Aprés-Ski

Skiers have enjoyed the astounding views at Bolton Valley since the 1960s. Lift-access mountain biking is a relatively new addition to the resort, though a steadfast crew of riders have been building and riding some of the gnarliest trails in this region of Vermont for decades. Photo: Bear Cieri NIKON, 1/2500 sec, f/2.8, ISO 320

Aprés-Ski Rich Snow Traditions Set The Stage For Vermont's Mountain Biking Boom

In the last three decades, mountain biking has exploded across Vermont.

What started as small communities of passionate enthusiasts has grown into a mainstream statewide culture. The sport itself grew in tandem, rising from its adrenaline-fueled beginnings into an all-encompassing lifestyle—a weekend family adventure, a catalyst for rural tourism, even a driver of real estate sales.

Vermont is unique. As a state with a small footprint, modest-sized government land holdings and a mosaic of privately owned property covering most counties, the Vermont mountain bike scene as it exists today, shouldn’t.

But Vermont is stocked with Vermonters. Passionate, determined and embodying the wry unofficial state motto of “live free or let’s talk about it,” they were the ideal people to take on a set of seemingly insurmountable obstacles to turn the improbable into the impressive, partly because of how perfect Vermont’s terrain is for mountain biking, and partly because they were already veterans of launching state-shifting industries. Nearly a century ago they’d done it with skiing.

Cross-country skiing enjoyed a decades-long history in New England before alpine started to capture a growing amount of attention. Skiers and ski evangelists increased in numbers across Vermont, forming community clubs and race associations while college teams to the south traveled north to hold events long before the Great Depression upended the country, spurring jobs programs that activated government workforces such as the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).

Having witnessed the enthusiasm of local groups, agency figures made the case for similar initiatives and once mobilized, the CCC set about completing several projects, including cutting hiking and ski trails across Vermont. Channeling the effects of the New Deal, Vermont’s focus on recreation infrastructure set the stage for a host of outdoor activities in the decades to come.

“Vermont has a long history of being outdoors—and labor,” says Tim Tierney, a director at the Vermont Department of Economic Development and former executive director of the Kingdom Trails Association. “Making maple syrup, stacking stones, haying fields—that labor is a part of Vermont. Vermonters seem to love it as much as the play.”

The CCC projects improved access to summer and winter trails and, with each passing milestone, Vermont’s focus on the outdoors seemed to shift into a higher gear. After World War II, soldiers from such units as the 10th Mountain Division brought their alpine training home and used it to fully engage with Vermont’s wilder spaces.

As skiing, trail construction and a general outdoor culture increasingly became a cornerstone of Vermonter identity, the economic growth of the 1950s brought a rapid expansion of ski resorts across the state. Leveraging the growing interest in riding planks down snowy mountainsides and advancements in lift technology, the resort model of skiing removed barriers for people who might not have otherwise considered the sport

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