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Active Outdoors

Active Outdoors: Embracing winter in all its glory

  • Winter Trails Day is the perfect time to introduce someone new to cross-country skiing or snowshoeing. (Tim Jones/EasternSlopes.com photo)

    Winter Trails Day is the perfect time to introduce someone new to cross-country skiing or snowshoeing. (Tim Jones/EasternSlopes.com photo)

  • Winter Trails Day is the perfect time to introduce someone new to cross-country skiing or snowshoeing. (Tim Jones/EasternSlopes.com photo)

    Winter Trails Day is the perfect time to introduce someone new to cross-country skiing or snowshoeing. (Tim Jones/EasternSlopes.com photo)

  • The Winterfest at the Adirondack Mountain Club near Lake Placid, N.Y., will include beginner Telemark skiing lessons. (Tim Jones/EasternSlopes.com photo)

    The Winterfest at the Adirondack Mountain Club near Lake Placid, N.Y., will include beginner Telemark skiing lessons. (Tim Jones/EasternSlopes.com photo)

  • Winter Trails Day is the perfect time to introduce someone new to cross-country skiing or snowshoeing. (Tim Jones/EasternSlopes.com photo)
  • Winter Trails Day is the perfect time to introduce someone new to cross-country skiing or snowshoeing. (Tim Jones/EasternSlopes.com photo)
  • The Winterfest at the Adirondack Mountain Club near Lake Placid, N.Y., will include beginner Telemark skiing lessons. (Tim Jones/EasternSlopes.com photo)

Okay, take a deep breath. The various solstice-season holidays are almost past, and it’s time to really start enjoying winter. I get that winter isn’t everyone’s favorite outdoor season, as it is mine, but I just don’t get why. There’s so much to do in the winter, from the gentle and contemplative, to the adrenaline charged, to the highly aerobic – and all of it is fun.

If you need a kick-start to really enjoying winter, why not sign yourself up for a Winter Trails Day (snowlink.com/wintertrails.aspx) event somewhere near you, or farther away if you are feeling more adventuresome. This year, Winter Trails Day is Jan. 11, and most events will probably welcome snow, not cancel because of it. They have a complete listing of events by state, and you can pre-register on the website. Most venues are offering free, short snowshoe and/or cross-country ski clinics geared toward beginners. If you are already proficient, take someone who isn’t or, better yet, call ahead, see if they need help and volunteer your skills to help other folks get started in the outdoors.

New Hampshire has three registered events, all at cross-country ski areas in the Mount Washington Valley

(mtwashingtonvalley.org), which is a pretty darned nice place to be at that time of year.

Massachusetts has five events listed on the Winter Trails day finder, all at cross-country ski areas.

Maine has four events, including a guided ski up to Maine Huts & Trails Poplar Hut in Carrabassett Valley and back with Executive Director Charlie Woodworth. That should be fun.

Vermont is the King of New England on Winter Trails Day, with 11 cross-country ski areas participating. I particularly like the fact that Ole’s Cross Country Ski Center (877-863-3001; olesxc.com) in Warren, Vt., is offering free rentals and equipment both to newcomers and others who “haven’t cross-country skied in years.”

Eastern New York has three events, including big “Winterfest” events at Fahnestock State Park in Cold Springs put on by the Taconic Outdoor Education Center on Jan. 12, and another at Heart Lake (near Lake Placid) by the Adirondack Mountain Club (adk.org) on Jan. 11.

It’s been a tradition for my sweetheart Marilyn and I to attend the Winterfest at the Hulbert Center in Fairlee, Vt., but they aren’t having an event this year, so we are headed for the Adirondacks, where we’ll stay a night at the Adirondack Loj and another in Lake Placid.

The Adirondack Mountain Club is doing up Winterfest big, with guided hikes and cross-country ski lessons for all ability levels, introductory Telemark ski lessons, snowshoeing, ice skating, Leave No Trace training, ski waxing clinics, live music … and a kids discovery/play area and a Winter Quest. Sounds like fun to me.

I’ve got my eye on a group ascent of Algonquin Peak (8.6 miles round trip, 3,000-foot elevation gain, crampons required!) while Marilyn (who is smarter than I am) will take it easier with a cross-country ski outing or maybe a snowshoe hike to the ominously named Avalanche Lake. You can find all the details at (adk.org/page.php?pname=winterfest) if you’d like to join us.

Life isn’t a spectator sport. Get out and enjoy!

A month to learn

January is Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month, and many ski areas in the Northeast are literally giving away very low-cost (sometimes free!) beginner lift/lesson rental packages to try to encourage more people to try skiing and snowboarding for the first time. There’s even a “Bring A Friend” challenge (bringafriend.org) where you can sign up and possibly win some amazing prizes just for getting your friends to try skiing or riding for the first time.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find a “one stop shop” that lists all of the areas participating in Learn To Ski Month. The website skiandsnowboardmonth.org lets you register and points you toward local ski hills, but doesn’t do much to help you find a program. You have to go digging.

Ski NH (skinh.com) is aggressively promoting the concept and has a web page (skinh.com/ski-central/learn-to-ski-and-snowboard/NHfreeweek.aspx) with all the details on which resorts are participating and what is being offered.

Ski Vermont (skivermont.com) also has a complete listing of $29 package deals at (skivermont.com/events-and-deals/program-learn) with most of the state’s resorts participating.

Ski NY (iskiny.com) has a page of Learn To Ski program participants at iskiny.com/ski-deals/learn-ski-snowboard).

Ski Maine (skimaine.com) also has a list of participating area at skimaine.com/learn), though they don’t tell you what the deals are.

In Massachusetts and Connecticut, your best bet is to simply look on the website of the nearest ski area. In Massachusetts, the going price seems to be $75-79 for a beginner package.

In any case, getting someone (even yourself) out on skis or a snowboard for the first time is about the best gift you can give. Try it!

Perfect Pats

I always recommend that you start your ski season close to home. You don’t need a big, expensive, far-away mountain to get your legs in shape for a long winter.

My local mountain is Pats Peak (888-728-7732; patspeak.com) in Henniker. I’ve been there twice now and conditions before the recent rain storm were absolutely fabulous. They had lots of snow stockpiled from the cold nights in mid-December, the groomers are ready to go and I fully expect them to recover quickly from the recent bout of nasty, wet weather.

They’ve got the new Cascade Basin area open with a triple chairlift and some of the nicest beginner and intermediate terrain around. And the front-side trails are just as steep as they were last year. If you haven’t skied Pats, check out their POP (Pay One Price) Saturday nights, where you get lifts, lesson tip and rental gear, plus snowtubing and entertainment from 3 to 10 p.m. for $49, one of the best bargains in New England skiing and riding. Check patspeak.com/lift_rate.htm for details.

Ice storm fallout

The pre-Christmas ice storm hit some areas pretty hard but didn’t touch others. Mont Sutton (montsutton.com), just over the border in Quebec, apparently took the worst hit, losing power for a couple of days. Good news, though, they were back up and running on Christmas Eve with snow in the forecast. You can’t keep a good ski area down for long.

(Tim Jones can be reached at timjones@easternslopes.com.)

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