Basch: Outdoor opportunities abound at start of new year

  • An unidentified hiker takes to the trails in New Hampshire. State parks in both New Hampshire and Vermont are offering free guided hikes on New Year’s Day. Courtesy / New Hampshire State Parks

Sunday, December 31, 2017


For the Monitor

January is loaded with opportunities to start the new year off in the outdoors. From hikes, to learning to ski and snowboard, discounts, to free ice fishing opportunities and more, 2018 is a time to expand your outdoor horizons and introduce newcomers to various adventures.

New Hampshire and Vermont state parks are hosting free First Day hikes on New Year’s Day. There are also some twists thrown in for Nordic skiers and fat bike riders.

Organizers remind outdoor lovers to dress properly for the hikes, check the weather forecast and consider bringing snowshoes if the snow is deep or traction devices for potential icy trails. Bring water and snacks for the hikes too.

Granite State hikes start at noon, which allows for plenty of sleeping in after a night of reverie, and are scattered throughout the state. Locations scheduled to host the treks are Portsmouth’s Wentworth-Coolidge Mansion State Historic Site, Silver Lake State Park in Hollis, Wellington State Park in Bristol, Milan Hill State Park in Milan (open for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing), and Pisgah State Park in Winchester. You can register for the hikes through nhstateparks.org.

In Vermont, just show up for the guided hikes. Start times vary from 9 a.m. through 1 p.m. depending on the location so check times at vtstateparks.com.

State parks taking part are Castleton’s Bomoseen State Park, Button Bay State Park in Ferrisburgh, Camp Plymouth State Park in Ludlow, Groton Nature Center at Big Deer State Park in Groton, Waterbury’s Little River State Park, Taconic Mountains Ramble State Park in Hubbardton and Underhill State Park in Underhill. Seyon Lodge in Groton is hosting a fat bike ride with mandatory helmets. Demo bikes will be available.

January’s Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month is an affordable way for newbies to learn to go downhill (and cross-country). Select resorts across the country have discounted programs that include group lessons, rentals and lift ticket. The key is calling ahead to reserve your spot. Holiday periods are excluded. Minimum ages vary.

Programs vary and more may come. There are several New Hampshire ski areas offering a $39 downhill beginner package – Bretton Woods, Cannon, Cranmore, Granite Gorge, Gunstock, King Pine, Pats Peak and Waterville Valley.

Ragged Mountain provides first timers with the Bebe Wood Program that includes three two-hour lessons with lower mountain lift ticket, and Rossignol Rental Product – all free. After the lesson, newcomers can keep practicing for the rest of the day for $20. Newcomers can purchase a season pass for $69 following the completion of the third lesson. Additional lessons for the current and following season only $29 for Bebe Wood Program graduates.

For those trying XC, Bretton Woods and Gunstock have $19 introductory programs.

In Vermont, Bolton Valley, Bromley, Burke, Jay Peak, Killington, Okemo, Pico, Smuggs, Stratton, Sugarbush have $49 novice packages planned.

Vermont’s Mt. Snow is one of several resorts offering a new step by step lesson product from Peak Resorts that is aimed at giving newcomers the opportunity to “Learn, Practice, & Explore” when you want, where you want, at any Peak Resort in the Northeast. Guests may choose which resort(s) they complete their program at, opting to complete the program at the same property or mixing up resort locations. The program is $139.

Winter Trails Day, a national event to celebrate cross-country and snowshoeing, is another opportunity to learn about freewheeling with free and discounted events. In the White Mountains, Great Glen Trails plans a couple of 45 minute free lessons on Jan. 6 (call head), while Jackson Ski Touring is scheduling complimentary snowshoe rentals and trail pass from 10 a.m. to noon on Tuesdays in January.

In the Green Mountain State, Woodstock Nordic offers free hourly pass and rentals with a mini-clinic to first-timers on Jan. 6 with Grafton Ponds Outdoor Center dolling out free trail passes and rentals on Jan. 27.

Want to expand your ice experiences? Think about taking advantage of free ice fishing days in New Hampshire and Vermont. New Hampshire is holding its day on Jan. 20 while Vermont has Jan. 27 as its date. Not sure how to get started? Bomoseen State Park in Castleton is home to a free Ice Fishing Festival that day with tips, gear explanation, fish identification and more. And it’s open to all.

Plus, there’s also a fish fry, making for a tasty start to the new year.