Overcast this morning, waves of white mist rising in and out of the valleys, at times completely enveloping the bare and muddy landscape, turning clear, cold and blustery by afternoon. The only sounds, muted bird-song and the ping of droplets falling on sugar-bucket lids, the remains of last night’s heavy rain, dripping from the trees. Yesterday, a sunny and mild day away from collecting and boiling sap. The sugar season drawing to a close, the maple trees in our river-valley sugarbush no longer dripping sap, except for the few with small blankets of snow draped around their trunks, their roots cool in the milder spring weather.
An easy hour’s drive away, we found plenty of snow for a spring ski at the Prospect Mountain Nordic Ski Area in Woodford, Vermont. An Easter tradition in the high mountains of Norway, rarely possible in southern Vermont. Located seven miles east of Bennington, with a base elevation of 2250 feet, Prospect has the highest base elevation of any alpine or cross-country ski area in Vermont, providing consistently good ski conditions, often snowing when it’s raining in the valleys, and providing reliable snow cover on forest trails, when backyards in southern Vermont are green or brown. The machines and remains of old-style equipment, gears, lifts and wooden lift-terminals testify to a past as a down-hill ski area. With more than 30 kilometers of groomed trails weaving through wooded National Forest lands, the entire operation is now devoted to cross-country skiing. A lovely foray into the woods, still robed in winter’s white, the only sign of spring and Easter, the occasional neon colored plastic egg filled with chocolate. A mix of varied terrain, perfect for families, beginners and expert skiers. Filled with an assortment of memorabilia and eclectic ski related knickknacks, the wood-paneled and cozy base lodge/café offered a comfortable place to eat our picnic between ski-runs.
The day away, a welcome escape before the necessary end-of-maple-sugaring work begins. Buttoning up the sugar-house and washing sticky buckets, lids, tanks, evaporator and maple-sugaring equipment. The reward, maple syrup in the larder to sweeten the year ahead, and the promise of another sugaring season to come again next year.