Ah, winter in Vermont — a season that is both beloved and despised by locals, and romanticized by both the media and potential visitors.
No matter how you feel about winter in general, I urge you to visit Vermont when the mountains are blanketed with snow. You may fall in love with this beautiful season!
Vermont takes its winter recreation seriously, with an abundance of outdoor activities, winter festivals, ice-skating rinks, cross-country ski trails, and of course, downhill skiing. But even if you’ve no interest in strapping on skis and careening down a mountain, there are so many things to do in Vermont in the winter.
If you’ve never experienced the peace of a snowy forest trail or cozied up next to a blazing fireplace during a winter storm in Vermont, this is the year to make it happen.
Pack your wool socks, your warmest parka, and your snowboots, and head to Vermont where the weather suits your clothes.
Here are the best things to do in Vermont in the winter for your next New England getaway.
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Go Cross-Country Skiing through a Winter Wonderland
Cross-country skiing allows you to explore the woods at a more leisurely pace than downhill skiing, and trail passes and rentals are usually more affordable than resort lift tickets.
If you’ve never cross-country skied, you’ll be happy to know that the learning curve is not too steep. I am a native Vermonter, who never took to downhill skiing, but I can stay upright on my cross-country skis — as long as I don’t accidentally head down a steep hill.
Many of Vermont’s cross-country ski centers offer lessons to help you get started.
Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe: Home to the first cross-country ski center in the country and one of the best places to learn Nordic skiing, Trapp Family Lodge maintains 100 kilometers of trails on 2,500 acres. Rent skis or snowshoes, take a group lesson, and get busy exploring the snowy landscape.
Trail passes at Trapp Family Lodge are $34 on weekends and $30 on weekdays. Dogs are not permitted on winter trails.
Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park in Woodstock: The Woodstock Inn & Resort in Woodstock grooms the Nordic ski trails on Mount Tom and Mount Peg in Woodstock. There are 45 km of trails, and many of them are perfect for beginners. There are a few more difficult trails for experienced skiers too.
If you are new to the sport, head over to the Woodstock Nordic Center at 76 South Street in Woodstock. This is the spot to rent equipment, sign up for a lesson, and buy your trail pass for the day. You can also use the trails for snowshoeing if you want to go at a slower pace.
Enjoy Ice Skating with Mountain Views
There aren’t many ice skating experiences that can hold a candle to gliding for 4.3 miles around beautiful Lake Morey in Fairlee, Vermont. This is the longest ice skating trail in the United States, and it’s completely free to use with access at Fairlee Town Beach and Lake Morey Resort, which maintains the skate trail.
The ice is usually thick enough for skating on Lake Morey by mid-January, and the snow is cleared with a tractor to make the ice passable with skates.
While figure skating or hockey skates will work for skating, this is not the glassy ice of an indoor rink. Nordic skates, which are designed for rough ice and long-distance skating, are much preferred.
Overnight guests at Lake Morey Resort receive complimentary skate rentals, and a night at this beautiful lakefront resort makes an ideal gift for outdoor-loving families or couples.
Finally, if your winter adventures take you to Stowe, head up to the Village at Spruce Peak, where you can skate for free on a beautiful outdoor rink before heading inside for cocktails and dinner. Bring your own skates or rent them at the Adventure Center.
Weather permitting, the ice skating rink at Spruce Peak is open every day in the winter.
Celebrate with the Locals at a Winter Festival
There are oodles of things to do in Vermont in winter, and local communities across the state celebrate winter festivals that are ideal for embracing the cold, snow, and ice.
Celebrate 49 years of winter adventures at the Stowe Winter Carnival in January along with the 40th annual Winter Rendezvous — described as “five days of wintery bliss” in StoweEclectic Festivities include a bowling party, pool party, LGBTQ+ Winter Pride Festival (and Gay Ski Ski Week), live music, drag bingo, theater, cocktails, and a huge dance party.
In February, enjoy fireworks, bonfires, dog sled rides, and a snow-building competition at Great Ice in North Hero on Lake Champlain.
No matter how you feel about winter, you’re sure to appreciate Vermont’s winter festivals and events to help you make the most of the season.
Snowmobile Vermont’s VAST Trails
Vermont Association of Snow Travelers maintains 4,700 miles of trails in Vermont for snowmobile recreation and travel. It is one of the oldest snowmobiling organizations in the US and includes 127 clubs across the state.
To take advantage of VAST trails, you will need a trail pass and a valid snowmobile registration. If you don’t have a snowmobile of your own, the best way to hit the VAST trails is with a Vermont snowmobile tour.
Snowmobile Vermont offers tours for all skill levels of riding in four beautiful Vermont settings — Killington, Mount Snow, Okemo, and Stowe. Tours run every day as long as there’s snow! If you’re into a vacation filled with adrenaline and adventure, snowmobiling is one of the best things to do in Vermont in the winter.
Take a Covered Bridge Tour
Red barns and bridges are as ubiquitous to Vermont as black and white cows, and they add a touch of nostalgia and romance to the woodland and pastoral scenes of the Green Mountains.
Per square mile, there are more covered bridges in Vermont than anywhere else in the United States – more than 100 in all. Most covered bridges in Vermont were built between 1825 and 1875 to prevent the wooden trusses and decks from rotting from prolonged exposure to snow and rain.
These beautiful feats of engineering offer a one-of-a-kind look into a bygone age — a time when ingenious craftsmanship was used to create structures that embodied simple beauty and embraced the natural landscape.
The use of iron trusses in the mid-1800s meant that bridges could be built more cheaply without the need for protection from the elements.
Of course, you can visit Vermont’s covered bridges any time of year, but the snowy landscape adds a touch of romance to an already beautiful scene, and exploring Vermont’s beautiful covered bridges adds a touch of whimsy to your scenic drive.
Visit the Vermont Covered Bridge Society to learn more.
Ski the East at a Vermont Ski Resort
Downhill skiing and riding is a way of life for many locals, and visitors travel from all over the country to enjoy Vermont’s rugged mountain terrain.
Whether you’re new to the sport or have been doing it for years, come to Vermont to ski or ride at one of 20 ski resorts across the state.
The ski season in Vermont begins as early as Thanksgiving and generally runs through April, with the best skiing in February and March.
Not sure how to begin planning your Vermont ski trip? Check out Ski Vermont to learn more about your options, or check out these locally-owned resorts:
- For families and beginners: I put myself through college working at Smugglers’ Notch, and I can tell you that it is one of the best ski resorts for families, on and off the slopes.
- For inexpensive night skiing: Bolton Valley has $25 lift tickets after 4 pm. Can’t beat that!
- Low-key skiing in Southern Vermont: Bromley Mountain will always hold a special place in my heart, as I sat in the lodge two days a week for many years while my kiddos shredded on the mountain.
- For the hard-core skiers: Mad River Glen is the mountain of legends (or so I’m told).
Go Dog Sledding in Vermont
Looking for one of the most exhilarating things to do in Vermont in the winter? Explore stunning natural beauty while gliding through the snow, pulled by a team of amazing sled dogs.
Umiak Outdoor Outfitters offers two enchanting dogsled experiences to choose from. The evening dog sled program in Morrisville allows you to learn about the fascinating history of dog sledding, meet the sled dogs, and embark on a 15-minute sled ride.
Mad River Dog Sled Adventures is a 1.5-hour program where you can experience the thrill and excitement of riding through the backcountry of Vermont with your own dogsled team.
Whichever program, you choose, dog sledding in Vermont is an experience you’ll remember forever!
Go Ice Fishing on a frozen Vermont Lake
With the arrival of frigid temps in January and February, all of a sudden the frozen ice becomes home to villages of ice shanties, as anglers set up camp on the ice to lure fish from the depths of lakes and ponds around Vermont.
Seeking everything from landlocked salmon and trout to small panfish and everything in between, ice fishing is a communal activity enjoyed by hard-core anglers, casual outdoor lovers, and small children throughout Vermont’s coldest season.
If you’ve never tried ice fishing and want to give it a try, consider attending a free ice fishing clinic with the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department or hiring an ice fishing guide to help you get out on the ice safely.
Try the Vermont Brewery Challenge
Vermont is a magnet for beer lovers. The state has more craft breweries per capita than any other US state, and wherever you go in Vermont, you’ll find different styles of beers, unique taprooms, incredible food pairings, and a community of beer lovers.
With every new beer you try, you’ll get to know Vermont’s craft beer scene a little better. There are hundreds of beers just waiting to be sampled and enjoyed!
If you’re already a fan of locally crafted beer, why not take the Vermont Brewery Challenge and make your explorations a bit more interesting?
Sponsored by the Vermont Brewers Association, the challenge is simple – download the app, find local Vermont breweries, and earn rewards as you sample your favorite beers in your favorite spots. There are currently more than 60 Vermont breweries listed as part of the challenge.
The Vermont Brewery Challenge app also allows you to save your favorite beers and create your own beer trails and tours throughout Vermont.
Try Winter Fat Biking
If you’re looking for a fun new way to embrace the Vermont winter, riding a fat bike will put a smile on your face that’s even bigger than your tires.
Whether you’re a first-time cyclist or an outdoor enthusiast, fat biking is a fun hobby that anybody can enjoy.
If you don’t have a fat bike, you can rent one at locations throughout Vermont, including:
- Catamount Family Outdoor Center in Williston
- Outdoor Gear Exchange in Burlington
- Vermont Bike & Brew in Thetford
- Pinnacle Ski & Sports in Stowe
Here is a small sample of the great winter fat biking trails you’ll find across Vermont:
- Cady Hill, Edson Hill, and Cotton Brook in Stowe
- Kingdom Trails in East Burke: 31 miles of groomed singletrack
- Lamoille Valley Rail Trail: Try a Fat Tire Ebike Tour with Lamoille Valley Bike Tours!
Enjoy Horse-Drawn Sleigh Rides
Is there anything as romantic or as quintessential Vermont as snuggling up under blankets in a sleigh as a team of draft horses pulls you effortlessly through the forest? I think not.
Sleigh rides are a great way to see Vermont’s snow-covered scenery while snuggling up with the ones you love. It’s quintessential Vermont, and makes a great romantic date or family adventure!
Here are a few spots to enjoy a winter sleigh ride in Vermont:
- Bass Brook Farm and Forest in Braintree: Book a private group sleigh ride for your group, and enjoy a beautiful two-mile sleigh ride through the White River Valley of Vermont. Complimentary hot cocoa and coffee is provided.
- Gentle Giants Sleigh & Wagon Rides in Stowe: Beautiful Belgian or Percheron draft horses pull a sleigh (or carriage when there’s no snow) through the Stowe countryside. Call 802) 253-2216 to reserve.
- Rainbow’s Edge Farm in Sutton: Horse-drawn sleigh rides through the scenic woods and snowy fields of Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom.
- Mountaintop Resort in Chittenden: 30-minute tours around the resort property near Killington.
Indulge in a Spa Treatment
One of the best ways to follow a day of cold-weather adventuring is with a luxurious spa treatment to pamper yourself.
Winter is the perfect time to plan a girls’ getaway or spa weekend with someone you love. Here are some fantastic spas to visit to give yourself a little love during winter in Vermont.
- Woodstock Inn & Resort – The Woodstock Inn & Resort is a luxurious slice of heaven in one of Vermont’s most picturesque towns. The resort features 142 scrumptious rooms, four distinct restaurants, and recreation opportunities. The onsite spa is a premiere wellness retreat, with restorative massages, facials, and body treatments, plus whirlpool tubs, an outdoor pool, and a cedar sauna. Special sugar season packages are available.
- Topnotch Resort in Stowe– Head to the mountain town of Stowe and the newly renovated Topnotch Resort, located on 120 pristine acres at the base of Mount Mansfield. Spa amenities include indoor and outdoor pools, hot tubs, saunas, and fitness rooms. Spa treatments include body wraps, massages, facials, skincare, salon services, cupping, and couples treatments.
- Mountaintop Inn & Resort in Chittenden – Set high in the mountains of Central Vermont on 700 idyllic acres, Mountaintop Inn & Resort is a secret getaway that you can only find in Vermont. Accommodations are luxurious, the cuisine is artfully created, and the spa treatments are beyond relaxing. Spa and salon services include a pool and hot tub, massages, scrubs, and facials.
Plan a Winter Weekend Getaway in Vermont
While the mountains of Vermont have been attracting downhill skiers for decades, we hope this post has convinced you that there’s so much more to winter in Vermont than skiing.
If you’re on the fence about visiting Vermont in the winter months, let me help you change your mind.
Read about six magical winter getaways in Vermont where you can indulge in all the experiences mentioned above for a memorable weekend of fun in the snow, and some indoor adventures too!
The days may be short and the roads icy, but if any place can embrace winter in all its glory, it’s definitely the Green Mountain State, which becomes a winter wonderland between January and March!
Have you explored Vermont in the winter? What are you waiting for?
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Tara Schatz is a freelance writer, and the founder and editor-in-chief of Vermont Explored and Back Road Ramblers, an American road trip blog. She is also the co-author of the 3rd edition of AMC’s Best Day Hikes in Vermont, which was released in May 2023, and the author of 100+ Wonderful Ways to Experience Vermont.