Canada, Or Bust - Ski Mag

Canada, Or Bust

Travel East
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Now that Everest has been skied, perhaps you've been casting about for a new challenge. Here's one: As far as anyone associated with the Catamount Trail can say, no one has ever skied the length of Vermont in a continuous, unaided expedition.

At least you won't have to come up with the route: The Catamount, Vermont's top-to-bottom, 300-mile cross-country ski and snowshoe route, is nearly complete. Last summer, Vermont Gov. Howard Dean did his bit, donating a permanent easement for the trail across private land he owns in the state's rural and beautiful Northeast Kingdom. With just a few remaining gaps, the trail is tantalizingly close to completion.

The idea for the trail was hatched in 1982 by Steve Bushey, then a graduate student in need of a thesis project for his cartography degree. It has grown from a theoretical route on a student's map to some 280 miles of clearly marked trail following the Green Mountains north from Readsboro to Troy. It's fundamentally a volunteereffort: Landowners offer land, trailworkers clear trail, and members pay dues to help fund new land easements and acquisitions.

"We're the only thing like this in North America¿an end-to-end, state-long ski and snowshoe trail," says Ted Milk, executive director of the Catamount Trail Association. The member-funded organization publishes maps, sponsors outings, maintains a website (www.catamounttrail.org) and generally agitates for land-conservation and the sport of cross-country skiing.

But Milk's trickiest duty is overseeing the intensely dynamic task of patching trail segments together, which in a small state like Vermont is a complex dance involving private landowners (some 350), state and federal forest overseers and even snowmobile clubs. The result is a patchwork of experiences: about 30 percent packed snowmobile trail, 15 percent groomed touring-center terrain, 47 percent completely ungroomed and some eight percent still incomplete. The skiingexperience ranges from farm to forest to mountainside, with only occasional encroachment of civilization.

The goal is to eventually wean the trail from the use of snowmobile routes. "But there's not that much land in Vermont, so co-use is a way of life," says Milk. "Obviously, I'd rather not have a snowmobile go blasting by when I'm out there, but nine times out of 10, they'll slow down. People get along."

Most members ski the trail in sections, sometimes using skier-friendly B&Bs and inns that dot the route, making it possible to link segments for multi-day trips. Several people havealready navigated the entire trail. Only seven have skied it end-to-end in one continuous trek, Milk believes.

But roughing it border-to-border, without aid or shelter? No one's done that. No doubt someone will.

In Quebec, A House Of Glace
The first thing people ask about the Ice Hotel is, "What do guests sleep on?" Yes, even the beds are made of ice¿topped with waterproof mattresses, animal pelts and cold-weather sleeping bags. Guestrooms are a constant 25 degrees, but guests are toasty warm.

Encouraged by their success last year, Ice Hotel Quebec, Inc. has launched an even bigger version for this year, relocated 25 minutes from downtown Quebec and 45 minutes from the slopes at Stoneham and Mont Saint Anne. The one-story structure, now located on the shores of Lac St. Joseph in Quebec's Duchesnay tourist region, is some 8,200 square feet, with 31 rooms and suites, a lobby, an Absolut Ice Bar and even a wedding chapel. Builders used 11,000 tons of snow and 350 tonsof ice. Rates start around $200 a night.

The second question people ask is ... well, never mind. But rest assured, the bathrooms are heated. Call 877-505-0423 for details. ¿J.C.

Jake Makes A Splash In Stowe
After four years of labor, snowboard pioneer Jake Burton Carpenter birthed his latest creation in October: a state-of-the-art pool and fitness facility for his hometown of Stowe, Vt.

Initially, the $2illion Swimming Hole was conceived as a municipal facility on town land. But when estimated operating costs overshot early budgets, the town balked. So Carpenter acquired private land, funded construction and set it up as a non-profit.

The design of the barn-like structure¿located on Weeks Hill Road, just off the Mountain Road¿is a nod to Vermont's farm heritage, but its fitness facilities are fully equipped and thoroughly modern. Poolsideexercise machines line a wall of glass that can be opened in summer. The opposite wall, also of glass, frames snow-clad Mt. Mansfield in the distance¿a view sure to inspire Carpenter and all fellow snow riders. The main pool is 25 meters with eight lanes. But Carpenter had kids in mind, including his own, and the 1,300-square-foot kids pool¿complete with spiraling water slide and mushrooming water fountains¿is where the action is.

Rates at the Swimming Hole are comparable to those at other fitness clubs. Annual memberships are $525 for adults, $799 for families. Day passes are $10 for adults, $6 for youths 6-17. Five-day coupon books, at $40 and $25, respectively, are perfect for vacationing skiers. Everything the Swimming Hole has to offer is included in the annual fees, even aqua-aerobics classes. (Information: 802-253-9229.)

For the Swimming Hole's grand opening in October, Carpenter enlisted two well-known friends: three-time Olympic gold-medalist swimmer Janet Evans and North Shore surfing icon Gerry Lopez. Both Evans and Lopez are as well known in their sports as Carpenter is in the world of snowboarding, a sport he virtually invented (though that's not how he characterizes it). The trio is bonded both by H2O¿frozen or otherwise¿and by a common interest in young people. ¿Mike Schaefer

Play Now, Pay Later
By June 25, most high schoolers are well into their rigorous summer routines: sleeping till noon, hanging poolside and assuring their parents they're looking for summer jobs. And well they should be. But those attending Green Mountain Union High School in Chester, Vt. (near Okemo) were looking atanother day behind books. Seems they had a little too much fun last winter, when snowfall closed the school no less than nine timesduring one of Vermont's snowiest seasons on record. To make up the required 175-day school year, the students faced the prospect of still being in school just five days shy ofJuly. (The horror.) But in the end, the school board delivered a reprieve, and GMUHS closed Friday, June 22. Perhaps the kids will think twice before praying for snow days this year. But probably not. ¿J.C.

City Kids On Course
It's not as if greater Boston hasn't ever spawned any ski-racing talent. U.S. Olympian Pam Fletcher honed her lightning slalom technique on the 240 vertical feet at the Fletcher family's Nashoba Valley in Westford, Mass. So who's to say that Blue Hills, with it's 320 feet, won't produce even greater talent? The suburban Boston ski area, revitalizedunder new owners last season, launched its own fully sanctioned junior race program this year. The Blue Hills Bandits¿ages 12 to 18¿train within view of both the Boston skyline and the Atlantic Ocean (and within a five-minute shuttle from the subway). Though the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association program is new at Blue Hills, racing isn't. The plucky little city slope (where the extreme-skiing Egan brothers got their start) fairly bristles with red and blue Break-A-Ways on weeknights, when some 27 high school teams come to train and compete under the lights. Information: 781-828-5070. ¿J.C.

Vermonters For A Day
Vermonters are famous for holding the "from-aways" at arm's length. Now, on behalf of the taciturn natives, Killington is sending out the welcome wagon. Sort of. The Beastof the East is broadening the scope of its Vermonter Days lift ticket deals to include folks from New Hampshire and even Quebec. (Granite Staters are practically kin; but Quebecois? Mon Dieux!) That means $25 tickets with proof of residency on any of the remaining dates this season (Jan. 8 and 23, Feb. 7 and 25, March 7 and 18, April 3 and 15). No deals yet for New Yorkers. That might bea while. ¿J.C.

Tuckerman Inferno: Reignited
No one straight-lined the Headwall, à la Toni Matt. But the first-ever Inferno Pentathlon was still plenty exciting. While the original Inferno was strictly a ski race, the new version incorporates five events into a grueling mountain test. This year's Inferno takes place on April 21; for information go to www.friendsoftuckerman.org. The competition incorporates kayaking, biking, running, speed-hiking and, finally, skiing the Headwall. Teams of five compete, with one athlete handling each leg of the competition. There's also a Son Of Inferno triathlon (no skiing or hiking) for teams of three or individuals. The events are inspired by the legendary Inferno races of yore, when racers skied from the summit to the floor of Pinkham Notch. It was the 1939 running in which Matt set a speed record never even approached by anyone else. The young Austrian didn't intend to schuss the precipitous Headwall without turns, but lost track of his location on the course. By the time he realized he was over the Lip, it was too late. ¿J.C.anite Staters are practically kin; but Quebecois? Mon Dieux!) That means $25 tickets with proof of residency on any of the remaining dates this season (Jan. 8 and 23, Feb. 7 and 25, March 7 and 18, April 3 and 15). No deals yet for New Yorkers. That might bea while. ¿J.C.

Tuckerman Inferno: Reignited
No one straight-lined the Headwall, à la Toni Matt. But the first-ever Inferno Pentathlon was still plenty exciting. While the original Inferno was strictly a ski race, the new version incorporates five events into a grueling mountain test. This year's Inferno takes place on April 21; for information go to www.friendsoftuckerman.org. The competition incorporates kayaking, biking, running, speed-hiking and, finally, skiing the Headwall. Teams of five compete, with one athlete handling each leg of the competition. There's also a Son Of Inferno triathlon (no skiing or hiking) for teams of three or individuals. The events are inspired by the legendary Inferno races of yore, when racers skied from the summit to the floor of Pinkham Notch. It was the 1939 running in which Matt set a speed record never even approached by anyone else. The young Austrian didn't intend to schuss the precipitous Headwall without turns, but lost track of his location on the course. By the time he realized he was over the Lip, it was too late. ¿J.C.

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