Enjoying Winter in Burlington (and Beyond)
The following is a guest blog written by awesome adventurer and UVM Student Life’s Outdoor Programs cool person, Megan Meinen.
Winter in Burlington can be unpredictable – especially when it first starts. When will that first real snowstorm hit? How long will the snow stick to the ground? Will it be ice, powder, or fluffy wet snow? All of this could happen at any point from November through January (and sometimes beyond – back in 2017 it was 72 in February). But once that first true big(ish) snowfall happens, it’ll feel like the whole city is out frolicking the in a magical winter wonderland.
If you ask me, Burlington was made for the snow: the sidewalks, the streets, the closely built snow covered houses, and the little surprise sledding hills that can make the oldest of us see the world from the eyes of an 8-year-old again. Ah, nostalgia! When a big snowfall hits, of course it’s great to hit the slopes, but that can also mean lengthy car rides, long lines, and (during a pandemic) new reservation policies that might prevent you from grabbing a spot on the mountain of your choice. For those of you who don’t want to deal with these roadblocks or don’t have a car (or a spot on one of the SSC buses), have no fear, there is no better time to enjoy the winter wonderland that is this amazing city we live in.
Finding a fun activity to get you outdoors when the snow falls and the temps drop is key to thriving during a lengthy Vermont winter. For all that is written about how wonderful BTV summers are, there’s just as much magical about our wonderful winters. Here’s some favorite winter recs to enjoy – all without having to travel too far (or at all):
Pop on down to City Market and pick up a sled. Burlington boasts an abundance of great sledding hills. On a fresh snow day, nothing can beat the Burlington Country Club, which is easily accessed from Redstone campus. There are multiple hill heights and steepness from you to choose your challenge! Closer to Trinity campus check out the hill next to the hospital.
Have a car and looking for more of an adventure? Head down to Mount Philo. Hike up and then sled down the unplowed road from the top – the perfect opportunity to test out your sled driving skills.
Outdoor Rinks are popping up all over the Burlington Area this year (including right on-campus). Need skates? Check out Play It Again Sports in South Burlington to find a used pair for cheap. Aside from the new rink by Harris Millis, you’ll find both natural and human-made rinks. You’ll have to make sure temps are low enough before heading out on the ice, of course – and know about ice safety. One seriously hidden gem is the Sea Caves/Arthur Park for a truly classic pond skating experience. On a super cold year, getting out on frozen Lake Champlain for a skate is a real treat…but this year doesn’t look that promising.
While downhill skiing is definitely a great rush, for those looking to peacefully experience a fresh snowfall and get some good experience, nothing can beat cross-country skiing. Don’t have cross-country skis? You can always rent from a local shop like Skirack or grab a pair in the consignment section at Outdoor Gear Exchange. Most centers rent equipment and offer beginner lessons as well. Boots, Skis and Poles is all you’ll need to get out there (Here’s a video with the basics). Make sure not to overdress, you’ll be sweating in no time as you get into the rhythm of push, kick and glide.
Got your gear? Head down North Prospect Street towards the Intervale where you’ll find a great network of FREE and flat trails ready to explore and test your skills (it’s also a great place to snowshoe and fat bike too!). You’ll likely also run into lots of friendly dogs and happy people enjoying this beautiful landscape! Looking to head further out? Vermont is laden with cross country ski centers. For a European-like cross-country experience check out the pristine trails at Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe or to train with the Olympians and head up to Craftsbury Outdoor Center where you can ski for over 100km!
Walking along a snowy path and taking time to breath in the cold crisp air is an excellent way to relieve stress, enjoy nature and be outside with friends. Snowshoes help to disperse our weight, making walking in snow easier without “post-holing” straight down with each step. All you need are snowshoes and most will find that poles are super helpful as well.
Check in with the UVM Outing Club’s Instagram to get updates on how to rent snowshoes. Most hiking trails turn into excellent snowshoeing trails in the winter, but if you’re looking to start simple Centennial Woods is a great place to explore on snowshoes. While you leave your (giant) foot prints, practice your tracking skills and see who else has been wandering around the winter woods.
These are only some of the staples and places to enjoy while you adventure in the outdoors during a wild winter – and by no means are they the only locations or activities you can explore to keep yourself active and healthy during the short days and cold temps. Burlington Wildways, a partnership between several Chittenden County cities and organizations that aims to protect and provide access to the natural areas, maintains an interactive map with loads of trails, spots, and activities for you to explore.