Active Outdoors: Enjoying multi-sport spring days

  • This was the first day of spring at Wildcat Mountain in New Hampshire. As long as there’s snow around, you might as well enjoy it. That's Tuckerman Ravine on the side of Mount Washington in the center of the photo. People will be skiing there until Memorial Day or later. TIM JONES / For the Monitor

  • This is the snowcat that took us to the top of Burnt Mountain where 1400 vertical feet of powder-filled glades awaited. TIM JONES / For the Monitor

  • After skiing your legs off on spring snow at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont, take an easy bike ride on the recreation path to help them recover. TIM JONES / For the Monitor

For the Monitor
Sunday, April 15, 2018

It’s been a little tough to tell lately, especially where I live in the Mount Washington Valley of New Hampshire, but spring is definitely on its way.

It was an uncomfortable winter in some ways – lots of deep cold early on, too much rain, definitely too much ice everywhere (except on our lakes and ponds where we wanted it) and too little good snow until March. Oh, but hasn’t March been fabulous! If that first of the string of nor’easters had come in with all snow instead of the dreaded “wintry mix,” this would have been a March to celebrate for decades to come. As it was, March and early April have been the best of this winter.

Once spring really gets a good toehold going, the days start getting longer and nights start getting warmer, you have a rare and fleeting chance for some unusual multi-sport days outdoors. For me, getting to do two or more things outdoors in one day is a wonderful way to ease the transition from one season to the next.

Let’s say, just for the sake of discussion, that you want to get outdoors and have fun tomorrow. If you’re like me, that’s your goal every day. But this time, let’s assume you aren’t going to be trapped inside by weather, work or family/social obligations and can actually make good on your goal.

So ... what are you going to do?

Now multi-sport days aren’t all that unusual. Lots of folks will go for a bike ride or a hike of a summer morning, then, later that long day, swim, paddle a kayak or canoe out to watch the sunset. They will hardly even realize they’ve done a multi-sport day.

But as long as there’s snow available, my vote is to always consider making skiing part of your multi-sport day. The snow isn’t going to be around that much longer and it’s a long stretch of brown-green-brown until the world turns white again. “Seize the Day” is never more applicable than right now when the snow is going fast.

Most ski areas have received at least a little snow in April. In New Hampshire, Bretton Woods, Cannon, Loon, Sunapee, Wildcat and Waterville Valley are still skiing. In Vermont, Bolton, Burke, Jay Peak, Mad River Glen, Killington, Okemo, Smugglers’ Notch, Stowe, Stratton, Sugarbush, were all open this weekend. In Maine, Sugarloaf and Sunday River will be skiing for several more weeks.

For the last couple of weeks (really since the last big snowstorm), the best skiing of the day has been in the afternoon when the snow has softened a little after freezing overnight. The mornings have definitely shaded toward firm snow.

That’s all changing. Now, with the sun so high and strong, it will start staying above freezing overnight and mornings will have the best snow before the sun turns the surface to slush. Get out early!

No matter how much you’ve skied all winter, soft spring snow is going to hammer your legs. Instead of basking in the sunshine and listening to music (a spring skiing tradition) once your legs are shot, instead get out and get on your road bicycle (the snow has melted back on road shoulders). Or, if you have a Fat Bike, ride that in the woods (it’s still too early to ride a regular mountain bike without damaging the trails). Or go for a hike (bring microspikes for the icy sections of trail. This is a wonderful time of year to hike to waterfalls (hint, hint). I’ve already been paddling on the Pemigewasset and Sacor Rivers and my friends have been enjoying the Contoocook, so paddling is an option if you have the gear and know how.

Whatever you do, have fun and make it a day to remember. The opportunity will be gone soon. Life isn’t a spectator sport. Get out and enjoy!

Burnt Mountain Cat Skiing

It may be too late for this year since the snow is melting and the limited number of seats available are all sold out, but check this out if you plan on going Cat Skiing at Sugarloaf Mountain in Maine next winter when the snow gets deep.

I went on the morning of March 20. The snow in the Androscoggin Glade was 2.5 feet deep, windpacked in places, knee-deep soft powder in others. Definitely one of the best runs of 2018. The only runs I’ve made that were comparable, I’ve had to work really hard for by skinning up the hill before skiing down.

You traverse over from the bottom of the King Pine lift to “The Log Yard” where the Snowcat picks you up and takes you to the top of Burnt Mountain, then you ski down through about 1400 vertical feet of nicely thinned glades among the trees.

Super experience.

To find any better cat skiing, you’d have to fly out west or drive to Auberge Chic-Chac in Murdochville, Quebec. Put it on your “must do” list for next year.

Cold water safety

On May 27 a canoeist drowned on the Saco River in Frybeurg, Maine, not far from my home. The water was high and cold, three friends managed to capsize the canoe they were paddling. The two men made it safely to shore, the 38-year old woman didn’t. She was found later, not wearing a life vest, in 8 feet of water about 35 yards from where the canoe capsized.

Most tragically, a 20-year old Emergency Responder was killed in an accident during the search.

One of these days, it’s going to be 70 degrees and sunny and you are going to think how nice it would be to get out on your canoe or kayak and just enjoy the sun and water. Please do us all a favor and don’t do it unless you have a wetsuit or a drysuit to keep you warm and protected from the cold and a life vest (PFD) to keep you floating. Remember, dress for the water temperature, not the air temperature.