Active Outdoors: March skiing at its best
Ever hear of Landgrove, Vt.? No? I didn't think so. It's a very small town hidden among other very small towns in southern Vermont.
Put in Active Outdoors terms, it's on the western edge of the Green Mountain National Forest, roughly 30 minutes north of Stratton (www.stratton.com), 30 minutes south (and a little west) of Okemo (www.okemo.com), 15 minutes northeast of Bromley (www.bromley.com), and 15 minutes northwest of Magic Mountain (www.magicmtn.com).
It's also about 10 minutes from Wild Wings Ski Touring Center (www.wildwingsski.com) and a community group grooms and maintains the Landgrove Community Trails (landgrove.vermont.gov/landgrove-community-trails.html), a 10 km network of beautiful classic ski trails. The famed Catamount Ski Trail (catamounttrail.org) runs right through Landgrove.
If you like to ski, Landgrove is the center of a very small, but wonderful alternate universe.
Obviously there's a piece missing in this picture, and that's a place to sleep and eat and relax, when you aren't being Active Outdoors. The Landgrove Inn (www.landgroveinn.com), is a truly wonderful old-timey-feeling country inn, owned and run by Tom and Maureen Checchia, with comfy-cozy rooms and an absolutely fabulous restaurant. This is one of our "secret getaways." We usually go in March, when the days are long, the sun is bright and the snow is deep.
Speaking of skiing, the Landgrove Inn also happens to be the headquarters for the Landgrove Ski Trails and the common room is the social center for local XC skiers, especially on weekends. This is a fun group of people who love the outdoors, with trails manager Carl-Eric Westberg serving as spiritual leader. Hint: Try Carl-Eric's glügg (pronounced gluug), a fortified mulled hot wine made from an old family recipe. A cup in front of the roaring fire in the fireplace is, literally, a perfect way to relax after a day of skiing.
With so much skiing close by, and so much snow on the ground still, March is the perfect time to go exploring around Landgrove. Life isn't a spectator sport. Get out and enjoy!
We started our getaway with a sunny Sunday of skiing with friends Steve and Roxanne Williams at Okemo (www.okemo.com) in Ludlow, Vt. It's rare to find two couples who can all comfortably ski together, but Roxanne is a part-time ski instructor and Steve is a strong skier in his own right, and we had a great time.
It was the first morning of Daylight Savings Time, and as a result, most people were late getting to the mountain it seemed. We met at "The Roundhouse" at Jackson Gore (which has to be one of the best base lodges in eastern skiing, and were suited and booted, and on the chairlift shortly after it began turning. While you always hope for warm days in March, we got a one-day cold snap, dressed for the weather and not our wishes, and enjoyed what I can only describe as perfect mid-winter conditions.
On this sunny, cold morning, we headed straight for the South Peak and Glades Peak quads to take full advantage of the strong March sun. A brisk west wind kept us company as we rode up the lifts, but, as I said, we were dressed for it. These two lifts are off the beaten path, and one or another is usually ignored by most of the skiers on the mountain.
The ungroomed trails were decidedly scratchy after a melt the previous day and an overnight re-freeze, but Okemo's trail crew delivered a soft layer of winter corduroy on top of a firm base on all of the groomed trails we tried. Our first two hours or so were as enjoyable as could be; we made run after fast run before most other people hit the slopes. By the time we started to see anything like a line on any of the lifts, our legs were pretty much shot for the day.
After a great dinner at the Landgrove Inn and a very comfy overnight (making up for the hour of sleep we'd lost the night before), and a hearty, made-to order breakfast, we headed out to find to an inch of new snow on top of a crust -- ideal conditions for an easy day of XC skiing. On this gorgeous day, we had the trails to ourselves and plenty of time to explore.
If you are looking for a real variety of trails, from easy, flat, beginner terrain to challenging hills to climb up and ski down, I'd suggest you take yourself over to nearby Wild Wings Ski Touring. They have it all.
We were looking for easy and relaxed, and the Landgrove Community Trails gave us exactly what we wanted. Most of these trails are on flat farm fields and meadows. The new inch of snow provided perfect grip for the scales on the bases of our skis, and we could glide along almost effortlessly. The trail system connects to miles of snowmobile trails, great for skiing on a quiet Monday. Along the way, we saw unfolding views of the scenery Vermont is famous for. It doesn't get any better.
Spring comes to Bromley
Maybe it's the wisdom that comes with age, but our favorite skiing of the year is in the spring when the snow is deep and the sun is warm. Bromley Mountain delivered a perfect spring day for the last day of our getaway. Bromley faces south, so it's a great mountain to ski on any blue-sky day. Spring arrives here earlier than most places. Other mountains can be frozen solid, yet the sun will soften the snow nicely at Bromley.
Bromley is a fun mountain with lots of intermediate terrain, a few easy greens that let beginning skiers venture to the top of the mountain, and a couple of steep black diamonds to challenge better skiers. They'd groomed almost the whole mountain the night before, the temperature stayed above freezing all night, under a light cloud cover and the snow was pure delight. On top, it was smooth and fast; about halfway down it transitioned to buttery smooth spring snow with wax required to keep you moving. There was enough breeze blowing to keep you from overheating, you just couldn't ask for better conditions. If you like spring snow, try Bromley in mid March, chances are you'll find what you are hoping for.
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