By Brooke Geery
Snowshoeing is one of the most accessible ways to enjoy the beauty and peace of Vermont in winter. All you need are snowshoes, a few layers of warm clothing, and perhaps a backpack filled with snacks to enjoy along the trails, fields, or really any snow covered surface. It is a low-impact activity with minimal skills required, which can be enjoyed by just about anyone.
“No matter the weather, there’s always something to do in Vermont,” First Stop Board Barn’s Max Elles said. “A lot of people come up here to ski or snowmobile, but snowshoeing is a little bit quieter and a great way to get out and see some of the beauty in the mountains.”
To help you get started, we’ve put together a guide with the basics and some suggestions for where to go.
What to wear
It’s cold out there in the winter, and proper layering can make or break your trip. Start with a synthetic wicking, base layer on both top and bottom; add at least two insulating middle layers, and be sure to top it off with a water- and wind-proof outer shell layer.
You may want rain or snow pants, and don’t forget wool socks, a winter hat, and lightweight gloves. Heavier options and spare socks in your pack are also critical. And remember: no cotton.
As for footwear, most snowshoes will clip on to any pair of boots, but you should make sure they are warm and waterproof to begin with. You may also opt for cleats instead— on a packed-down trail some people may find this option easier to negotiate.
Where to rent snowshoes
Eventually, you may become so obsessed with snowshoeing that you buy your own, but renting a pair is a great way to get started. Several ski shops in Killington offer snowshoe rentals. At Black Dog Sports, you can pick up a pair for 2 hours for $15 or all day for $25. Northern Ski Works has them available for $20 per day, and Aspen East/Surf the Earth has a couple pairs for rent, which cost $25 per day. They recommend calling in advance to reserve them.
One of the largest collections of rental snow shoes in Killington can be found at First Stop Board Barn. They have about 10 pairs of high-quality Tubs boa snowshoes for rent ranging from youth to adult sizes. The regular rental price is $25 per day, however, you can save 15% by reserving them online at firststopboardbarn.com. They also offer a discount if you rent for three days in a row, and all rentals include poles if you want them. Snowshoes are also available for purchase, including demos at the end of the season. While you’re grabbing your gear, it’s also a chance to get some local tips.
“We’re always happy to make recommendations on where to go on a daily basis, too,” Elles said.
Another option is to contact your local library. Most libraries in Vermont, including Sherburne Memorial in Killington, offer snowshoes, which can be borrowed with your library card. However, due to Covid regulations, some may not be available this winter, so check directly with your local library.
Where to go
Again, the short answer to this question is anywhere. But there are several trail networks and properties around which are geared towards the experience.
The Woodstock Nordic Center
With an extensive network of winter trails throughout Mt. Peg and Mt. Tom, the Nordic Center offers more than 28 miles of groomed trails for cross-country skiing. Snowshoers and fat bike riders may utilize the groomed ski trail areas in addition to a series of ungroomed trails for a more invigorating hike. Cross-country ski, snowshoe and fat bike rentals, winter clothing, accessories, and trail passes are all available at the Woodstock Nordic Center, which is open daily from 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
Billings Farm & Museum
Don snowshoes and venture through the picturesque snow-covered farm fields and along the Ottauquechee River. Billings Farm is open weekends from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Easy winter hikes
Deer Leap Trail, Killington
2 mi round trip, approx. 492-foot elevation gain
The Deer Leap Trail is a relatively short but rugged hike to the top of a rock outcrop with impressive views of the Coolidge Range and Sherburne Pass. The trail starts on the north side of US 4, at the east end of the Inn at Long Trail parking lot. Climb steadily for .5 miles until you intersect with the Appalachian Trail. Turn left and follow the AT for about 200 feet, at which point the Deer Leap Trail turns left and climbs .4 mi to the Overlook Spur, which leads .2 mi to the lookout.
Clarendon Gorge to Airport Lookout, Shrewsbury
2 mi round trip, approx. 450-foot elevation gain
Ascend south on the Long Trail for a few hundred yards to the suspension bridge to a cross the impressive Clarendon Gorge, which may form interesting ice sculptures in the winter. Continue up the ridge to a viewpoint west across the valley. Return the way you came.
The parking lot for the Long Trail/Appalachian Trail is on Vt. 103, 2.4 mi. east of US 7 in Clarendon and 6.0 mi. west of Vt. 155 in east Wallingford. The parking area may not be plowed in the event of deep snow.
More challenging hikes
9.3 miles, about 4:45 hours
Mendon Peak is a 9.3 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail that offers the chance to see wildlife and is rated as difficult. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail.
If you are looking at the Bucklin Trailhead on Wheelerville Road in Mendon / Killington, Vermont, there is a gate located just to the right; this is the start of the hike to Mendon Peak.
Killington Peak via Bucklin Trail
7.2 miles, about 4:34 hours
Also starting at the Bucklin Trailhead on Wheelerville Road inMendon, this is a hike up to Killington Peak where there are far-reaching panoramic views to the Green Mountains of Vermont, the Adirondacks of New York, and the White Mountains of New Hampshire. The first two miles of the route are very easy with gradual incline, but the upper section before the summit becomes steep and difficult.
Killington Extended loop
9.4 miles, about 5:33 hours
Killington (Extended) Loop is a 9.4 mile lightly trafficked loop trail that features a waterfall and is rated as difficult. This is a more rigorous and lengthened approach to Killington. It takes you deep into the woods and up to the Long Trail in order to ascend to the Killington Peak. The trail is heavily overgrown in most areas but offers a fresh alternative to the straight ascent hikers normally take. Take your time and enjoy the incredible silence and alternative route to the top of the Beast of the East. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.
Take a tour
Not ready to head out into the woods by yourself? In Killington, you can take a guided snowshoe tour with Bear Trax adventures. Whether you’re looking for a strenuous workout or just a nice hike through the woods, their experienced guides will customize a hike for you. Snowshoes and poles are provided and are included in the tour price. Guides are equipped with backpacks, water, snacks and first aid kits. For winter 2020/21 Bear Trax is offering private tours only. To book a private tour, email [email protected]