During the past couple of Winter Olympics, it was a real treat to see how talented and proud the young athletes were, and their hard work and determination was evident in their level of performance and competitive energy.

One thing that really struck me was how many of the skiers and snowboarders were from New England, specifically in and around Vermont.

Skiing in Vermont

Having grown up on the West Coast, when I think of ski destinations, the places that come to mind are Vail, Snowbird, Lake Tahoe, and Mammoth Mountain. These ski resorts boast thousands of miles of terrain and hundreds of lifts. A person could spend days exploring all the runs and still never get to them all.

When we moved to Vermont, I learned soon enough that skiing up here is a way of life, which makes perfect sense when you think about it. After all, this area is famous for its winters, with plenty of snow for up to six months of the year, and while the mountains may seem small compared to the ones out west, what they lack in grandeur they make up for in quality and quantity.

In fact, the prevalence these small hills make skiing affordable and accessible to the masses, such that everyone and anyone can have the chance to take up the sport. Most of the schools have after school ski programs, and significantly discounted mid-week tickets are often available to in-state residents.

As a consequence, kids have the opportunity to literally grow up skiing. If they truly embrace the sport, they may grow up to be Olympic champions like gold medalists Hannah Kearney and Hannah Teter, as well as Olympic and world champion Bode Miller, who grew up in neighboring New Hampshire.

Suicide Six

One popular ski resort that has a special place in skiing history is Suicide Six, which is located in the heart of Vermont in an area known as the Upper Valley. Suicide Six about a 45-minute drive from the Dartmouth College campus just outside the charming town of Woodstock, which was called the prettiest small town in America by Ladie's Home Journal Magazine, as well as the one of the country's most picturesque villages by National Geographic Magazine.

Suicide Six is home to one of the first machine-powered ski tows in the country as well as one of the first ski schools in the area. With 23 trails, two double chairs and a J-bar, Suicide Six may not be the biggest hill, but its diverse terrain (30% beginner, 40% intermediate, 30% advanced, as well as a terrain park) has something to offer for everyone, making it an ideal place for families to experience Vermont skiing at its finest.

At the bottom of the hill is the beautiful base lodge where visitors can enjoy a nice meal and relax by a roaring fire with a hot beverage. There is a lounge area that offers food and cocktails, and the ski shop has a complete line of the most up-to-date equipment both for sale and for rent. Lessons available for all levels of skiers.

Food and Lodging

For families visiting the area, there are a number of places to stay in Woodstock, including the beautiful Woodstock Inn and Resort, which owns Suicide Six and offers complimentary skiing to all of its guests. There are also accommodations in nearby Quechee, including the Quechee Inn and the Parker House Inn. For local eats, Shepard's Pie serves up wonderful home-cooked meals, offers live music, and is part of an extensive network of restaurants and cafes throughout the Upper Valley.

If you are looking for a more diverse skiing experience, there a many other ski hills, both big and small, in the area, including the Quechee Ski Hill, Whaleback Mountain, and the Dartmouth Skiway. For skiing on a more grand scale, nearby resorts like Killington and Okemo offer more of the West Coast skiing experience.

Other Family Activities

If you and your children wish to take a break from the slopes, there are many family-friendly ways to spend your day. Union Arena in Woodstock boasts a modern state of the art ice rink that has public skating every day, and there are numerous outdoor ponds that are groomed for skaters. Woodstock village boasts some of the finest restaurants in the area, and parents can shop for clothes, books, and antiques in the downtown area.

Just down the road from Suicide Six is Billings Farm and Museum, a real-life, fully-functioning dairy farm where visitors can get a authentic taste of rural Vermont life and the important role it has played in the state's history. In nearby Quechee, you'll find the Quechee Gorge Village, where you can shop for crafts, jewelry and antiques, get a bite to eat, and spend some time at the Vermont Train and Toy Museum. In neighboring town of Taftsville, families can visit Sugarbush Farms to sample local cheeses and see for themselves how real Vermont Maple Syrup is made.

Located about a 45-minute from Woodstock by car is the town of Hanover, which is home to the Dartmouth College campus. Here are a number of fine restaurants the cover all price levels, and just down the road is the Montshire Museum of Science, where kids and adults can learn about science and nature through hands-on experience. At the Hanover Country Club, the public is welcome to enjoy skating in the beautiful setting of Occom Pond. Skates can be rented, as well as cross country (XC) skis, and hot chocolate and snacks are available along with free marshmallows to roast on the outdoor fire. About 30 minutes outside of Hanover is the Dartmouth Skiway, which is home to the Dartmouth Ski Team.

And finally, if XC skiing is your thing, the Upper Valley is home to miles of world class trails throughout the area, including the Woodstock Inn Nordic Center, Wilderness Trails in Quechee, the Quechee Club, and the Dartmouth XC Ski Center in Hanover. Many of the neighboring towns have their own network of trails, as well.

Needless to say, the possibilities for fun in the snow and adventures in the great outdoors are unlimited in the Upper Valley. So if you think that cold weather means that it is the time to hunker down at home and wait for Spring, think again. Come to experience Winter fun at its finest.

Come to Vermont, where skiing is a way of life.

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