Learning to ski or snowboard at an early age is the perfect way to help young children instill a love for winter. Exploring the slopes helps kids build self-confidence, meet new friends and develop a lifelong affinity for the outdoors.
From its stately perch overlooking the green, the Woodstock Inn is a gracious focal point in this quaint Vermont village of unique shops and covered bridges. We had just spent 4 days skiing up at Bolton Valley and were making an overnight stop in Woodstock for some snowshoeing. Walking into the Inn’s inviting lobby, we were greeted by a fire that roared within one of the largest open-hearth fireplaces I’ve ever seen. Rosy-cheeked kids swished by in their snow pants having just returned on the shuttle from nearby Suicide Six Mountain, while several adults, some with their shoes kicked off, lounged in the comfortable chairs that surrounded the fire, reading and chatting. We quickly regretted that we had only one night to savor the Inn’s warm, welcoming atmosphere.
After getting settled into our rooms, which were the epitome of plush, New England-style tranquility, we suited up in our snow gear and headed for the resort’s Racquet and Fitness Club, which also housed their extensive Nordic Center. To expand upon their winter recreation offerings, the Woodstock Inn teamed up with Tubbs Snowshoes in 2014 and launched the inaugural Tubbs Snowshoe Adventure Center. The Club is located just over a mile down the road from the Inn and can be reached by taking the complimentary shuttle that runs a loop from the Inn to the mountain, to the fitness center. However, in the interest of time we drove over ourselves.
The Tubbs Adventure Center at the Woodstock Inn
Woodstock boasts an extensive network of approximately 60-kilometers of groomed and backcountry trails, both in the area directly behind the Racquet and Fitness Club as well as within the neighboring Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historic Park. From the Tubbs Adventure Center, visitors can join an expert-led tour or explore the trails on their own. A family friendly scavenger hunt, created by the local middle school students and their art teachers, is a great way to introduce kids to snowshoeing. As an added perk, trail passes are included in your resort stay during weekday and non-holiday periods.
Leading the helm at the Resort’s Nordic Center is Woodstock native Peter Davenport and guests could not possibly be in better hands. Often with his kids and grandkids in tow, Davenport has spent decades trekking along Woodstock’s trails—in hiking boots and snowshoes as well as on skis. Adorning the wall outside of the Nordic Center is a faded copy of a 1972 Ranger Rick magazine featuring the Davenport family’s adventures in the woods of nearby Mt. Tom. Davenport told us stories of times when he and his wife would take their children out for long days of skiing or snowshoeing, bringing along a portable stove and all the trappings for al fresco fondue on the mountain.
Trekking on a Trail
Snowshoes strapped tightly to our boots—Davenport’s granddaughter was actually the one who helped to get us fitted—we made our way along the path from the Racquet Club to the trailhead for the scavenger hunt. We were looking for signs of local creatures like gray foxes, river otters and deer and the girls were wondering if we might actually see some of these woodland animals.
Crunching along the early part of the trail behind the club, we crossed a small bridge over Kendron Brook and around what is likely a large meadow when it isn’t blanketed by 2-feet of snow. Our 8-year old daughter fell down about four times in ten minutes and I found myself getting annoyed with her until I realized that the toes of her boots were getting trapped in the openings on the top of her snowshoes. We tightened her up a few times and she eventually got the hang of it. Our middle daughter bounded off to the meadow and was a little disappointed to see that even wearing snowshoes, she still sunk down into the powder. She thought the shoes would allow her to glide along on top of the snowy surface despite her 60-pounds of body weight. I assured her that she would have found herself waist-deep had she been wearing only her snow boots.
Bringing up the rear on the other side of the bridge, my husband and eldest daughter spotted our first critter clue—white tail deer. Attached to the painted wooden sign that featured the animal’s Latin name—Odocoileus virginianus—was a red plastic tool that made a distinct impression when we stamped our Wildlife Sightings booklet.
I was anxious to make some tracks and get up into the woods to explore before dusk fell, but the girls were in a silly mood, lollygagging their way down the trail, flopping into snowdrifts and looking for more of the animal signs. I finally surrendered to the fact that we weren’t going to cover much ground, which my girls pointedly reminded me wasn’t the purpose of the excursion anyway, although we did manage to hike up one black diamond trail. It was bit steep but no problem at all, though it would have been a different story had we been wearing skis. We were passed on the way up by several young members of the local Nordic ski team and also encountered the fascinating remains of an animal that had likely been the meal of a coyote. Upon close examination we thought it might have been a fox, as it had a thick, fluffy coat, but Davenport assured us it was a deer when we showed him the pictures we took. I’d never realized that deer grew such heavy fur in the winter.
Back at the Inn, the girls warmed up with the hot cocoa and cookies that are offered every afternoon in the Conservatory. In the library, a huge puzzle was spread out on the coffee table and we set right to work assembling the bucolic Vermont scene that was depicted on the box. A father and daughter were playing checkers at a nearby table while my younger daughter made friends with the girl’s sister. I strolled past the crackling lobby fire to the bar at the Red Rooster, the Inn’s signature restaurant, for a glass of red wine before collecting the girls for their baths. Snuggling into the robes we found in our closet, we enjoyed some pre-dinner downtime in our rooms. It was the perfect après-snowshoe afternoon.