By Greg Gerdel
The recent and unexpected closing of the cross-country trail system at the Morse Farm has been met with disappointment—and understanding—among the many Nordic skiers in Central Vermont, and especially in the Montpelier area. Despite the loss, there are still many great options in the Central Vermont region, where freshly waxed skis can glide over powder.
Because the park trails are multi-use, meaning walkers, runners, snowshoers, and dogs, the skiing conditions are best when freshly groomed after a new snowfall. For novice skiers, the trail from the New Shelter up to the Tower provides the best terrain. Other trails, out to and beyond Seven Fireplaces, for instance, provide more challenging terrain for intermediate, expert, and backcountry skiing.
North Branch Nature Center
The Montpelier Parks Department also grooms a loop around the meadow at the Nature Center on Elm Street. This 2-km loop is very accommodating for skiers at all levels and connects with more advanced trails across the footbridge on the east side of the North Branch River. There, the main trail follows the east bank of the river south for another kilometer. An uphill, more challenging loop branches to the left. For a longer ski, the East Montpelier trail climbs to meet Horn of the Moon Road near the Sparrow Farm. This trail is often packed by snowmobiles but is not groomed specifically for skiing.
Montpelier High School
During the high school ski season, mid-December through early March, a one-kilometer training loop is groomed around the playing fields behind the high school. Likely the flattest ski trail in Vermont, it is the perfect place for beginners to get their footing on skis or for intermediate skiers to practice skating technique. When snow conditions allow, the Onion River Nordic Club occasionally holds sprint races under the lights. Even if you don’t ski, it’s a great opportunity to see the area’s racers fly around the course.
U-32 High School
The coaching team at U-32 has long provided a groomed network of trails on the playing fields and through the surrounding woods. These trails are open to the community for skiing, except on the weekends when the school is hosting typically large meets. On those weekends, spectators are welcome to observe the talented middle and high school Nordic skiers that Vermont is nurturing.
Other Nearby XC Centers
One of the great benefits of purchasing a season pass at one of the many Nordic ski centers in Vermont is the benefit of visiting any of the participating 30-odd areas for a one-time day pass at no charge, although it is important to note that restrictions may apply on holidays at some area. The Nordic ski centers below are within an hour’s drive (more or less) from Montpelier. Join one and explore!
Blueberry Lake, Warren
Ole’s XC, Warren
Bolton Valley, Bolton
Trapp Family Lodge, Stowe
Stowe XC, Mountain Road, Stowe
Sleepy Hollow XC, Huntington
Catamount Ski Center, Williston
Craftsbury Outdoor Center, Craftsbury
Highland Lodge, Greensboro
Rickert Nordic Center, Bread Loaf Campus, Ripton
Strafford Nordic Center, Strafford