Top Ten North American Cross-Country Skiing Centers

Craftsbury Outdoor Center, Vermont
By Sproule Love

The Craftsbury Outdoor Center is known for snow. When there's nothing but frozen mud on the ground in nearby Craftsbury Common, seasoned visitors know they can expect to see the snow-pack appear, or even double in depth, on the short drive down Wylie Hill Road to the Outdoor Center.

A mix of topography, proximity to lakes, and the blessing of the Green Mountain's fickle weather patterns make Craftsbury the place to go when the inescapable January thaw hits New England. And it will.

Craftsbury's trail designers mastered the elusive balance act of mixing challenging and mellow terrain when laying out the trail system. For the more adventurous, the 5K Race Loop doles out what so many Western trails lack: a narrow, twisting forest track. Just watch out for the barbed wire fence at the bottom of Bailey-Hazen!

Countless gradual meadows await you, connected by thickly forested stretches of trail whose silence embraces you like only a New England wood can under a blanket of snow. If the trail around Perman's Field (accessed by Murphy's Field and the Duck Pond Trail) doesn't make you stop in your tracks to admire its beauty, you should simply pack up your skis and go home. If you are planning on staying, Craftsbury also has rustic trailside lodging.

If You Go: Craftsbury Outdoor Center

Trails: 100 kilometers, groomed and backcountry, skating, classic, and snowshoe

Trail fee: Adults $14 full day, $11 half day; Child (6-12) $7/$5 half. Ask about the discount for Vermont residents.

Rentals: Yes

Lessons: Yes

Where: Craftsbury Outdoor Center is located in northeastern Vermont, several miles north of Craftsbury Common on Lost Nation Road.

For more information: http://www.craftsbury.com ; (800) 729-7751



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