We pulled into the parking lot around 8:30am.
I had to rent snowshoes, so I made my way to the Nordic Center while Geoff prepped his gear at the car. Walking down, I realized our facilities typically don’t operate until 9am, so I was pleased to see they were open early. The staff there was very helpful in finding me what I needed (snowshoes that would fit over my snowboard boots) quickly. I noticed the stack of trail maps on the counter and thought it would be a good idea to grab one. However, knowing from past experience that these tend to turn into soggy, ripped up masses in my pocket or backpack, I opted to purchase the Mount Mansfield Region Nordic Ski & Snowshoe waterproof trail map; this later proved to be a wise decision. I was back to the car in less than ten minutes which was awesome because we were eager to get moving.
Upon arrival to the car, I started my pre-hike checklist.
The night prior, I had heard about an incident where a couple of skiers were nearly stuck on Woodward Trail due to binding malfunctions. I didn't want this to happen to me so I was thorough about checking my pack. Six Cliff Bars - because a sandwich won’t survive - one full water bladder, roughly a half gallon; extra gloves; extra hat; two long sleeve thermal t-shirts; one long sleeve Under Armor; one pair of extra socks; one set of extra lenses for my goggles; a turtle fur neck-warmer; a tubeless toilet paper roll in a sealed Ziploc bag and my helmet.
Next was the tool kit. Screwdrivers, one Phillips and one flat; Duct Tape; paracord; a headlamp and extra batteries; two lighters and a Leatherman. I felt pretty good about what I had, so I strapped my pack to my back and we headed out.
Our route took us up to Bryant lodge first, which we had determined would be a good spot to stop and make any adjustments if necessary. The trail had been well traveled and it made for easy going which was a nice way to start. I could hear the dull hum of the lifts operating in the background but that slowly faded away until everything was silent.
As we gained in elevation, the trees became so coated with snow that they prevented any sound from traveling. I stopped and took it all in for a second. This was my first time out here and I was feeling a bit disappointed at all of the excuses I had made for not getting out earlier.
Bryant Camp is this awesome old cabin in the woods equipped with double doors for warmth, a cooking slate and a sleeping loft. It is the perfect send off location. From that point, there is quick access to Devils Drop, Heavenly Highway and the Catamount Trail.
I won’t share the exact places where we rode, but what I can say is that it was the best and deepest snow I have ridden in my 15 years of snowboarding. Everywhere we looked was the most epic tree line I had seen on the east. I wanted to ride all of it but I knew my legs would never allow it.
By the conclusion of my adventure, I finally understood the phrase “earn your turns.” And my legs did too. There is so much terrain out there within this amazing network of trails and I’m going back every chance I get.