Outdoor adventures: Take a half-full approach on ski season

  • Look around for new opportunities this ski season and you’ll be flying high by the end of it. There’s plenty to do and see. SKI NEW HAMPSHIRE / Courtesy

For the Monitor
Thursday, December 29, 2016

Now that 2017 is almost here, it’s time to put aside those ridiculous resolutions that never make it to Valentine’s Day any way and just try something different on the slopes this season. It can be as simple as making a date to ski with a friend you haven’t seen for a long time or promising yourself a lesson to take you to the next level.

So, take a fresh look around the region in the coming weeks and months.

Try a terrain park – and I don’t mean skiing down the well-groomed sides when no one is in it.

Twin-tipper territory can certainly be daunting to those unsure of testing gravity and their gymnastic skills. But terrain parks have evolved over the years with ski areas offering small, medium and large options.

If you are looking to jib – a feature that is composed of more than just snow – consider a low novice-friendly box. They kind of look like coffins. If you want to jump, go tiny on one with a nice takeoff and landing zone. Be cognizant of the rules and watch others who know what they’re doing.

If you ask at a ski school, you can get a lesson. For those older than 30, take some OTC pain relief at breakfast and plan to end your day with an adult beverage. That helps.

Certainly January’s Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month is a fine introduction to those pursuits at a discounted rate, but so is the under-the-radar Winter Trails Day.

Though the number of venues across the country has decreased in recent years, the event to introduce the masses to cross-country skiing and snowshoeing is now offered at various locations throughout January. Generally, there are free or discounted beginner group lessons that include rentals and trail pass.

Great Glen Trails takes part Jan. 7 with free group lessons with reservations, while Bretton Woods offers discounted lessons Jan. 8-13 with reservations. In Vermont, Warren’s Blueberry Lake touring center is taking part Jan. 14, while Woodstock Nordic Center on Jan. 7 as its date. Though a snowshoe lesson sounds superfluous, they can help demystify equipment and technique to those who need reassurance in the woods.

Ever since former Upper Valley standout and two-time Olympian Tiger Shaw assumed the helm of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association, both sides of the Connecticut River have been shown some love from Kiillington hosting the World Cup in November to Burke Mountain’s recent deal to become a U.S. ski team development to Cannon’s Mittersill becoming a race and training venue.

So in the spirit of high-level competition, go to a Winter Carnival this season to see top college racers. Be inspired at the University of New Hampshire competition Jan. 27-28 at Jackson Ski Touring and Mittersill and Dartmouth’s Feb. 10-11 at Oak Hill and Dartmouth Skiway. Step it up by attending the NCAA Skiing Championships March 8-11 at Jackson Ski Touring and Cannon.

Who needs a lift anyway? Uphilling is more accepted across ski country. Once the kingdom of hardcore early risers and late-night cardio and fun seekers hoping to stay under the radar of hardworking groomers and snowmakers, there are various skinning routes, policies and fees across the area.

For example, Bretton Woods has a $21 Uphill Travel ticket to use during normal operating hours on Range View under the Zephyr chair. Mount Sunapee allows it with a ticket on selected routes and hours but with holiday blackout periods. Mad River’s friendly policy allows uphill travel when the lifts aren’t running, while Sugarbush allows it on select routes and times with an Uphill Travel Permit.

When the Dartmouth Skiway’s open, uphill travel is okay when the lift’s running with an Area Use Ticket on designated trails.

Just try a different way down the mountain, whether it be playing in some unfamiliar tight glades, perhaps putting a steep trail that you’ve never done on your bucket list or just spending more time at the mountain.

Bring a cribbage board to play in the base lodge to take some welcome rest and make your ski day a little longer. Stick around for apres ski’s live music on weekends and holidays, thus enjoying an early and affordable afternoon out and maybe even saving on a babysitter if you’re enjoying it with the kids.

The new year is what you make it.

(Marty Basch can be reached at onetankaway.com)