Cross Country Skiing, Backcountry Skiing & Touring Near Mount Snow

Join the revolution in free-heel skiing and try cross-country, alpine touring or backcountry skiing near Mount Snow.
Posted on February 10, 2023
Bluebird Express at Mount Snow from the Summit Looking into the Valley with Snowy Trees
“Nordic skiing – be it the kick-and-glide of classic cross-country skiing, the skating motion of freestyle cross-country or the skin-up/ski down of backcountry skiing, also known as alpine touring — is booming,” says Justin Beckwith, the Competition Director of the New England Nordic Ski Association. The reason he says? “I always ask my students what makes skiing different from running. The answer is ‘gliding’.” 

More and more people are looking for new ways to glide on slow, even after the ski lifts stop running.  Vermont’s ski mountains are, in many ways, Ground Zero in the U.S. for Nordic skiing. The state is home to some of the legends in cross-country skiing including Olympian and coach John Caldwell who lives just north of Mount Snow in Putney. Caldwell, now 94, authored the original book on the topic: The Cross Country Ski Book. His relatives have also gone on to compete in the Olympics and John’s nephew Zach Caldwell runs one of the nation’s premiere cross-country shops, The West Hill Shop in Putney, VT. Olympic medalist Jessie Diggins also makes southern Vermont her home base when she’s not on the winter circuit and many of the top skiers on the U.S. Team hail from Vermont.  

The first cross-country ski trail network in the country was built at the Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe in 1968 and since then, more than 22 groomed trail networks have been built all over the state.    

The Mount Snow area offers lots of options for all types of Nordic skiing as well as places where you can rent equipment and get the instruction you might need.  

Cross-Country Skiing  

Within 40 miles of Mount Snow you can explore the cross-country trails at the historic village of Grafton at the Grafton Trails & Outdoor Center. Head north about 40 minutes to Londonderry and you might spy an U.S. Ski Team member training at Wild Wings Ski Touring Center or drive west to Prospect Mountain on Route 9 in Woodford, near Brattleboro, which has the highest elevation of any ski area base (it’s sited at 2,250 feet) in all of Vermont – including alpine areas. Be sure to check the websites to find out about trail conditions ahead of time.

Alpine Touring 

If simply getting out in the woods and exploring is more your speed, there are some great trails that may not be groomed like cross-country trails are, but also don’t require the skins that alpine backcountry zones do. The Catamount Trail is the nation’s first and longest backcountry alpine touring trail. It stretches nearly 300 miles north from the Massachusetts border, through the Green Mountains and all the way to Canada. The trail is well-marked with blue blazes and often well-tracked, but it is not groomed or patrolled.  The Catamount Trail Association is the de facto parent organization for backcountry and alpine touring clubs around the state. Its website has detailed descriptions of the trail sections as well as notices about guided tours. 

One of the most beautiful sections of the Catamount, Section 3 runs 7.4 miles (one way) from Route 9 in Searsburg to the Somerset Reservoir, traversing a gorgeous, remote area due west of Mount Snow. It’s generally flat with a few steep uphills and some small stream crossings. 

You can also use alpine touring gear – or even cross-country gear on the Cross Town and Valley Trails that run between Mount Snow and the towns of Dover and Wilmington.  

Backcountry Skiing  

Backcountry skiing involves using wider skis, “skins” which you apply to the bottoms of the skis to go uphill, and bindings that can lock down for downhill. While many skiers may think of places like the backcountry off Stowe’s Mount Mansfield or New Hampshire’s White Mountains for alpine backcountry, southern Vermont has its own stashes that are growing. The Southern Vermont Trails Association (SoVTA), a chapter of the Catamount Trail Association, has  worked with volunteers and began  creating four gladed backcountry ski zones in the 1400-acre Dover Town Forest in 2020 with uphill skin tracks about a half mile long. They have also created four smaller zones in the Horace Hill trail network and is planning other zones. The routes (including the uphill skin tracks) are flagged but ungroomed and unpatrolled so skiers should travel in groups, be prepared and carry maps, GPS and basic safety gear.  

Another defunct ski area, Dutch Hill in Readsboro, has been resurrected as a backcountry ski zone, thanks to the work of the Dutch Hill Alliance of Skiers and Hikers (DHASH), also a CTA chapter. The group has cleared some of the old trails and marked uphill tracks. Though it’s not a large area you will find some fun gladed zones and steeps. 

In Marlboro, the Hogback Mountain ski area is no more (the 590-acre ski area closed for good in 1986) in but backcountry skiers still skin up and ski down where the trails and lifts once ran. The land is now part of the Hogback Mountain Conservation Area and volunteers have helped keep some of the trails clear. 

Produced in partnership with Vermont Ski + Ride Magazine.