Active Outdoors: As long as there’s snow around, might as well enjoy it

  • Two Doe Camp students approach the summit of Winslow Mountain at Dartmouth Skiway in Lyme after having skinned up 975 vertical feet of hill. TIM JONES / For the Monitor

  • TIM JONES / For the Monitor

  • While it’s tempting to go paddling on a nice day, there’s a risk of developing spring fever too early. TIM JONES / For the Monitor

For the Monitor
Tuesday, March 13, 2018

There are a number of life lessons to be learned as winter hits us with another storm when it should be winding down. The first and most important is to take what’s right in front of you and enjoy it while it’s offered, and don’t waste your life wishing for what’s ahead.

It may have been a whiteout storm on Tuesday, but two weeks ago, when it was still February, temperatures were in the 40s with a breeze blowing. Frankly, it felt more like late March or early April than February, which makes sense considering this has been one of the warmest Februaries on record, yet another in the seemingly endless parade of too-warm days, weeks, months, years we are experiencing as climate change continues.

New England rivers, which are normally locked under ice at this time of year, have been open and running. Some friends went whitewater kayaking on an easy Class II section a few weeks ago and I nearly joined them, it would have been a perfect warm-up paddle for the coming spring. I love whitewater kayaking, have all the gear I need for cold water paddling, and I thought long and hard about it.

Instead, I went skiing at Cranmore Mountain Resort in North Conway. Cranmore is the closest ski hill to my new home and has sort of become my home mountain. I love the glades there, although there hasn’t been a lot of glades skiing to enjoy in this rollercoaster winter. Mostly we’ve been confined to trails where they’ve made snow and, often, to trails that have been groomed recently. Cranmore’s been doing a great job with both and that’s why I keep going there.

Throughout the winter, I try to be the first person on the chairlift each morning to get the best snow conditions. And if it snowed the day before, that’s still the best strategy, whether you are looking for untracked powder or perfect corduroy. But if it was warm the day before, cold overnight, and supposed to be warm again, then it makes sense to wait a bit for the snow to soften.

That’s what happened on my latest visit. Unlike most other ski areas, Cranmore faces south and by the time I got there its slopes were covered with buttery soft corn snow, which is the next best thing to fresh powder. Even the remnant ice from this winter’s rainstorms had softened into a skiable surface where it was showing through the snow. I skied until my legs wouldn’t go anymore, then went home to await the next day’s snow with eager anticipation.

If I’d gone paddling instead, I probably would have had just as much fun on the river as I did on the slopes. But I’d have put myself one step closer to “spring” mode while it’s still winter. March is winter. If we are really lucky, some of April is, too.

What about you? Are you leaving your skis, snowshoes and microspikes to gather dust while you wait for more warmth? Don’t do it! Find something about winter to love, then hold onto it as long as you can.

Dartmouth Skiway

My buddy David and I were at Dartmouth Skiway in Lyme, showing two campers from the Vermont Outdoors Woman Winter Doe Camp the basics of uphill skinning for backcountry skiing. An uphill trail pass at the Skiway is only $5 per day and they welcome uphillers with open arms.

Outside was a mixed bag of rain and heavy wet snow. We pretty much had the base lodge to ourselves as we explained the finer points of the boots, skis, poles and skins used for backcountry skiing on seriously slanted terrain. Then we dressed for hard exercise in cold rain, went outside, put on our skis and started up the hill.

It stopped precipitating almost immediately but a nice breeze helped keep us cool as we slid our skis up the 975 vertical feet of Winslow Mountain. High-fives all around when we reached the top and stripped the skins off our skis. Coming back down was just plain fun with an inch or two of slush snow on top of an edgeable base.

If you’ve never skied Dartmouth Skiway, you’ve missed a gem of a mid-sized mountain. They make and groom plenty of snow, and it’s family-friendly, inexpensive (a weekend adult lift ticket is $49, kids are cheaper) and rarely crowded.

AMC-NH Whitewater School

Almost anyone who loves the adrenaline rush of skiing and snowboarding will also probably love whitewater kayaking. If you want to learn how, the AMC NH Chapter runs a whitewater school every spring. This year it’s scheduled for May 4-6. This is a high-quality instructional course at a very low cost.

Go here for more information (it should be updated soon). If you want to register for the class, drop me an email: timjones@easternslopes.com and I’ll put you in touch with the right folks.

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