Search This Blog

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Winding Trails - XC Ski and Outdoor Activity Center in Farmington, CT

I love downhill skiing but it wasn't something I grew up doing. It wasn't until I was in my 20s that I put on my first pair of skis. I never touched the bunny slope but instead, a boyfriend convinced me to take the lift up and ski down the green trail where I nearly close lined myself skiing off the trail. Despite my disastrous start, something clicked. From there it was winter weekends in Vermont, two years in Salt Lake City, and then a few random ski trips to Wyoming, Colorado and Canada. I've skied some wonderful terrain and season passes like Epic and Ikon certainly make the sport a bit more affordable for someone who wants to spend their winters on skis. 

While season passes help, it's still an expensive hobby when you factor in lunch at the lodge, childcare, dog sitting, and likely lodging. Let's also consider just how busy and overcrowded some of our resorts are which leads to long lift lines and safety concerns. I love downhill skiing but I am also open to a more family and fido inclusive affordable way to enjoy the winter with a bit more solitude. 

Cue Cross Country Skiing. 

Compared to downhill skiing, cross country skiing is relatively beginner-friendly and affordable. I bought a used pair of skis, boots, and poles for $125 and for the added cost your pride, you can watch a youtube video and head out on a relatively flat trail with a few ego-busting wipeouts and little expenses. Once you get the hang of it (i.e. once you realize it's nothing like downhill skiing), you really start to enjoy it for what it is. It's an amazing workout, a bit like hiking on skis, and a way to enjoy the outdoors on nearly any terrain with a little bit of snow. We live on a quiet street and a pretty extensive trail system and I have been having a blast jetting off on local trails towing Whitney in the ski trailer with the dogs. 

It took about one trip through fresh snow without set tracks to realize this was challenging work and maybe I should look into a few more options. With fresh new snow, you are doing a lot more trudging and a lot less skiing and I missed the ease of skating along a cross country trail system with a set groove/track. I headed to google and was pleasantly surprised to find a cross country skiing center with maintained and groomed trails right here in my state.

Winding Trails in Farmington is a non-profit activity center and an amazing local gem right here in Connecticut. I don't even know the best way to describe it but think of it as an all-in-one family center, nature center, and rec center. You feel like you are far away in Vermont or New Hampshire as you ski through a picture-perfect pine tree-lined trail. I had never heard of this place until last week's google search but I did a bit more reading and realized this facility often makes the "top lists" for cross-country skiing areas in the Northeast. After a foot of snowfall lingered around the state for a few days, I packed the ski trailer and headed to Farmington to see what it was all about. 

As I pulled into the main entrance, I was quickly surprised to see that Winding Trails is truly a four-season year-round kind of spot. It's a large compound that offers everything from summer camps to winter sports. The 380-acre property aims to install a love of the outdoors and a place families can recreate together. 

In the winter (Mid-December through Mid-March weather permitting) the property is open to cross-country skiing from 9am to 5pm (if there is snow, of course) and you can purchase a day pass to use the property. The snow conditions in New England can be challenging year to year but you can check their websites for trail conditions and opening information. 

There is a rental area, a retail shop, and a lodge (with a cafe and roaring fire) and I can't say enough kind words about the staff. I showed up with a broken ski and a small crying child and they were so patient and accomodating. They helped me with my broken ski and I was able to use a rental while the glue was drying on my skis. If you are a true first-timer, you can take a ski lesson right on the property. 

With a properly working ski and a quiet kid, I set off on the trails and skied the 1.8-mile green loop around the property. We kept our skiing down to this one loop and about 40 minutes because let's be honest... I'm towing a child and wanted to end without theatrics and tears. As I skied the loop, I was taken back by just how cool this property is. The trail starts out on an incline and you earn your turns as your make your way into the woods. From there, it's relatively flat tracked trails that are very clear and well marked. There are rolling hills as your make your way around and those seconds of glee skiing downhill are worth all of the sweat and work. I was sad to see I was back to the beginning sooner than I expected but with a 1-year-old, considered this a victory and headed inside to warm up and enjoy lunch. 

Back home, I read the list of current winter programs and I couldn't believe the list of offerings. Adult night ski sessions under the stars, adult drop-in hockey on the pond, after school cross country ski program for kids, indoor cycling/spinning, families exploring nature (hikes, snow forts, and tapping maple trees), family skate night (hot dogs included), kids night out (pizza, movie, ice cream), snow building contest, adult nature walks, and winter acoustic nights. The only bummer is everything but the cross country skiing is member-only. Winding Trails only offers day passes for non-members during the winter for cross-country skiing but they do not have day passes available any other time of the year. To use the facility for the day as a non-member, you must come as the guest of a current member. There is a 5+ year wait list for a membership and I just sent my application in. 

Winding trails is a true gem and I'm waiting for the next snow storm to head back to the property for some winter laps around the trails. I'm scheming up summer trips in the future to enjoy some of their programs. If you have had a conversation with me lately, you know how passionate I am about instilling a love of the outdoors into my family. I'm always trying to channel the norweigan outdoor lifestyle and the idea of "Friluftsliv". Places like Winding Trails make it easier for families to stay active in every season, offering a place to gather and a variety of activities for the young and young at heart. 

Need to Know


Dogs: Nope, not allowed on the property. Unfortunately, the dogs have to sit this one out.
Area:  Three hundred fifty acres 
Admission: Members only with the exception of cross country skiing (season and day passes available)

XC Skiing

Trails: 20 km trail system is groomed daily. Wide, double-tracked trails on gently rolling terrain are all mapped out and are rated from Green to Black (great for beginners and advanced skiers). 
Fees:  Adult $14.00, Senior (62+) $10.00 ($125 for an individual season pass)
Child (3 to 15 $8.00
Map: Here is a link to the map of the trail system
Amenities: Restrooms, lodge with a fire, snack bar, ski lessons, rental and retail shop. 

No comments :

Post a Comment

Let's Chat!