Let’s face it: In the next week, you’re not going to knit your loved ones a sweater or build them a birdhouse. It’s time to spend some money, as painful as the prospect may be. But for good outdoorsy boys and girls, there are plenty of Vermont-made products that can give back to the state, too. Here are some ideas for the skiers, slackliners, snowshoers, snowboarders, sledders, canoers and anglers on your list.
Recipients of A Mountain Love Affair: The Story of Mad River Glen ($49.99; www.madriverglen.com), by Mary K. Kerr, won’t find a steamy romance inside. Instead, this 221-page tome is a scrapbook of sorts, published by the resort’s owners and filled with memories and photo records of its nearly 60 years. (Kerr, former editor of The Valley Reporter and a resident of the Mad River Valley, fills many of the pages with lively historical accounts of the ski area.) For any Vermont skier — or snowboarder who’s managed to poach Mad River Glen — A Mountain Love Affair should be a fine addition to the coffee table.
In the 1980s, a couple of rock climbers killing time between cliffs starting practicing their balance skills on parking-lot chains. While it’s gotten a bit more systematic since then, the sport of slacklining is still one of the easiest and cheapest in the world. Simply stretch some webbing between two fixed points and walk across — think tightrope walking for GoreTex types. Gibbon, a new company in Huntington, makes a slackline from nylon webbing and a ratcheting tensioner (from $79.90; www.gibbon-slacklines.com). Its 50-millimeter width is double that of traditional slacklines, making it a simpler stroll. Just don’t try it for the first time — or ever, for that matter — over a chasm like Huntington Gorge.
If Camel’s Hump seems forbidding in winter, you’re not looking at it right. The cold weather means you’ll meet no leaf-peeping tourists conga-lining up the mountain; instead, the hike is hushed and magical, with animal tracks on the trail and snow-laden branches lining most of the route. But unless you want to be post-holing the whole way up, it’s best to hike in snowshoes such as the new Over the Top model from Williston-based TSL Snowshoes ($219; www.tsloutdoor.com). The climbing heel is designed to reduced tired calves and feet, and steel crampons at the shoes’ front and rear ends ensure you won’t end up on your rear.
Friends with Cold Feet
Most of us who grew up pulling on two or three pairs of hose to keep our feet warm and dry in our (too tight) ski boots have since wised up and learned the ways of thin, technical ski and snowboarding socks. But now, into a world of drab, neutral colors come the bold and bright, polka-dot and plaid patterns from eesa, the Waterbury-headquartered company that makes products for “lux layering.” The $20 socks (www.eesa.com) make a great stocking stuffer — and are stylish enough to serve as the Christmas stockings themselves. Also in the sock department, I’ve been eyeing the Life-Style series from Northfield’s Darn Tough Vermont ($18; www.darntough.com). The kicking-around socks are made from the same merino wool as the company’s performance series, and they’re perfect for keeping tootsies toasty in homes with chilly floors (like mine).
You already know about some of Burton’s products this season. In a less artsy (and controversial) vein, one of Waterbury-based Rome’s hottest snowboards is the Agent ($490; www.romesnowboards.com), designed to go from park to mountain to street. Yep, street — the thick edges can easily take the rails of snow-covered steps, while the core and laminate are made from super-light materials, making it possible to cart the board almost anywhere. Riders can keep their hands protected on the fly with the Fly ($85; www.levelusa.net), made by Level USA in Stowe. The glove has removable wrist guards, Kevlar reinforcement, a goggle cleaner and a nose wipe.
The Lucky Stripe sweater ($159; www.isisforwomen.com) offered by Burlington’s ISIS isn’t really striped, nor is it really a sweater. Instead, it’s an insulated jacket with a velvet-lined collar and a zipper that doesn’t snag on your frozen chin, thanks to the draft flap. It’s also made from recycled polyester fabric, so the planet is as lucky as the person who receives the “sweater” in one of its Earth-inspired colors: grass, lagoon, fire or tar.
It may not look like canoeing season out there, but that special someone who’s always ready to row may want to clear garage space for the Tupper from Vermont Canoe in Waitsfield ($1385; vermontcanoe.com). Since 2004, Rob and Amy Scharges have been churning out slender craft in the space once occupied by Mad River Canoe; their boats are made from Kevlar and fiberglass, with native Vermont ash gunwales, thwarts, yokes and carry handles. The Tupper is designed like a classic Adirondack packboat, with enough room to carry 550 pounds of gear on a canoe-camping trip.
Feeling a new rush of patriotism in the wake of Barack Obama’s victory? Want to express it while flying down snow-covered slopes on your knees? The new Killer B from Mad River Rocket in Warren ($127; www.madriverrocket.com) should do the trick. Emblazoned with Old Glory, the sled has a padded strap and gray ribbed kneepads to make thrashing through the trees a bit more comfortable. Unplugged sled-heads will also like the Hammerhead ($349; www.hammerheadsleds.com), made by Ferrisburgh’s CherryMax Sleds. Like the Mad River Rocket, the Hammerhead’s been hyped for its extreme-sledding capabilities. And the high-tech skis, steering systems, mesh seating and aluminum frames aren’t kid stuff; the company says this one is for daredevils “10 and older.”
Manchester’s Orvis offers a staggering array of gift options: vests, packs, rods, boots, flies, lessons, books and more. But for any fly-fisherman or fly-fisherwoman, you can’t go wrong with the new Premium Fly-Tying Kit ($450; www.orvis.com). The cedar box, which can be personalized, includes $600 worth of hooks, thread and other tools, along with The Orvis Fly-Tying Guide by Tom Rosenbauer. For those who want to stay snug inside and swap fish tales around the fire while waiting for the New Year’s Eve ball to drop, there’s Big: The 50 Greatest World Record Catches ($50), penned by International Game Fish Association historian Mike Rivkin and illustrated by artist Flick Ford.