Vermont Ski Resorts have begun providing some pretty amazing off-season activities in the last few years. You can now zip-line, ride a roller coaster, go on a alpine slide or navigate an adventure course when visiting the mountains. The Woodstock Inn and Resort has really upped their game by partnering with The New England Falconry to provide guests with a truly unique experience — learning to handle and fly hawks!
On a recent trip to the Inn, my son and I spent the afternoon at the Historic Rutherford Barn with Master Falconer, Chris Davis. A licensed falconer since 1979, Chris has been educating visitors about falconry and raptors for 30 years. A falconer trains their birds to fly free, hunt for them and then accept returning to captivity.
Our session began with a tour of the barn, which has undergone interior renovations to house the raptors in horse-like stalls. Here the hawks and owls are cared for by Chris and his staff. There is a lot that goes into tending to these amazing birds. They need food, water, health check-ups and supervision, not to mention the enormous amount of time and patience it takes to properly train them.
After being fitted with falconry gloves and a lesson on when to raise and lower your arm, (essential to signaling the hawks to come to you) we headed outside to the field. Chris brought a hawk out and let it fly over to it’s perch. He then demonstrated how to signal for the hawk to fly over to the glove. All the while he entertained all of our questions about the hawks, falconry and the need for their conservation. It was quite educational and very interesting.
I was surprise how light the birds are. I thought they would be heavy and I would have trouble supporting their weight. I was also amazed at what gentle creators they can be. It was a little intimidating to hold out my hand with a small piece of meat on it and expect that a bird of prey would come in for a gentle landing, delicately eat the morsel that Chris put there and then fly off. But that is exactly what it did.
If you are looking for different experience at a ski resort, I highly recommend taking a falconry lesson. I know this is something that my son and I will never forget.
Dana Freeman is the Founder and Editor of FindandGoSeek
— a hyperlocal destination for families to discover what to see and do in their community. While she is always looking for insider tips on Family Fun in Vermont, she also writes a travel blog providing hotel and destination reviews in Vermont and beyond. Freeman has appeared on Huffington Post Live, is a correspondent for the Forbes Travel Guide.
Dana moved to Vermont over a decade ago and put her two kids into ski programs before they entered Kindergarten. She lives outside of Burlington, Vermont with her husband, two teenagers and their chocolate lab. Follow her adventures on Instagram.