Three Things to Do Outside This Winter

Three Wintry Ways to Get Outside in Vermont

By Carolyn Fox
Story originally published in Seven Days on 02|23|2021.

Winter Dipping in Lake Champlain

In 2021, the UK’s Guardian wrote about “the exhilarating joy of outdoor ice-bathing,” a centuries-old practice whose popularity has soared in recent years as a much-needed stress reliever and endorphin releaser.

“It’s pretty normal if you’re in Sweden or Denmark or Finland,” said Burlington painter Katharine Montstream of the pastime. “In the UK, this is huge, and it’s really blowing up … They have had a huge surge of people wanting to do this and needing outlets.”

The same is true in Vermont, it seems. Montstream has been winter dipping regularly in Lake Champlain for many years, but now she plunges in nearly every day. She’s amassed a group of friends, playfully dubbed the Red Hot Chilly Dippers, who join in her shivery adventures. Montstream documents their dips through photos and videos on an Instagram page that has more than 11,000 followers.

Featured in a 2021 episode of “Stuck in Vermont,” a Seven Days web series hosted by Eva Sollberger, the group is seen wading into icy waters at Burlington’s Oakledge Park, Perkins Pier and south of Texaco Beach.

There have been themed dunks — for everything from Thanksgiving to Inauguration Day — involving costumes, wigs and flags. But mostly the focus is on “getting in the lake and letting yourself forget about some of the really difficult things that are going on in the world right now,” Montstream told Sollberger.

“When you go in the lake, the tactile sensation is so intense, you absolutely cannot think of anything else except what’s happening to your body,” she said.

And if you need inspiration to get through the season, Montstream also noted that the cold-weather dips are equivalent to “not letting winter win.”

Learn more…

Trapp Family Lodge Outdoor Center
700 Trapp Hill Rd., Stowe, 253-8511

Stowe’s Trapp Family Lodge may be known for its singing founders, but its reputation also rests on stunning mountain scenery. The place was named one of “the most breathtaking mountain lodges in North America” by Passport magazine. Locals love it, too: They’ve voted the place Vermont’s best cross-country ski area more than a dozen times in the Seven Days readers’ choice awards.

The on-site Nordic center is widely considered America’s oldest; it celebrated 50 years in 2018. Visitors will find 37 miles of groomed trails on the 2,600-acre mountaintop property, suitable for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. More advanced skiers can also lay tracks on 62 miles of ungroomed backcountry territory. One popular trek is the three-mile journey to Slayton Pasture Cabin, a rustic waystation for skiers built by the von Trapp family in 1971.

Refuel après-ski with chicken schnitzel or sautéed spätzle and a Bohemian Pilsner at the nearby von Trapp Brewing Bierhall Restaurant.

Also try…

Vermont Farm Trail Network
Find a full list of winter farm trails at Dig In.

Imagine snowshoeing through a forest of maple trees, past sap lines running from trunk to tank, then stopping at a sugarhouse to pick up some of that just-made maple syrup. This sugaring season treat is accessible at Randolph Center’s Silloway Maple, thanks to the Vermont Farm Trail Network, hosted on

This directory of farm trails open to the public is a collaborative project supported by the Farm-Based Education Network, Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont, Shelburne Farms, University of Vermont Extension, Vermont Fresh Network, and Vermont Department of Tourism & Marketing. The goal: to connect visitors with new food and farm experiences.

“There’s nothing better than walking around a farm, seeing animals and just being outside,” said Tara Pereira, executive director of Vermont Fresh Network.

The winter excursion options are plentiful. At Fayston’s Knoll Farm, one cross-country skiing trail ascends to 1,800 feet for a fabulous view of the Mad River Valley. (You might also spot some of the farm’s Icelandic sheep.) Shoreham’s Trade Winds Farm invites guests to ski on groomed trails, slide down the sledding hill or skate on a lighted rink. And Wolcott’s Sandiwood Farm allows guests to ski, snowshoe or fat-bike through the sugarbush, enjoying views of Mount Mansfield and, on select dates, a bonfire.

Visit Dig In’s website to learn more about participating locations and read the Farm Trail Ethic before you go.

“Farms are such a big sector in our state,” said Pereira. “This is another way to experience, explore [and] see the beauty of farms in Vermont.”

Farm trails to try…


Seven Days Staytripper Series

Created by Seven Days, the “Staytripper: The Road Map for Rediscovering Vermont” series presents curated excursions statewide. The series was originally published from 2020-2022 and highlights Vermont restaurants, retailers, attractions, and outdoor adventures to spotlight all corners of the state.