Think you're up for a little backcountry outing? On January 30, a ragged group of backcountry skiers will gather in the Massachusetts hamlet of Readsboro, point their tips north, and begin gliding across the border along Vermont's 300-mile Catamount Trail, the longest backcountry-ski route in the country. If conditions, luck, and skill allow, they'll complete the trail some 30 days later by tripping the Canadian border in North Troy, Vermont.
No one is sure exactly how many people have skied the entire trail, but it's not a large number (the latest estimate is 17). Why so few? Well, there's the length. And then there's the terrain: While portions of the Catamount Trail meander benignly through farm fields and over groomed snowmobile paths, much of it-like the steep and serpentine 12-mile jaunt between Bolton and Stowe-demands a finely honed set of backcountry skills.
"It's hard, but it's not a heroic feat of athleticism," says Ben Rose, one of the trail's three founders. Rose skied the route in '84, before the trail officially existed. "The major challenge is conditions. On any given day, an intermediate section can be a death-defying ice chute. Or it can be a waist-deep slog."
At press time, seven hardy-and presumably unemployed-souls had committed to the January trip, which is being organized by the Catamount Trail Association and is free to all comers (lodging and gear shuttle not included). For more information or to sign on, contact the Catamount Trail Association, 802-864-5794 or catamounttrail.org.