Get the perfect outdoor holiday gift for your loved ones

  • Which do you think the kids will remember longer, a new video game or a snowtubing adventure? Courtesy of Pats Peak

  • If someone you know has never tried snowshoeing. rent them a pair and get out on the trail. TIM JONES / For the Monitor

For the Monitor
Published: 12/10/2019 10:48:00 PM

When most of us think of giving or getting holiday gifts, we think of “things.” We live in a consumer society and have somehow come to believe that objects will bring us happiness and fulfillment. But most of us already have many, perhaps too many, “things” in our lives.

It seems to me that what most people are lacking in today’s screen-dominated world, are real, genuine, multi-dimensional, multi-sensory experiences. There’s increasing scientific evidence that putting down your devices and getting outdoors has real, measurable physical and psychological benefits. And there are lots and lots of experiences that can be given as gifts

Let me offer a word of caution before you even begin looking at the almost-infinite possibilities for “experience” gifts. You have to be extremely careful with the gifts you choose. It requires really thinking about the other person and knowing their likes and dislikes. Just because you enjoy something, doesn’t necessarily mean someone else will.

I speak from experience on this. I’ve made just about every mistake you can make in this category. Especially in the first 10 years or so of our relationship, my sweetheart “Em” was gifted with an almost endless array of outdoor experiences. She liked some of them – advanced ski lessons, sea kayaking among whales in Quebec, bobsledding in Lake Placid, inn-to-inn tandem biking and hut-to-hut cross country skiing and hiking in Maine. But many of the experiences (e.g. rock climbing, mountain hiking, whitewater rafting, paddleboarding, multi-day sea kayaking/camping) fell into the “been there, done that, glad I tried it, don’t want to do it again” category. I learned over time to adapt our shared experiences to her want and needs.

All this doesn’t mean you can’t occasionally push the envelope and open up new worlds for someone. She didn’t like solo biking, so I arranged a lesson we took together on tandem biking. That one was a home run.

Experience gifts don’t always work, but when they do, they tend to be gifts that get mentioned with fondness, sometimes many years later, long after whatever “thing” you bought would have long been forgotten.

Here are just some more “experiences” you can give to people this Christmas:

Ski or Snowboard Lessons: Good for skiers/riders of all ability levels. Every ski area (both Alpine and cross-country) offers value priced-lesson packages or gift cards that can be used for lessons or passes.

Snowtubing: Best for people who don’t ski; also a great introduction to the fun of sliding on snow for someone who “hates” winter. Close to Waterbury: Mohawk Mountain (860-672-6100;, $25/2-hour session.; Powder Ridge (860-349-3454;; $28-$34/1 hour and 45 minute sessions. Close to Concord: Pats Peak in Henniker has snowtubing for $22/2-hour session or $24 for 4 hours.

Snowshoe Rentals: Another great gift for folks who don’t ski and “hate” winter. Most cross-country ski areas rent snowshoes, and the Audubon Sanctuary at Silk Farm in Concord rents snowshoes for $10 for non-members.

Dogsledding: Best for people who love dogs. A simple “tourist ride” is available from almost any musher. Keeping sled dogs isn’t cheap and neither are sled dog adventures. But if you love the animals, it’s worth every penny for the memories.

Hut/Lodge Ski/Snowshoe adventures. If there’s anything nicer than coming in from a day out in the snow to a warm cabin or lodge and a hot, home-cooked meal, I don’t know what it is. The Appalachian Mountain Club offers multiple options in Maine and New Hampshire. I can also highly recommend the facilities at Maine Huts and Trails ( which has four wonderful lodges in central Maine. In the past these have been full-service lodges, but this winter are operating as self-service lodges. This would be a wonderful chance to gather a group of friends and relatives and have your own wilderness getaway – kind of a group gift to yourselves.

If you are gifting a woman, consider sending her to the Vermont Outdoors Woman Winter Camp from Jan. 31-Feb. 2, 2020. It’s a wonderful chance to try different activities she might enjoy without having to commit a whole block of time to any one activity.

Some people just plain don’t like winter (poor souls) and wouldn’t be happy with any winter experience. For them, spring is a better option and I’d suggest whitewater rafting (I’ve never met anyone who didn’t enjoy a rafting adventure), rock climbing, lift-service downhill mountain biking, a bike tour if they like to pedal, ziplining or an aerial adventure course, a night of “glamping” or even something as silly-fun as a round of disc golf.

There are simply too many options to list, all of them fun, all of them more memorable than most “things” you could buy. If you really need some advice, drop me an email and I’ll try to help you find something that’s right for the person receiving the gift.

(Tim Jones writes about outdoor sports and travel and can be contacted at

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