Tuesday, January 24, 2012
Get Out and Backcountry Ski! (Festival) at Bolton Valley Nordic Center
T and I were at the Backcountry Festival with Onion River Sports with a full set of backcountry skis from Fischer, Madshus, Rossignol, Voile, and others plus Scarpa T4 and Garmont Excursion boots for participants to try. If you're in the market for a new backcountry setup, the best thing you can do is try the skis for yourself. I tried no fewer than 5 different skis - many of them on multiple outings - before buying my first pair of backcountry skis, my Karhu 10th Mountains. Plenty of folks came and tried out the gear and everyone had a smile on their face. And after the festival participants were all set up, us shop folks got to go and ski the touring center trails for ourselves - a real treat. I had no idea the Bolton Nordic Center was so awesome!
On our first outing, both on our Rossi BC 125's, T and I split up. I stuck to the groomed s-curves of World Cup, an intermediate trail in the groomed network. This trail was a lot like your favorite groomer, except through the woods and no lifts. The snow was soft, coverage was great, and there was plenty of room to practice your telemark turn. T, on the other hand, followed a patroller up Bryant to Cliff Hanger and then came down through the woods. We were only out for 40 minutes, but we were hooked! And we couldn't wait for the chance to get out for more.
Finally, at about 4pm, we were able to sneak away for another little tour. This time we skied together - me on my Rossi's again and T trying this year's new Vector BC from Voile, a hot little number that you should definitely check out. We skied up Bryant Trail to Bryant Camp, a really cool little cabin for the backcountry enthusiast who wants to spend a couple of days in the woods around Bolton, Cotton Brook, Sterling Valley, Little River State Park, and the famous trip over to Trapp's Touring Center. That adventure is for another day....On this particular day, we met a lovely man on his way up to the Cabin where he was meeting a friend; they were going to ski Gardner's Lane back down. He described this trail as overall mellow with some fun descents and fluffy snow. And this trail delivered all these things, with the backdrop of a beautiful sunset. It was, hands down, the best ski I have ever had. The turns came easily and the snow was soft and edgable; the terrain reminded me of a mellower version of Tear Drop, for those familiar with the famed CCC trail off of Mt. Mansfield. There were features and turns and drops to navigate; much like mountain biking, you had to find your line and commit to it. Super fun! And totally rewarding. We were hooting and hollering the whole way down, and I can't wait to get back out and ski some more of the Bolton backcountry - and for only $17 for a day (or $13 after 1pm), this is a steal! And it's exactly how skiing should be: relying on muscle power to climb up into the mountains for some thrilling descents down uneven and exhilirating terrain. What a gem! And, remember, if you're accessing the backcountry from Bolton's Nordic Center, a pass is required; for that matter, it's required at any and all touring centers (Trapps, for example). Even if you won't be spending the day on touring center trails, this is an important way to support our local mountain, our highest-elevation touring center, and an all-around really great experience.Even better, a season pass is a deal and grants you continual access to this great place!
As for the festival, this is another great gem, put on by a gem of an organization, the Catamount Trail Association (CTA). Jim Fredericks, CTA Executive Director, did an exceptional job putting together the whole event. The day ended with a multi-media presentation by David Goodman, author of the book Best Backcountry Skiing in the Northeast: 50 Classic Ski Tours in New England and New York (If you don't already own this book, you should! Go - now - to your local independent book store or gear shop and pick up a copy.)
Definitely check out the 5th annual Get Out and Backcountry Ski Festival to try the latest in skis, boots, and gear, plus meet good people, get plenty of information, and attend skills clinics (work on your telemark turn, anyone?). And while you're at it, join the CTA and gain access to the hundreds of miles of groomed and backcountry skiing made available to us lucky Vermonters through the hard work of the CTA, and buy a pass to Bolton's Touring Center. We hope to see you there! And we'll definitely see you in the backcountry.