7 amazing winter outdoor activities in Manchester
Manchester is a village in southern Vermont and one of the most charming towns, easily accessible by car from New York and Boston. The sidewalks are made of marble because in the 1800s the local quarry had large stone shops. The sidewalks are still in place today. History is palpable as you wander the streets where the Marsh Tavern once stood. It is now the magnificent Equinox Golf Resort & Spa. Yet this was the site where American revolutionaries known as the Green Mountain Boys plotted to fight the British. As you survey the landscape, you’ll see Mount Equinox rise 3,800 feet behind the resort, the highest peak in the Taconic Range. The Equinox Preservation Trust protects the land and Mount Equinox. It is a beautiful place to enjoy the outdoors in any season. Activities such as hiking, mountain biking, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are open to the public in winter.
With all this talk about the mountains, there are two ski resorts a short drive from Manchester. Bromley is 10 km away and Stratton is 17 miles from the city center. Both offer fantastic alpine experiences, but are preferred for different reasons. Bromley offers some of the best downhill adventures for families. Stratton has thrills for adventure seekers on skis or snowboards, as well as a Nordic center for alternative activities like cross country, tubing or fat tire biking. If motorized speed is your passion, snowmobile tours offer thrills. Or, for a relaxed ride, a sleigh experience could be more than you imagined. Manchester has a lot to offer all year round, but in winter it is a snow lover’s paradise. Here are seven exciting options for outdoor activities in no specific order when the white flakes start to swirl.
Bromley, or “Sun Mountain,” offers an award-winning ski program for kids and family. The trails all head towards the central base area so no one can get lost on opposite sides of the mountain or struggle to reconnect with their group. The reason it is called Sun Mountain is because of the warm southerly exposure that adorns the slopes. The sunny skies help keep everyone warm enough to enjoy a fun day of skiing. With 47 runs, there is a variety of challenges for every skier. Bromley also has two snow parks, friendly instructors and helpful staff. When hunger strikes, there are delicious dining options. This resort is a favorite with locals for a reason.
Stratton was named one of the Ski review“20 best ski resorts on the east coast in 2022”. This historic mountain was the birthplace of snowboarding, as it was the first resort to allow snowboarders on its ski lifts. It is also the home of Vermont’s first World Cup ski races. It is the perfect mountain for beginners and more advanced skiers. I brought my kids when they started learning to ski and the instructors were excellent. The terrain combines beginner to expert slopes with 99 runs, including a green top to bottom run. It’s a long, fantastic experience and a fabulous way to enjoy a great day of skiing in Vermont. There is something for every member of the family to do here, even if they are not skiers or snowboarders.
The Stratton Mountain Nordic Center has 12 km of groomed trails for cross-country skiing, fat biking and snowshoeing. In the center, you can sign up for snowshoe excursions where you can experience the green mountain view and the beauty of the pine forest in the early morning, afternoon or evening with a Nordic Lights excursion.
The Coca-Cola Tube Park has four snow tubing lanes served by ski lifts. This activity is family fun at its best with a heated hut, snacks, and fire pits on specific days. It’s fun to take a break from the slopes and the tube for an afternoon.
3. Equinox Preserve Trust
The Equinox Preserve Trust sits on the east side of Mount Equinox and consists of 914 acres of protected land and a pond open to the public year round. There are 11 miles of hiking and biking trails that range from easy to complex, including a steep climb to the top. If you are up for a winter hike or bike ride, the trails are marked and maintained. They also accept dogs, with pets on a leash. Download the map from the website or pick up a map at the kiosk near the trailhead. Bikers should avoid single track trails such as Snicket and Trout Lily as they do not make cycle lanes. Also, make sure you have the right gear for the weather, including a hat, gloves, and proper footwear. Flatlanders Pass at Pond Loop Trail is easy and a fun hike. The Blue Summit Trail is a long climb that goes all the way to the top. It is difficult but offers great views.
4. Land Rover experience at Equinox
The Land Rover experience teaches drivers how to drive safely. Depending on the package you choose, you’ll increase your knowledge by covering the basics of expedition-style driving and mastering the obstacles you’ll find in off-road situations. You will learn how to climb steep climbs and descend steep descents. Participants will experience icy side slopes, log and water crossings, rocky ramps and boulders by car. This thrilling adventure includes an expert instructor as a guide on the grounds of the Land Rover Experience Driving Center at the Equinox Golf Resort & Spa in Manchester. You’ll be behind the wheel of a Land Rover vehicle (or bring your own) for an hour, two hours, half a day, a full day, or a range of choices (viewed on their website). A valid driver’s license and credit card are required to participate.
5. Taylor Farm Sleigh Rides
Taylor Farm offers sleigh rides for that “real taste of Vermont”. Each sled can hold up to 10 adults and the rides last a glorious 45 minutes. Each sleigh experience includes a fireside stop to sip hot cider. Then you can get back on board to snuggle up under a warm woolen blanket. Would it be more romantic? The farm shop has s’mores firebreak marshmallow roasting kits to purchase before departure, or you can purchase cheese and snacks as a picnic nibble for the ride. At the store, you’ll find items made in Vermont, such as real maple syrup and homemade loaves of bread, honey, local meats, and CBD products. There are also food bags for the farm animals. After the ride, you can spend time with the chickens, goats and cows for as long as you want. One must reserve. Call Mimi on the phone number on the website to reserve your coveted spot.
Hildene is the historic home of Robert Lincoln, the son of Abraham and Mary Todd, who survived to adulthood. Robert built Hildene in 1905 with his wife, Mary. He fondly recalled his visit to Manchester while staying at the Equinox Hotel in 1864 with his mother and brother Tad. Robert loved it so much that he returned to build his summer residence, calling it his “ancestral home” on 412 acres forty years later. He was the president of the Pullman Company, the country’s largest manufacturing company. While the Georgian Revival-style mansion is open year round for tours, the grounds are a wonderful place to go snowshoeing. Rentals are available (for a fee) in the lodge adjacent to the Visitor Center. Twelve miles of trails are open (conditions permitting) for walkers and cross-country skiers, but skiers must bring their equipment. The courses are natural and ungroomed, and if you are not a member of Hildene, you must pay an entrance fee to use the courses. Check the website for conditions to make sure the trails are open and accessible. Make sure you dress appropriately for the weather.
7. Adventures in the mountains of Vermont
Vermont Mountain Adventures is a backcountry snowmobile company that rents snowmobiles, certified helmets, and a professional guide for 2 hour tours. Tours take place every day, 7 days a week, unless the weather conditions cause a cancellation. But even if it snows, Polaris Indy LXT snowmobiles are shiny and ready to go. It is recommended that you contact Vermont Mountain Adventures at least one day before the desired excursion to ensure that you get a time slot. All tours have guides. There will be one guide for four snowmobiles. Passengers can be up to five years old, but any driver must have a valid driver’s license. If you are a passenger and have a driver’s license, you can change and drive if you want. Everyone must arrive fully dressed for the remote winter conditions for a 2 hour tour. Due to current conditions, no clothing is available for hire. Private tours are available at an additional cost. Suppose you want a starlight or sunset tour. In this case, its sister company, Stratton Adventures, located at Stratton Mountain Resort, offers these tours for a truly unique experience.
Pro tip: To be dressed appropriately for snowmobiling, you should wear winter snow pants, ski gloves, chunky winter boots, and a winter snow jacket. If you have a helmet, it should be a DOT approved helmet that says it is DOT certified.
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