Wintertime fun is found at Woodstock’s Union Arena.

skatingEdie and I are pretty familiar with ice in all its varied forms about this time of year.  We left sunny southern California in 2001 to move the Woodstock, Killington corner of Vermont and buy the October Country Inn.  We wondered what a Vermont winter was going to be like .  Winter where we grew up wasn’t much different that any other time of year except that the days were shorter.

One day, in response to questions about what to expect from a Vermont winter, a neighbor shrugged his shoulders and said:  “Find something to do, you can’t hide from it.”  We think this is good advice.

hockeyFortunately,  nearby Woodstock has a great resource for winter activities, the Union Arena.  Built on the Woodstock High School grounds in 2003 to fulfill a community need for a place to play indoor ice hockey,  it has since evolved into much more.  Besides ice hockey, the Union Arena is open to the public in the winter months for recreational ice skating, figure skating, and curling.

curlingThe Union Arena is a great resource for the Woodstock and Killington communities.  Even though the Union Arena is located on the Woodstock High School grounds, it wasn’t built nor is it operated with public funds.  It was built with privately donated funds, and is operated as a non-profit organization. The Union Arena operates year-round, offering non-ice platforms for non-winter events and activities, and is available to rent for special events.

So if you should be staying at the October Country Inn sometime this winter (we’d love to meet you), or anywhere in the Woodstock to Killington area, and looking for something to do, check out the Union Arena.  They just might be offering a curling or ice hockey clinic, or figure skating lessons.  Or, lace up a pair of ice skates and get into the Vermont winter spirit.

 

 

By |2019-10-03T11:55:06-05:00January 30th, 2014|Winter Ramblings|

Free Winter advice: when a friend offers to teach you how to ski or snowboard, politely refuse (and go with a Pro).

ski2Winter at the October Country Inn is an opportunity for us to relax a little.  Because we’re close to several popular winter activity destinations; the town of Woodstock, Killington, and Okemo ski resorts, we’re often busy during the Winter holiday periods.  However, besides innkeeping duties, it’s slow enough so that I can get away with teaching snowboarding at Killington.  Consequently, I’ve spent a lot of time on the bunny hill observing as friends try to teach friends how to ski or snowboard.  It usually isn’t pretty.

It’s understandable that someone who can ski or snowboard would want to pass this fun and exciting activity on to their friends.  However, good intentions alone are insufficient.  Just because someone can get down a black diamond trail with a reasonable degree of dignity, does not mean that they have a clear understanding on exactly how they were able to accomplish this.  In fact, most don’t know.  More than being an accomplished snow slider, being able to teach skiing or snowboarding requires an understanding of the physics of sliding on snow, and being able to relate the cause and effect of anatomical posture and movements as they pertain to the control of direction and speed.  Shouting: “turn,” “turn,” “turn,” at the top of your lungs as your friend whizzes straight down the hill screaming is not usually effective coaching.  In such a situation, your friend would love to turn.  If only they knew how.

ski1If you can dance even a little bit, you can learn to ski or snowboard.  The Professional Ski Instructor’s Association, American Association of Snowboard Instructors (PSIA-AASI), is a national association that provides education and certification for professional ski and snowboard instructors.  The professional instructional programs developed and implemented by PSIA/ASSI is a step-by-step approach to take you from your first awkward day to ripping black diamonds, or shredding the park.  So, when your friend offers to teach you how to ski or snowboard, thank them for their generosity, and then go with a Pro.  You’ll be glad you did, especially if a spouse or significant other is involved.

 

By |2019-10-03T11:58:20-05:00December 31st, 2013|Winter Ramblings|

Fat tire snowbiking–yet another opportunity for Vermont Winter fun.

Fat tire bike fun in the snow.

Fat tire bike fun in the snow.

Biking on snowy back roads during the Winter is not new in this little corner of Vermont.    But we were always somewhat limited.  Studded mountain bike tires provide plenty of traction on hard-pack roads, but we didn’t get far if we ventured into even as little as 2 or 3 inches of loose snow.  Unfortunately, there were a lot of really inviting trails, such as the nearby V.A.S.T. trail network, that were inaccessible to us for this reason.

fatbikeBut things have changed.  In recent years, as new bicycle building technology has developed and new lighter and stronger materials have been incorporated, different applications have emerged.  The fat tire bicycle is one of them.  They are catching on around the world because those huge fat tires enable this type of bicycle to go where no bicycle has been able to go before.  And boy, can that be a lot of fun.

And if you can ride on the snow, you can race on the snow.

And if you can ride on the snow, you can race on the snow.

We love to ride in the Winter.  Here at the October Country Inn, we are conveniently located near access to the Chateaguay wilderness area’s network of dirt back roads. We ride these roads on traditional mountain bikes all Summer long.  But riding these same roads during the Winter is a completely different experience.  The Winter landscape, curtins of icicles dripping off bare tree branches, frozen creeks and billowy snow drifts make it seem like we’re riding on a different planet.  But, we were limited to the hard pack.  Bummer.  Now, the fat tire bikes have opened things up.  Now we can ride the V.A.S.T. trails.  They start at our door and run throughout Vermont, and beyond.  The options are endless.  O’boy, we can’t wait.

By |2019-10-03T12:00:14-05:00November 29th, 2013|Winter Ramblings|

Vermont’s Winter activity choices are sometimes V.A.S.T.

The area in Vermont’s Green Mountains near the October Country Inn is a web of scenic roads, highways, and byways.  One such lesser known network is the VAST trails system.  The Vermont Association of Snow Travelers (VAST) trails is a magical snow highway that suddenly appears every winter. It goes through back country and snow-covered mountains, secluded valleys and friendly villages. It delivers eye-stopping vistas for its travelers, and conveniently stops right at the October Country Inn’s door.

The October Country Inn’s location alongside the VAST trail network.

Since 1967, Vermont has been opening the doors to Winter’s wonders with a remarkable trail system that now totals over 5,000 miles.  These trails provide a wonderful opportunity to snowshoe, cross-country ski, or snowmobile through the woods.  If snowmobiling is your passion, or an activity you might want to explore either by renting a snowmobile or signing up with a local company for a guided tour, the VAST trail network provides almost limitless opportunity for fun.  If your visiting and just want to explore the back-country on snowshoes or cross-country ski’s, the VAST trails provide this opportunity without the worry of getting lost in the woods.

The VAST trails are just another way to enjoy Vermont Winters during the day, and still be close to a relaxing evening while kicking back next to the October Country Inn’s hearth-side woodfire’s warn glow.

By |2019-10-03T12:14:42-05:00March 31st, 2013|Winter Ramblings|

Now is your chance to learn to ski or ride at Killington

In our continuing examination of the many varieties and types of winter activities Vermont has to offer, we would be remiss without mentioning the obvious–skiing or riding.  If you may be inclined to think that skiing or riding is beyond your capacity, either physically, or economically, you may be suffering from a misconception, and cheating yourself out of having a great winter-time activity.  In relatively recent years, there has been a revolution in ski and snowboard technology, as well as in teaching methods, that greatly reduces the time it takes and difficulty of learning either or both of these activities well enough to safely have a good time.  Since Killington Ski Resort is home mountain to the October Country Inn, and the learn to ski or ride program they offer is the best in the area, as well as an extremely good deal, this is the place to go.

The Discovery Center at Killington’s Snowshed Lodge. Home of the Learn to Ski or Ridge program.

Generally speaking, it takes about three lessons to get to the point where you can navigate a beginner trail on your own with an acceptable level of confidence and control.  Of course, there is no substitute for experience in order to develop the muscle memory that will eventually make this activity completely natural and second nature, but having three lessons under your belt should go a long way toward getting you on the right track so that added practice is not just reinforcing bad habits.  For this reason, the Killington Learn to Ski or Ride program is set up to provide for three lessons, as well as future incentives for the continuing practice that will cement your new found skills in place.

The way that Killington packages their Learn to Ski or Ride program, you pay $199.00 and get the first two group lessons (class size maximum of 5), lift tickets, and equipment rental. When you have completed the first two lessons, you get a third lesson, lift ticket, and equipment rental for free.  After you have completed the third lesson, you get a free lift ticket for your fourth visit, and finally, you are issued a Killington Learner’s Permit that entitles you to 50% off the retail prices for lift tickets, lessons, or equipment rental through the end of the 2013/2014 season.  Wow!  Think about it.  This is an incredible opportunity to learn to ski or ride.  Of course, you may become addicted to the sport.  Killington would be happy to count you as a continuing customer, and we hope you’ll make the October Country Inn your home away from home.

By |2019-10-03T12:17:00-05:00February 28th, 2013|Winter Ramblings|

Ice fishing–Winter fun in Vermont just never stops!

When I moved from southern California to Vermont in 2001, I wondered how I would adjust to the image I had of ferocious New England winters.  A local Vermonter told me to find a way to enjoy winter because there’s no place to hide from it.  That was good advice.  There’s plenty to do during the Winter, and I’ve grown to look forward to this season for the specialized variety of outdoor activities that are only available at this time.  One such activity is ice fishing.

It’s usually around mid-January that the ice on nearby Echo Lake forms a good, hard layer of clear, blue ice between 4 and 6 inches thick.  This is the minimum thickness range that would be considered safe for a person or small group to venture onto the ice, fishing equipment in hand, and settle in for a fun winter activity that allows plenty of time for socializing between parents and children, relatives and friends.  There’s always a good chance of bringing home fresh fish for dinner.

Seasoned Vermont ice anglers know that there are three general ice-fishing seasons: first ice, mid-winter, and last ice.  Many believe that first ice is the most productive, as fish are actively feeding, often still in shallow water.  But first ice can be dangerous if the surface ice is not yet fully frozen to a minimum 4 inch depth.  In mid-winter, weeds along the shore die and fish tend to move into deeper water.  As light diminishes and temperatures plummet, feeding tends to slow.  But if you can locate schools of crappies, perch, or walleye in pockets of deep water, vigorous jigging and the right lures can bring success.  Last ice brings new weed growth along the shorelines, as well as more warmth and light, so fish tend to move back toward shallower water.

To begin ice fishing, you need a couple of lightly-rigged jugging poles, a few jigs and lures, small bobbers, split shot, live bait such as minnows or waxworms, a bucket to transport gear and to sit on, an ice auger, and ice skimmer.  Build yourself a tip-up.  Designs vary, but the essential feature is a flag that tips up when a fish strikes.  The example shown at left has a vertical bar that anchors the device with a pivoting horizontal bar with the fishing line dropping into the hole from one end and a small flag at opposite end.  When a fish strikes, it pulls the end with the line attached down, and tips the flag up.

By early Ferbruary, serious ice anglers have staked out their spots with a wide variety of “shanties.” Some are heated and equipped with sound systems or satellite TV.

The only equipment about which anglers totally agree on is clothing and boots.  Be sure to dress in layers, including a wind-breaking layer.  You can always shed a layer or two if you’re too warm.  The single most important item in the ice fishing wardrobe is footwear.  Insulated rubber boots, or boots with separate, thick felt liners, are the best insurance against cold feet.  Boots should fit loose enough to accommodate extra socks and to allow maximum blood circulation.  Good headgear is particularly important when ice fishing.  Up to 80% of the heat lost on a cold day leaves the body from the head and neck.

The winter access area to Echo Lake is located about 8 miles from the October Country Inn on the west shore alongside Route 100.  The lake contains large and smallmouth bass, chain pickerel, yellow perch, bullhead, and pumpkinseed sunfish.  Recreational fishing in Vermont requires is regulated by the Department of Fish and Wildlife, and requires a fishing license.  Check out their website for  details.

 

By |2019-10-03T12:19:02-05:00January 30th, 2013|Winter Ramblings|

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.

 

By |2019-10-03T12:21:32-05:00December 30th, 2012|Winter Ramblings|

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.

By |2019-10-03T12:22:37-05:00December 1st, 2012|Winter Ramblings|