May 8, 2016

Visitors seek a variety of outdoor attractions

Candice McRacken, assistant innkeeper at Mountain Meadows Lodge in  Killington, feeds fruit to some of the goats on the property Wednesday afternoon.

Robert Layman / Staff Photo

Candice McRacken, assistant innkeeper at Mountain Meadows Lodge in Killington, feeds fruit to some of the goats on the property Wednesday afternoon.

As spring continues to take hold of Vermont’s landscape, thousands of visitors will hit the trails, bike, swim and enjoy the many other outdoor adventures the Green Mountains offer.

Heather Lynds, co-owner of the Mad River Barn in Waitsfield, said a number of families are already heading up to Vermont to get away from it all after the long winter months.

“I think everyone’s getting a little bit tired of being indoors, and they’re looking to connect with nature,” Lynds said.

Her guests have often enjoyed local biking, horseback riding and swimming holes. Farm tours have been a major draw in recent years as well.

“Agritourism is increasing in popularity,” Lynds said.

She and her husband, Andrew, have owned Mad River Barn for three years and guests have increasingly wanted to make farm visits a part of their stay. She cited an increased interest among people in general to learn about the origins of their food.

“I think people often feel disconnected from where their food comes from,” Lynds said.

She said this agritourism trend helped spur more visitor traffic for the Vermont Maple Festival this year.

Also topping many visitors’ lists is a nice, easy walk in the woods — or a much longer one.

“Hiking is definitely No. 1,” said Anne Mercier, innkeeper at Mountain Meadows Lodge in Killington.

Anne and Bill Mercier have owned the lodge for 10 years, and many of their guests have enjoyed the nearby Appalachian Trail that goes through the property.

“We can easily send them on a 30-minute hike, or longer,” Anne Mercier said.

They also have a dock on nearby Kent Pond, where visitors and locals fish and kayak. Through-hikers on the Appalachian Trail sometimes stop and stay at the lodge, with Kent Pond being a big draw.

“It’s a nice oasis for hikers,” Anne Mercier said.

She said Mountain Meadows Lodge usually has its rooms booked out for wedding groups from May through October.

“Of course they take our whole place, plus they take rooms in the rest of the town,” Mercier said.

A guest from the Mad River Barn in Waitsfield leaps into the water at Warren Falls.

Provided Photo

A guest from the Mad River Barn in Waitsfield leaps into the water at Warren Falls.

Sheldon Miller, communications director at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center, said the center’s “bread and butter” continues to be Nordic skiing in the winter and rowing in the summer. However, recent years have brought more interest in mountain biking, and Miller sees several trends at play there.

“In the same way Vermont is getting known for great beer and great food, people are starting to associate the state of Vermont with great cycling as well,” he said.

Miller has also noticed more interest in the outdoor center’s running programs, ranging from camps for younger ages all the way up to marathon preparation.

Popular outdoor activities also extend to Vermont resorts, which offer myriad ways to enjoy the spring and summer months, such as golf, tennis, zip lines and warm-weather rides in the chairlift or Gondola.

Bill Cairns, president and general manager at Bromley Mountain Resort, said Bromley has had a robust summer experience to offer visitors since creating its Alpine slide in the 1970s.

“To this very day, our Alpine slide is still the big draw for our summer park,” Cairns said. “I think the thrill of that has never gotten old.”

Bromley’s aerial adventure park is also a major attraction. Cairns said the park has “73 puzzles in the trees,” where people in groups “get from one tree platform to the other” in a large aerial course.

“That’s a really nice family activity,” he said. “There are three different levels of courses.”

Cairns said the park is key for the resort’s summer revenue, and also allows him to keep long-term seasonal employees.

“It’s becoming an increasingly important part of the bottom line, especially after a winter like this,” he said.

Cairns said Bromley hires about 100 people to work in the summer park each year.

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