Get your family out of the house and to Catamount

If you are looking for a destination where Dad and big sister Sue can rip some loops while Mom and little Timmy cut their teeth on a mellow double track, then the Catamount Family Center is your Shangri la.

I recently visited the Center, located in Williston, off I89 just east of downtown Burlington, and, I have to say I wasn’t initially impressed with the locale. Once a haven of pristine farmland, Williston now has the personality of a Midwestern suburbia with track housing and asphalt. Luckily, this is a rare environ for VT and only half of Williston is like this. Do not be deterred! Hidden beyond the burbs is an oasis for intermediate trail enthusiasts, XC race junkies and family pedalers.

Tucked in the patchwork of meadow and forest lies Catamount’s headquarters, a stately 1796 brick farmhouse that now boasts a bike shop, bed and breakfast and ticket office. I was welcomed at the counter by local Mike Stearns and asked him the best way to ride the extensive network of trails here. Mike informed me that Catamount consists of three primary 5k loops and each is clearly marked with color-coded signage.

There are both single and double tracks here and they’re all laced around the farm and there is very little elevation change. These same loops are used for Catamount’s claim to fame, the Wednesday Night MTB Series, which they boast as “the oldest, largest, longest running mountain bike training series in the country.”

Interspersed between these loops are smaller pieces of single-track, which make the riding possibilities here varied enough to enjoy a full day of navigating the network. Catamount is perfect for those looking for a low-to-moderate level of technical trails.

I found the trails here as hospitable as the staff, with a mellow and inviting vibe for even the greenest of beginners to enjoy. There is a kind of pastoral beauty here: long rides down old farm roads, past ponds and through meadows and woods all within site of the green mountains.

But for those who need some stoke with their riding, Catamount also hosts a full camp series for young riders of all abilities in both freeride and XC disciplines, and is a local Mecca for XC running and cyclocross.

So the next time you and the family are interested in getting outside and away from the Wii system, check out Catamount Family Center. Its name says it all.

For more info visit www.catamountoutdoor.com.

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