This post was written by GMC board member Amy Kelsey.
When Bolton Lodge reservations came online as a winter “camping” opportunity in spring 2018, I logged in as soon as reservations opened and booked a Saturday evening stay for early March 2019. The reservation was made well in advance, and was well worth the wait. We invited another family to join us for that first trip, and made a repeat visit with the same group in March 2020 – officially establishing a tradition we look forward to maintaining.
- Ease of Access
Access to Bolton Lodge could not be much easier, however, the lodge still feels somewhat remote, at least for young ones. We bring two cars, park one car at the “S-curve” on the Bolton Valley Access Road, and then drive with friends and gear to the Bolton Nordic Center with the other car. While unloading, repacking, and getting our trail passes, the Nordic Center amenities include bathrooms, water, and snacks. From the Nordic Center, the 1.5-mile trek to Bolton Lodge is virtually all downhill, which makes it an easy sell for expedition members under ten. (And easier for the parents when you are embarking on your journey after work on Friday afternoon, as we did a few months ago!) When ready to leave the following day, we exit on the Catamount Trail and pop out at our car down below at the S-curve, less than 1 mile away.
In addition to easy access, in our experience, it is easy to stay warm and dry once the fire is going in the lodge. Both nights we have been toasty warm. It’s nice to have the security of a winter sleeping bag, but once the wood stove is going, and as long as you restock it once or twice in the night, you don’t need a fancy winter bag to be comfortable. Despite the warmth inside, the kids still battle over our decades-old down booties. Some things never go out of style?
- Planning and Packing Can Be Fun, and Educational
Our 8-year-old son had fun pulling out and testing the camping gear this past winter, most of which had been packed away since October. He’s always game to try out sleeping bags and negotiate which one is currently “his.” After some awkward backpack-skiing on our first Bolton Lodge expedition, we decided to make our own pulk this winter. It worked quite well for the short trip, and we have some modifications in mind for next year. We’ve also talked about stitching up some small fleece pillowcases to help us make better “pillows” out of our extra layers.
- We Love to Eat, and Winter Camping Requires Lots of It
While it is fun to be a backcountry gourmet, easy access, a pulk, and ample refrigeration mean you can do most of the gourmet work at home and just haul it in with you. On our first trip, we had some camp stove issues, so we kept it simple this year with pre-cooked meals that required little more than reheating. There were no cookstove issues this winter, thankfully, but we will probably stick with the same approach in the future. It made our meals quick, easy, and tasty. The menu included soup and bread for dinner and steel-cut oats, sausage, and lots of maple syrup for breakfast. We also pack piles of kid-friendly snacks, hot cocoa, ample coffee, and a few adult beverages. Although it is quite easy to melt snow for water on the woodstove, we haul in enough water to meet our needs for a one night stay.
- Variety & Options
While we stay quite entertained with the options right outside the door, there are many longer adventures to consider depending on conditions, skills, stamina, and motivation. In our first year, we skinned up to Bryant Camp, and then down JJ’s before heading to the lodge for the night. This past March, after breakfast, we skied to the beaver ponds and then made our way up to Buchanan Shelter, which is now on our list for a summer overnight adventure.
- Simplicity & Appreciation
We love the opportunity to make our own fun, together with friends and family, and without distractions (although there was some effort to collect footage for an up and coming ski movie, produced by 8- and 9-year-old boys). Some of our favorite activities include building and launching off mini-kickers, night skiing, sledding, tiny ski loops near the cabin, and watching the groomer if it happens to come by.
There are also a slew of good, real, kid-friendly jobs to be done, all of which warm you up if you are feeling a winter chill: hauling wood, sweeping floors, splitting kindling, fetching snow for water, or shoveling out a doorway.
Finally, the kids seem to have a sense of ownership and of being “at home” after our two winter visits to the same location. (The parents, too!) It may not matter to them, but it means a lot to us that they already have a strong connection to a special place in the woods, an appreciation for “camping” in winter, and a desire to return for more.