There’s nothing quite like a winter vacation in a ski town. Enjoying a Main Street full of gear shops, charming bed and breakfasts, breweries, and great restaurants; all covered in a beautiful dusting of fresh powder. After a long day on the slopes, you slide your aching bones into a steaming lodge hot tub, with the promise of warm fondue and cold beer to follow. And best of all, a gorgeous snow covered mountain looms over everything, just begging for you to get back out there! Well it turns out ski towns aren’t only just great for skiing and snowboarding. Those same gorgeous mountains, and fun filled towns, provide four seasons' worth of adventure that make a ski town the perfect vacation destination for outdoor enthusiasts anytime of year.
Ski mountains provide amazing views all year, even without the snow!
Last summer, some of the Woolx home team took a trip to one of the East Coast’s great small ski towns. Situated in the heart of Vermont’s Green Mountains, the town of Ludlow is home to Okemo Mountain Resort. Best known for its 667 acres of terrain and 2,200 foot vertical drop, Okemo has been a southern Vermont ski destination since the 1930’s. We hit the town in late June, long after the 500,000+ ski visitors it sees every year had left for the season. Over the course of a great long weekend we sampled some of the awesome food and amazing outdoor fun the region had to offer!
Ski towns are often blessed with a wonderful array of accommodations. Vermont in particular is known for its quaint Inns and cozy Bed and Breakfasts. We chose to stay at Homestyle Hostel. This beautifully restored historic home is located less than a mile from Okemo’s first chair lift, but it was their Instagram featuring the fresh, locally sourced dinners served in their restaurant that hooked us! Many ski area hotels provide accommodations for your ski gear too. The heated outbuilding at Homestyle Hostel will house your board and dry your boots in winter, but it’s also a perfect place to stash mountain bikes and kayaks in the summer.
Temps were in the 90’s our first full day in town, so after a morning spent supporting the local economy on Main Street, we were looking to take it easy hiking and find somewhere to play in the water. Ski town locals are usually both friendly and outdoorsy, and the denizens of Ludlow were no exception. A local shop owner gave us a heads up about beautiful Echo Lake in nearby Camp Plymouth State Park, so we grabbed some beach towels and headed on over.
We were delighted to learn the lake allowed swimming and rented out kayaks, canoes and paddle boards. I was really excited to try paddle boarding for the first time. It was both easier and harder than I imagined. Much easier to get up without falling than I thought it would be; but it took a lot more strength, and was more tiring than I anticipated to stay balanced while paddling. I have a ton of respect for the people you see out there doing yoga on a board!
After a great afternoon on the water, we decided we were ready for our first short hike of the trip. The Vista Trail in Camp Plymouth State Park climbs steeply through a pine forest to reveal a great view of the lake and park. This quick hike was just enough to get us warmed up for the next day when we planned to tackle our toughest hike of the trip.
On Sunday, we were ready for a good uphill adventure. The Healdville Trail climbs to the summit of Okemo Mountain on the opposite side from the ski resort. The hike is about 3 miles one way, with approximately 2,000 feet in elevation change. We failed in our attempt to get up early, and headed out right around noon so we could enjoy hiking during the hottest time of day. Luckily it was pretty dense forest the whole way up, so we were well shaded. It took us about 4 hours up and back, with a nice break at the top.
The dense woods provided some much needed cover on the way up.
I personally recommend a solid layer of DEET for this hike in the summer!
We enjoyed an amazing view from the VERY tall fire tower at the summit. So cool to see the top of the lift equipment for Okemo Resort!
We were exhausted after our efforts on the Headville Trail, and spent the rest of the day relaxing and eating in Ludlow. For vacationers with more energy, there are a ton of other activities to enjoy. The Okemo Bicycle Hill Climb took place the same weekend we were in town. This grueling race is 5.8 miles of vertical climb to the top of Okemo Mountain via Route 103 and Mountain Road. Okemo Resort itself offers a variety of summer activities, including mountain biking, zip lining, a climbing wall, a challenge course, and more!
For our final day in Vermont, we decided to hike the White Rocks Ice Beds Trail in nearby Wallingford. Part of the trail follows Vermont’s famous Long Trail. Along the way we enjoyed a gorgeous view of the northwestern side of White Rocks Cliffs, and finally reached the bottom of a talus pile of massive rocks. Frozen ice deep within the rock pile cools the surrounding area. Walking up to the pile you’re hit with a blast of cool air and the unmistakable smell of ice, almost like opening a freezer. It was easily 20-30 degrees cooler at the rock pile than on the walk up. Climbing on these crazy huge boulders was a highlight of the trip.
The heat and humidity on this trip really showed how important it is to have breathable, moisture wicking clothing that dries quickly. Our Woolx lightweight gear handled these tough conditions beautifully! Merino wool’s natural ability to pull moisture away from the wearer helped keep us cool during the hot and sweaty hikes, and because of its quick drying abilities, our shirts were bone dry by the time we headed back down the mountain.
And with that, our Green Mountain State adventure was over. As we drove back across the border into upstate New York, we reflected on the fantastic time we had on Okemo Mountain, no snow necessary! Ski towns really have a special quality about them. A laid back sense of adventure and love for the outdoors permeates the air, and doesn’t dissipate when the snow melts. Next time you’re looking for a weekend getaway, give an off season ski town a try, you won’t regret it!