By Merisa Sherman
As V.A.S.T. (Vermont Association of Snow Travelers) opening weekend approached, there was an admission of defeat. While I was stoked to pick up the sled from her annual maintenance check late Wednesday evening, there was no thought in our minds that we’d be making our way through the Vermont mountains. Instead, we were content to rely on Killington’s snowmaking and ski whatever limited snowfall 2020 would torture us with.
The house was eerily quiet when I awoke on Thursday morning. Slowly, I made my way out of bed, down the stairs and stopped dead in my tracks, rubbing my eyes to make sure it wasn’t just a dream, I began to laugh like a kid on Christmas morning. I pressed my hands to the glass to steady myself and stared, awed by what lay before me.
It certainly wasn’t the predicted 2-6 inches! The deck was full! Snow covered the wheels and bumpers of my car, leaving only a thin stripe of exposed metal below the covered windows. It was ridiculous. I leaned my entire body weight into the door to push the snow out of the way, took a deep breath, and resigned myself to shoveling for the next few hours.
It was the easiest shoveling I’ve ever done. I actually enjoyed throwing the fluffy stuff around, laughing as I kept falling in the thigh-deep snow. It was glorious. Thick, fluffy, sparkly, magical, champagne, the snow dreams are made of —it was that snow. I had to use my Alpine touring gear to pack down a Nordic track around the lawn. The snowblower tractor, even with chains and weights, got stuck and we needed ropes to pull her out. We needed the ladder to drag the two feet of snow off the top of the snowmobile trailer.
With one storm, we had gone from a green lawn to checking the V.A.S.T. app map every hour. Okay, maybe every half hour. We had made gathered all the required paperwork the week before and applied the cherished ‘21 TMA stickers to the sides of our sleds. You always hope that a snowstorm will swing in and enable you to ride opening weekend, but no one dares to dream that 2-4 feet will fall overnight!
We rode lifts that afternoon, skiing snow so deep that it could—and did—stop you dead in your tracks. I could still see the BF checking his phone. We skied along, snow flying everywhere—thigh deep, hip deep—and simply enjoying this miracle of 2020. When we finally got back to the car, exhausted from our skiing efforts, I heard a big whoop followed by: “We’ve got yellow in Chittenden!”
Friday morning, we were up early. The helmets were dusted off (literally) and the heated shields installed. I found $10 in my jacket pocket, and my snow pants fit looser than when the season got shut down in March. We nailed the hitch connection on the first try and there was a feeling of giddiness as we pulled into the Killington Deli to fill up before heading down to the dam with our warm breakfast sandwiches in hand.
I didn’t know what to expect. This is only my third season with my sled and I had never ridden snow like this before. I was legitimately nervous. That is until I threw my leg over the sled and braap-ed the engine. There’s something about being on a snowmobile, looking down at those looped skis, that just feels right. The freshly groomed trail looked plump and delicious, snow dripping from every tree branch as we climbed over the plowed entrance and into greatness.
The skis lifted the big, heavy sled until it was floating above the snow. The handlebars turned easily, like you were simply mid-air. The track weighed nothing, until you stopped and sank to the baseless bottom. We floated around corners, across water bars, and through the woods. The view was so stunningly distracting, at some points it was difficult to focus on riding. It felt like you were riding on clouds. We were, to put it simply, living the dream.
A huge thank you to the many volunteers and groomers who put in countless hours working on the trail system and to the wonderful landowners who share their land. The 5,000 mile trail system, organized by the local 127 clubs of the Vermont Association of Snow Travelers is a true example of the greatness of our little state.
If you haven’t seen Vermont from the seat of a snowmobile, you haven’t seen Vermont!