Helen, 3 year old Johannes and I started a winter 2021/22 adventure to ski all 23 of the cross country ski areas that are part of the Ski Vermont reciprocal pass program. If you get a season pass at any participating area you can get one free day ticket at every other ski area. For us it is an underutilized perk that we’re going to try to maximize this winter, and it will motivate us to get out for some local adventuring.
In partnership with Fischer and Skirack, we present Tour De Hollenbach: Stops 1 through 7 which includes:
- Sleepy Hollow Inn
- Camel’s Hump Nordic
- Memphremagog Trails
- Jay Peak Resort
- Catamount Outdoor Family Center
- Trapp Family Lodge
- Rikert Nordic Center
Stop #1: Sleepy Hollow Inn | Huntington, Vermont
Posted Date: December 30, 2021
First stop was our cross country skiing home base of Sleepy Hollow Inn in Huntington, VT. It’s where we’ve been getting season passes for years, and honestly a good part of the reason we live where we do (about 8 minutes down the road from Richmond). Sleepy Hollow initially comes off as a pretty rustic / Vermont-y feeling, but you soon realize it has all the modern trimmings - lighted night skiing, snow making, electric car charging…and soon one of the very first electric groomers.
Getting skis on by the lodge, kids have to go right up or down right away - but I suppose that’s just good training for learning to cross country ski in Vermont anyways. We head up and there’s a great field at the top of the hill called Molly’s Meadow where we can ski around and play games. Johannes knows all the groomers by name and loves to stop and talk shop with them.
Helen and I got married here in 2012 and have enjoyed a great many skis here together over the years. I think the Hinesburg Hill Loop has to be our favorite trail. Anyone who’s skied it on a morning after a fresh snow would probably agree that the snow has a special sparkle over there. And it’s hard not to hoot and holler a bit on the downhills!
Stop #2: Camel’s Hump Nordic | Huntington, Vermont
Posted Date: December 31, 2021
The second stop on our winter adventure was Camel’s Hump Nordic also in Huntington, VT. We live embarrassingly close to Camel’s Hump Nordic to say we had never skied there before. Helen and I have biked through there on adventure rides in the mountains during the summer, but had never been there to ski before.
Arriving at Camel’s Hump Nordic you are likely to second guess your navigation and wonder if you are in the right place. You are - the parking, warming hut, and trail map board have the feeling of a logging operation, but you’re in the right spot. High above the village of Huntington, the trails are located in a spectacular location with really unique topography. I had always held the assumption that most of the trails were backcountry trails and / or roughly groomed. And while the ski area does host some of the best backcountry nordic trails in Vermont, there is a brand new shiny PistenBully groomer and some great family friendly trails - fun twisty wooded trails and some cool high meadows.
Johannes needed a snack break mid ski, and after a careful consideration of his numerous options (Helen stuffs her pockets), he selected an on-the-go applesauce pack. We definitely do our best to keep him topped off on our ski days, but there are sure to be some hangry melt downs as we pursue this adventure.
We had fun with the bonus activity of searching for and following dog paw prints on our ski. Camel’s Hump Nordic hosts a large amount of dog allowed trails (many trails, but not all) and we even came across some very friendly ski dogs in the woods.
Stop #3: Memphremagog Trails | Newport/Derby, VT
Posted Date: Posted Date: January 2, 2022
The third stop on our winter journey brought us to the Memphremagog Trails in Newport/Derby, VT. A light snow in Richmond turned into a nice snowy day by the time we arrived in Newport, close to the Canadian border. We pulled into a small snowy parking area and got ourselves quickly ready to move and grabbed a map from the welcome board.
After being a little unsure at first as we drove in we quickly realized these trails are really family/kid friendly. We stayed on the west-side trails which go down out of the starting field and into a fun maze of wooded ski trails, which all lead down toward a nice groomed bike path. There are also some really fun looking fat bike trails which snake around in the woods that we could see from the ski trails. Helen and I have never really gotten into fat biking, but we both agreed that these trails looked really fun.
The ski trails had a good amount of signage, which was really helpful as we meandered through the woods. Snack of the day was a modern classic, the Clif Zbar. Johannes inhaled it while also giving a soliloquy about John Henry building the railroads and whether or not John Henry liked to ski (he did). Then, Johannes and I had a fun time laughing as we skied back to the car as fast as we could trying to stay away from a chasing momma, who was delayed putting on her own skis post snack.
The trails had been groomed well, maintained some coverage through the New Year’s Eve warm-up, and were skiing perfectly with the fresh snow on top. We would seriously recommend heading up, over, or down to Newport to check these trails out!
Stop #4: Jay Peak Resort | Jay, VT
Posted Date: Posted Date: January 4, 2022
Stop number four was the Giant of the North: Jay Peak Resort in Jay, VT. It was a mildly snowy day across much of Vermont, but like always Jay was getting just a bit more snow than anywhere else. I had heard good things over the last few years about how the Nordic Center was being run out of the golf course clubhouse. Unfortunately it looks like that is over, and the website directed us to the rental counter inside the Tram House Lodge.
This made for confusing logistics to park, check-in, and access the trail head considering that we had an early afternoon tired 3 year old (a very cute ticking time bomb). We finally got ourselves sorted and decided to abandon Johannes’ skis at the car and make use of his trusty orange sled.
Helen took sled duties and told me to head out for an exploratory mission. I “skate skied” through some awesome ungroomed high terrain and really marveled at the quality and quantity of snow and how beautiful the forests are. Fischer RCRs are my trusty day-to-day skis of choice and have gotten me through some good water bar jumping adventures. I finally made my way back down, through the golf course trails (which have awesome views), and back to Helen and Johannes. Helen had pulled him all the way up the Ullr’s Woods trail and they had enjoyed a ripping sled/ski descent. It was a little white knuckle for mom, so no video footage exists.
Amazing snow, super fun up and down terrain, confusing logistics. Beginners may enjoy snowshoeing a touch more here, experienced skiers will be coming back for more. I definitely will.
Stop #5: Catamount Outdoor Family Center | Williston, VT
Posted Date: Posted Date: January 9, 2022
Stop five on our Vermont XC ski tour was a game time decision to head over to Catamount Outdoor Family Center in neighboring Williston, VT. A surprise morning of freezing drizzle had changed the snow quite a bit, and we decided it best to not use such challenging conditions to explore a totally new to us ski center. That being said, we actually haven’t spent that much time there in the winter - even though we are summer regulars for mountain bike riding.
Catamount is now run as a non-profit town forest by the town of Williston, and happily not much has changed since the days the McCullough family ran it. Assuming you aren’t foolish enough to come to ski on a windy afternoon…after an ice storm…with a three year old, you’ll find a user friendly straightforward affair; easy parking and check in, good rentals to be had, and pretty beginner friendly terrain.
Catamount is a great place to go skiing after a couple inches of fresh snow - there’s no big groomer, so packing down deep snowfalls or breaking up crunchy ice doesn’t happen.
I think the lesson for Helen and I today was that for a three year old, any day can be a good ski day. Helen and I were a bit mopey heading out to start our ski, but Johannes happily skittered, laughed, and skied his way around a full perimeter loop of the lower “wood-side” trails. He surprisingly found the slippery conditions more funny than frustrating and played lots of games with sticks blown down by the strong winds. He even wanted to read his skiing book when we got home.
Stop #6: Trapp Family Lodge | Stowe, Vermont
Posted Date: January 14, 2022
A mid-week date ski found Helen and I making stop number six at Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, VT. Arguably the most famous name in Vermont cross country ski Centers (for reasons I probably don’t have to sing about), Trapps was a perfect spot for a mid-week ski. Helen and I have some great memories there from over the years, it’s reasonably close but feels pretty different from Richmond, and it has enough big hilly terrain that it’s fun to take advantage of without Johannes (sorry!).
For the date ski I took out some of the demo Fischer Nordic Speedmax boots and skis from the Skirack for Helen to try and waxed them up with some Vauhti Wax LDR Pro. For the non-tech folks, this is kind of like having caviar for brunch - treat yourself! Needless to say she liked the gear and we effortlessly zipped away from the lodge and up towards the iconic Trapps cabin via the Haul Road trail.
Trapps is the oldest commercial cross country ski center in the United States and we have had some amazing days skiing on all of their many trails. As we skied Helen and I debated over what were the best trails and names like Hairline, Skater’s Waltz, and Aither Trail came to mind. In the end we settled on the descent of Oslo trail as our favorite - it is some of the most fun you can have on cross country skis anywhere.
These days Trapps unfortunately isn’t hosting as many races and events for cross country skiing as it has in the past, but they’re putting some amazing energy into crafting some tasty beer and mountain bike trails. And of course a (date) ski day in Stowe isn’t complete without a couple of slices and a fountain soda (or PBR) from Piecasso! Don’t worry, Johannes will be back for stop number seven.
Stop #7: Rikert Nordic Center | Ripton, Vermont
Posted Date: January 17, 2022
It was race day for stop number seven - the Silver Fox Trot skate race at Rikert Nordic Center in Ripton, VT. Rikert is run by Middlebury college and rates as a 10 out of 10 on the idyllic Vermonty’ness scale. It’s a writer’s retreat in the summer months for the college, and a top class Nordic center in the winter.
Helen, Johannes and I packed up the car and headed down to Ripton for the easy afternoon race start. We checked in at registration, got my race bib and chatted with lots of ski friends. I headed out to warm up and Helen took Johannes out to explore. I caught up with them for a good luck “skier’s kiss” and Johannes had much to tell me about chasing all the skiers, a tractor he’d seen, and all the snow making equipment (which he is very enamored with).
The race used about half of Rikert’s full 5k race loop with snow making. The course is a series of climbs with fast descents that don’t offer much recovery. Overconfident from a couple pretty good Wednesday night practice races, and excited to have Helen and Johannes there, I went out too fast. And so, I blew up, and finished much slower and sloppier than I had started. Cross country skiing racing especially is like that - up and down.
Many Nordic racers know Rikert well, but maybe only know the race loop and close by trails for warm-up and cool-down. If you’re in this group, take the time some day soon to go and ski a long loop around the back on the Frost Trail. You’ll be happy you did!
Post race Johannes happily chugged a hot chocolate and was ready to do some racing of his own. The man made snow, which is a godsend to allow for early season or low snow skiing, is a bit tricky for little kids. The winter looks to have finally kicked into gear though and we should have some especially snowy ski days to come. Hooray!
For all Tour De Hollenbach stops, follow my Instagram account at @jakehollenbach
- Jake Hollenbach,
Skirack Nordic Specialist
Click here to learn more about Jake.