Staytripper, May 2021

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MAY 2021

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Biking

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Ground Breaking

The beginning of the end-to-end Velomont Trail

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High Rollers

Luxe trailside lodging at the Inn at Burklyn

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Biker Bars

Happening hubs for refueling post-ride

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BERNE BROUDY

ENDS IN SIGHT............................ 8 The Velomont Collective breaks ground on a new Massachusetts-to-Canada mountain bike trail BY BERNE BROUDY

M AY 2021

Since Seven Days launched Staytripper in mid-2020, the monthly supplement has offered suggestions for safely rediscovering in-state recreation during the pandemic. In this special edition, it’s less road map, more trail map. Grab your helmet and go with the flow — it’s the mountain biking issue! Mountain biking has been picking up speed in Vermont over the past decade. Like maple syrup, fall foliage and Ben & Jerry’s, the sport has become one more Green Mountain State standout. As Bike magazine puts it, “Vermont is one of the friendliest places in the universe to ride dirt.” It’s poised to become even friendlier: This summer, riders will break ground on the new Velomont Trail, which aims to connect existing networks from the bottom of the state to the top. Of course, you needn’t be a long-distance biker to enjoy the state’s rugged trails, or the stories in this issue. Read on to meet the teen who helped carve beginner-friendly trails at Cochran’s Ski Area in Richmond. Head to Stowe to get a bike — and a burrito — at Ranch Camp, on the edge of Cady Hill Forest. Also trailside: a trio of bike bars where pedal pushers can refuel. And if ritzier R&R is more your jam, try the stunning Inn at Burklyn. Bonus: It connects to Kingdom Trails. Special thanks to Richmond writer, photographer and mountainbiking adventurer Berne Broudy for consulting on this issue. – CAROLYN F OX, EDITOR

BIKER BASE CAMP...................... 14 Ranch Camp serves up bikes, beers and burritos BY SALLY POLLAK

LEARNING CURVES.................... 18 How a teenage mountain biker helped Cochran’s Ski Area carve warm-weather turns

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BY KEN PICARD

REST AND RESTORATION......... 22 Painstakingly renovated, the Inn at Burklyn offers luxury and easy access to Kingdom Trails BY DAN BOLLES

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Burlington

18 Richmond

Stowe

PHOTO BY JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR

• Middlebury

St. Johnsbury

Montpelier

DESTINATIONS Mike’s Tiki Bar................................... 27 Stone Corral..................................... 29 Lookout Tavern................................. 31 ON THE COVER: Kip Roberts and Leon Eggleston on the North Branch Trails in Montpelier

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8 Rochester

Exploring the state?

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Killington

Rutland

Bennington

Brattleboro

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here are a lot more people mountain biking in Vermont today than there were a decade ago. Advances in trail building and bike design have attracted more entry-level riders and families; ski resorts have embraced mountain biking as an off-season revenue stream; riding in the woods solo or in small groups turned out to be an ideal pandemic pastime. Nick Bennette, executive director of the nonprofit Vermont Mountain Bike Association, describes this as a “golden age” for the sport. Membership in VMBA — aka “Vimba” — hit 7,600 in 2020, up 176 percent since 2015. Over the past eight years, membership has quadrupled. The organization has helped establish more than 1,400 miles of trails. VMBA plays an essential role in Vermont’s mountain biking ecosystem; it provides administrative services, insurance and event support to 27 different local Chapters. If VMBA is the hub, the Chapters are the spokes. They’re the ones getting their hands dirty building and maintaining trails. And not all Chapters are the same. “There’s a huge diversity in size,” Bennette says. The smaller groups have a couple dozen volunteers. Others, like Chittenden County-based Fellowship of the Wheel, maintain multiple trail networks and employ paid staff. VMBA deals with a wide range of dollar amounts, too: it distributes funds to each Chapter through government grants, donations from foundations and membership contributions. Transaction amounts can range from $10 to $13,000. “There’s a ton of money moving around on the back end,” explains Bennette. Tracking and managing it can be timeconsuming for VMBA’s three-person central office staff. Switching to Mascoma Bank’s cash management system last summer made it much easier, says VMBA operations manager Krysy Steckler. “It was actually perfect for us,” she says. “It’s all done in a very straightforward fashion.” Mascoma’s system is able to handle the complexity of VMBA’s expanding enterprise, and it’s more efficient than the one it replaced. If Steckler has any issues, she contacts Mascoma’s staff. “Working with them continues to be amazing,” she says. “If I need anything, I send them an email and they get back to me within the hour.” Bennette notes that environmental stewardship is a big part of VMBA’s mission. He appreciates the opportunity to bank with a Certified B Corporation. “It’s good to know that we’re banking with a partner who is also community-focused and trying to improve Vermont,” he says.

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BERNE BROUDY

The Fellowship of the Wheel trail in Hinesburg, which would become part of the Velomont Trail network

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Ends in Sight The Velomont Collective breaks ground on a new Massachusetts-to-Canada mountain bike trail BY B ERN E BROU DY

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into a town or village. Vermont’s new end-to-end bike trail, the Velomont Trail, would differ: Its creators aim to connect existing trail networks and pass through at least 30 towns and villages, bolstering local businesses and economies along the way. While the trail would be purpose-built for mountain biking, it would also welcome walkers, runners and other nonmotorized users. In conjunction with the Vermont Huts Association, the Velomont Collective will break ground this summer. The longrange goal is to complete the trail and supporting huts by 2030. The collective is still in the planning and outreach phase for much of the trail, and its success will depend on parcelby-parcel negotiations with landowners, permit acquisition and an Act 250 jurisdictional opinion. Should the herculean undertaking come to pass, the Velomont Trail would connect the networks of at least 19 mountain bike chapters. ENDS IN SIGHT

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Building an end-to-end trail in a state where the majority of land is privately owned is extremely ambitious. Below: Chittenden Brook Hut, to which the Velomont Trail will connect

COURTESY OF VERMONT HUTS ASSOCIATION

ermont can boast hundreds of miles of single-track mountain bike trails, most managed by the 27 chapters of the Vermont Mountain Bike Association. Regional clubs from Bennington to Montgomery maintain spaghetti-like clusters of trails, but there’s little or no connectivity between them. A new VMBA chapter, the Velomont Collective, has the ambitious goal of connecting Vermont’s bikeable trail networks from the state’s southern border to its northern one, supported by a network of huts along the way. This would create an opportunity for residents and visitors alike to take multi-day rides and even bike the length of the state. A trail spanning the length of Vermont isn’t a new idea. The Long Trail, an end-to-end hiking trail, and the Catamount Trail, a Massachusetts-to-Canada Nordic ski trail, provide recreation for thousands of outdoor lovers each year, allowing them to traverse the state on their own power. Both trails are relatively remote, only occasionally dipping

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CALEB KENNA

Angus McCusker in Rochester

Ends in Sight « P.9 By Vermonters, for Vermonters

According to Caitrin Maloney, the Velomont Collective’s board president, the trail began as a harebrained, grassroots idea — a pipe dream to connect pods of trails from Rochester to the Mad River Valley so mountain bikers could go on really long rides. The goals have expanded and evolved, and the Velomont Trail has become as much about providing statewide riding as about creating more opportunities for beneficial nature experiences — and making a meaningful contribution to Vermont’s economy. The trail would eventually have 30 to 45 backcountry shelters, owned and managed by Vermont Huts, along its corridor with opportunities for camping. There would be lodging options in towns and villages, as well. “By building Velomont, we’re connecting rural communities to trailheads,” said RJ Thompson, Vermont Huts’ executive director. “Velomont will weave in and out of the forest and Vermont communities, giving Vermonters direct access to the trail and the opportunity to spend a night in a hut in the woods.” 10

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“More access to trails is a health and wellness benefit for Vermonters, as well as fun,” Maloney said. “And trail connectivity will also create opportunities for conservation, as the Long Trail and Catamount Trail did.” As a senior project manager for the Trust for Public Land, a conservation nonprofit, Kate Wanner agreed. She noted, “Our efforts to permanently conserve Rolston Rest, the largest private inholding in Green Mountain National Forest, will be leveraged by the new proposed hut and trail infrastructure improvements.” “For me, it’s always been about: How can we connect Vermont’s unique communities?” said Angus McCusker, the Velomont Collective’s volunteer executive director. “There is a misperception that mountain bikers want to create trails everywhere. That would be terrible land management, and it’s not what we want. Wildlife fragmentation is an issue in Vermont. Untouched land has high value, too.” Holly Knox is a recreation program manager for the U.S. Forest Service in the Green Mountain National Forest, which is providing oversight on those sections of

the trail. She noted that public lands have seen increasing recreational use in recent years, especially during the pandemic. “As public land managers,” Knox said, “it is our role to balance this demand, and the opportunity it presents to educate visitors and foster future generations of land stewards, with the potential for natural resource and social impacts. “Through our partnerships and projects like the Velomont,” she continued, “we are able to diversify what we offer and connect to a broader audience of people to share in this land stewardship ethic.”

Bringing the Green

There are no other long-distance mountain bike trails in the Northeast — indeed, there are few in the world. While Velomont would likely become a riding destination heavily used by locals, those creating it also expect the trail would draw bike tourists from around the globe. ENDS IN SIGHT

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Ends in Sight « P.10

Building a Network

More than 84 percent of land in Vermont is private, which means that landowners are key partners in developing mountainbike-specific and multi-use trail networks in the state. Kingdom Trails in northern Vermont, for example, exists on the properties of nearly 100 private landowners. Three withdrew their trails from that network in December 2019. In a statement at the time, Kingdom Trails acknowledged that “challenges and tension points exist around traffic, congestion and pedestrian safety of residents and visitors alike.” The Velomont Trail would rely on the goodwill of landowners, as well as partnerships with state and federal foresters, like Knox, who manage Vermont’s public lands. 12

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ck co y an t f H un n o n Co w T o d i so Ad

North to Stowe, Vermont Segment 2 Tunnel Bypass Summer 2021

Green Mountain National Forest

Segment 3 Robinson

Segment 4 Little Pico

Segment CG Loop

Existing Chittenden Brook Hut Segment 8 Morrill Brook Upper Trail Reconstruction To be built 2021/22

0

Legend NBRC Funded Velomont Segments 2, 7, 8 &9 Approved & Shovel Ready Velomont Single Track Existing Velomont Single Track Existing Velomont Double Track Velomont Road Connector

Segment 9 Morrill Brook Lower Trail Reconstruction To be built 2021/22

Miles 0.5 1

Rochester Valley Trails

Riley Bostwick Wildlife Management Area

To wn o Wi n d f Ro c sor h Co ester un To wn ty o Ru t l a f Pi t t nd s C o f i e ld un ty 6

Segment 7 Chittenden Brook Campground to Saddle To be built 2021/22

Other Existing Single Track

Green Mountain National Forest

2

South to Charlemont, Massachusetts

Green Mountain Trails Existing Shrek's Cabin

Sources: Esri, HERE, DeLorme, Intermap, increment P Corp., GEBCO, USGS, FAO, NPS, NRCAN, GeoBase, IGN, Kadaster NL, Ordnance Survey, Esri Japan, METI, Esri China (Hong Kong), swisstopo, MapmyIndia, © OpenStreetMap contributors, and the GIS User Community

Velomont will weave in and out of the forest and Vermont communities. RJ THOMPSON

Collaboration is already under way. In November 2020, the Velomont Collective received a grant for $526,375 from the Northern Border Regional Commission, which invests in economic and infrastructure projects. The grant will help pay for the construction of 10 miles of trail in Chittenden, Rochester and Hancock, as well as a proposed four-season, ADA-accessible backcountry hut in Chittenden. The Town of Killington, the Trust for Public Land, Vermont Huts and the Rochester/Randolph Area Sports Trails Alliance collectively have pledged $283,500 in matching funds. “Velomont is a bottom-up, not a topdown, initiative,” McCusker said. “The people who manage local trails know the local landowners and can address issues

to bike up, and it was highly prone to erosion. “We identified a route for a sustainable single-track within the existing corridor,” McCusker said. It’s a pilot project for Vermont that, so far, has been a success, he said.

Dig It

Velomont Inn

Segment 5 FR45 Bypass Areas

en nd te y hit nt f C C ou o nd wn To utla R

COURTESY OF ANGUS MCCUSKER

Studies have demonstrated that mountain biking bolsters rural economies. In 2017, Outside magazine published a story headlined “How Mountain Biking Is Saving Small-Town, USA,” noting that, in a “survey of more than 1,400 cyclists from across the country, 62 percent of mountain bikers travel to ride, make an average of two trips a year, and spend about $382 per trip.” As the climate changes and the snow-sports season becomes shorter and less predictable, Velomont could bring crucial tourism dollars to the Green Mountain State. A study conducted by Burlington’s SE Group analyzed the potential financial impact of the Velomont Trail and hut network, once completed. The firm estimated that the network would draw 16,000 to 36,000 annual visitors who could generate $3.5 million to $6.2 million in annual sales activity. This could result in $385,000 to $685,000 in Vermont tax revenue and 51 to 91 full-time jobs. What makes Velomont even more unusual, Thompson said, is that no other long-distance trail in the U.S. was designed to capitalize on existing trail infrastructure. This includes adding trailheads in town centers, which would let users take multi-night excursions without having to drive somewhere or coordinate car shuttles. A multi-night biking adventure might sound like something only advanced riders would tackle. But the connecting trails are intended to be intermediate and as accessible as possible; some sections would accommodate adaptive bikes.

Proposed Velomont Trail & Hut Network Rutland, Windsor & Addison Counties

that arise ... The collective’s biggest wins so far are the partnerships forming behind a statewide vision.” “State and federal foresters have been critical partners in the project and the vision,” Thompson added. “Without their support, it wouldn’t be possible to connect trail networks.” As a result of good relations and responsible management, the Velomont Collective was granted permission to build a mile of trail in one of Vermont’s Wildlife Management Areas last year, which in the past have only accommodated recreational fishing and hunting. After five years of discussions, the WMA and Velomont agreed to establish a trail on Randolph Gap. The existing logging road was a steep, unmaintained trail too precipitous

The Velomont Collective will break ground on the first 10 shovel-ready miles this summer. Initial trail development and construction will focus on central and southern Vermont, starting near Killington and expanding north and south. The first stretch of the trail will be four miles from Rochester Village to the west, and from the first built corridor hut, Chittenden Brook Hut, toward Pittsfield. Northern Vermont will be the last phase of the project. “We’re doing our due diligence, planning the trail to be sensitive to natural resources, wildlife, ecology and communities,” Maloney said. Building an end-to-end trail in a state where the majority of land is privately owned is extremely ambitious. So is constructing dozens of huts along the way. The second corridor hut will be constructed this fall and open before year’s end. From there, Vermont Huts expects to build five or six huts a year. The project is mostly a volunteer effort. While it may take most of a decade to complete, the Velomont Collective and Vermont Huts welcome Vermonters to get involved. Over the coming years, there will be ongoing opportunities to move some rocks or swing a hoe. Businesses on or near the proposed trail are invited to ponder how they might tap in to the mountain biker market. “We will attract new people to the state, but we’re committed to opportunities for locals and creative programming for a more equitable outdoor experience in Vermont,” Thompson said. “This project has potential for long-lasting impact … and for introducing Vermonters to the outdoors, with a sustainable boost to rural communities.” m Berne Broudy is a Vermont-based writer, photographer and adventurer. She is a board member of Richmond Mountain Trails, a chapter of the Vermont Mountain Bike Association.

INFO Learn more at velomonttrail.org.


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Shop manager Mar Kuhnel tuning a bike at Ranch Camp

Biker Base Camp Ranch Camp serves up bikes, beers and burritos BY S A L LY POLL AK • sally@sevendaysvt.com

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he driveway that leads to Ranch Camp in Stowe is steep, gravelly and curved. In other words, just right for a mountain bike. Mountain bikers are, in fact, the target audience for this hybrid business on the Mountain Road. In the brown building at the top of the driveway are three ventures rolled into one: bicycle store, repair shop and restaurant. The store offers sales and rentals of mountain bikes, along with accompanying gear and goods such as jerseys, helmets, power bars and tire sealant. At the 14

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shop, bike mechanics do annual tune-ups and repairs, including brake adjustments, shock service and flat fixes. The restaurant, a fuel station for hungry outdoors lovers, serves burritos, power bowls, and specials including flatbreads and Buffalo cauliflower. Its outside dining patio is equipped with picnic tables and repurposed chair-lift seats. Named for a Civilian Conservation Corps base camp where, 90 years ago, corps members lived and cut trails on Mount Mansfield, Ranch Camp operates

as a kind of base camp for bikers. A trio of mountain biking friends started it three years ago. “Not to sound trite or cliché, but we are as passionate a group of mountain bikers as you’ll ever meet,” co-owner Evan Chismark said. “It’s woven into the fabric of our lives. We’re [each] as big a bike dork as anybody else who walks through the doors.” Interest in mountain biking has increased during the pandemic, according to Chismark. Second-home owners who relocated to Stowe wanted to purchase a


PHOTOS: JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR

From left: co-owner Ryan Thibault, shop manager Mar Kuhnel, chef Joe Rock and service manager Darren Benz

We are as passionate a group of mountain bikers as you’ll ever meet. EVAN CHISMARK

Power Plant burrito

bike. Kids who are into mountain biking came to the shop with their parents and said, “My dad and my mom need a mountain bike,” Chismark said. Even wannabe bikers will enjoy Ranch Camp and its environs. The business is located by a trailhead into Cady Hill Forest, some 320 acres of townowned land crisscrossed by 11 miles of trails for nonmotorized recreation. In the warmer months, that means walking and biking. But Chismark noted that the mountain biking season is getting longer every year: “If the weather stays good, we could be riding for nine months.” On a recent afternoon, the occasional mountain biker flew through the woods on a path called Charlie’s Trail, propelled by leg power up and over roots, rocks and long inclines. One young rider steered his bike slowly down a narrow wooden track. Hats (but not helmets!) off to those who tackle such feats. It was easy to see why bikers would need to recharge with a meal at Ranch Camp. “After a ride, it’s great to hang out and have a burrito and a cold beer on the back porch,” said Chris Brown, 52, of Stowe.

A ski instructor and real estate adviser, Brown has been mountain biking for more than 30 years. His two teenage sons have taken up the sport and ride with their friends on Stowe trails. The family takes their three mountain bikes to Ranch Camp for tune-ups, including an annual winter tune and seasonal repairs as needed. “In the summertime, I ride a fair amount,” Brown said. “Enough that I probably have two or three visits every summer just to replace parts. Things break.” Cady Hill Forest is the flagship trail network of the Stowe Trails Partnership, where Chismark — whose background is in environmental law and policy — was formerly executive director. His business partners at Ranch Camp are Ryan Thibault, a graphic designer and marketing/branding specialist, and Nate Freund, a restaurateur who co-owns Sushi Yoshi. Together, the men also run Mountain Bike Vermont (better known as MTBVT), which Thibault founded in 2010. The enterprise is centered on the state’s mountain biking culture and promotes the sport by selling gear and apparel; sponsoring events, including a “bike culture variety show” called Green Mountain Showdown; and reviewing trails and products. (The events are currently virtual but could change to live-action this summer, according to Chismark.) Six months ago, the business partners purchased a second Stowe restaurant, the Backyard (formerly the Backyard Tavern), located behind Ranch Camp. Its pub fare — nachos, wings, burgers, tater tots and chili — complements the menu at Ranch Camp. Mountain bikers often grab a to-go meal from Ranch Camp; the Backyard typically serves in-house diners. Executive chef Joe Rock, who formerly worked at Jay Peak Resort and St. Albans’ One Federal Restaurant & Lounge, oversees the kitchens at both restaurants. He works with sous chef Cody Benz at Ranch Camp and chef Jordan Sullivan at the Backyard. BIKER BASE CAMP SEVEN DAYS STAYTRIPPER MAY 2021

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Biker Base Camp « P.15 “That team of masterminds has come up with such an incredibly creative menu,” Chismark said, praising the team’s dedication and work ethic. “The food climate in Stowe is a tough place to compete. There are a lot of fun places to go. The fact that these guys have carved out a niche, it’s a testament to how creative they are.” Both restaurants have easy access to the trail network that Chismark calls a “mini-utopia.” Cady Hill Forest offers trails with a range of difficulty levels; Ranch Camp staff provide gear and guidance based on a rider’s experience. “Anyone can go out to Cady Forest and have a really good time,” Chismark said. One person who would like to do that is Rock, who’s been at Ranch Camp

since it opened. The 28-year-old graduate of New England Culinary Institute lives in St. Albans. Every day, he puts his mountain bike in his pickup truck and drives to work, hopeful for a chance to ride. Though new to the sport, he’s a convert. “What I love about it is getting out of the kitchen — the craziness of the kitchen,” Rock said. “When I’m out mountain biking, it’s just me and trees. I absolutely love it.” But so far this season, at least through mid-April, managing two kitchens has left him unable to hop on his bike and escape the craziness. Rock has determined that mountain bikers generally fall into two eating types. The first group opts for a more plant-based and balanced diet, seeming “a little more conscious about what they eat,” Rock said. The second prefers COURTESY OF RONALD SCALZETTA

Mountain biking at Cady Hill Forest JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR

The patio at Ranch Camp

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JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR

Ahi tuna burger

INFO Ranch Camp, 311 Mountain Rd., Stowe, 253-2753, ranchcampvt.com

the more traditional “American kind of meat and potatoes.” “I strive to hit multiple groups,” Rock said. “There’s also the kids. I just try and put as much out there as I can, so basically anybody can eat.” My daughter and I had a wonderful to-go lunch from Ranch Camp earlier this month. The plant-based eaters must’ve beat me to the restaurant that day, because the special I wanted — a sweet potato burger — was sold out. I ordered the ahi tuna burger instead. It was so good, it was hard to imagine that my first choice could’ve pleased me

more. The deep-fried tuna was crispy on the outside and pink on the inside. Dressed in wasabi mayo and pickled ginger — which elevates any meal — the burger was hefty, bulging like a biker’s calf muscle from its brioche roll. My daughter loved her Monte Verde burrito: a whole-wheat tortilla stuffed with house-rubbed grilled chicken, brown rice, pico de gallo, guacamole and lentils. Due to its large size, we debated whether you could stuff it into a water-bottle holder on a mountain bike and take it for a spin. Rock would probably know the answer to that question. In fact, he told me that if things slow down and he gets a chance to go for a ride, he’ll eat a Monte Verde burrito when he’s back at Ranch Camp. m ST2V-OGE042821Right 1

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Learning Curves How a teenage mountain biker helped Cochran’s Ski Area carve warm-weather turns BY KE N P IC A RD • ken@sevendaysvt.com

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hen Mother’s Day rolls around each May, most kids give their moms the typical presents — flowers, a birdhouse, a handmade clay pot. Dana Cabrera chose a different route. A couple of years ago, after his mom had knee-replacement surgery and couldn’t ride the steep mountain bike trails that snake through the woods behind their Richmond home, the then-17-year-old built her an easier path. He named it, aptly, Mother’s Day. Today, Mother’s Day is part of a larger network of mountain bike trails in Richmond that wind in and around

Cochran’s Ski Area. The ski hill, founded in 1960 by world-class Alpine ski racers Gordon “Mickey” Cochran and his wife, Virginia “Ginny” Davis Cochran, has long served as an affordable and family-friendly locale where Vermonters teach young kids to ski and snowboard. But in the last few years, the nonprofit hill has also attracted visitors in the off-season, when they carve different kinds of turns through the woods. Though most of the mountain bike trails are for advanced riders, last year Cochran’s added several easier and wider ones at the bottom of the

We are all a little shocked by how much this place has grown. JIMMY COCHRAN

mountain, designed specifically for beginners and intermediates. The additions include a pump track, which is a circuit of dirt mounds, banked turns COURTESY O F BETSY CABRERA

A crew building Cochran’s mountain biking trails

and rolling terrain that riders traverse by “pumping,” or using gravity and their own momentum to keep moving without pedaling. All the trails are free and open to the public. “A little hill like ours is small for skiing, but it’s pretty big for biking,” said Jimmy Cochran, grandson of Mickey and Ginny and now general manager of the ski area. “We are all a little shocked by how much this place has grown.” Indeed, on a warm summer day last year, Cochran said, he could count as many as 120 cars in the parking lot, all of them belonging to mountain bikers, including families with young kids. Cabrera, whose family owns 70 acres adjacent to the ski area, built several of the newer trails. Mother’s Day wasn’t even his first one. Cabrera, now 19, got into mountain biking when he was just a child. According to his mom, Betsy, Dana often spent hours building forts in the woods. When Dana was 13, his father, Andy, suggested they build a trail connecting their property to the neighboring trails. The father and son spent that summer and part of the next year constructing and fine-tuning their first trail. They named it AC/DC — a combination of their initials, not a tribute to the Australian rock band. Like the Cochran’s trails, the Cabreras’ are free and open to the public. But at the time AC/DC was built, Dana Cabrera said, the family assumed no one else would be interested in riding on it because the trail dead-ends at their barn. “The only experience we’d ever had was riding other trails, and we just figured it out as we went along,” Cabrera said. “That trail turned out to be one of the most popular trails for a while.” And the teen wasn’t done yet. Having LEARNING CURVES

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Dana Cabrera

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Learning Curves « P.18 previously worked at Cochran’s Ski Area and helped out with its sugaring operation, Cabrera asked Jimmy Cochran the following year for permission to build Mother’s Day. Cochran agreed, and he suggested that the trail let out at the base of the ski slope. At the time, there was no easy way to get from the Cochran’s parking lot to the trail network on the mountain above. Mother’s Day provided that access and helped the ski area become a hub for local riders. Soon, Cabrera was building more trails in and around the mountain whenever he wasn’t at school. “I wanted to skip my eighth-grade graduation to build trails,” Cabrera recalled, “but I wasn’t allowed to do that.” By his sophomore year at Mount Mansfield Union High School, Cabrera had gotten permission to take off part of his school day to build trails as a community service project. He built one called A-Day, named for the alternating days of the week when Cabrera was allowed to work on it. With help from his father, who owns an excavating company, Cabrera also built two steep downhill runs: Skully’s, and Chutes and Ladders. In 2017, at age 16, Cabrera incorporated his trail-building company, Mountain Trailworx. At the time, he wasn’t even old enough to open a business account in his own name. Mountain Trailworx is now his fulltime job. Last summer, after Cabrera graduated from high school, Cochran hired him to help construct the new beginner trails near the base lodge. “The Cabreras seem to enjoy it as much, if not more, than we do,” Cochran added. “It’s cool to have neighbors like that.” Local mountain bikers seem thrilled to have a convenient place to park that also provides them with easy access to the patchwork of trails maintained by Richmond Mountain Trails (a chapter of the Vermont Mountain Bike Association), the Town of Richmond, the Cabreras and other private landowners. But Cochran acknowledged that not everyone in the legendary “Skiing Cochrans” family is psyched about the surge in warm-weather visitors. “It’s mostly a generational difference. Various members of our family support it to varying degrees,” he said. Some older relatives get irked if they show up to mow the lawn or tend to the flowers and find dogs running

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loose or cars parked on the grass. “They still look at it like it’s their backyard,” he added. But Cochran, a former World Cup racer, Olympian and U.S. Ski Team member with four U.S. Alpine ski racing titles, said he often rode mountain bikes as a way to cross-train in the off-season. Following his retirement from competitive skiing, Cochran coached the University of Vermont’s ski team. He regularly brought his athletes to the mountain to train. Though Cabrera has since moved on to building trails for other landowners, there may be more work in store at his neighbors’ property just down the road. Cochran said he’d love to find a way to use the ski lift to pull bikers up the mountain — and perhaps even offer $5 lift ticket deals once a week, the way the ski area does during the winter. Riding the trails would remain free, of course. “As you can image, a T-bar and a bicycle don’t interface that easily,” Cochran said. “But you could have a lot of good terrain access from a short lift ride.” m

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COURTESY OF INN AT BURKLYN

Rest and Restoration

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as its showstopper setting, that bring the ritz. According to Jim Crone, who moved to Vermont to buy Burklyn a little over two years ago with his wife, Marci, “It’s just a beautiful house.” That’s a bit of an understatement. Burklyn Hall was originally the country home of New York City hotelier Elmer Darling. Nestled along a high point of the Darling Hill ridge, it has stirring valley vistas and panoramic views of both the Green and White mountains. Darling, a Burke native, built the manor as the centerpiece of his 1,400-acre country estate. Another remnant of this can be found just a short stroll down Darling Hill Road, at what is now the Inn at Mountain View Farm. No expense was spared in building Darling’s lavish 31-room, 13,600-squarefoot dream home. Its granite was

BY DAN BOLLES • dan@sevendaysvt.com

The Burklyn single-track

COURTESY OF KINGDOM TRAILS

A

lmost any posh hotel or resort offers valet parking so guests can rest assured that their BMWs, Land Rovers or McLarens will remain safe and sound. But how many luxury lodgings also offer a primo spot for your horse, or a tuneup station for your mountain bike? In Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, there’s at least one: the Inn at Burklyn. Opened in August 2020 following an extensive renovation, the 14-room bedand-breakfast in East Burke offers just about the swankiest digs this side of the Connecticut River. Some of that is due to the deluxe amenities, including gourmet dining, an on-demand personal barber and horse stables. There’s also easy access to the Kingdom Trails mountain biking network, rated the best in North America by Bike magazine. But it’s really the 1908 neoclassical mansion, as well

Painstakingly renovated, the Inn at Burklyn offers luxury and easy access to Kingdom Trails


PHOTOS COURTESY OF INN AT BURKLYN

Inside the 14-room bed-and-breakfast in East Burke

quarried at nearby Kirby Mountain, and most of its lumber was milled from Darling’s own land. Marble was imported from Italy and Africa. Burklyn Hall was also state-of-the-art in its day, featuring central vacuuming, elevators, and gas and electrical lighting. Darling died in 1931. The following decades brought a succession of owners and, perhaps inevitably, the grand mansion’s decline. That included several years in the 1970s when Burklyn Hall was used as a Lyndon State College dormitory housing 40 students and staff. “The house took quite a beating in those days,” Jim said. As they planned their renovations, the Crones immersed themselves in the history of Burklyn Hall, and Darling himself, to meticulously re-create the feel of the original manor. “We tried to keep the style of what we thought Elmer Darling would want today,” Marci explained. That meant preserving as much of the mansion’s original detail work and structure as possible. Any remodeling kept the original in mind, often at great effort and expense. For example, the grand staircase at

the heart of the central hall had about 40 damaged or missing balusters. But ornate balusters from 112-year-old Colonial Revival mansions aren’t the kind of thing you buy at Home Depot. So Jim, a former contractor, had them custom-made in California. And he enlisted a North Carolina company to make custom router bits in order to re-create or repair damaged molding on-site in the basement woodshop. “We wanted to do it exactly like they would have back in the day whenever possible,” Jim said.

The painstaking work paid off. As one Tripadvisor reviewer from Concord, N.H., wrote last November, “The thoughtful renovation of the mansion to honor the history and tastes of the original owner were truly noble.” The building, he added, “is flawless, and it feels like you’ve stepped back in time whenever you enter.” Of course, certain modern amenities are preferable to the originals. The Crones “refreshed” and modernized Burklyn’s bathrooms into mini spas with marble and tile. But even here they drew on original design elements: The legs of new vanities, for example, exactly mimic the stair balusters. “Highly recommended for anyone looking for a weekend stay in a setting not seen since the early 1900s,” enthused another reviewer. “Unforgettable and worth every penny.” The Crones’ research into Burklyn resulted in some playful details, as well. After discovering that Darling kept peacocks on the property, Marci used wallpaper with the showy birds in the informal dining room. REST AND RESTORATION

We wanted to do it exactly like they would have back in the day. JIM CRONE

INFO The Inn at Burklyn, 2864 Darling Hill Rd., East Burke, 626-1111, theinnatburklyn.com

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A guest room at the Inn at Burklyn

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Bikers on the nearby Kingdom Trails network SEVEN DAYS STAYTRIPPER MAY 2021

Entrance to Darlings, a private lounge at the inn

That same attention to detail is paid throughout the Burklyn experience, from luxury linens to locavore beer-and-cheese tastings to afternoon cocktails in a tony private lounge called Darlings. “We want you to feel pampered in every way possible,” Marci said. (Note: Said pampering requires leaving your little ones with a babysitter. Burklyn is adults-only.) While Burklyn clearly caters to an upscale and mostly out-of-state clientele — or will, post-pandemic — the Crones have taken steps to make Burklyn more accessible to the surrounding area. “We knew how much the house means to the community and how much Elmer Darling meant,” Marci said. “Even though we’re not from here, we wanted to be sure the place didn’t fall apart.” She added, “So many people tell us they’ve driven by it their whole lives but have never been inside.” To that end, the Crones recently launched an on-site restaurant, the Springhouse, that’s open to the public — the name and menu will change seasonally. For many locals, eating there is the first time they’ve been able to visit the manor. “We wanted to open it up to people,” Jim said. That’s also why the Crones worked with Kingdom Trails to tie Burklyn’s 84-acre grounds into the trail network. Previously, a handful of surrounding landowners had revoked access to the trails from their properties, creating gaps where riders had to divert to the road. The Burklyn single-track, installed last year, slices through a broad, scenic meadow and compensates for some of the lost connectors. As it turns out, mountain biking is what led the couple to buy Burklyn, at least indirectly. Marci recalled that her mountain-biking cousins in New Hampshire, Bob and Sharon Morse, would send the couple, then in California, pictures of the mansion when they rode past, along with jokey texts like, “We found your new home!” The Crones, who had no previous experience running an inn, didn’t take the texts seriously — until the day they did. One afternoon, Jim called Marci into his San Diego office and pulled up a real estate listing for the house on his computer. “He said, ‘Pack your bags. I’m putting in an offer, and we’re going to look at it this weekend,’” Marci recalled. “To make a long story short, we fell in love with this house.” They surely won’t be the last. m


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You’d be hard-pressed to call Mike’s Tiki Bar a hidden gem, as Yankee Magazine did a few years back. It’s a gem, for sure, but there’s nothing secret about this bumping bar near the Kingdom Trails welcome center. In nonpandemic years, it draws crowds from early May through mid-October for its expansive tap list, trailside location, food trucks and live music. Eight years ago, East Burke native Mike Mathers decided to repurpose an old gravel pit he owned into a parking lot. During peak biking season, “the town was flooded with cars,” he recalled. Mathers thought he’d sell ice and offer coin-operated showers. (Mountain biking can be a dirty business.) But soon, “Everyone was buying beer, sitting on their tailgates and drinking,” he said. “I thought, If I could get a dollar from every biker who parks here…” With a little help, Mathers built himself an outdoor bar fitted with 30 taps and stocked with dozens more cans and bottles. He added a trailer called Flat Tire Pizza so hungry bikers could recharge with wood-fired pies topped with pepperoni, pesto or Buffalo chicken. The venue also hosts the Two Tamales food truck, which serves up freshly made tamales stuffed with red chile pork or sweet potato and black beans; chili made with Green Hatch chiles, pinto beans and hominy; and enchilada plates. A biker at Mike’s Tiki Bar This year, Mathers has expanded the bar and patio space and plans to In the area… add basic mixed drinks. (Don’t expect tiki cocktails, though; that would slow down • BURKE BIKE PARK the busy bar.) skiburke.com Mathers said he first tried mountain • KINGDOM TRAILS, kingdomtrails.org biking about five years ago. “For the longest time, I couldn’t figure out why anyone would want to ride a pedal bike through the woods,” he admitted. Once he started, it didn’t take long for him to see why his parking lot was so busy: “It gets you in shape, it’s fun, and you don’t have to watch out for cars.” The only problem, he added with a chuckle, is that every so often “a tree will step out in front of you.”

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Huffing and puffing aren’t prerequisites for diving into a mound of nachos. But Stone Corral’s Huff & Puff nachos — with smoky barbecue pulled pork, Cabot Clothbound cheddar, pickled jalapeños and red onions, passion fruit, pineapple, and chopped sage — might be perfect post-bike food, especially if you add Trailblazer cheese dip. Stone Corral is a hub for the local cycling community, with Richmond Mountain Trails, In the area… the town forest, and Sleepy Hollow Inn, Ski & Bike Center • RICHMOND MOUNTAIN TRAILS all nearby. The business is vmba.org also a regular contributor to • SLEEPY HOLLOW INN, SKI & BIKE CENTER bike-specific causes, including skisleepyhollow.com Richmond Mountain Trails. It’s no surprise that the brewery’s theme for the summer is “get outside and play.” “Now more than ever, I think people have had that reset button pushed,” said owner Bret Hamilton. With that in mind, the taproom is working with the town and state to expand its outdoor biergarten, giving customers and staff extra room to spread out; he also hopes to reincorporate games and live music after a pandemic-induced hiatus. In the kitchen, the staff is developing more food-and-beer pairings — including creative suggestions to complement chef Bill Jenkerson’s weekly specials. They’re also adding beer cocktails, kombucha and nonalcoholic seltzers to the list of housemade brews, along with one-off weekend kegs from head brewer Ryan McKeon, such as a honey saison called Fulcrum. Beyond nachos, the taproom’s menu of pub-style food features a variety of loaded mac and cheeses, tacos, sandwiches, salads, rice bowls, and burgers — many with beer as an ingredient, of course. While spring is traditionally a quieter time for Stone Corral, Hamilton said he’s not anticipating much of a slowdown this year. Reservations are strongly recommended for indoor and outdoor dining. “People are wanting to venture out and do things outside of the house,” he said. “Not just on bikes, but certainly including on bikes.” Stone Corral is making it easier than ever for customers on two wheels, Hamilton added with a laugh: “This year, we’re actually going to put in a proper bike rack.” JORDAN BARRY

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“Lookout!” might not be the most reassuring thing to hear as you’re hurtling down a mountain on a bike. But if you’re at the Killington Bike Park, chances are it’s not a warning — it’s a post-ride dinner suggestion. Situated near the top of Killington Road, Lookout Tavern is a go-to gathering spot for the local mountain biking crowd. The view from the restaurant’s rooftop deck looks out on the resort, so you can relive your ride as you dive into a beer and a Black & Blue burger or Beast buttermilk chicken sandwich. Phil and Joy Black have owned Lookout Tavern since 2000. Phil said they’ve seen summer traffic boom in recent years, thanks in large part to the draw of the bike park. They’re actively involved in the scene, too, organizing group rides from the tavern on Tuesday nights. In the area… “It started with 12 of us, and now it’s grown to 30 to 35 sometimes. It’s really • BASE CAMP OUTFITTERS anything but organized, but it’s fun,” Phil basecampvt.com explained. Post-pedal, the group returns • KILLINGTON BIKE PARK killington.com to the restaurant to refuel. Lookout’s extensive menu — available for lunch and dinner on-site or to-go — features classic comfort food and creative sandwiches with a Tex-Mex twinge. Handcrafted burgers billed as “the biggest & best” are topped with melted Cabot cheddar, jalapeño peppers and guacamole for the Left Coast burger, or sautéed onions, mushrooms and soy-ginger mayonnaise for the veggie-friendly Garden burger. The drinks menu is full of local brews and cocktails such as Killingtonarea staple the Goombay Smash — made with a blend of rums, fruit juices, crème of coconut “and 20 years of love.” The Blacks recently bought Base Camp Outfitters, a Nordic and telemark ski shop down the road. Together with longtime Killington Bike Shop manager Ben Colona, they’re in the process of adding a year-round full-service bike shop with rentals, service and sales. Base Camp sits at the trailhead of the local town trail system, Phil said, and “having a full-service bike shop there, for us, was a no-brainer.” COURTESY OF PHIL BLACK

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