Nordic skiing (which includes cross-country and Telemark) is enjoying a revival, with alpine fans and fitness freaks flocking to the more aerobic skate-skiing style, and wider, metal-edged backcountry skis fueling an off-trail craze. Unlike with the downhill version, novices can pick up any of the three disciplines (classic, skate, backcountry) in a day.
Stowe is home to four different Nordic areas, each offering a combination of tracked, skating, and ungroomed trails, as well as equipment rentals and lessons. So how to choose? You really can’t go wrong, but Edson Hill, somewhat detached on the east side of the mountain, is perfect for those who want solitude and wilderness. The Trapp and Stowe Mountain Resort areas—placed higher on the mountain and with hillier, more challenging terrain—are more attractive to advanced skiers. For beginners, Topnotch is the best choice: It has the flattest trail system and is also the closest to town, shops, and dining.
The please-all pick is the Stowe Recreation Path, an urban planner’s dream that connects the village of Stowe with the multiple trail systems branching off the road to Mt. Mansfield. The 5.2-mile paved path has multiple parking areas and free access, and it passes the back doors of some of Stowe’s most popular restaurants, like the Shed (1859 Mountain Rd.; 802-253-4364), a microbrewery which serves its beer samplers on old skis.
For the hard-core, the Catamount Trail, a backcountry-ski route that runs the length of Vermont, passes right through Stowe and offers all the skiing (over 300 miles worth) you can handle.