I rolled into Huntington early. Nothing like combining the change to DST with having to get up at 4am to drive up to northern VT. You get started on the Camel's Hump Nordic Area trails which are a cool tucked away backwoods network of groomed and ungroomed stuff.
this part of the country is not ugly
shoot the gap and off into the wild blue YONDER
Things got going with a mass start send off and the gentle climbing starts basically immediately. We had a pretty hilarious group think navigation issue early on, probably within the first mile. I had been towards the front of the first group but had basically been following a group of two that seemed to know where they were going. But when the trail T'd they stopped and turned around and waited for me to get there. They asked me if I knew where I was going and I said "nope I'm a first timer, I thought you did...and I'm pretty sure there is a group of 35 people behind me who thought the same thing."
As that big group began to arrive at the T we started trying to figure out who had done it before and of course we were all basically 1st timers with maybe 2-3 who had done it before but couldn't remember which way to go. Things probably could have been marked a bit better early on but luckily we guessed right and the group finally made it to the potion of the trail on state forest land that is excellently blazed with yellow tags with 'Challenge Trail' right on them.
up up and away.
Much of the first half of the course is gentle climbing / traversing. I had been a bit worried about my setup. Seemed like a lot of folks had kicker skins or slightly beefier gear but the snow was ideal for grip with scales and the grade of the contour we were on was pretty much perfect. A nice gentle climb in most spots and when it got steeper it was wide enough to herringbone for a bit if needed. Even though the climbing was sustained it was sporty terrain with small little descents here and there. For my alpine skiing friends it was just like traversing to a slackcountry glade for the first 4 miles or so haha. I realize that partially sounds horrifying but I actually really enjoyed it. It was challenging in spots on the lighter skis and kept things interesting.
fun undulating terrain
The terrain throughout was really amazing. Textbook VT birch glades, cliff bands. I really think that if you enjoy spending time in the woods and consider yourself a skier of any kind this is a must do event for any New Englander (or anyone for that matter). Just about every part of the locale and event is classic New England winter recreation.
As we got around the north shoulder of the mountain the terrain got a bit less climby and more up and down as we wrapped around the east side and headed south. Very fun short little descents and cruising traverses with small little climbs. Perfect for metering your effort and getting short little rests in. Mid point rest area was just after we crossed the Monroe Trail heading to Wind Gap. Really spectacular views / terrain here.
heading into Wind Gap
Right after Wind Gap we even got treated to a small but legit alpine glade. About 75ft wide, maybe 100 vertical feet or so. Something I wouldn't have even thought about or really even noticed on my AT setup but navigating on my waxless setup was interesting. I've gotten pretty comfortable on those skis but it certainly wasn't pretty in spots. After that its one last gentle climb to gain a ridge and shoot through a saddle by Bald Hill and then its basically sustained descending all the way to the finish maybe 2-3 miles worth? Super fun traversing, letting the skis run a bit. Perfect way to end the day.
They had warm chicken noodle soup waiting for us, some excellent smoked ham, all kinds of cheese, apple cider. I got a pint glass for my efforts as well as a really cool winter sports specific camelbak pack thanks to my generous family making me one of the top fundraisers.
Super excited I found this event and I highly recommend anyone / everyone check it out.