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Kingdom Trails: Vermont's Fat Bike Mecca

 Kingdom Trails in Vermont attracts fat bikers to 30 miles of groomed trails

Kingdom Trails in Vermont attracts fat bikers to 30 miles of groomed trails

Fat bikes, dubbed the "Hummers of the two-wheelers' world" are proliferating with more than 150 cross country (XC) ski areas in North America that welcome fat bikes on their snow covered trails. These specially-made bicycles that accommodate ultra-wide tires that can be run at very low pressure 4-8 pounds of pressure allow fat bikes to roll over soft, slippery surfaces like snow. XC ski areas and regional pockets across the nation from Vermont to Michigan and Arizona to California and Washington now have fat bike trails with single track groomed and signed trails and rental bikes, and special events.

 First timer fat bikers get some pointers before heading downhill

First timer fat bikers get some pointers before heading downhill

A small group of North American Snowsports Journalist Association members were recently introduced to fat biking by the welcoming folks at Kingdom Trails in Lyndonville, VT. The group found the bikes easy to balance and maneuver. Similar to XC skiing, the fat bikes provide exercise when going on flat terrain with more effort required up hills earning thrills on the downhills.

An industry source (at QBP, manufacturers of fat bike brands Surleybikes and Salsacycles, boots, gloves, accessories and apparel) recently reported that 150,000-200,000 fat bikes that have been sold since 2010. These bikes provide a great way for avid cyclists to stay in shape during the winter season and they provide different recreational fun for people who are active or love the outdoors.

Fat biking at Kingdom Trails in northeastern Vermont is no small matter. It is the foremost mountain bike destination in the east with more than 40,000 day passes sold in 2017 (20% increase from the previous year) and they've quickly parlayed this notoriety into becoming a mecca for fat bikers in the winter. Kingdom Trails has 100 miles of bike trails (30 of which are used in winter for XC skiing, snowshoeing and fat biking) and works with 80 different land owners. They also host Winterbike, which is the biggest fat bike festival in the east. The organization conducted a survey of bikers showing that they are generally aged 45-60 and reportedly attract $8-10 million of business to the region!

Kingdom-Trails-Fatbike2.jpg

At Darling Hill Road in Lyndonville, the Village Sport Shop has a trailside facility adjacent to the Kingdom Trails Nordic Adventure Center renting fat bikes for $55 a day and sells the bikes ranging from $1,800 to $2,800. Fat bike products include softgoods, accessories and bikes available from companies such as Liv Bikes, Giant, and Pivot among others.

Another option for those who would like an introduction to fat biking is to have a guide at Kingdom Experiences take care of all the details. They’ve got certified instructors and want to help cyclists have an experience catered specifically to rider skill and ability levels offering kids camps, women’s clinics and getaways and more.

Kingdom Trails employs three paid groomers, who pack and maintain about 30 miles of trails. Day membership prices (day pass for trail access) are $15 a day for those aged 16-69 and $7 for youth aged 8-15. There are also year-round memberships available with an annual family membership priced at $150. Memberships and rules of fat bike etiquette can be found at the Kingdom Trails Welcome Center in East Burke or the Kingdom Trails Nordic Adventure Center on Darling Hill Road in Lyndonville.

Cross Country Skier Trends from Winter 2016-17

 XC skiing in the shadow of Mt. Washington at Great Glen Trails Outdoor Center

XC skiing in the shadow of Mt. Washington at Great Glen Trails Outdoor Center

The SIA/Physical Activity Council 2016-17 Participation Study  

The SIA Physical Activity Council 2016-17 Sports Participation Study published by Snowsports Industries America (SIA) gives a clear picture of the cross country ski population in the USA. In a nationwide survey conducted with more than 40,000 people it was projected that there were 5,059,000 cross country skiers in 2016-17 (last winter season). While this was higher than the recent years, the impact of weather makes year-to-year comparisons not trendable. When there is snow in populated areas, there is an increase in cross country skiers.

Other 2016-17 snow sport populations were:

alpine = 11,800,000; snowboard = 7,600,000; snowshoe = 3,700,000.
 Male XC skiers outnumber female XC skiers 61% to 38%.

Male XC skiers outnumber female XC skiers 61% to 38%.

The gender of cross county skiers in 2016-17 according to the survey was 61-38 percent male-female as the percentage of female participation has declined over the last few years. Another way of looking at it is that the male participation has surged 24% but that would ignore the 9% decline in the number of female cross country skiers from the previous year at a time when the total number of cross country skiers increased by 9% above the previous year.

Other demographic information included that 41% of cross country skiers had a household income above $100,000 annually.

Cross participation in other forms of recreation showed that 51% of cross country skiers are into high impact/intensity training and 42.3% walk for fitness; 39.6% are cross trainers or use elliptical motion trainers (all sounds like indoor exercise) while 39.1% go bicycling on roads or paved surfaces. The study shows that 38.6% of cross country skiers enjoy bowling and 38.4% use the treadmill (again with the indoor fitness). Interestingly the study shows hiking as an activity done by 38.4% of cross country skiers (formerly one of the top cross participation activities) and does not show alpine skiing, snowboarding or snowshoeing in the top eight cross recreational activities. Either many more of the cross country skiers became fitness junkies or something is inaccurate. Traditionally, about 40% of cross country skiers also alpine skied.

The newest information showed that there are 425,000 fat bikers and last year there were 7,000 fat bikes sold.

We're still awaiting info about the average number of days that cross country skiers participated but a few years ago it was 7.2 days and 24% of them participated 9 days or more.

Why People Try or Quit Cross Country Skiing

 There are many reasons that people do not try XC skiing

There are many reasons that people do not try XC skiing

Having someone to go with was the most significant factor that encouraged participants to go cross country skiing. Other factors that are impediments to cross country skiers include being able to go cross country ski locally, getting a lesson, having new equipment, being in better health, having more vacation time, and fewer work commitments.

Researchers in the industry point to trends such as an aging population of skiers, increasing costs of participation, accessibility and transportation difficulties to mountain areas, the urbanization of the new participant base, a lack of snow culture in new North American immigrants, and the suggestion that Millennials are too obsessed with their phones to get out on skis. Oh, and have we mentioned climate change? The snow line may be moving north more quickly.

In 1988 there were reportedly nearly 5.8 million cross country skiers in the US corresponding to a good snow year and the development of waxless skis. Can more people overcome the listed obstacles to become cross country skiers? Thanks to Ryan Combs, SIA Director of Research for sharing the study findings with XCSkiResorts.com.

 

First Person - Lapland Lake is Finn-tastic!

On a preseason visit in 2012 to Lapland Lake XC Ski & Vacation Center in Northville, NY, I was given a true taste of Finland. This is cross country skiing Finnish style from the resort owner, Olavi Hirvonen to the authentic woodburning sauna and the two resident reindeer on site.

Olavi and Ann Hirvonen have operated Lapland Lake for more than 30 years and visitors’ testimonials speak to their friendly, caring, and personal customer service that is Lapland Lake. Actually, the resort is tucked away in the town of Benson situated 60 miles northwest of Albany in the 6-million acre Adirondack Forest Reserve.

In February 2010, Olavi celebrated the 50th anniversary as a member of the 1960 US Olympic Team in Squaw Valley. He participated in two events and in the 50-kilometer distance he finished second among the US skiers. His performance was marred by a broken ski, which compelled him to proceed 1.5 miles on a single ski before he was able to obtain a replacement. Olavi applies that compulsiveness to overseeing the trail grooming and after winter storms he has the Lapland staff clearing twigs and branches off of the trails. Olavi works in the rental and repair shop, certainly a labor of love for the octogenarian, while Ann focuses on most of everything else.

The kids line up to spin on a sled upon the frozen pond, where a Finish experience called Napa Kiikku has the kids on a sled that is attached to a pole protruding through the ice. The “Ski-like-a-Finn” lesson package helps first timers to get the hang of xc skiing with rental gear, a trail pass, and a lesson. And from the looks of it, the trails are mostly on comfortable level terrain so that skiers need not climb too much or worry about out-of-control downhill experiences. There are a total of about 50 kilometers of trails with nearly 40 km that are groomed, 2.5 km lighted for night skiing and some panoramic views of nearby Woods Lake.

I sampled a small comfortable cottage called a “tupa” for overnight lodging and walked through the Lapin Tupa, which is a bigger dwelling that can be rented as private rooms by couples/individuals or shared by a larger group. The tupa where I stayed had electric heat, two bedrooms, a fully equipped kitchen, a small family room, and a woodstove. And when the snow is abundant, skiing from the front door and around the property will have you shouting tervetuloa (greetings) to others.

The Finnish Line Lodge is Lapland Lake’s main facility in a two-story building that literally rose from the ashes as it burned to the ground years ago, was rebuilt and now houses the retail store, rentals, fireside lounge area, and upstairs at the Kuuma Tupa snack bar for soup, chili, or a beverage. The Tuulen Tupa Grill is a dining room that has lunch and a catered dinner menu and it is slated for redecoration by the Hirvonen’s daughter, who is studying interior design and will undertake the project during her college break.

Lapland Lake welcomes people to cross country ski and snowshoe from kids and seniors, to ladies and teachers in weekly group programs that are scheduled. It has received the 2011 Certificate of Excellence from Trip Advisor among other recognition awards in the past. Ann Hirvonen stopped during our tour of the area and revealed that this was the spot she liked to stand at night to look at the twinkling lights of the tupas in the winter - knowing that people are enjoying it makes running Lapland Lake all worth it to her. You’ll say tavataan ladulla or “see you on the trails.” (in 2016 new owners Paul and Kathy Zahray are continuing the Lapland Lake traditions)

Plethora of Snowshoe Programs for the Family at Smuggler's Notch Resort

Smuggler's Notch Resort, known as a prime Vermont family destination has one of the most comprehensive mixes of snowshoe programs available this winter. There's snowshoe treks for families with young kids, and outings for adults or families with older kids who want a bit more in terms of the length of the trek, the topography covered, and the insights shared about the natural world and outdoor skills. On an extended Smuggler's visit, snowshoe enthusiasts can find a different guided outing to do practically each day, as well as explore the trail network on their own.

Programs are scheduled for specific days and times at different prices for adult and children so check the Smuggler's website. Special Family Snowshoe Programs that are easy include the Family Snowshoe Cider Walk, which is an educational and fun guided trek on the special kids' trail, followed by hot apple cider at the Nordic Center. The Sugar On Snow Snowshoe Trek is where you will learn a bit about the history and process of Maple Sugaring. Upon your return to the Nordic Center, enjoy a sweet treat of Sugar on Snow, a Vermont tradition.

There are snowshoe hikes to a cozy cabin and treks available to learn about Vermont history, wildlife, and ecology as well as winter survival skills and tips. Learn about the animal tracks, habitat, and local flora while experiencing the scenic winter landscape.

Intermediate snowshoers can ride to the top of the Morse lift to explore backcountry terrain at a high elevation or do a trek to learn about maple sugaring with a sample of pure maple syrup.

Smuggler's also offers private snowshoe guided adventures, where you choose your own adventure daily by appointment. Intermediate snowshoe tours include the S'Mores & Snowshoes Trek, which is a guided snowshoe trek on Wednesday's 6-7:30 PM through the woods to a rustic pavilion and bonfire. This is a beautiful backcountry experience!

The Top of the Notch Snowshoe Adventure Dinner is one of the most popular programs on Tuesdays, a dramatic and delicious dining experience atop Sterling Mountain (18 & older please). The Sterling lift transports you to The Top of The Notch, a mountain cabin lit only by candles. The renowned Hearth & Candle Restaurant serves a gourmet meal with appetizer, salad, choice of main course and a famous dessert. After dinner, work off those calories with a 40 minute snowshoe down to the Base Lodge. Advance registration at The Guest Service Desk is required. It takes off at off at 4:10 PM and the package includes lift access, snowshoes, and dinner for $69.

Dinner choices typically include seafood chowder or venison chili for the warming first course, and Vermont chicken breast with cheddar cheese and sliced apples, pork tenderloin, and vegetable lasagna for entrees. Warm apple crisp is the dessert. The cabin is a really congenial setting with candlelight and large tables. The tour around the summit is beautiful, whether you're enjoying it by starlight or with falling snow, and many of Smuggler's return guests enjoy the dinner on each visit.

Smuggler's guides recommend that snowshoers use poles. On a snowshoeing trail or in the backcountry, you never know what features lurk below the snow; you can expect to encounter at least one log to step over, snow potholes, sideslopes, deep snow and ups and downs. Poles provide additional stability in these situations. Plus, the poles provide a measure of upper body exercise, assuring a well-rounded workout. Lower Photo: Smuggler's Notch family.

Trip Report to Jackson, NH and the White Mountains

We excitedly planned a weekend trip to Jackson, N.H., because it is a true Mecca for Nordic skiers. This is the quintessential New England Nordic (XC) skiing experience with the covered bridge, white steepled church, brookside trails, and the accompanying village with all of the trappings.

Many of the trails lead right to the door of local inns, shops, and restaurants. It's no wonder that Jackson Ski Touring Foundation has been rated the top cross country ski area in the United States by the website, America's Best Online.

The Foundation is a non-profit organization chartered to maintain XC ski trails in and about the village of Jackson. There are about 75 landowners that allow trails to cross their property. Country inns are spaced throughout the region and the base lodge is a golf country club located on the village loop. The Cocoa Cabin is a warming hut serving hot cocoa on the weekend, located 3 km from the center on the gentle Ellis River Trail. Snowshoers can take a rustic narrow marked snowshoe trail from the center to reach the Cocoa Cabin.

We stopped at nearby Bretton Woods Nordic Center on the way to Jackson to ski in a snow storm for about 10 km on beautiful trails behind the Omni Mt. Washington Hotel. The grand hotel is at the southern base of the mighty Mt. Washington with 1,700 acres of spectacular scenery. This full service ski center has its own parking area and houses the ski school, rental equipment, and a retail shop with XC ski clothing and accessories. The center has a fireplace with couches and food service with tables and seating.

It was a problematic tour for my wife Kimberly, who had snow sticking to the base of her waxless skis. I tried applying a lubricant called Swix Easyglide a few times but it didn't work for more than 50 feet before the snow stuck to the skis again. In a husband-oriented display of gallantry, I switched skis with her but I couldn't get them to glide very well either.

We arrived at the Inn at Ellis River in Jackson after leaving Bretton Woods and were showed to our room-with-a-view by new innkeepers John and Mary Kendzierski. The next morning we awoke to the aroma of bacon, which while incredible, does not do justice to how good the maple bacon tastes when accompanying a choice of two hot entree specialties such as cinnamon crepe stuffed with apple filling and topped with creme fraiche or pecan praline French toast. There's also fruit, yogurt, granola, and freshly baked breads, muffins, and other breakfast treats. The breakfast tables were covered antique metal sewing treadle tables. Looking out the windows from the dining room adorned with snowman figurines, we saw frolicking squirrels hopping from tree branch to tree branch.

Behind the inn and across the Ellis River is the Ellis River Trail, one of the most popular trails from the center lodge for XC skiers and snowshoers. We first stopped by the Jackson Ski Touring Center and got my wife's skis hot waxed as we waited. The wax job worked like a charm as we left the center for a short tour through the covered bridge, ending up at the Cocoa Cabin. The skiers along the Jackson trails are mostly experienced and courteous meaning they give the right of way to downhill skiers and get out of the groomed ski tracks when appropriate. Most say hello as they pass.

We lunched on scrumptious sandwiches at the J-Town Deli & Country Store, a warm and enticing old-fashioned country store that has a bakery, beer, wine, sweets and treats. Then, we headed to our appointment for a "couples" massages at Moondance Massage. Beside massages, Moondance offers energy work, facials, and yoga classes. By the end of the massages, we were both amazed at how our respective soreness was alleviated. We noticed three more couples coming in the door at Moondance, so this apparently is a popular venture for Jackson visitors.

The "Foundation" maintains 150 km of varied and breathtaking XC ski and snowshoe trails 2 hours north of Boston. Foundation trails connect with A.M.C. trails in Pinkham Notch and White Mountain National Forest backcountry adventure trails.

Our après ski time led us to the Wildcat Inn Tavern in downtown Jackson for some live music and libations. The tavern walls display classic ski posters and some antique gear such as snowshoes and a pair of red Jarvinen XC skis. The seats in one of the rooms were built to look like double chairlifts and there were soccer jerseys from around the world pinned to the ceiling. Afterward, we dined at the nearby Christmas Farm Inn for a great dinner and dessert.

Our getaway day included a stop and tour at Great Glen Trails Outdoor Center, about ten miles outside of Jackson up the Pinkham Notch toward Gorham. The panorama view from the center of the Presidential Range and Mt. Washington is unparalleled. We skied a few cold and windy kilometers on wide whimsically-named trails such as the Great Grump Grade and Hairball Passage toward the Great Angel Warming Cabin. The trails were impeccably groomed and on our way back to the lodge we stopped by the Caddidlehopper Warming Hut and watched the Mt. Washington SnowCoach head up to treeline on the nearby Toll Road.

The White Mountains and Jackson met our expectations delivering great snow, excellent trails, and a superb weekend at a destination worthy of being named a Mecca of Nordic skiing.

Trip Report: Woodstock Inn & Resort in the Winter

The Woodstock Inn & Resort is one of Vermont's true gems for travelers. It offers warm New England hospitality amidst an atmosphere of country elegance and year round recreation. Resort facilities include the new 10,000 square-foot Spa, the Resort's Nordic Center, Suicide Six alpine ski area, the Resort's Golf Club, and a 41,000 square foot Racquet & Fitness Club. However, it's the lavish details of the wood-burning fireplaces in guest rooms, luxurious terrycloth bathrobes, and locally-made furnishings, that defines the country sophistication and completes the picture of charm and comfort at the Woodstock Inn & Resort, which rises above expectations.

The Woodstock Inn & Resort is a 142-room, AAA Four Diamond Resort and a member of Preferred Hotels & Resorts. The village of Woodstock is located in Vermont's Green Mountains with antique shops, art galleries, boutiques, restaurants, and specialty food markets in the downtown area...but if you also want recreation the Woodstock Inn & Resort delivers.

In the winter months, the inn's Racquet & Fitness Club is situated close to the inn hosting the Woodstock Nordic Center. There are partnerships between the inn and both Fischer Nordic Skis and Tubbs Snowshoes. The Nordic Center maintains some 60 kilometers of trails in the area – half of which are part of the nearby Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park. Professional instruction, ski storage, equipment sales and rental equipment are available at the ski shop, as well as a full line of clothing and accessories for cross country skiing and snowshoeing.

The Tubbs Snowshoes Adventure Center features guided tours, group teambuilding exercises, and family-friendly scavenger hunts. Beginners and experts alike will find the 30 kilometers of trails against the backdrop of the Resort's expansive grounds, with flat tracks along the babbling Kedron Brook on the golf course and more challenging uphills and downhills on the adjacent Mt. Peg property. Winter adventure-themed vacation packages are built around the Tubbs Snowshoes Adventure Center. From romantic to adventurous, there are value-packed getaways with the adventure centers designed for guests to enjoy an exhilarating way to experience the peace and tranquility of Woodstock in winter.

My wife and I enjoyed part of the Romance Excursion Package including accommodations for two nights, welcome gift basket, breakfast and a four-course dinner for two at the Red Rooster Restaurant, and a guided snowshoe trek to a four-course chef's dinner at the Mt. Tom Cabin in the national park. We also went cross country skiing on groomed ski tracks accessed from the Racquet & Fitness Club on a sunny morning followed by wonderful massages in the Spa. On the second morning, I went snowboarding at the nearby Suicide Six ski area while my wife took a yoga class at the club. Overall, we were impressed with the inn and its staff, each and every one of them. In all of our interactions, the Woodstock Inn & Resort staff was especially attentive to us, often without the need of having to ask.

On Saturday evening, we reached the Mt. Tom Cabin after crunching up about one and a half miles on snowshoes up a hardpacked snowy trail under a clear and cold starry night. The meal was prepared on a wood-burning cookstove by the Woodstock Inn's chef in a candlelight cozy setting. The evening's guide associated with the national park was a naturalist that imparted some of his knowledge about winter nature and history of the park, which is the only national park dedicated to conservation stewardship. The park's 550-acre forest is one of the oldest professionally managed forests in the USA with 400-year old hemlocks and Norway Spruce.

The inn's Main Lobby is comfortably furnished and features a 10-foot fieldstone fireplace at its center. Don't miss the newly opened Game Room, which is a hoot for the kid in all of us. It has a mix of games including a 4-foot scrabble board on the wall played with magnetic tiles, three real pinball machines, billiards, foosball, six TVs, video games, and more.

The new 10,000 square-foot spa has 10 treatment rooms, luxurious suite, tranquil men's and women's lounges, a light-filled Great Room, enclosed outdoor courtyard featuring a meditation tree and a wood sauna and a hot soaking pool. Guests can choose from a wide selection of treatments performed by licensed therapists.

The Woodstock Inn & Resort's own Suicide Six Ski Area opened in 1937, just a few years after the first ski tow in the United States was rigged up just over the ridge at Gilbert's Hill. Suicide Six has since evolved into a friendly and personal ski area that caters to families and local skiers. On Sunday morning when I visited, the slopes were covered with young local ski racers learning the ins and outs of skiing gates.

The Woodstock area offers other activities including day trips to nearby points of interest such as Simon Pearce Glass, Shackleton Furniture, or the Quechee Gorge. The Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park, is Vermont's first national park and it operates in partnership with the Woodstock Foundation, Inc, and the Billings Farm & Museum – a working dairy farm and agricultural museum that mirrors rural life in Vermont in the late 1800s.

Trip Reports to Izaak Walton Inn and Royal Gorge Ski Resort

Trip Report to Izaak Walton Inn, MT

 

Thanks to www.HighOnAdventure.com for this trip report from Essex, MT and the Izaak Walton Inn, Montana's gateway to Glacier National Park and a railfan's dream destination http://www.highonadventure.com/hoa15nov/blishak/isaac-walton.htm. Thanks to article authors Ted & Sylvia Blishak.

 

 

Trip Report to Royal Gorge Ski Resort, CA

 

For an in-depth www.HighOnAdventure.com article on Royal Gorge Ski Resort in Soda Springs, CA by Larry Turner click http://www.highonadventure.com/Hoa01dec/Royalgorge/royalgorge.htm