Ever since we moved to Vermont and I started to research the state’s Nordic skiing venues, I have been excited to ski at Ole’s Cross Country Center in Warren. Why? Because it’s fun to say. Also because they have a Norway flag in their logo. They seem authentic.
Luckily, Ole’s is located less than an hour from Montpelier. And thanks to Ski Vermont’s Nordic Reciprocal Program, our Morse Farm season’s pass gets us in for free. (What a fantastic benefit!) So just after lunch this afternoon, we packed up the car and headed to Warren.
Ole’s is located on Airport Road in Warren. Given the fact that Airport Road is a narrow gravel track, it’s clear that the Warren Sugarbush Airport doesn’t get a ton of air traffic. In fact, we were surprised to find that Ole’s is located at the airport. Make that ON the airport, as one of the trails is called Runway Trail and traverses the air field. (Turns out that the airport is a glider port and is open May – October.) Driving up the winding road, we were pleased to see a fair bit more snow than we have in Montpelier. Always a good sign.
We checked in and told the folks at the counter that we were blue/green skiers and wanted to ski for a couple of hours. They gave us a map and highlighted a nice big loop for us to follow. Most of the approximately 50K of skiing was open. Conditions were very good, the snow was soft and well groomed, and temps were around 30 degrees. Most of the trails are tracked and have wide skate lanes, so there is plenty of room for the modest traffic we encountered.
We headed out on Deer Run Trail (#5). This soon took us into the woods. We left Montpelier with overcast skies, but by the time we arrived at Ole’s there was nothing but clear skies and bluebird conditions. The woods, with the snow-covered evergreen boughs, were gorgeous and serene. The only problem here is the fact that the terrain is very bumpy, feeling like a series of moguls. It was difficult to get into a rhythm here, so it was fairly slow going. After a couple of kilometers we were kicked out into a cornfield with spectacular views of Sugarbush, which is just a few miles to the west. We then were directed to follow Buck Ridge (#7) to Sunnyside Loop (#4), a gentle meadow loop.
Ole’s signage in general was pretty good, but sadly lacking at the intersections in this part of the map. We were meant to follow Buck Ridge Connector (#7a), but the turn wasn’t marked and we ended up back at the junction of #4. On our next attempt we again missed 7a, but we did end up back on Deer Run, which is where 7a was supposed to lead us. We stopped to get our bearings when we looped around to where 7a, and a solo woman passed us, heading back toward the lodge. We caught up and passed her on the general uphill, and when we stopped for one of my (many) photo breaks we had a bit of a chat, and she gave us some tips on the routes back.
Finally we got back to the Runway Trail (#2). Here we had the option of going fairly directly back to the lodge, or taking one final loop of about 2.5 kilometers. We chose the loop, another well-groomed track with gentle hills. By now the afternoon sun was starting to drop below some of the treetops, so the trail was a bit shadowy, but the glide was smooth.
Overall we really enjoyed Ole’s. The place is all about the skiing, there is lots of terrain and room to spread out. Plus the vistas were spectacular. We didn’t try some of the more challenging trails, which go places like Warren Pinnacle and the Mad River Distillery. That’s quite a ways from the lodge, however Ole’s is definitely worthy of an all-day visit. They serve food on the weekends (we didn’t check it out), and there’s a great deck overlooking the trails.
Our day wasn’t quite complete, as we spent a bit more time in Waitsfield. First we needed to pick up a couple of items from the local natural foods store. We stopped at Sweet Pea Natural Foods and were ecstatic to find that it’s 100% vegan. They have groceries and a small deli. The owner was proud to claim that Sweet Pea is the first fully-vegan market in New England. The food was tempting, but we had a bigger prize in mind. Dinner at Mint Vegetarian, just a couple of miles down the road. This was our second time at Mint, and the food once again was outstanding. Mint probably deserves its own blog post someday. Suffice it to say, you don’t need to be a vegetarian or vegan to eat at Mint. They really know what they are doing.
After a nice meal of seitan and potatoes, along with a Lawson’s Sip of Sunshine (Beer Advocate score of 100, just like Heady Topper – but Vermont Beer is yet another post), I was ready to curl up next to a wood fire and take a nap. Unfortunately, that wasn’t possible. But today’s experience definitely lifted Waitsfield out of the “no way” category of places to live. It’s a half hour from Montpelier, but it’s definitely got it’s assets.