Published: February 2009The Big Trip: Hut-to-Hut Skiing
Map: Peru

Moving Mountains

North America’s hut-to-hut ski circuits upgraded the classic European model—but left out the crowds.

Text by Robert Earle Howells
Photograph by Brian Mohr/Ember Photography

The most spectacular of hut-to-hut trails, the Haute Route through the French and Swiss Alps, is also spectacularly crowded: Cross-country pilgrims share the circuit with about 200 other skiers each day, then bunk with them at night in huge dorms festooned with sopping garments. Thankfully, you don’t have to schlep all the way across the pond for a jaw-dropping Nordic tour. North America has built its own portfolio of equally impressive hut-to-huts in the years since WWII, when at least one veteran who had served as a special ski trooper in Europe returned home and later re-created the famous Alps circuits in his own backyard. The trend took hold from there, and the results, from steep Rocky Mountain runs to rolling North Woods loops, are more remote—and far less trodden—than the Alpine classics they mimic. And with what you save in airfare to Chamonix, you could make tracks to more than one.

1. Vermont
Indulge on the Green Mountains’ Red-Carpet Route

For skiers who like their accommodations extra cushy, the Catamount Trail through the Green Mountains reigns supreme: It was created to link plush cross-country ski inns and lodges. The 300-mile route runs from Readsboro, Vermont, to the Canadian border through a mix of parks and private land, so skiers pass through a pastiche of villages, farm valleys peppered with barns and Holsteins, and thick national forest. The 60-mile, four-night stretch between Sections 19 and 24 is an ideal primer. Start at Mad River Barn near Sugarbush Valley. From there, it’s down the flank of Camels Hump, in and out of groomed segments, to the resort town of Stowe. Along the way are generous doses of storybook New England: split-rail fences and old stone walls, country stores and great home cooking—about as much quaintness as anyone on two sticks can handle.

Vitals: Outfitter Country Inns Along the Trail sets up self-guided packages with luggage transfer (four nights, $699; inntoinn.com). Or tag along with the Catamount Trail Association ($35 membership; catamounttrail.org) on a three-day tour (February 6–8; lodging not included), a nine-day tour (February 14–22; $50 deposit), or a six-day tour (March 5–10).

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