Home News and Features Gear Up to Love Winter

Gear Up to Love Winter

Photo by John Lazenby.
If you’re going to do winter, you may as well do it right. In between raindrops this winter, there has been some snow. And for those of us living in Vermont, it is best to go out and play in it. While the big storm Nov. 27 knocked out electricity (no fun), it also brought a lot of snow (fun). 

I love most winter sports, including ice skating, cross country skiing, downhill skiing, sledding, and just walking downtown looking at shop window decorations. Our area has some fine retail shops to get sturdy, well-made gear made for this time of year. 

Onion River Outdoors (ORO) has been in Montpelier on Langdon Street since the 1970s, but moved to City Center at 89 Main Street this fall, following extreme damage from the July flooding. Known for its extensive selection of bicycles, it also carries skis, sleds, snow shoes, and outdoor apparel — including footwear. The selection of Darn Tough socks is unforgettable. You can also rent equipment if you don’t want to commit to buying. Additionally, the store offers advice about local trails where you can try out your new toys!

SlopeStyle, at 92 River Street in Montpelier, leans heavily on bike and ski gear as well. It is now brimming with outdoor winter gear and apparel, including helmets, mittens, hats, coats and snow pants. SlopeStyle carries both downhill and cross country ski equipment for sale and for rent, and also sells snowboards and snowshoes. Both Montpelier stores also provide ski services, such as repairs, binding adjustments, and tuning. And it has one of my favorite pieces of winter gear: headlamps. It gets dark so early in winter. Also essential for this time of year are cleats, such as Yaktrax.

Thygesen Sports in Barre is best known for team sports gear, which in winter largely means hockey, with an extensive line of helmets, sticks, pucks, and other safety gear. Additionally, Thygesen’s offers a solid selection of both hockey and figure skates, along with a skate sharpening service in the store. As a bonus, the store announces hockey and figure skating events on its Facebook page.

One of my winter bucket list activities has always been to go winter camping. I’ve read about it, I’ve interviewed the Sterling College students who went on the annual three-day winter expedition, but I have yet to do it. When I’m ready, I’ll start at Waterbury Sports, located in Waterbury’s historic downtown district, which has an emphasis on camping gear. Waterbury Sports also carries skis, snowboards, sleds, hockey gear, and snowshoes. 

One bit of gear you can’t rent in Montpelier or Barre is the “Mad River Rocket Sled,” similar to a knee-board, steered by leaning side to side. You’ll have to go to Clearwater Sports in Waitsfield for that, a scenic drive south on Route 100 (also known as the “skiers highway”). Clearwater carries skis, snowboards, snowshoes, sleds, winter gear, and apparel as well as roof racks; and it rents skis alongside the Mad River Rocket Sleds. 

A couple of notable sports stores slightly farther out of our area are Umiak Outfitters in Stowe, and Farm-Way in Bradford. Umiak has the added attraction of being adjacent to the Stowe Bike Path, and close to the Trapp Family Lodge along with other world-class ski areas. Farm-Way, on the other hand, is near the Connecticut River, just a stone’s throw from New Hampshire and has several buildings filled with outdoor gear, apparel, shoes, and home goods. 

Winter Fun Directory

Indoor Ice Arenas

  • BOR Ice Arena, 25 Auditorium Hill, Barre, 802-476-0257. Regular schedule: Tues. 6 to 7:15 p.m., Sat. 1:30 to 2:45 p.m. (except 1/27, 2/3), Sun. 2:45 to 4 p.m. (except 1/24, 1/28). Children $4, adults $5.
  • Central Vermont Memorial Civic Center, 268 Gallison Hill Rd., Montpelier, 802-229-5900. Schedule varies, see cvmcc.org. Children 12 and under $3, adults 65 and over $3, all others $5.
  • Waterbury Ice Center, 546 River Rd., Waterbury, 802-244-4040. Schedule varies, see icecenter.org. Children and older adults $4, adults $6.
Hiking/XC Skiing/Snowshoeing

  • Little River State Park, 3444 Little River Rd., Waterbury.
  • North Branch Nature Center, 713 Elm St., Montpelier.
  • Onion River Nordic Ski Clublists local nordic skiing trails on its website,
Downhill Skiing

  • Bolton Valley, 4302 Bolton Valley Access Rd., Bolton Valley.
  • Sugarbush, 102 Forest Dr., Warren.