Gifts of the Out-Doors (mostly)

By Elizabeth Bassett | Contributor

Celebrate the holidays with gifts of the outdoors. Make time and plans for fresh air, sunshine, snow or even rain. Exercise and fresh air will pay dividends throughout the year.

Safety first: Grippers

Grippers, creepers, call them what you will, everyone should own at least one pair of footgear for staying upright and safe on icy surfaces. Stabil-Icers, Yaktrax and Yaktrax Extreme, Get-A-Grip, Ice Bugs and Micro Spikes are just a few of the products. Buy a pair or two—it’s much cheaper than a broken wrist or hip.


When there’s almost no snow or a fresh dump that’s too deep to navigate on skis, snowshoes are a salvation. Snowshoes are available in many shapes and sizes and can last for decades (mine have). Variables include bindings, materials, size and crampons. The most basic plastic models for kids start at $30, and new adult snowshoes can be found for about $100. Look for used ones at swaps. Shoe from your back door or on many of the preserved open lands in Charlotte. Float over deep snow, scale steep slopes and stride over stumps and rocks. You’ll burn up to 1,000 calories per hour, stay toasty, and see fresh tracks, scat and the landing trail of raptors.

Downhill skiing

Give a day on the slopes or a discount card: Sugar Card (Sugarbush), Bash Badge (Smugglers) or Stowe Card for cut-rate tickets throughout the season. An adult weekday ticket at the Middlebury Snow Bowl is an old-fashioned $35.

Ice skating

If nature disappoints, two rinks at Cairns Arena in South Burlington offer public skating nearly every day. Adults skate for $5 or a ten-punch pass for $40, students $3 and $20, respectively. Seniors from age 62 skate for $1. Skate rental is $3. For public skating hours:

Cross-country skiing

Cross-country skiing is a life-long sport, gentle on the joints and as rigorous, or not, as you choose. Local areas offer ten-punch passes: Sleepy Hollow, Catamount and Bolton. Camel’s Hump Nordic is a nonprofit on the flanks of Camel’s Hump. Day passes are $10 and a season membership is $75. Visit

Craftsbury Outdoor Center is also a nonprofit with a goal of encouraging life-long sports. While the center is nearly a two-hour drive from Charlotte, a day pass for Nordic skiing costs only $10 and an annual membership $50 for adults and $25 for students and seniors (65+). Worth the drive at least once a year! Best snowmaking and grooming in the region.

Catamount Trail Association,, is the nonprofit guardian of Vermont’s long distance cross-country ski trail that extends the length of the state. Members receive discount coupons for local retailers and discounts on Alpine and cross-country day tickets (you can easily recoup your membership cost).

Nordic season pass holders at 26 participating areas get one free day of skiing or snowshoeing at each of the others. Participants within an hour of Charlotte are Bolton, Catamount, Sleepy Hollow, Trapp’s, Stowe, Smugglers’, Ole’s, Blueberry Lake, Morse Farm and Rikert. A great deal!

Local organic food

CSA memberships make great gifts. Weekly shares at Dave Quickel’s Stony Loam Farm in Charlotte include veggies, herbs and flowers through summer and fall. Visit Pete’s Greens has year-round CSA options with pick up at Little Garden Market in Charlotte.

Shelburne Farms membership

Members receive free admission to walking trails, Children’s Farmyard and property tours, as well as discounts, newsletters and advance notice of events. Membership supports the stewardship of Shelburne Farms and its educational and agricultural missions. Individual membership is $35, dual $65 and family, including children under 18, $65. Go to

Green Mountain Club membership

The Green Mountain Club is the nonprofit steward of Vermont’s Long Trail, and membership is a year-round gateway to the outdoors. GMC offers classes and clinics, and its volunteers organize hikes year round. Other tangible benefits include notification of hikes, member rates for GMC workshops (learn winter hiking or how to be safe in the woods) and discounts at some inns and outdoors stores.

Shelburne Museum membership

Consider a gift membership at Shelburne Museum, a local treasure with a national reputation. Visit as often as you wish and stay for an hour or all day. With lots of grass to run on and a delightful carousel (unlimited riding with museum entry), the museum is a great place for children. Navigate the decks of the Ticonderoga, imagine an overnight in the Grand Isle train car, watch a blacksmith at work and marvel at old-fashioned toys, sleighs and fire engines. Don’t miss the hunting trophies: bears, deer, moose and more. Visit

Shop locally

For every $100 spent in independently owned stores, $69 returns to the community through taxes, payroll and other expenditures. If you shop at a national chain only $43 stays local. Spend it online and nothing comes home!
May your generosity bring joy this holiday season.