And nowhere is dry weather more important than at Vermont’s largest network of mountain biking trails.
VPR’s Charlotte Albright dropped by the "Kingdom Trails" center in East Burke to count cars-and bikes.
(Albright) Once upon a time, tourism in the snow-rich Northeast Kingdom was synonymous with alpine skiing. But more and more, dollars are flowing in from mountain bikers and nordic skiers who visit the non-profit Kingdom Trails network.
Most of the cars whizzing into the Kingdom Trails parking lot on this sunny dry morning come from out of state. The first three license plates are from Canada, California, and New York. Michael Margulis, his wife, and two teen-aged daughters left their Long Island home to vacation in the Northeast Kingdom because they don’t like typical tourist destinations.
(Margulis) “You tend to run into overcommercialization of an area and this is still in its early stages, there’s still a rough edge to it, which is nice. You’ve got the town, the people who visit it, they’re more relaxed and still looking for a good time.”
(Albright) And they hope to have that good time on mountain bikes – you can rent them next door – cruising over 100 miles of trails maintained by a seven-person crew. About 45 landowners allow bikers onto their property in this vast network.
Inside the ticket sales office, Kingdom Trails Executive Director Tim Tierney says a typical season brings a whopping 34,000 day users to this remote spot, and business has grown about 30 percent each year since 2004. Until this summer, that is, when too many rainy days kept usage even with last year. That means that Labor Day weekend, and especially Columbus Day, which is also Canadian Thanksgiving, will have to pick up the pace. Tierney is optimistic because bikers tell him they love the local inns, restaurants, campgrounds, and friendly neighbors.
(Tierney) “They’re also amazed at how great the community is. If they need water from homes, or they actually get water up at the local chapter, they leave the spigot open for bikers. I mean people know that this is really a big part of the fabric of the area.”
(Albright) Which may explain why Kingdom Trails can attract visitors mostly by word of mouth, without paying for marketing. Ticket revenues and donations go directly to trail maintenance-and this summer, that’s been a back-breaking job.
For VPR News, I’m Charlotte Albright, in East Burke.