Last link in Catamount Trail completed for cross-country skiers

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(Host) Construction of the final link of the Catamount Trail has been completed, giving cross-country skiers 300 miles of terrain.

As VPR’s Ross Sneyd reports, the trail stretches the length of the Green Mountains, from the Massachusetts line to the Canadian border.

(Sneyd) There had been a four-and-a-half-mile gap in the trail near Stratton.

But the U.S. Forest Service recently bought the tract of land that was needed to close that break in the trail.

This fall, crews have spent several weeks cutting brush and trees so skiers can make the entire trek between Searsburg and Jay.

Lenore Budd is the trail manager for the Catamount Trail Association. She says blazing that last section of trail was a milestone for her group.

(Budd) “The trail was originally laid out by several graduate students 25 years ago. They were just looking for a way to ski from Massachusetts to Quebec. So at the time they looked for the easiest way to get from A to B. A lot of that involved logging roads, Forest Service roads and snowmobile trails. So gradually over the years we’ve been improving and tweaking that route.”

(Sneyd) Now the trail covers a wide variety of terrain, from the flat stretches along the Harriman Reservoir in the south to challenging slopes between Bolton Mountain and the hills approaching Mount Mansfield.

Unlike the Long Trail hiking path, the Catamount Trail doesn’t follow the ridgeline of the Green Mountains.

Lenore says the cross-country trail sticks to what she describes as the shoulders of the mountains.

The ski trail meanders back and forth from the western side of the mountains to the east, taking skiers through some rugged terrain.

Doug Reeves is a recreation specialist with the Green Mountain National Forest.

He says the trail is a tremendous resource, but he also warns that it’s not for everyone.

(Reeves) “ Unlike the trails that are groomed and just about anybody can go out and put on their skis and follow tracks through the woods, it’s a trail where a lot of times you’re breaking your own trail and you need to have some woods sense about you to safely ski it. And some parts are for only the most skilled skiers because you’re out in some pretty remote areas of the woods.”

(Sneyd) But the trail also connects with cross-country ski areas, so there are sections for most levels of skiers.

About half of the trail is on public land and the rest is in private ownership. The Catamount Trail Association is working to establish permanent easements on some of that private land.

The association also is looking to relocate sections that share the trail with snowmobilers.

For VPR News, I’m Ross Sneyd.

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