Manchester and the Mountains Activities
By Elicia Mailhiot
Photography By Hubert Schriebl
Southern Vermont’s true beauty shows in the still of winter. With sparkling snow and a large bluebird sky, the peak you fell in love with over the summer may look altogether different with a covering of fresh powder. That’s why, as the temperature drops and the snow begins to accumulate, the members of the Green Mountain Club head for the hills to take in a wintery view from the top.
The Green Mountain Club is a hiking club and founder of the 272-mile Long Trail. Since its inception in 1910, the club has grown to over 10,000 members. The Green Mountain Club also maintains 175 miles of side trails and the Vermont sections of the Appalachian Trail, which runs from Maine to Georgia.
“As a club, a lot of what we do is trail work and maintenance,” says Marge Fish, president of the GMC in Manchester. That diligent year round trail work allows the club to offer winter hikes and snowshoeing expeditions along those trails once the snows fly. Chapters in Manchester, Bennington and Brattleboro offer winter hikes to some of the steepest parts of Southern Vermont’s largest mountains. And… with no leaves to block the view, you can experience some of the most spectacular winter scenes in the state.
Katie Brooks is a Green Mountain Club member who lives in Dorset. She spends her winters skiing as many days as possible while leading winter hikes and snowshoe trips and hiking mountain peaks each Sunday with the Dorset Hiking Club. An avid member of SheJumps—an organization looking to increase female participation in outdoor activities— she led a group up the Long Trail to Bromley Mountain last winter in a moonlit trek. After enjoying a rewarding cup of hot chocolate at the top, the group skied and snowshoed down the trail. Brooks is looking forward to doing it again this year as the snow starts to accumulate.
As the temperature drops and the snow begins to accumulate, members of the Green Mountain Club head for the hills to take in a wintery view from the top.
“My zest for life comes from my love for the mountains,” she says. “I bag a peak every Sunday with a core group of friends, all year round.”
So Many Peaks
Brooks and her friends are able to rack up a pretty high score in a year’s worth of weekend hiking because there are so many peaks to choose from, some more famous than others. When you hike Stratton Mountain in winter, you’re walking through history, as the mountain is commonly regarded as the birthplace for the both Appalachian and Long Trails. The two trails share a southern 103 miles that cross over Stratton Mountain. At 7.6 miles roundtrip, the Stratton Trail is perfect for those looking to get started in the sport of winter hiking. After a gradual 1.5-mile climb, hikers begin a steeper ascension up the mountain. The trail flattens along the ridgeline, before climbing again using switchbacks.
Stratton Mountain Resort offers full moon snowshoe hikes by the light of each month’s full moon. Tours lead through rolling terrain, making them perfect for both beginner and expert snowshoers.
Guided daylight tours are also available.
The Green Mountain Club organizes a New Year’s Day hike to Stratton Pond, according to Marge Fish. The club also organizes winter hikes and snowshoe trips to Bromley, along the West River Trail and through the National Forest. “We try to have between 10 and 12 snowshoe trips, varying between two and eight miles in length, all within 25 miles of Londonderry,” says Fish.
The GREEN MOUNTAIN CLUB was established in 1910 to build and maintain Vermont’s hallmark Long Trail, America’s first long-distance hiking trail. Traversing 270-plus miles over of some of Vermont’s highest peaks, the Long Trail begins and ends at the Massachusetts and Canadian borders. Its 10,000 members also maintain the Vermont portion of the Appalachian Trail. Sections in Manchester, Bennington and Brattleboro organize group outdoor activities in all seasons of the year, working toward their mission of making Vermont’s mountains play a larger part in the life of its residents.
Like the confectionary shop it shares a name with, Mother Myrick Mountain is a sweet spot in winter. With a 3,361-foot peak located on the outskirts of Manchester, the mountain features expansive woods and natural features including underground caves, fens and seeps. In spring and summer, the forest is alive with wildflowers. In winter, however, the scene is serene and sparkling white, and hikers can enjoy breathtaking views through the bare trees as they head to the peak. The Green Mountain Club has a daylong hike planned for February to the top of Mother Myrick Mountain. “It will be a full day trekking through the snow,” says Katie Brooks, “with a beautiful view from the summit and a delicious picnic.”
In Vermont’s cold and often wet winter weather, the right clothing helps to maintain body heat by trapping air in and keeping the elements out. The key to staying warm in colder weather is layering. Cover your entire body with a thin layer of silk or wool to wick moisture away. Add a medium weight layer of wool insulation, and another layer of wool, down or synthetic fill for colder periods. Be sure to protect your insulated layers from the elements and snow with a protective outer layer.
Brooks also leads a hike to Dorset Peak. This hike is perfect for those looking to get off the beaten (or well-groomed) path this winter. With an elevation of 3,770 feet, the trail follows an ATV trail located just off of Rte. 30. At just about three miles to the top, it’s not too challenging for a beginner, but definitely promises a backcountry experience with cairns and homemade signage to mark the trail. At the top, hikers will find twin summits and the remains of an old fire tower.
“One of the most important things to keep in mind when hiking any trail in the winter is that it’s winter,” Brooks says. “The days are shorter, nights are longer and darkness can come quickly. Dress so that wind, snowfall, cold temperatures and ice don’t ruin your experience.”
Winter is a gorgeous time to take a hike. What better way to break the cabin fever than getting out of the cabin and into the winter landscape in the heart of Vermont?
Elicia Mailhiot is a contributing editor of Stratton Magazine.