Vermont set for another season of simply the best skiing and riding in the Northeast – Rutland Regional Guide

Posted on December 23, 2011 by - Rutland Regional Guide, Skiing, Snowboarding

Vermont set for another season of simply the best skiing and riding in the Northeast

By Nathaniel Gibson

Family fun at Suicide Six, one of the many top-flight resorts in Vermont. Photo Credit: Dennis Curran.

With 17 alpine resorts, Vermont is the skiing and snowboarding destination in the Northeast. The Green Mountain state offers everything from easy beginner cruisers to rugged expert terrain — and lots of other activities for family members of all ages.

Recent winters have been snowy, thanks to record-breaking storms that dumped over 24 to 36 inches and created prime powder conditions. With another La Niña winter forecast, conditions for the upcoming season look to be excellent. “The Farmer’s Almanac is predicting a winter with a lot of moisture and I’m really looking forward to some big storms,” says long-time skier Duncan Lake of Pawlet.

Resorts have been hard at work over the summer making improvements and preparing for the 2011-12 season, which will be packed with many exciting events. To commemorate its 75th anniversary celebration, Bromley, located in the Town of Peru, has added a new black-diamond glade between Havoc and Pushover on the east side of the mountain. Named Orion, the new trail will offer challenging terrain for advanced skiers and riders. Bromley will also celebrate its 75th anniversary on January 21 to 22 with special ski deals, a torchlight parade, fireworks, and a party in the base lodge.

Mt. Snow, in West Dover, has just installed the only high-speed detachable, six-passenger bubble chair lift in the United States. Named the Bluebird Express for the beautiful, sunny days every skier and rider dreams of, the lift will provide the kind of weather protection that gondolas offer — with the added convenience that riders won’t have to take off skis or boards.

Smuggler’s Notch, located in Jeffersonville, has been working with Burton Snowboards to develop a state-of-the-art park for children featuring small rolling hills, miniature box-style rails, pyramids, a mini half-pipe, a balance area, and a lift chair to get kids acquainted with loading and unloading.

Jay Peak, situated in the Town of Jay in Northern Vermont, has gone the novel route of adding a 50,000-sq ft water park. The Pump House Park has a slide that drops into a free-fall before shooting riders upside down, a standing-wave for those who want to “surf,” a retractable roof for warm, sunny days — and a 50-seat bar overlooking the entire spectacle. The park’s grand opening is scheduled for December 12, 2011

Killington will host the second of three stops for the national Dew Tour from January 20 to 23. The event will feature a 22-foot super pipe and will bring top winter athletes from around the globe to compete in skiing and snowboarding events. “The Winter Dew Tour has established itself as one of the premier winter events, and we are pleased to have been asked to host this world-class event for these outstanding athletes to showcase their talents,” says Killington’s President and General Manager Chris Nyberg.

Later in the year Stratton will host the U.S. Open Snowboarding Championships. From March 4 to 11 amateurs will compete in the same events as some of world’s best riders, including Vermonters Louie Vito, Hannah Teter and 2011 defending champion Kelly Clark.

A longtime Mecca for winter sports enthusiasts, Vermont is steeped in ski and snowboard history. From the 2 gold medals won by Rutland County native Andrea Mead Lawrence at the 1952 Winter Olympics to the founding of Burton snowboards in 1977 in Londonderry, skiing and snowboarding traditions run deep in the state. Currently, nearly 20 Vermonters are on the U.S. Ski Team.

For a full list of Vermont resorts, special deals, events, and travel information, visit Ski Vermont at www.skivermont.com.

Nathaniel Gibson is a snowboarder and freelance writer. He may be contacted at www.nathanielrgibson.com.

The article originally appeared in the Fall 2011 edition of the Rutland Regional Vermont Insider Guide.

A Bunch of 250th Birthday Parties for Vermont Towns and Cities – Rutland Regional Guide

Posted on December 22, 2011 by - Rutland Regional Guide, Vermont Towns

A bunch of 250th birthday parties for Vermont towns and cities

By Nathaniel Gibson

The town of Pawlet celebrated its 250th anniversary of charter in style as shown by Adelle Seamens (left) and Sarah Post (right), with art by Roy Egg, all from West Pawlet. Photo Credit: Rhonda Schlangen.

Above a certain age, many people stop keeping track of their birthdays. But when a bunch of Vermont towns reached the ripe age of 250 this year, they celebrated in style.

The big 250th can also be called the sestercentennial or the easier-to-remember quarter-millennial — meaning that these towns were originally chartered a quarter of a millennium ago. And they marked their long and rich heritages with a plethora of events — parades, fireworks, quilt shows, art exhibits, live music, dancing, wagon rides, historical exhibits, and more.

These 63 towns, about a quarter of the state’s total, predate not only the founding of the United States, but the state of Vermont itself. They were originally chartered in 1761 by New Hampshire Governor Benning Wentworth as he attempted to exert control over the territory between New Hampshire and the Province of New York.

Although the grants were eventually invalidated by King George III, who ruled that the Connecticut River was the boundary between New York and New Hampshire, unhappy colonists declared the territory to be free and independent. Vermont was subsequently founded on January 15, 1777.

The town of Woodstock’s 250th birthday bash was a picnic at the Billings Farm & Museum on July 10 — with horse and wagon rides, games, presentations on the history of the town, free ice cream, and live music by the Old Sam Peabody Band. “It was a great community celebration of 250 years, and we had the perfect location in the Billings Farm and Museum,” says Elizabeth Finlayson, Director of the Woodstock Chamber of Commerce.

On the other side of the state the southern Vermont town of Manchester marked its 250th on August 12 and 13. Entertainment included wagon rides, tours of Dellwood Cemetery, a stock car show, a hoedown and barbecue, a carnival and a concert by the U.S. Navy Band followed by fireworks.

“The opening ceremony at the Bennington County Courthouse in the village with Governor Shumlin was very well received, and all the other events also went off well,” reports town clerk Linda Spence, who helped organize the festivities.

“Everyone who participated enjoyed themselves, and it was great to see families represented across multiple generations.”

Rep. John Malcolm reads the Legislature's resolution announcing the celebration of Pawlet's 250th anniversary of charter to a crowd assembled in front of the Town Hall. Photo Credit: Susan LaPorte.

A few miles north of Manchester on Route 30 the town of Pawlet celebrated its 250th anniversary during the memorable weekend of August 26 to 28. Festivities included live music, dancing, a quilt show, many displays and exhibits, ghost walks and a parade. The celebration culminated with fireworks that ended just as tropical storm Irene showed up.

“I hope having that memorable day to look back on has been able to bring a smile to the folks in our town who suffered from the damage and destruction of tropical storm Irene the next day,” remarked event organizer Judy Coolidge. “To see the number of people who came home to Pawlet to be part of this celebration and to hear the wonderful stories of what a fabulous time they had has been so rewarding.”

Benning Wentworth continued making land grants in the present State of Vermont until 1764. Next year the towns of Averrill, Bloomfield, Bristol, Charlotte, Ferrisburgh, Hinesburg, Lemington, Lewis, and Monkton will celebrate their 250th anniversaries, with even more to come in 2013.

Nathaniel Gibson is a freelance writer who lives in Pawlet and may be contacted at www.nathanielrgibson.com.

The article originally appeared in the Fall 2011 edition of the Rutland Regional Vermont Insider Guide.

Turkey farms across Vermont gear up for holiday season – Rutland Regional Guide

Posted on December 21, 2011 by - Local Food, Rutland Regional Guide

Turkey farms across Vermont gear up for holiday season

By Nathaniel Gibson

Peter Stone and Siegrid Mertens' daughter Catherine practices her turkey herding skills in one of the barns at Stonewood Farm. Photo Credit: Peter Stone.

With the holiday season fast approaching, Vermont turkey farmers are busily preparing for the huge spike in turkey demand, particularly for Thanksgiving.

Turkey farming has a long history in the state. Back in the days before rail and refrigeration, the birds were herded on foot to major markets, which presented a number of challenges for farmers, namely keeping track of their birds and caring for them over the long distances.

“In the old days turkeys were given tar walking shoes by farmers, who would heat tar, pour it on the road, and then herd the birds through it,” says Matt Proft, who operates Someday Farm with his wife Scout in East Dorset, located in southern Vermont. The Profts raise 400-500 birds a year: all natural, range-fed turkeys on pasture with feed that is free of hormones and antibiotics. Their turkeys are ordered for pickup directly from Someday Farm.

Since the old-time turkey marches typically took several days, farmers were obliged to overnight with their flocks at farms en route. “The birds back then could fly, so in the evenings they would have to be corralled in a barnyard before it got dark and the birds decided to roost — as gathering them up again in the morning would have been a big headache,” explains Proft.

While the trials of the annual turkey march are long gone, raising turkeys nowadays still presents some unique challenges. “There are times throughout the years that we shake our heads at the birds,” says Proft. “They’re definitely curious animals, and they like to escape their fence when they can. We’ve had the them take an interest in people who are passing by walking their dogs — and all of a sudden 300 turkeys have gotten out and are tagging along.”

“You never know what they’re going to try,” Proft observes. He recalls times when the turkeys have flown into the pond to avoid being rounded up. Seldom considered fact:  turkeys can swim.

A much larger-scale turkey farm can be found to the north in central Vermont. Peter Stone and Siegrid Mertens operate Stonewood Farm in Orwell, where they raise a staggering 29,000 turkeys per year for distribution across the Northeast. The birds are grown naturally without any antibiotics or growth hormones in their feed and are prepared for table without preservatives or artificial ingredients.

The Stonewood turkeys are raised in barns that are open on the sides to permit sun and air in while keeping other birds — and any illnesses they may carry — out.  In previous years, the couple experimented with raising 5,000 turkeys outside in a 13-acre field but found that they were more susceptible to sickness associated with the wet and cold conditions they encountered. Birds raised indoors can be easily kept dry and warm.

Stonewood Farm turkeys are available in food co-ops, health food stores, and gourmet food stores across New England and New York state. In Vermont and parts of New Hampshire, Stonewood Farm turkeys can be found at several stores, including Hannaford. Anyone interested in checking out the farm in Orwell is welcome to visit; please check in upon arrival.

Vermont farm-fresh turkeys are available all over the state. About 25 farms are listed by the state’s Department of Agriculture; visit www.vermontagriculture.com/buylocal/buy/ to find your local turkey.

Nathaniel Gibson is a freelance writer who lives in Pawlet and may be contacted at www.nathanielrgibson.com.

The article originally appeared in the Fall 2011 edition of the Rutland Regional Vermont Insider Guide.