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Blog :: 03-2015

Syrup at the Source: Visit Vermont Sugar Houses

One of the biggest annual attractions in southern Vermont isn't really an attraction at all -- it's a season. Sugaring season begins in late winter each year as the ice begins to thaw and maple trees start to wake up from winter. Vermont sugar houses are at their peak activity during this time, and many are also willing to show visitors and guests how their delicious maple syrup is created.

Vermont Sugar House

What to Expect at a Vermont Sugar House

Vermont is the world's leading producer of maple syrup - more than 1 million gallons of the sticky-sweet syrup are produced in the state every year, accounting for more than 40 percent of the maple syrup made worldwide. This makes Vermont's maple syrup farms very busy places during the spring. Many sugar farmers work around the clock to produce as much maple syrup as possible during the short season.
Maple-syrup-making starts in the "sugar bush" - a grove of maple trees that farmers use to supply maple sap, the raw ingredient in maple syrup. During the winter months the sugar farmers tap trees with a small spout, called a spile. When the weather warms up the frozen sap in the tree begins to flow again, and the spile channels it from inside the tree into a bucket or a long hose, from which the sap is collected in tanks.
Vermont Sugar Bush From there, the sap is boiled down to get rid of excess water and concentrate the sugar and other compounds. It takes approximately 40 gallons of maple sap to make one gallon of maple syrup, which makes the process take quite a while. Fortunately, when you visit a Vermont sugar house, you'll only have to sit back and watch. Many Vermont maple syrup farms also give visitors free samples and offer bottles and other syrup products (like maple candies and gifts), making this a very tasty adventure.

Where to Visit a Vermont Sugar House 

Vermont has far too many sugar houses to list here -- the following are dependable favorites, open year-round. 
Robb Family Farm: This popular sugar house in Brattleboro has been around for generations and produces high-quality maple syrup and other maple products.
Hidden Springs Maple: A family-owned maple syrup farm in southern Vermont, Hidden Springs operates a popular farm store that sells maple syrup products from around the region.
Dutton Berry Farm: Along with a number of fruits and veggies, the Dutton Berry Farm operates a traditional Vermont sugar house that produces more than 1,000 gallons of maple syrup each year.
Vermont Maple Open House Weekend: Along with the sugar houses that are open all year, many Vermont sugarmakers open their doors to the public for one weekend a year - the Vermont Maple Open House Weekend. This is a great opportunity for visitors to learn about maple syrup production and see how the process works first hand, and to also get their fill of fresh-made maple syrup straight from the source.
The Open House Weekend is only once a year, and it can be tough to get to all the different sugar houses you want to visit before time runs out. One way to make your trip easier is to stay in a comfortable and centrally located southern Vermont rental house. The only way you could be closer to the maple syrup would be to camp out in the sugar bush itself. 

Bike Vermont in Winter: An Intro to the Fat Bike

You might think biking in Vermont is a warm-weather-only activity, but a growing number of adventurous cyclists are seeking to change that perception. Fat biking is gaining popularity here as an alternative to more traditional winter activities like cross-country skiing and snowmobiling. Here are some tips to get rolling on a fat bike in Vermont

Fat Bike Vermont - Framed Bikes at Stratton
Photo: Framed Bikes, available for rent at Stratton Mountain

What are Fat Bikes?

If you’ve ever tried to ride a bike in the winter, you know how hard it can be to keep a standard cycle’s skinny tires upright in heavy snow and slippery ice. Fat bikes make it easy. Huge steamroller tires inflated to super-low pressure (5 to 10 psi instead of the normal 30-50 psi for mountain bikes) give these bikes exceptional grip and allow them to ride over top of snow that skinnier tires would get stuck in. These winter bikes are becoming an increasingly popular way to bike Vermont all year round and go places you simply can’t on skis or snowmobiles.

Where Can I Try a Fat Bike in Vermont?

Some trail facilities have fat bikes for rent on site, and a number of standalone rental shops allow you to take them to a trail of your choice. Here are a few of the best options in southern Vermont to get into the world of fat biking:

Stratton Mountain

If you’re totally new to the fat bike scene, Stratton Mountain is one of the best places to try it out. The resort offers fat bikes for hourly, half-day and full-day rentals to use on their groomed Nordic Center trails during daylight hours. This is definitely one of the easiest ways to get your hands on a fat bike and see if you enjoy the activity.

Molly Stark Trail

If you already have your own fat bike or you plan to rent one from a local bike shop, you can take it to Molly Stark State Park and use it on a number of the trails there. The Vermont Department of Forests Parks and Recreation has agreed to provide fat biking opportunities on this trail as well as a few other state-owned trails in other parts of Vermont.

West River Trail

Brattleboro’s West River Trail is a great place to try biking Vermont on a fat bike – the trail is easy to access and not difficult to navigate. Most of the trail consists of a long, gentle cruise beside the West River, perfect for beginners and families.

Winter biking vermont

West Hill Shop

This bike shop in Putney, Vermont is a great place to get your hands on a fat bike for a low price. Rentals are available, and you can also buy a fat bike if you’re ready to commit. Employees here can tell you where the best trails in the area are for your skills and time constraints, making this a perfect way to start your fat bike journey.

Norse House Ski and Sport

Though they’re primarily a ski shop, the popular Norse House equipment shop also rents out fat bikes for use on nearby trails. Located just north of Stratton Mountain, the Norse House is another fine place to try out fat biking for a day.
Fat biking is a great way to experience the fun of biking Vermont in the winter months, and it also gives you new access to trails and locations that might be too tough to get to otherwise. It's the perfect additon to your winter adventure checklist, and it's easily accessible from base camp at your southern Vermont rental home



  1. Silvia C on

    A good resource! Also this from VMBA, which may need some updates https://vmba.org/winter-trails (from a neighbor in Bennington)
    • P.O. BOX 415, 9 Haystack Road, Wilmington VT 05363