By Steve Lotspeich of Waterbury. Now that winter and some reliable snow has arrived in our area, there are great opportunities for back country skiing and snowshoeing. There are many trails, woods roads, and park and public roads that are closed in the winter and offer terrain for all ability levels in the Byway area. A favorite trek for those new to these sports is in “Smugglers'” Notch on Route 108 north of Stowe Mountain Resort and south of Smugglers Resort, where it is gated off in the wintertime. A few other options for outings are Little River State Park in Waterbury, the Sterling Valley trails in Stowe, and sections of the Catamount trail extending south to the Bolton Valley Resort and north through Stowe into Morristown and beyond.
There are also trail networks accessed from Bolton Valley Nordic Center, Trapp Family Lodge Nordic Center, Stowe Mountain Resort Cross Country Ski Center, and Smugglers Resort Nordic Ski & Snowshoe Adventure Center. These facilities also rent snowshoes and back country ski equipment. For maps of the Catamount Trail and other trails, check on-line or stop by the Nordic centers listed above, the Green Mountain Club in Waterbury, Umiak Outdoor Outfitters in Stowe, and other sports stores in our area. Umiak Outdoor Outfitters also offers rentals as well as guided snowshoe and back country ski tours in the area.
Here are a few words of caution and safety if you are venturing out into our winter wonderland on snowshoes, skis or split snowboards. It is best to “buddy up” with a friend or family member. Take your cell phone and a small first aid kit in case of an emergency. Stay on marked trails to avoid dangerous hazards such as “spruce holes” that form under smaller evergreens in the deep snow, and snow bridges over streams that can collapse. If you cross or take sections of the VAST snow machine trail system, be aware of snow machines sneaking up on you. Match your ability to the trail and most of all, have fun!