Photo: ski catamount

Cross-country skiers take on the Catamount Trail.

Photograph by Caleb Kenna, Aurora Photos

By Robert Earle Howells

The country’s longest ski trail is also the most brilliantly conceived. It was dreamed up 26 years ago by three zealous backcountry skiers, one of them a cartographer, who didn’t want just a straight-shot wilderness route from the Massachusetts border to Quebec. They deliberately set out to weave together the state’s best cross-country ski areas with that most Vermont of all institutions—country inns.

So the 300-mile (483-kilometer) Catamount Trail is not just about getting from point to point. It's about savoring superb skiing along the way, which is likely to include some schussing on the side in groomed backcountry ski areas, with plenty of true wilderness in between.

To wit: Section 18 of the trail starts in Sugarbush Valley—no secrets there—but then heads north into ungroomed state park wilderness before rejoining civilization in Huntington, where a number of trailside inns serve skiers. After descending to the Winooski River Valley, the trail climbs to the Bolton Valley Resort—more groomed trails, more lodging. The next day’s trek starts off with an hour’s climb to the highest point on the Catamount before a phenomenal downhill run through open glades of birch and poplar forests to the Nebraska Valley below. When you reach the Trapp Family Lodge the next day, you get groomed runs and cushy digs at one of the best XC resorts in the country. You just might feel like singing like the kids in The Sound of Music.

So it goes on the Catamount—mellow farming valleys framed by old stone walls, chances to break trail and chances to follow trails, a couple dozen country inns, and another couple dozen touring centers along the way.

Need to Know: Maps, trail info, and a list of lodging and touring centers are available at www.catamounttrail.org. Book rooms at Bolton Valley Resort (www.boltonvalley.com) starting at $99 and the Trapp Family Lodge (www.trappfamily.com) for $180. Self-guided inn-to-inn packages can be found at www.inntoinn.com.


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