Chills and thrills

By NINA MACLAUGHLIN  |  March 1, 2006

The coolest feature of all is the SnowCoach tours up Mt. Washington. Half-tank, half-van, the vehicles climb the Mt. Washington Auto Road to an above-tree-line elevation with a sweeping view of the 5500-acre Great Gulf Wilderness and the Northern Presidential Mountains. You can travel back down in the warmth of the SnowCoach or descend the four miles via snowshoes or skis. Tours are $40 for adults; $25 for kids ages five through 12. The cost includes an all-day trail pass for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and snow-tubing. For a comprehensive look at outdoor action in New Hampshire, check out www.nhoutdoors.com.

All downhill from here
From New Hampshire, we move left to Vermont and from XC-skiing to straight-up downhill at Killington (4763 Killington Road, 800.734.9435, www.killington.com). With seven mountains, 200 trails, five terrain parks, five base lodges, and 33 lifts, which, collectively, can haul 52,000 riders per hour up the slopes, Killington is one of the biggest, busiest ski resorts in the East. It’s got a rep for steep terrain (nearly half of the trails are rated “most difficult”), but downhill skiers of every ability level will find the right slope. You’ve got everything from stomach-in-your-throat trails like double-black-diamonds Vertigo and Escapade, to a 6.6-miler called Juggernaut that weaves, winds, and dips its way down the mountainside.

And Killington has a whole season’s worth of events left, including the 10th Annual Mardi Gras Party at the Wobbly Barn (February 28); the Mountain Dew Vertical Challenge (March 4); the Boarding for Breast Cancer Night Rail Jam (March 10); and way off in April, the annual Sunshine Daydream Festival, a tribute to the Grateful Dead and a celebration of spring skiing (April 15). For the après-ski scene, head to the Wobbly Barn (Killington Road, 802.422.6171), a steak house with “high altitude entertainment,” or the Pickle Barrel Nightclub (1741 Killington Rd, 802.422.3035), which pulls the biggest bands in the area.

Away from the slopes and back in the city, you’ve got Burlington, home of groovy-UV, Phish, and the best sandwich you will ever stuff in your face. Burlington is consistently rated one of the nation’s most livable cities, and it’s just as visitable. The city edges up to Lake Champlain, home to Champ, a Loch Ness–style monster. It’s a college town, which means plenty of bars (not all of them overrun by students), cheap eats (some upscale eats, too), and a warm and welcoming vibe (even in the brittle dead of winter).

Back to that sandwich. Head to the Red Onion (140½ Church Street, 802.865.2563) for home-smoked meat, thick homemade bread, and the Red Onion sandwich with turkey, bacon, caramelized red onions, apple slices, a spice-tang mayo, all heated and delicious. In the neighboring town of Winooski, head to Sneakers (36 Main Street, 802.655.9081) for a cozy brunch. Catch a show at Higher Ground (1214 Williston Road, South Burlington, 802.652.0777), which draws a full lineup of national bands en route from Boston to Montreal. And for a taste of the bayou Northern-style, there’s the 11th-annual Magic Hat Mardi Gras Parade (February 25) which runs through the four pedestrian blocks of Church Street (visit www.magichat.net/mardigras2006).

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