WINTER TRAIL ADVENTURE
Winter on Ascutney guarantees adventure! The cold weather, ice and snow bring an experience like no other, and not for the faint of heart. From mid-December once hunting season is over the trails can be utilized for exploring the woods before the first snow, snowshoeing up to the summit, back-country skiing and riding and more!
Safety in the Backcountry
You adventure at your own risk in the backcountry and hiking, skiing and riding on Ascutney should be considered a ‘natural New-England experience’. The backcountry areas on Mt Ascutney are not patrolled and there are no provisions for rescue. Hidden hazards include, but are not limited to slippery rocks, ice, low shrubbery, fallen trees and old ski area infrastructure. Weather and snow conditions can change without warning and dramatically change the difficulty of hiking, skiing and riding.
We encourage everyone to exercise caution and proper backcountry safety techniques must be followed. Never ski alone and be prepared for emergencies. Important safety tips for skiers are listed on the Catamount Trail Association’s website.
Safety with Groomers
If you see a snowcat or UTV headed your way, go to the side of the trail, stop, and shine your light toward the vehicle. Operators want to know you’re there and see where you are.
If the full width of the trail isn’t groomed, you should expect snowcats to return once they’ve gone by you. Make sure that you are able to step to the side of the trail if they return.
NEVER follow a snowcat down the mountain. Even the best skier can catch an edge and fall – and you don’t want to come in contact with a snowcat.
ALWAYS control your dog when you encounter a snowcat. Operator visibility is limited and in all likelihood cannot see your animal - we do not want your family pet to be injured or killed.
Winter Hiking & Snowshoeing
Travelling the summit-bound trails on foot is popular for those looking for a winter challenge. Snowshoes, crampons and ‘yak-trax’ should all be considered for your winter ascent, depending on the conditions. We encourage you to read more about winter travel on Ascutney over at our blog post. The Windsor and Brownsville trailheads are regularly plowed for parking and trail access courtesy of ATA (donations accepted!); while the State of Vermont plows the Weathersfield trailhead and the parking area opposite the State Park entrance on Back Mountain Road.
The West Windsor Town Forest (trailhead maintained by the town of West Windsor) is enjoyed by many for it’s more undulating terrain, winding through the woods on the mountain bike trail network. Some of our Summer favorites are just as spectacular in the Winter: ‘Gracie’s Loop’ with it’s cottage-sized boulders, ‘The Falls’ with their mesmerizing ice flow, strolling Nimbus and Bypass for views from Mile Long Field. Out here you’ll find fellow hikers, snow-shoers, cross-country skiers and the occasional fat-biker (though we don’t groom trails for fat biking, winter riding is permitted).
Gaining further popularity as an easily-accessible backcountry destination for skiers and snowboarders, the upper slopes of the former Mt. Ascutney Ski Area are being reclaimed to re-open some of our favorite terrain, offering open slopes of un-groomed (New England) powder when snow depths allow. Further to the West at the Town Forest trailhead, venture up and around the Bicentennial Trail to explore open glades and find pockets of untracked New England powder.
The Upper Ski Trails of Ascutney Trails
Ascutney Outdoors operates a T-bar for lift-served access to the (mostly-groomed) lower third of the ski area. Above the T-bar, the backcountry trails are ungroomed, wonderfully natural and you must carefully pick lines, as conditions and pitch can make it quite challenging. You're guaranteed to 'earn your turns'. This upper area is not patrolled and all backcountry precautions apply.
The best uphill route is to follow the skin tracks starting from the Ascutney Outdoors Center. For those wanting to conserve energy, grab a ride up on the T-Bar (a ticket must be purchased for a nominal fee) and pick up the skin track from the top of the lift. From the top of the T-Bar you’ll traverse to the West and climb the trail (most recently known as Cloudspin) to the top of the old triple chair where the lift exit ramp and ski patrol hut are still visible. If conditions allow, you can get a little more exercise by climbing further to the top of the old quad lift before beginning your well earned turns with a total of 1700 ft of vertical drop.
Windsor Glades and the Weathersfield Town Forest
For the dedicated explorer, there are some spectacular glades along the Northeast slopes of the mountain. These glades are in some long and steep deciduous zones and can be accessed from the State Park access road (itself a great run in the winter) and the “connector trail” which is part of the ATA Tour Route. This area is not patrolled and all backcountry precautions apply.
West Windsor Town Forest
Accessed from the West Windsor Town Forest trailhead, this offers some excellent backcountry opportunities. The trails are undulated single and double track featuring a mostly gladed experience. Unlike the more open upper trails of the ski area the West Windsor Town Forest trails are a more isolated natural glade area and are not maintained for backcountry skiing. This area is not patrolled and all backcountry precautions apply.
Trail Clearing: Please do not cut trails or clear in any of these backcountry areas. Backcountry access is a privilege and trail cutting is absolutely prohibited, and doing so jeopardizes access for all.