Astride their trusty snowmobiles, the knowledgeable guides at Jay Snowmobile Adventures help visiting adventurers conquer the winter landscape during tours of picturesque Vermont snowscapes. One- and two-person tour packages begin at the outfitter’s home base, located 3 miles from the entrance of Jay Peak Resort. From there, groups wind through the wilderness of Jay, Vermont and parts of Westfield for up to two hours, exploring the snowy nooks and frost-covered crannies of Jay State Forest and the nearby countryside. They rarely make the trip alone, though; moose and white-tailed deer often dot the secluded paths, ready to pose for snapshots in their most photogenic outfits.
The story of the United States Navy begins on Lake Champlain. The year was 1776, and the fledgling American Revolution seemed doomed to failure almost before it began after a naval retreat to the town known today as Whitehall, New York. Then the Continental Congress issued a command on June 17 of 1776 "to build, with all expedition, as many galleys and armed vessels as ... shall be sufficient to make us indisputably masters of the lakes Champlain and George." By August, eight new gunboats were afloat on the lake—just in time to face the British in the Battle of Valcour.
That story and hundreds more come to life in the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum's collection of more than 15,000 artifacts, images, and documents. Visitors can marvel at the massive 10' x 8' rudder of the steamboat Champlain II, and explore her shipwreck in real time using a remote-operated vehicle. In the Hazelett Watercraft Center, the 111-year-old ice yacht Storm King towers over 90 dugouts, bark canoes, kayaks, rowing skiffs, and sailboats. But the core of the museum is the Key to Liberty exhibit, where visitors can read eyewitness accounts of the Battle of Valcour and marvel at a 9-foot scale model of a gunboat. On fair days, the full-size gunboat replica Philadelphia II sets sail, giving passengers a glimpse of a distant era without the bother of going though a time machine broker first.
With thousands of flight hours under his belt, experienced pilot Keith Deschambeault of Acadian Seaplanes chauffeurs nature-bound groups over breathtaking treetops and seascapes in a single-engine plane specially designed for water landings. Maine's illustrious coastline unfolds below as the small, sturdy planes soar on specialized air tours that seek out moose, remote mountain lakes, or destination fishing for trout, bass, and Maine's native aquamoose.
In late December, Ice Castles’ creator, Brent Christensen, and a team of ice artists will finish transforming more than 12,000 tons of ice into full-fledged castles. With multiple large towers and ice walls, visitors are totally surrounded by the organic shapes of shimmering ice as they explore tunnels, courtyards, and caverns. In daytime, the castles glimmer in the sun; come nightfall, thousands of LED lights create an ethereal glow from within.
Today, the castles delight visitors of all ages, but the idea came from Brent Christensen’s winter playtimes with his kids. They had already made ice rinks, ice caves, and other chilly creations when Brent decided to build a fort entirely out of ice, using icicles as the base structure. The kids dubbed the structure an “ice castle”—and it started to look more and more like one as Brent added a cave, tunnels, and a slide that spilled onto an ice-skating rink. Eventually, cars started detouring to their block to drive past the creation, and local snowmen inquired about home prices. But the idea truly took off when a local resort asked him to build a larger ice castle for them. He’s built ice castles every winter since, including one in the winter of 2010–2011 that was featured in the Denver Post and called “a frosty, fairy-tale-like landscape” by the Los Angeles Times.
As riders learn the names of ancient trees and watch a stream meander through the mountains, wind rushes past their ears. That’s because they are following two guides along courses set by an overhead belay zipline—only stopping to traverse a swinging suspension bridge or rappel down toward the forest floor. ArborTrek Canopy Adventures cofounder Michael Smith devises these tours, drawing from more than 18 years as a challenge-ropes-course builder, manager, and trainer. He leads a trained staff of zipline guides versed in wilderness rescue and first aid as well as ecology, geology, and the local histories of areas such as Vermont’s Green Mountains. On each tour, two guides lead groups across interconnected ziplines, aerial bridges, rappelling walls, and other challenge elements. All the while, they follow a path that reveals facts about local history and ecology, such as which trees are native and what eggs forest rangers hatched from. ArborTrek’s builders design each course to work with the environment, and they minimize their environmental impact by consulting with local foresters, wildlife experts, and engineers.
Four generations of Boydens have lovingly tended hundreds of acres of land that make up Boyden Valley Winery. Plucked from more than 8,000 vines, these grapes are transformed into European-style wines, aged in French oak barrels in the on-site cellar. The resulting varietals include a handful of reds, whites, and coveted fruit wines, which can be sipped after tours, during tastings, or at home, where you're in charge.