In the winter months, Manchester  becomes a playground for cross-country skiers, who have several trail systems to choose from. Several miles of groomed and tracked trails can be found at the Hildene Touring Center (Rte. 7A, Manchester, 802/362-1788, www.hildene.org , 9:30 a.m.–4 p.m. Dec.–mid-Mar., trail pass $12.50 adults, $6 youth; rental $15; lessons $30), where the estate’s carriage barn is turned into a warming hut and rental shop.
The sound of your own breathing will be all you hear at Merck Forest (Rte. 315, Rupert Mountain, 802/394-7836, www.merckforest.com , daily year-round, $25 camping, $45–80 cabins), a backcountry family farm and trail system on a remote stretch of the New York  border.
The south-facing slopes of Bromley Mountain (3984 Rte. 11, Peru, 802/824-5522, www.bromley.com , $63 weekend/$39 midweek adults, $55/$39 youth 13–17, $39/$39 youth 6–12, children under 6 free) make it one of Vermont’s  sunniest for downhill skiers. While not as challenging as some of the bigger mountains nearby, at least Bromley lets you get a tan while you ski. It’s also known for family programs, including a kids’ ski school with animal friends Alex the Alligator and Clyde Catamount.
The slopes at Okemo Mountain Resort (77 Okemo Ridge Rd., Ludlow, 800/786-5366, www.okemo.com , $49–77 adults, $42–65 youth 13–18 and seniors 65–69, $32–50 children 7–12 and seniors 70 and over, children under 7 free) provide the perfect balance for families who want fun and accessible programs for the kids, but still want reasonably challenging runs for mom and dad. The mountain has won a cult following for its refreshingly no-frills atmosphere and emphasis on customer service, which has gotten even better with the addition of a new attractive slope-side village and base lodge. In recent years, however, the mountain has become overcrowded during peak periods. Also, die-hards will be disappointed by its lack of really advanced terrain.