Grassroots Glades

Holly Knox has been managing recreational opportunities as a Green Mountain National Forest District Recreation Program Manager for the last decade, a time when the number of backcountry skiers seemingly multiplied overnight. With 400,000 acres of national forest stretching through central and southern Vermont, and many different groups vying for space to recreate, Knox has plenty of work cut out for herself, focusing her efforts on the Rochester and Middlebury Districts. But after spearheading the country’s first backcountry ski zone of its kind, she clearly has it all under control. Here’s what Knox had to say about her recent effort with Vermont’s glades.

Connecting the Spots 

In 2016, R.J. Thompson struck up a conversation with the then-executive director for Vermont’s Catamount Trail Association, Amy Kelsey. What started as a discussion about a potential yurt in Stowe, Vt.’s Nebraska Notch transformed into Kelsey connecting Thompson with Devon Littlefield, a Mainer-turned-Vermonter also curious about the lack of cohesive backcountry accommodations in the state.

The Old Goats

Between a winding Nordic network, long-distance point-to-point routes that trace the Green Mountains’ spine and ample glades that snake  through tangled birches, the only thing more extensive than Bolton’s offerings is its legacy. And that history—which predates most Northeastern skiing—is as essential to the story of Vermont’s backcountry as Johnson Woolen Mill pants and the motivation to push beyond the underbrush.

Community-Supported Skiing’s New Golden Era

I came to Vermont searching for buried treasure. It was the late 1980s, and I had heard about legendary ski trails that were cut in a previous era. Clutching a tattered map, I rooted around the snow looking for the top of the Teardrop Trail on Mt. Mansfield. The trail had been cut in 1937 by the Civilian Conservation Corps, the Depression-era jobs program that sent unemployed city men to the countryside to do public-works projects.