It’s an annual tradition — die-hard skiers and riders grumble that ski resorts close down too early when there’s still great corn to be shredded.

So, how about shutting down in mid-March?

Grumbling turned to outright existential despair; the storms missed, the powder days left on the table.

At least one person got his fair share of skiing in last winter, though.

Somehow, some way, restaurant and bar worker Thaddeus Davis managed to nab first chair 101 times in the pandemic-shortened season.

The rest … weren’t Davis.

But more and more decided it was better in the wild.

With reservation rules, lift limitations and lodge lockdowns, many skiers have opted for adventures away from the crowds.

As winter rears its snowy head again, backcountry skiing and snowshoeing is on the cusp of a popularity explosion.

Vermont has long been an attraction for runners and hikers, mountain bikers and road cyclists, paddlers, and climbers, skiers and riders. But this year, people seemed to have a lot more time on their hands and a greater desire to get out of the house, where they stewed in a haze of Zoom meetings and countless hours of Netflix, sans chill.

As a result, bikes and bike parts were scooped up. Hank Glowiak of Chuck’s Bikes said at one point he was out of certain tire tubes and derailleurs.

People bought kayaks, canoes and stand-up paddleboards in such volume that shops couldn’t keep up with demand.

And folks made for the woods, the cliffs, the streams and lakes all summer and fall.

The late-2020 chatter has been about learning alpine touring and buying a copy of David Goodman’s backcountry book.

Going it alone

Outdoor activities took on a more scattered, individualized feel this year as organized races fell one by one.

The first major casualty was the Burlington City Marathon, one of the largest annual events in the state. Its Memorial Day race date was canceled shortly after the pandemic reached the northeast. Soon, it was evident that the coronavirus wasn’t going to go away as soon as some had anticipated, and the rescheduled October date was scrubbed too.

Similarly fell the Stowe 8-Miler and 10-Miler, Race to the Top of Vermont, Darn Tough Ride, Leaf Blower Classic, and the Craft Brew Races — a 5k with a built-in brewer’s festival was a definite no-go this year.

As more and more newbies got into the great outdoors, outfits like Stowe Mountain Rescue were faced with a quandary: Yes, go enjoy the woods, but be careful.

The rescue outfit had a record number of calls at various waterfalls and hiking trails over the summer, and staff are preparing to make a lot of forays into the backcountry this winter, when people give off-piste a try.

It remains to be seen how many of these new toys will still be cherished on the trails and lakes next year.

Classified ads on social media are bound to be bountiful with gently used gear, and stores will be flush with inventory again.

But one thing is certain if the outdoor recreation rush outlasts the pandemic — at least when it’s all over, everyone can carpool again.

The grumbling will continue this year as jaded vets curse the out of state noobs for clogging up the parking lots.

Perhaps it’s worth noting there’s a good way to avoid that problem, something Thaddeus Davis was really good at: Wake up early.

Things are best when you’re the first one there.

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