This is a polite request for all you folks (you know who you are) who are grumbling about the days being shorter and colder and all the snow that’s coming. Please, just get over it. If you choose to live here in the northeast, winter’s inevitable. Enjoy it.
May I gently suggest that if you don’t like snow, and can’t learn to love winter, you are probably not living in the right region of the country and real estate is apparently cheap in Florida right now.
The way I see it, snow is one of the very best reasons for living here in the Northeast. Snow is a gift. It changes a drab, brown landscape into a magical white world. And it opens up so many opportunities to have fun outdoors -- sledding, snowshoeing, Alpine skiing and, especially, cross-country skiing.
Sadly, however, if you’re convinced that snow is the way to go, you are probably disappointed. As I write this, it’s December and raining. Chances are, you can look out your window and see nothing but bare, brown, boring ground. The current snowdepth map, www.erh.noaa.gov/er/nerfc/graphics/snowmaps/sd1_today.jpg, tells a sad, sad tale. Those of us who love snow are in full waiting mode. Unless something has changed for the better by the time you read this, even Aroostook County (www.visitaroostook.com) in Maine, traditionally an early-season snowspot, is still waiting for significant snow. They’ve got the world-class cross-country ski trails, just no snow on them -- yet.
You might be able to ski at The Nordic Center at the Mount Washington Resort (603-278-3322; www.mountwashingtonresort.com ) in Bretton Woods, N.H. Apparently, they opened last weekend, though I didn’t hear about it. Unfortunately Thursday’s rain and sun have taken their toll on the snow out on the smooth golf course, but there’s still snow in the woods. The wind and heavy snow brought down a lot of branches so the trail crew is hard at work to get things cleaned up. Call or check the online trail report before you go. If the Nordic center isn’t open, you might be able to Nordic ski around the base at the Bretton Woods Alpine area, but be sure you get a ticket (Learning Area tickets are cheap). What’s truly disappointing is that The Balsams (1-800-255-0600; www.thebalsams.com ) in Dixville Notch, N.H., has enough snow -- about a foot of it -- for great skiing on their lovely golf course trails, but they aren’t going to open until December 19. What a missed opportunity for them and for those of us impatient to get on skinny skis.
It’s the same over in Vermont, where my friend Sam Von Trapp at the Trapp Family Lodge (802-253-8511; www.trappfamily.com) in Stowe, Vt., sounds more than a little frustrated with the weather. Sam’s a fireball, one of the most fanatic skiers I’ve ever had the pleasure to know. Under his direction, the family business has installed an extensive snowmaking system, which has let them open earlier and stay open later with more terrain than many other cross-country ski resorts. Not so this year, when the weather has been totally uncooperative.
Sam tells me that their snowmaking system is tested and ready to go as soon as temperatures allow. He asked me -- tongue in cheek, of course -- "Do you think anyone wants to ski in a circle on 1/4 acre of snow? Not exactly ski ‘touring.’" If I know Sam, he’s already been skiing in circles ... Mountain Top Inn (800-445-2100; www.mountaintopinn.com) in Chittenden, Vt., doesn’t have any natural snow, but they are ready to fire up their snowmaking system at the first sign of sustained cold. Ditto for Great Glen Trails (603-466-2333; www.GreatGlenTrails.com) in Pinkham Notch, N.H., and Weston Ski Track (781-891-6575; www.SkiBoston.com) in the Boston suburb of Weston.
I hope you are excitedly waiting for snow. In the meantime, get out and do something fun this weekend -- hike, bike, or even kayak. Life isn’t a spectator sport. Get out and enjoy.
Nordic Ski Gear
Gwen, a reader from New Hampshire wrote recently for some recommendations on cross-country ski gear. She wanted gear she could take into the untracked backcountry. Yet she still wanted to be able to use it on groomed cross-country trails.
I faced the same dilemma myself a couple of years ago. Tele gear with skins -- which is wonderful for very serious off -- trail skiing, especially on steep terrain. Skate skis or classic racing skis are a blast on groomed, useless anywhere else.
The key is the width of the ski relative to its length. At equal length, a wider ski "floats" higher in untracked snow (especially if you are carrying a pack) than a narrower one and generally turns better in softer snow. The downside, of course, is that wider skis are heavier than narrow ones and the more your skis weigh, the more work it is to move them. That’s why most backcountry skiers are going for wider, shorter skis. But the set tracks at Nordic ski areas are generally about 68-70 millimeters wide, so the widest ski you can use without scrubbing the sides of the track (which slows you down) is about 67 millimeters. That isn’t very wide by modern backcountry standards.
The ski I came up with that works for me is the "Discovery" backcountry ski by Alpina (www.alpinasports.com), which has a sidecut measuring 68 millimeters at the tip, 60 mm underfoot, and 65 mm at the tail. That extra millimeter at the front doesn’t really slow me down and the ski performs beautifully in the untracked. I pair it with a beefy backcountry boot, the Alpina BC2050 (since replaced by the similar BC2150), which has the ankle support I like for serious terrain.
Most other ski companies make something similar, so use the Discovery as a point of comparison.
Nordic Warm Up at Great Glen Trails
For three weeks in December, Great Glen Trails in Pinkham Notch, N.H., will host the Nordic Warm Up. This fitness program designed to get cross-country skiers ready for the season will be held on Tuesdays, Dec. 8, 15 and 22 at 10 a.m. This is for any skier age 16 and older with prior cross-country skiing experience. Class size is limited to 10. Sue Wemyss, former Olympian and Great Glen Trails Ski School director, has designed the Nordic Warm Up to help cross-country skiers get a head start on the season -- even if there’s no snow. Participants work on ski specific fitness, so they can be comfortable on their skis from the get-go. The Nordic Warm Up will be held on snow, if conditions permit. The first week of instruction will focus on classic techniques; the second week on skating techniques; and the final week on skiing through changes in terrain and direction. The cost for the three weeks is $50, which includes trail passes. Single session are $20 each. Register by Dec. 6.
Tim Jones writes about outdoor sports and travel. He can be reached at email@example.com.