Vermont Rail Trails

Nordic Skiing

Two individuals nordic skiing

Nordic Skiing on the Vermont Rail Trails

The Vermont rail trails are open to the public for nordic skiing in the winter. Vermont’s rail trails provide a flat grade for skiing, ideal for long-distance training or for beginners. Three of the trails (LVRT, MVRT, and DHRT) are not formally groomed for skiing but are groomed for snowmobile travel and other winter users by local VAST Clubs. The BSRT is groomed for cross-country skiing and other winter users by volunteers with the Memphremagog Trails Group.  For all trails the snow may be packed down by snowmobiles, and you can anticipate tracks from walkers and other trail users. Bundle up and enjoy Vermont’s beautiful winter scenery with your friends, family, or solo.

People nordic skiing on the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail

What is a Rail-Trail?

Rail-trails are multi-purpose, public paths created from former railroad corridors. Flat or following a gentle grade, they traverse Vermont’s downtowns, villages, and rural countryside. Ideal for bicycling, walking, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, dog-sledding, equestrian and wheelchair use, rail-trails are extremely popular for recreation and transportation. Since the 1960s, more than 26,000 miles of rail-trails have been created across the United States.

Two pairs of skis in the snow

How Do I Find a Rail Trail to Ski?

All four trails are groomed by volunteers. Questions about conditions and trail grooming on the DHRT, LVRT, or MVRT? These trails are groomed by local snowmobile clubs as part of the VAST snowmobile trail system. The snowmobile season runs from December 16th to April 15th, when there is enough snow. Refer to the VAST snowmobile trail system page during the season for details. Questions about conditions and trail grooming on the BSRT? This trail is groomed for cross-country skiing by volunteers from the Memphremagog Trails Group. Refer to the Memphremagog Trail Winter Grooming Report page during the season for details.

A group of people cross country skiing on Vermont's rail trails

The Right Skis

Nordic equipment—skis, boots, bindings, and poles—costs much less than downhill (Alpine) equipment. Investing in some glide wax will help with sticky snow in poor conditions. Ski shops now sell “back-country” skis that have metal edges that make for better control in icier conditions, but you don’t have to have them.

Here are a few quick tips to help you give it a try! For a few hints on prep and technique, check out REI’s “Beginner’s Guide to Cross-Country Skiing.

An individual nordic skiing in the snow

Safety

Rail trails can be busy thoroughfares on weekends or near trailheads. The most common cause of accidents is riders colliding, so keep your distance, give a clear warning, and SLOW DOWN when passing other trail users. All users should operate at a reasonable and safe speed and should slow down when engaging in passing maneuvers, especially when passing other use types.

For more tips and recommendations on cross country skiing, check out the Rails to Trails Conservancy’s “Tips for Cross-County Skiing”. And remember:

  • You are responsible for yourself so be prepared!
  • Your trip on the rail trail begins before you reach the trail. Tell someone where you are going, your route, and when you will return.
  • Check the weather and plan your essential gear (i.e. clothing, equipment, water, food, light, and first aid) based on the forecast and the distance you plan to go.
  • Layer up! As with any outdoor activity, you should dress in layers, keeping in mind that you will generate warmth as you move. You need apparel that moves freely and can handle sweat (synthetics and wool, not cotton). Make sure you also have layers that work well for cold, snowy, and windy conditions.
  • Check your cell coverage on your planned route. Most of the Vermont Rail Trails have excellent cell coverage, but some areas do not.
  • Be prepared to turn back. Weather can change quickly. Fatigue and unexpected conditions can also affect your time on the trail. Know your limitations and when to postpone. The trail will be there another day.

More information on Safety and Trail Etiquette are on the Vermont State Rail Trails System website under the “Information” tab.

 

Parking

Information on formal parking can be found on the Vermont rail trails maps. Overnight parking is an option with permission at some trailheads. For more information, contact the rail trails Program Manager.

Two individuals nordic skiing past a covered bridge in Vermont

Day Trips

The biggest difference between preparing for a rail trail ride and a short ski session at a resort or nordic centers is that you need to be self-contained. So, bring plenty of water, one more snack or energy bar than you think you need, and provisions for a variety of conditions.

Bathroom facilities are located every dozen miles or so at trailheads or in villages or downtowns. More facility details can be found on the trail specific interactive maps. Be a good citizen and please be respectful of private land. Don’t trespass, climb fences, or leave gates open.

 

Longer Trips

Interested in covering more miles? Skiing the longer rail trails and connected trail networks can create an opportunity for challenging, multi-day ski trips. This can be done through a supported effort with a shuttle service or using a local resort or lodging establishment as a home base.
Camping and lodging details can be found here.

People Nordic skiing on the Vermont Rail Trails

Rules and Regulations

Allowed Uses

The Vermont rail trails are open to non-motorized uses, with the exception of snowmobiles, motorized wheelchairs, and authorized maintenance vehicles. You’re sharing the trail with others, so be a good ambassador!

Pass and Yield Guidelines

  • Stay to the right of the trail except when passing.
  • Yield to the slowest users, and yield to livestock and other animals.
  • In the winter, yield to snow machines.
  • In other seasons, yield to horses.

Clear communication is key! Give a clear warning and SLOW DOWN before passing other trail users. All users should operate at a reasonable speed and should slow down when engaging in passing maneuvers, especially when passing other use types.

Lamoille Valley Rail Trail in the winter, covered in snow

Quick Facts

  • Vermont law prohibits the operation of snowmobiles on streets and highways. The maximum snowmobile speed limit on state lands is 35 mph.
    E-bikes are permitted.
  • Motorbikes, ATVs, and ORVs are not permitted on the trail.
  • Camping on the trail, in the trail right of way, or at trailheads is prohibited.
  • Overnight parking at trailheads with VTrans permission.
  • Discharging firearms from or across the trail is strictly prohibited.
  • Smoking, alcoholic beverages, and illegal drugs are not permitted on the rail trail right of way.

For further information, visit our Etiquette page.

Two individuals nordic skiing the rail trail system
Two individuals nordic skiing the rail trail system
Two children biking on the LVRT
A family walking on the Rail Trails
A person biking during a sunset
Vermont Rail Trails*** July 2, 2024