When winter gives you cabin fever, head for a different cabin — one nestled in the woods, accessible only by cross-country skis or snowshoes. Gliding and clomping through the snow is the perfect activity for families who never caught the downhill-skiing bug. It's also a total-body workout, burning as many as 1,000 calories per hour — take that, sugar cookies. BabyBjörns, fleece buntings and ski trailers allow infants to get in on the action, too, while fat biking offers a new option for pedaling through the powder.
Below are 10 family-friendly spots for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in Vermont, all of which offer rental gear. Once you're hooked, you can find your own setup at Burlington's Skirack and Outdoor Gear Exchange, or South Burlington's Alpine Shop, among other retail locations. So bundle up and get into the snowy woods. From investigating animal tracks to enjoying the peaceful, frost-covered landscape, an outdoor adventure may be the perfect way to keep the winter blues away.
Blueberry Hill Ski Center, Goshen
This ski and snowshoe center, located in the Moosalamoo National Recreation Area, makes for a marvelous spot to explore 50 kilometers of trails. Drop off your donation ($10 suggested) at the ski center, then return there for hot soup when you're sufficiently chilled. blueberryhillinn.com/ski
Bolton Valley, Bolton
While the masses schuss down the alpine slopes at this ski area, savvy locals know to head for the 100-kilometer nordic trail system, which includes 15 kilometers of groomed trails — then hit the hot tub and pool at the Sports Center (membership required). boltonvalley.com
Catamount Outdoor Family Center, Williston
Killer views of Mount Mansfield and Camel's Hump, along with a sledding hill and more than 35 kilometers of skiing and snowshoe trails, make this farmhouse and surrounding land a must-see in winter. catamountoutdoorfamilycenter.com
Craftsbury Outdoor Center, Craftsbury
Hot cocoa and cookies reward cross-country skiers and snowshoers who make it to the Charley's Cabin warming hut at this royal recreation site in the Northeast Kingdom, which offers 85 kilometers of trails. Snowmaking, meanwhile, ensures plenty of white stuff throughout the winter. craftsbury.com
Kingdom Trails, East Burke
A new Nordic center awaits visitors to these venerable trails, which offer 15 kilometers of groomed surfaces for cross-country skiing and 30 kilometers for snowshoeing. Look out for wonderful views of Willoughby Gap and what's been called "the prettiest mile in Vermont" on Darling Hill. kingdomtrails.org
Mountain Top Inn & Resort, Chittenden
With more than 30 years of continuous operation, this is the oldest commercial ski touring center in the U.S. It offers 60 kilometers of trails and wide-open meadows for comfortable cruising. It also offers horse-drawn sleigh rides, ice skating on a 740-acre lake and snowmobiling. mountaintopinn.com
Rikert Nordic Center, Ripton
Slicing through the Bread Loaf Campus of Middlebury College, Rikert Nordic Center has more than 55 kilometers of trails for snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and fat biking. Look out for the Middlebury College Panthers training and racing on the Tormondsen Family Race Course and for Robert Frost's summer cabin, deep in the Green Mountain National Forest. rikertnordic.com
Sleepy Hollow Inn Ski & Bike Center, Huntington
This inn really wakes up in the winter, when 35 kilometers of cross-country and snowshoeing trails come alive with kids and elite racers alike. Consider making the pilgrimage to Butternut Cabin, one mile from the main lodge, where families can spend the night (must reserve in advance). skisleepyhollow.com
Trapp Family Lodge, Stowe
The hills are alive with skiers and snowshoers at the singing von Trapps' 2,500-acre resort, where 37 miles of groomed trails and 62 miles of backcountry trails offer panoramic views of Stowe. The new, family-friendly Bierhall serves as base camp; fuel up on bratwurst before skiing or snowshoeing up to the Slayton Pasture Cabin to warm up by the fire. trappfamily.com
Intervale Center, Burlington
In winter, a short but sweet three-mile cross-country ski trail weaves through Burlington's snow-covered farms. Wintervale, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on February 12 and March 12, offers free ski and snowshoe rentals, food and drink for purchase, and kids' activities. intervale.org
This article was originally published in Seven Days' monthly parenting magazine, Kids VT.
Springtime in Vermont is a never-ending grab bag of surprises. One day, it might be dumping powder at Stowe, Sugarbush and other ski resorts. The next day, a thaw may turn dirt roads into muck in the foothills of the Green Mountains. But don't let yourself get stuck inside during Vermont's infamous mud season. The trick to getting fresh air during these spring months is to know which recreational areas to hit when. Here's a guide to some outdoor options.