Bruce Edwards, VermontToday.com
January 16, 2011

The states ski areas are reveling in last weeks storm that brought more than two feet of snow in many parts of Vermont.

And while thats always welcome news for the states downhill ski areas, its absolutely essential for Vermonts 30 cross-country areas that are almost entirely dependent on natural snow.

Right now, especially after the great storms we had earlier in the season now with this continuing snow, we've got all the Nordic areas open and with additional terrain being added by the day, Parker Riehle of the Vermont Ski Areas Association, said.

Riehle, the VSAA president, said of the 30 Nordic ski areas, 20 are standalone ski touring centers while the remaining 10 are part of downhill ski areas that include Bolton Valley Resort and Stowe Mountain Resort.

With last week's storm still in progress just before the Martin Luther King holiday, the Trapp Family Lodge Cross Country Ski Center had all 60 kilometers of trails open with 100 kilometers of back country trails.

Jenni Vincent, a Trapp Family Lodge spokeswoman, said prior to the recent storm the cross-country touring center had been holding its own, helped by snowmaking over 5 kilometers.

Vincent said other activities include snowshoeing, backcountry Nordic skiing, skate skiing and horse-drawn sleigh rides.

Mountain Top Inn in Chittenden was 100 percent open with 60 kilometers of trails, 40k of which are groomed. The cross-country area also has snowmaking on a 2 kilometer loop.

Exceptional, was how Khele Sparks, the inn's general manager, described conditions following the storm. It couldn't be better for the weekend.

Before the storms arrival, he said 40 percent to 50 percent of the terrain was open.

Sparks said the 30 guest rooms, five cabins and 18 houses at the inn were fully booked for the holiday.

Grafton Ponds in southern Vermont was operating at 100 percent, with 30 kilometers of groomed trails open for classic skiing and skate skiing, along with snowshoeing and a 600-foot tubing hill. The area also has snowmaking on 5 kilometers.

New to the cross-country area is a biathlon competition every Saturday. The entry fee is $5.

?You ski a loop, you shoot at targets, you ski more and shoot at targets,said Grafton Ponds director Bill Salmon.

He said the only difference is that the shooting part of the course uses laser guns.

On Thursdays, dog owners can ski and snow shoe with their pets for free.

During the summer, Grafton Ponds switches gears with mountain biking, canoeing, kayaking and fly fishing.

Riehle said an umbrella group, the Catamount Trail Association, connects all the Nordic ski areas together along with some private land holdings in order to run a Nordic trail the length of Vermont.

At this point, its completely connected and you can literally Nordic ski from the Canadian border to the Massachusetts border, he said.

Nordic skier visits average 200,000 during the season, far less than the 4.1 million skier visits logged by the states 18 downhill areas.

Cross-country skiing is more affordable than downhill with an adult day pass at many areas priced at $20 or less.

Riehle said cross-country areas do their part in contributing to the state?s economy, helping inns, restaurants, stores and gas stations.

@Tagline:bruce.edwards

@rutlandherald.com

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