Winter Sports

Ask a Local: Matt Dugan

My sister thinks I live in Siberia. I beg to differ. So, OK, this area in winter is not particularly hospitable to high heels and suede jackets. But, swap them for snowshoes and a wind-proof, breathable shell, and winter around here is pure paradise.

Cultural events fill the calendar here during all the warm months, culminating with the foliage season, an international draw. So, when winter settles in to stay, this quiet season is a welcome counterpart to all the bustle.

Let’s start with my favorite winter picture. If Burlington gets a big dump of snow, you can count on seeing ski tracks along the sidewalks in a matter of hours. A pair of tracks followed by what looks like a sled — towing the kids in a covered child carrier — is often part of the scene.

The downtown recreation path, parks and golf course all are similarly tracked by the next day, with snowshoe prints alongside, attesting to the fact that around here, winter means getting outside. If you’re into a more groomed experience, Local Motion volunteers tend to trails in the Intervale, a river plain that stretches between Winooski and Burlington (it’s all free). You can check out winter wildlife as you glide along the Winooski River toward the Ethan Allen Homestead, a re-creation of the original Green Mountain Boy’s farm.

Vermont’s winter winds sculpt Lake Champlain’s waves, sometimes as a glassy-smooth ice rink that can stretch for acres, sometimes as gorgeous ice sculptures arrayed along sheer rock cliffs. You can see it all by walking, running, skating, skiing, or even biking on the lake. Let’s take those in order.

Vermonters love to get out and walk on frozen water. Maybe it’s the fact that we’re so surrounded by valleys and mountains, but getting out on Lake Champlain in winter is like being on a vast, silent, white plain. As for running, all you need is a pair of running shoes with studs in the sole; no matter how slippery the ice, you’ll stay upright. If you’re used to rink skating, imagine that your rink is the size of a few dozen football fields; that’s what Lake Champlain is like when the ice is right. And skiing! I’ll never forget the perfect March when, for about two weeks, each day, I went out and skate-skied from downtown Burlington straight into the sunset, turning back to beat the darkness home. Finally, biking. OK, so maybe you don’t have a bike with studded tires (if anybody would rent you one, it would be a shop in this area, though!). But if you’re into it, and the conditions are right, you can bike for miles.

After your day, there’s the comfort of great food, toasty fireplaces and hot drinks aplenty. We Vermonters need to warm up sometime, after all.

And if you’re not geared up, local sports shops will rent you skis, snowshoes and all you need. Yes, I’m talking to you, sister Shannon.