recognized, is becomes old snow.  Névé is young granular snow that partially melted, refroze, and became compacted. Névé that survives a full melt season is called firn.

Snow is no simple matter.

Freezing rain leaves a thick coat of ice on everything.

Freezing rain leaves a thick coat of ice on everything.

The further action from periods of shade or sunshine, air temperature, and surface wind can also produce differing kinds of snow formations. Corn is a type of coarse, granular wet snow typical during the Spring. Crust is a hard snow surface lying on a softer layer.  Crud covers a variety of winter conditions including windblown powder leaving crust patches and ridges, or refrozen wet snow leaving a deeply rutted surface with loose chunks (also called death-cookies).

Penitents are tall, thin, closely spaced pinnacles of hardened snow ranging in height from a few inches or a few feet. Sastrugi occurs when wind erodes or deposits snow in irregular grooves and ridges. A cornice on the edge of a ridge is an overhanging accumulation of ice and wind-blown snow.  A barchan is a horseshoe-shaped snowdrift with the ends pointing downwind. Snow cups are a pattern of shallow, bowl-shaped hollows that form during intense sunshine.  As you can see, there’s a lot to be considered when preparing for a day of Winter fun in Vermont.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By |2021-01-10T11:21:30-05:00January 14th, 2015|Winter Fun|

Dogsledding: Another kind of Vermont Winter fun.

Two dogsled teams side by side.Winter snowfall came early to the October Country Inn this year.  Trees bend under a heavy load of snow, and the forest floor is knee-deep in sparkling white stuff.  And since temperatures have been mild, the full range of winter activities are at play.  One such activity we haven’t yet written about is dog sledding.  Dog pulled sleds used for winter travel in snow bound places has been largely replaced by snowmobiles.  However, there are still those romantic individuals who stick to the old ways.  Kathy Bennett and Alex MacLennan, of Braeburn Siberians in nearby Windsor, Vermont, for example. They invite you to join them.  Take a winter dog sledding adventure on local trails behind a team of their Siberian Huskies.

Dogsledding rides are available each Winter.

Little girl gives some loves to a sled dog.Braeburn Siberians offers a variety of options from 45 minute rides, to 4 hour excursions, as well as options for any variety of special events.  Each ride begins with a dog meet and greet, complete with snuggles and photos! Then you hop aboard the sled, they say to the dogs, “Everybody ready? Let’s go!”, and off you go!  Then there are stops on the trail for more dog snuggling and photo ops.  Rides begin at Great River Outfitters in Windsor, Vermont for exhilarating runs on carefully groomed trails through scenic fields and woods along the Connecticut River with views of Mount Ascutney

Sleddogs are Siberian Huskies.

Two huskies rest in the snow.The Siberian Husky was originally developed by the Chukchi people of northeastern Siberia as an endurance sled dog and to herd reindeer.  During the short summers, they roamed free on the tundra fending for themselves while developing a highly socialized pack behavior.  During the long Siberian winter the dogs provided warmth to the Chukchi people by living in the houses where children were encouraged to play with them.  These two historical activities put predatory drive and a desire to run as well as a strong need for a pack, either canine or human, into the Siberian Husky’s genetic code.

Dogsleding is a rare opportunity.

Take advantage of a rare opportunity that only a rural state like Vermont could offer.  Try a dog sledding adventure.  Share the riches that these friendly hardworking Siberian Huskies offer: unconditional loving and travel in a traditional time-honored way.  There are few things more exhilarating and therapeutic than riding behind a team of canine partners on a pristine, Vermont winter day, or under a dark sky filled with stars.

 

 

By |2021-01-10T11:28:33-05:00December 21st, 2014|Winter Fun|

Backcountry Skiing: Catamount Trail Association courses.

Cross-country skiing across a frozen lake.The first Northeaster of the Winter visited nearby Woodstock and the October Country Inn a little earlier than usual this season.  Consequently, a good foot of snow now blankets the hillsides.  Therefore, this provides a visual cue that it’s time to prepare for Winter fun.  For many of our guests, this means backcountry skiing.  If this is a brand of Winter fun that interests you, the Catamount Trail Association sometimes offers instructional courses.

Introductory backcountry skiing c0urses:

cross-country ski instructor teaches students.

An Introduction course to Overland Touring is for the new skier.  Especially those looking to try point-to-point backcountry touring on the Catamount or  similar trails.  And for those using lightweight nordic touring equipment.  The course will emphasize skill demonstration, practice, evaluation, and feedback.  Likely participants might not be familiar with nordic skis.  However, it requires some skiing experience, and interest in getting off the beaten path.  The course covers different equipment types, layering strategies, moving forward efficiently.  It include stopping/speed control, turning, and basic uphill technique.  The goal of this course is to introduce and reinforce the basic skills required for an easy tour over gently rolling terrain.  Once comfortable with the skills presented during this course, you will be ready for the Intermediate Overland Touring course.

Intermediate courses:

An Intermediate Overland Touring course takes the form of a teaching tour.  The group will explore easier backcountry trails in search of teachable moments.  The emphasis during this course will be learning by doing.  Topics similar to those in the introductory course will be covered.  You will be practicing these skills and putting them to use under slightly more challenging conditions.  Once comfortable with the skills presented, you will be ready to participate in one of Catamount Trail Association’s introductory day tours.

Photo of a group of three nordic skiiers navigating a patch of ungroomed snow through the woods.Learn to Telemark ski.

A Telemark Turn Clinic is often held at nearby Pico Mountain.  Most importantly, this course is for skiers looking to tackle more challenging terrain, or those who want to spice up tours by being able to take better advantage of skiable downhill areas.  So, this course will take place on easy, lift accessed, downhill terrain at a ski resort, and will emphasize skill demonstration, practice, and technique evaluation.  In other words, this is an introductory level class for the beginning and intermediate Telemark skiers looking to develop and refine their skills

Backcountry instruction.

An Introduction to Mountain Touring course aims at expert level skiers new to backcountry exploring.  This course takes the form of an instructional tour and covers layering strategies, what it means to be prepared, navigation, efficient touring and uphill techniques.  At the end of the course you will be more prepared to safely spend a full day in the backcountry.

 

By |2021-01-10T11:49:07-05:00November 30th, 2014|Winter Fun|

Vermont Antique Ski Racing: A rare opportunity.

A vintage category skier charges down the slopes at Vermont's Antique Ski Races.

A vintage category skier charges down the slopes at Vermont’s Antique Ski Races.

One reason to book a weekend stay at the October Country Inn is a rare opportunity to  join in celebrating the evolution of Vermont snowsports at Killington Ski Resort’s  annual antique alpine ski racing to be held at Killington’s Pico Mountain  The Vermont Antique Ski Race raises funds to help support the Vermont Ski and Snowboard Museum.

Antique ski racing is open to all.

Being pulled uphill with the rope tow wasn't easy, but it beat walking.

Being pulled uphill with the rope tow wasn’t easy, but it beat walking.

Racing is open to all.  If you have the gear, enter the strictly vintage category. It requires pre-1975 boots, bindings, and skis.  Click this link for more information.

Speaking of antique skiing, the area in and around nearby Woodstock, Vermont oozes with ski history.  Skiing remnants exist from as far back as 5,000 years ago.  But skiing in the United States only dates back to the 1800s.  Back then, if you wanted to ski down a hill, you had to hike up it first.

Famous Gilbert’s Hill.

The historic marker outside of Woodstock, Vermont points to the site of Gilbert's Hill.

The historic marker outside of Woodstock, Vermont points to the site of Gilbert’s Hill.

This all changed in 1934.  when the first version of a ski lift, a motorized rope tow, appeared at Gilbert’s Hill outside of Woodstock.  A few pulleys, a lot of rope, and a Model T Ford powered the first motorized method of uphill travel for skiers.

 

By |2021-01-11T15:20:58-05:00March 12th, 2014|Winter Fun|
Go to Top