Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A Family Holiday at Bretton Woods

Lately those of us who love snow have felt we're at the mercy of Mother Nature's very fickle whim, but luckily Old Man Winter got in the game just in time for Christmas.  After a unusually warm December, we woke up on the 23rd to flakes falling gracefully from the sky, covering up the dingy browns with a bright white. With family coming for the holiday from Cape Cod and upstate New York, I was relieved to be able to showcase our favorite scenery. We had big plans for skiing, sledding, and a sleigh ride for Matt's parents, and our dreams of a white Christmas came true.

Inspired by last year's trip to Bretton Woods, Matt's brother and his family were eager to ski again, and had bought new ski boots to go with the downhill skis we had given them last year.  Their eight year-old daughter, Anya, was happy to get out on the slopes as well, and our first stop was at the rental shop where they quickly got her set up with boots and skis.  (Beginners usually forgo the poles until they've got the hang of moving around in ski boots and on skis before adding poles to the mix.)  

As Matt's brother, Brian, and his wife, Eva, struggled to get their new boots on, I was reminded of how awkward all this ski equipment might seem at first, even for adults.  Shoes in general often need breaking in, and that is especially the case for ski boots.  They are made to hold your feet and ankles in place so that your skis move as part of your legs, but all that stiff plastic takes some getting used to.  It takes a few days on the snow to get them worn in - and if something REALLY hurts, it's a good idea to take them back to your boot fitter and have them take a look.

Getting three kids and three adults geared up always takes longer than I think it should, but we eventually made our way out to the Learning Center.  Four year-old Bridget is now able (and sometimes willing) to put her own skis on, and I helped two year-old Timmy while Matt got Anya headed in the right direction.  We talked about how to get on and off the lift, and at the top the kids loved to push up the safety bar just before it was time to stand up and ski off.

Matt took Anya for a few runs, and she picked up sliding on snow quickly.  At first she seemed a bit tentative, but she practiced keeping her weight forward by putting her hands on her knees and making big arcing turns along the slope.  On the third run, I started off skiing with Anya, but had to stop for a moment to untangle Bridget from her skis, and Anya asked, "Is it okay of I keep going?"  I said sure, and off she went, all on her own!  I was so happy for her, and could see how proud she was.  Her father also picked it up quickly after not having skied in many years, and her mother declared she was ready for a trip up the "big" lift.

The kids took several runs before we needed to all take a hot chocolate break.  I took Timothy home for a much-needed midday nap while the girls took a few more turns down the bunny hill.

Meanwhile, Matt's parent's, who had stayed at the Omni Mount Washington Hotel for the weekend, were finishing off their holiday with a sleigh ride around the hotel grounds.

After the excitement of Christmas and a full morning of skiing, the girls were exhausted, but were revived with a stop at Fabyans Station for a late lunch.  The wait for their tried-and-true favorites, hot dogs and spaghetti, passed quickly as they watched the model train fly around the track near the ceiling in the dining room.

The skiing the next morning didn't go as smoothly for the kids as I would have liked, but despite the fact that we all really wanted the kids to spend as much time skiing together as they could on their last day, it just wasn't happening.  Timmy wanted to go to the Kinderwoods Playground instead, Anya complained of a hurt leg, and Bridget just wanted to follow her older cousin's lead.  So while the girls had a snack in the lodge, the adults took turns skiing and sharing kid duty.  I had to remind myself once again that it isn't worth it to force the kids to ski - it just isn't fun for any of us. Not only do we get frustrated, but I fear the kids will see skiing as a chore, something I really want to avoid.

Apres ski time, however, was a success for everyone.  Anya and Bridget went to the Kids' Apres Ski program, a party for the 4-12 year-old set that Bretton Woods hosts for free on vacation weeks.  Simplicity the Clown greeted the girls, and soon each had a balloon creation in hand. Meanwhile, the adult party downstairs featured acoustic guitar and drum beats from local band Los Huevos.

Downstairs from the girls, we sipped cocktails as Timmy exclaimed, “SNOW TRACTORS!” and we watched from the picture windows of the Slopeside Restaurant as the groomers cruised across the base area and up the mountain to smooth out some fresh corduroy for night skiing.

Happy New Year and happy family skiing to everyone!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Elf Tuck-In

The magic of Christmastime is epitomized at the Omni MountWashington Hotel.  Thanks to last week’s long-awaited snowstorm, the evergreens are now frosted with a treat that looks good enough to eat and it’s feeling like old man winter has finally decided to grace us with his presence, filling our lungs with a sharp reminder of cold air and of how good it is to be alive here at the base of the Presidentials.

Given our close proximity to Bretton Woods, I love to take advantage of a trip to the Mount Washington Hotel to take part in their special Christmas activities.  The Hotel is dressed up for the occasion, kissing balls lined up along the 903-foot long veranda and twinkling lights and greenery draped over grand entryways and banisters.  The Great Hall is flanked with towering Christmas trees on both ends, and the smell of gingerbread wafts out from the life-size gingerbread house. 

Bridget and Timmy are now entering that magical age when Santa is as real as Mom and Dad and the enchantment of Christmas is palpable with anticipation.  So their eyes lit up when I told them that we were going to stay at “the big hotel” for the night and that one of Santa’s very own elves was coming to read them a bedtime story and tuck them in.  I reminded them that Santa’s helper would be returning to the North Pole after her visit, and she could report back with any special requests as well as a determination of naughty or nice behavior.

Even though I know that the Mount Washington Resort relishes the opportunity to entertain and delight young ones, I still gave the requisite speech to my pre-schoolers about the importantance of the magic words please and thank you.  But it’s hard to squelch the unadulterated joy at the prospect of spending the night in a castle with pools and treats and elves, and I too was infected with that spirit of celebration that sometimes gets lost in the seemingly endless holiday tasks of making lists and checking them twice.

After a quick stop at TreeTop Sports at Bretton Woods to pick up some Skida hats for family in Colorado, we headed up the long driveway to the Mount Washington Hotel, its red roof in stark contrast to the white hotel and mountains. We were greeted kindly by everyone we saw and the kids marveled over the Christmas tree in the Great Hall while I checked in. 

Our room, the Luxury Family Suite, was both luxurious and sweet!  Although all the four of us have very happily shared the close quarters of a tent for many nights in the summertime, it is wonderful to find accommodations that allow us to put the kids to bed at the early hour of 7:00pm and still allow my husband and I to stay up after the kids have drifted off to dreamland.  This room was perfect for that.  Two kid’s rooms, with a twin bed in each, flanked the entryway, which then opened up to a spacious and comfortable sitting room, with a gas fireplace and windows facing Mt. Washington and its presidential partners.  A half-bath to the right and a full bath to the left of the sitting room meant no one was waiting for the potty.  Adjacent to the sitting room, our bedroom offered an inviting king-sized bed with more views of the outdoor pool, cross-country ski trails, and White Mountain National Forest.  I especially loved the motif in each child’s bedroom – one, with fun 1950’s retro drawings of a map of the world, and in the more feminine room, wallpaper and shadowboxes of butterflies and grasshoppers. 

Once settled in, we took the grand staircase back down to the Rosebrook Bar, with promises of hot chocolate and adult beverages on our minds.  We found a seat along the panoramic windows, the alpenglow just beginning to color the faces of the mountains with pinks and oranges. The kids relished their chocolatey drinks while Matt and I indulged in creative concoctions of gin and champagne for me and bourbon for him.  To take the edge off before dinner, we nibbled on the fruit and cheese plate that offered fresh berries and some lovely blue, parmesan, and provolone cheeses with crusty baguette slices.

Although Matt and I could have lingered there all afternoon, the toddler attention spans demanded we wisk off to our next endeavor: the indoor pool.  I would have loved to take in the contrast of cold winter air and warm bathing in the heated outdoor pool, but I’m afraid the little ones may have been in and out of the water too much for their comfort outside.  The indoor pool, just renovated along with the spa and conference center addition a few years ago, was perfect for us, with a shallow entry for the little ones and plenty of space to splash around.  What kid doesn’t love a pool, especially in the wintertime, when memories of the summer seem so far away?

Dinner was at Stickneys, in the lower level of the Hotel.  Also recently renovated, we chose a high-backed booth with a window view.  The kids stuck to tried-and true favorites of hot dogs and macaroni and cheese, but Matt indulged in rack of lamb while I savored seared scallops with a spinach pesto and creamy wild mushroom rice.  With our date with the Elf drawing near, we skipped lingering over dessert in lieu of a stop at Morsels, the Hotel’s sweet shop, for a skewer of gummy dinosaurs.

Santa’s elf, adorned in green and red velvet and the prerequisite pointy hat and jingle-bell slippers, was waiting at our doorstep on return to our suite, with a gift of a stuffed reindeer for each of them.  The kids sat pie-eyed in wonder next to her on the couch as she read The Night Before Christmas.  Bridget was eager to remind our elf of her Christmas wishes for a doll stroller and bed, and Timmy listed a yellow truck and Thomas trains as his favorites.  Without the usual delay tactics and complaint, the kids quickly got into pajamas so that the elf could tuck them in.  She left us with the book and a promise to relay to Santa their wish list.  Exhausted from a full day of enchantment, I’m sure visions of sugar plums danced in their heads that night.

Following the kids’ bedtime, Matt and I enjoyed a glass of champagne in front of the fireplace.  The flicker of the fire and some quiet conversation were all we needed for some true relaxation, away from the distraction of phones and televisions and computers.

Before the workaday world returned to us the next morning, we lingered over fresh fruit, eggs, and malted Belgian waffles in the elegant and bright Dining Room.  None of us were eager to leave, but I know that we’ll be back for more resort fun soon.

Guests of the Hotel can arrange an Elf Tuck-In through the Activities Concierge Desk by calling 603-278-8989.  Other Omni Kids programs this time of year include Tea with Mrs. Claus and Breakfast with Santa.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Feels Like Coming Home to Ski Season

What a week it was to kick off the ski season!  
For opening day last Tuesday, I snuck Bridget away from preschool for a girls' day on the slopes.  (I knew taking Timmy also, who is almost brand-new to skiing, with just one parent was a recipe for disaster - he needed some undivided attention.)  The sun was shining and everyone at the Learning Center was just happy to be back on snow.  Although I was feeling a bit wary at first that the strip of man-made snow on the bunny hill might be too narrow for her, she surprised me with her skill at negotiating her way around.  I could hardly contain my enthusiasm as I saw her hop onto the chairlift with ease, chat about the snow guns blasting on the upper mountain on the ride up, and snake around other skiers and riders on her way down, as if it was all so natural. I was amazed at how much difference just a summer's time of growth made for her.
We returned that afternoon with Timmy to check in with Erin at the Bretton Woods rental shop to check their boot and ski sizing, test the bindings, and get a quick tune-up.  After two years in the smallest boots and skis they make, Bridget finally graduated to 80cm skis and a slightly larger boot.  To see what they needed, Erin took the liner out of the ski boot shell and had each child put a foot in.  We wanted a thumb's width of wiggle room in the toes and behind the heel.  For the ski length, Erin said to start a height between their chest and chin.  As they get older the ski length varies more by ability, but at this stage it is based more on height.
Timothy was overjoyed with the idea of having his own skis and boots, and tromped around in the boots until I had to make him take them off.

A wonderful blanket of snow over the mountain called my name on Wednesday morning, and this time I left the kids at preschool for some Outdoor Mom fast and furious laps on Bigger Ben and Bretton's Wood trails.    The snow mounds were soft and edgeable and I charged the slopes until my unaccustomed quadriceps begged for mercy.  

After a a most satisfying day of Thanks with friends and family, we returned to the slopes on Friday, the whole family and bags of gear in tow.My husband Matt and I took turns, one guiding Timothy down his first runs on real skis, while the other tried to keep up with Bridget.  

Now confident enough to cruise ahead without Mom or Dad right nearby, I realized that I had to think a few steps ahead of my daughter to set her up (as best I can) for success.  If I didn't talk with her before we got off the chairlift, she was so eager that she would barely wait for me to come along.  So on the ride up, we would talk about what she needed to do, so that she wasn't just careening down the hill, barely controlling her speed.  My brother from Colorado, a long-time Ski Dad himself, suggested that to help her avoid sitting back on her skis, "stand up tall, clap your hands and wiggle your toes."  We also worked on making "snakeys" down the hill to get her to turn more, and Dad played "Red Light, Green Light" with her to practice stopping.

Timothy picked out his first ski helmet from TreeTop Sports, a Giro Slingshot, just the right size for a little monkey.  The Paul Frank Julius monkey design was irresistible to Timothy, and I was glad to support a local business on Black Friday.

The kids were eager to return on Saturday morning, and Bridget practiced more turns while we coaxed Timmy into sliding along without the support of Mom or Dad.  Later, while Dad took Bridget on her first run ever off the Bethlehem Express Quad, Timmy enjoyed a muffin on the bench outside the base lodge before heading back over to the Learning Center to play with the elephant slide and pet Spotty Dotty the giraffe.

 So, what has worked for you when the kids start to "get it?"  

Monday, November 21, 2011

Let the Fun Begin!

Free skiing and riding at Bretton Woods for opening day tomorrow! Complimentary lift tickets all around on November 22 for those fortunate enough to be able to sneak away to celebrate the (unofficial) beginning of winter at Bretton Woods.   They’ll be starting with the Learning Center Quad tomorrow, with a few fun terrain park elements, and hopefully we’ll be skiing on Bigger Ben and Bretton’s Woods trails off the Bethlehem Quad by Friday.  So get your Thanksgiving grocery shopping done today and join me on the slopes tomorrow!

The start of the ski season has always been full of anticipation for me, as memories of powder days and bluebird skies come flooding back after being put on a shelf for the summer while we enjoyed the warmer side of the year.  But now as a mom, there’s a new source of inspiration as I see four-year-old Bridget and her shadow, two-year-old Timmy, get that sparkle in their voices as they talk of skiing and playing in the snow. 

Although I know that for myself there are always new tree lines that need discovery and new skills to be mastered on the Nordic trails, I’m more excited this year to see where the slopes and trails will take my son and daughter.  At the end of last season, Bridget was starting to venture off the bunny hill for a few runs, and Timmy was eager to ride the chairlift like the big kids.  Their growth seems exponential at this stage, and I’m so looking forward to watching them gain confidence and success. 

If the excitement of ski season was ever in doubt, though, there’s one sure way straight to inspiration: a Warren Miller film!  Warren Miller is a ski legend, famous for his plethora of movies that celebrate all the things we love about the sport.  Famous snowsports athletes are flown all over the world to show off their skills, set to the background of jaw-dropping cinematography and heart-pumping music that would get even the most reluctant off the couch.  And this year, part of that world-renowned skiing will include a segment from Tuckerman Ravine, shot on the other side of our own Mount Washington

We’ve arranged for a babysitter this Friday night so we can join in the Homecoming festivities centered around the showing of this year’s film, "... Like There's No Tomorrow".  In addition to the adrenaline-fueled movie, there’s some great swag for the taking in raffle prizes from TreeTop Sports and the movie sponsor, RAMP Sports

Hope to see you there!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Getting Ready for Winter at the Boston Ski Show!

After a wonderful summer of hiking, biking, camping and paddling, Bretton Woods Outdoor Mom is back for the winter! Following the big October snowstorm, I'm dreaming of that first day back on the slopes at Bretton Woods: I'm envisioniong a warm-up on Bretton's Wood trail, with some big, arcing GS turns over some fresh corduroy, then perhaps some tighter turns and rolls on the classic New England trail, In Between.

Four-year old Bridget is looking forward to skiing as well; on the morning of the snowstorm a week ago, she told her Dad, "let's go wake up Mommy and Timmy so we can go skiing!" It's hard to explain to a four-year old that a freak snowstorm in October doesn't mean winter is here quite yet, but we assured her that ski season was right around the corner, and enjoyed some backyard sledding and snowman-making instead.

One of my favorite ways to pass the time until we can start skiing is a trip to the Boston Globe Ski & Snowboard Expo. If you haven't been before, it's a great way to check out all the new happenings in the snowsports world, with deals and giveaways from the resorts, great buys on ski gear, and live entertainment. This year, I'll be there with the Bretton Woods crew, sharing my tips on outdoor adventures with kids and seeing what other parents do that makes Bretton Woods family programs so special. We'll also be offering up a chance to win a FREE ski and stay package at the Omni Mount Washington Hotel and special pricing for Bretton Woods lift tickets just for ski show attendees! We'll have a kids area, with coloring and stickers to get the little ones excited too.

New this winter for the Bretton Woods Outdoor Mom, I've created a Facebook page and Twitter feed to make it even easier to keep in touch. I hope you'll follow me and share your trials and tribulations with your adventures as well.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

To Bike or To Ski? How About Both?!

Oh, the dilemmas: this past weekend’s weather offered such a wonderful choice of outdoor activities, that I was faced with having to choose how to best maximize our time in the sun.

On one hand, I knew that the alpine skiing at Bretton Woods would be absolutely picture prefect for spring skiing. The sun was out and the snow pack was so deep from this winter’s consistent snowfall that there would be more than enough hero snow to go around. And, I knew that the opportunity to get out on the slopes would be ending soon, as the closing date for the ski season is April 17.

But, after a relatively cold spring, I was itching to get on my bike. The kids had spent afternoons last week riding their trikes in the mud down the driveway. I was eager to get out on my bike as well, after I had spent Wednesday afternoon with Dave at Littleton Bike and Fitness for a BG Fit, a comprehensive look at my body’s geometry and riding style to see what changes might be made to make my bicycling experience more comfortable and efficient.

We decided to see what Bridget had in mind for her day of adventure with Mom and Dad, and she unequivocally stated that she’d like to ski with Daddy for the morning. So I stayed home for Timothy’s nap while they headed over to Bretton Woods. They checked in around noon, but Timothy was still asleep and Bridget wanted to go up to the top if the “big mountain.” Matt was took her down Range View, a wide, gentle slope directly under the Zephyr High Speed Quad. It’s a long run for a three-year-old, though, and I was delighted to learn that she made it down the whole way without needing Dad to carry her. Afterwards, Bridget seemed to be eager to take in the entire spring skiing experience, insisting they have a hot dog from the grill out on the Slopeside Deck.

Bridget was ecstatic when she came home to tell me about her accomplishments. “Mommy, I skied all the way FROM THE TOP! Well, I did crash a little, but I skied on RANGE VIEW!” I certainly was a proud Mom.

Now that Matt was back home, I still had to decide…to ski or to bike? But the grin on Bridget’s face made my decision… I knew I had to get some turns in while I could. So I made a solo trip and fully enjoyed the spring snow. Although there was still plenty of snow in the glades, today was a day to make big, arcing turns on trails like Deception Bowl, or hop in the forgiving moguls on McIntyre’s Ride or Aggasiz.

And guess what… when I returned home there was still time for Matt and I to take bike rides! It’s great to be able to take advantage of longer hours of daylight this time of year. And after a few adjustments last week on my bike, I’m happy to report that after years of just living with it, my hands didn’t feel any numbness from resting on my handlebars for long periods of time.

Sunday morning was another nice surprise as the rain held off and another sunny day presented itself. Temperatures never fell below freezing overnight, so the snow was still soft first thing in the morning, so all four of us headed back over to Bretton Woods. Bridget wanted to show me her skills on Range View, so we headed there first thing. On the lift ride I got to explain to her what “first tracks” are (the first runs of the morning on freshly groomed trails) and she told me about skiing with Daddy the previous day.

We had a bit of a rocky start because I soon found that Bridget had no interest in traversing across the slope and turning in big “snakeys” down the mountain; she wanted to go straight down. But her right leg seems to be her strong one, which makes her turn to the left, and she kept heading for the woods on the left side of the trail. I ended up skiing backward, in front of her, and making some turns that she could imitate – and I could also catch her if she got going too fast. It’s a long run for a little person, and she was ready to go in for a break when we finished.

Later, Matt took her back on the Learning Center, but when they got to the top of the lift, she declared, “ I can do it myself!” and hopped right off the lift and down the ramp without any assistance. Then she told Matt, “You go that way. I’m going down this side BY MYSELF.” So Matt went right and Bridget went left and then came down on opposite sides of the lift. I had been out playing on the Magic Carpet with Timothy, and was happily surprised to see them coming down separately. But, when she met him back at the bottom and she wanted to ride the lift by herself, Dad had to promise her that riding the lift solo would have to be an adventure for another day.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Spring Weekend!

Mother Nature apparently didn't get the memo about it being the end of ski season. In my nine years in New Hampshire I certainly don't recall the entire mountain being open in April. Not just nearly every trail, but the glades too.

Sure, I can't deny that visions of bicycle riding have been dancing in my head. But this past weekend was the kind you remember as the classic spring skiing experience.

Saturday morning was still cool and cloudy, leaving the eight inches of fresh snow from Friday still wonderfully skiable. With a birthday party to take the kids to on Saturday afternoon, I got the morning pass to hit the slopes at Bretton Woods. On West Mountain, Maple Woods and John Graves Glades were just starting to get a few tracks, and the groom on Waumbeck and Star King made for speedy hero turns in the plush snow. On Rosebrook, I dropped into Roz's, a trail I often forget about, for some soft moguls, and then around again for a run down #5 on the Stickney Glades. To my delight, I got first tracks down the line nearest the ski area boundary before gliding back home.

On Sunday, the sun came out to play and we had a full day of outdoor adventure planned. In the morning, Matt and I each took a turn for an hour or so at Bretton Woods Nordic Center's last day of the season. It seemed that everyone I passed had a smile on their face. I stuck to the groomed trails, and took a nice long loop around Esker, up Beech Hill, across Clinton, up Abenaki Crossing, and then up and over Coronary Hills. The sentimental side of me was a bit sad to know that I won't be back cross-country skiing for several months, but I still had some downhill skiing to get to!

Matt met me at Bretton Woods alpine around noon, after Timothy's nap, when we also met up with two other families for some serious kid time at the Learning Center. Another thing I've come to learn this winter is how powerful the influence of other kids on the learning curve can be: when there are other, perhaps older, kids to emulate, Bridget's inhibitions seem to float away. After a short warm-up on the magic carpet, we quickly moved to the Learning Express Quad. Since November, she's become so much more comfortable with the whole skiing process. She walks much more easily in those big clunky ski boots, and turns around to retrieve something with her skis on without even thinking about it. Off the lift, Bridget put herself into a wedge to slow herself down without a reminder from Mom. Now we just have to work on making some arcing turns rather than heading straight down the fall line every time!

Timothy also rode the magic carpet a few times and Matt brought him up on the chairlift to meet Bridget and me. His little legs still aren't strong enough to really hold himself up to ski, but I knew he was excited to be out on the hill with the "big" kids.

After several runs with her buddies, we stopped for a brownie break in the sun on the benches outside the base lodge. In addition to some delicious treats from Lucy Crawford's Food Court, the kids found stomping in the puddles irresistible as well. While Matt and Dave went for a run on their own, Phoebe took Bridget and Silas in for a look at Tree Top Sports and returned with a new helmet for Silas, complete with a sheet of very entertaining stickers.

Next it was the mom's turn for a run on our own, and we headed over to Agassiz for a soft bump run in the sun. I saw this morning that the West Mountain Express High-Speed Quad and The Zephyr High-Speed Quad are closed for the season, so it may have been our last trip down Agassiz for a while.

Matt and Bridget joined the boys for another run on the Learning Center whileI took Timothy inside to warm up a bit. Although Bridget must have been tired by now, Matt came in to tell me that they were headed up with the boys for a run “on the big mountain” off the Bethlehem Express Quad. Although I was excited to hear that Bridget wanted to take on a new challenge, I just hoped it wasn’t too late in the day for such a energy-zapping endeavor. Luckily, she returned with a grin on her face. “Mommy, I went all the way to the top!” Matt later told me that it probably was a bit too steep for her, but she was nothing but proud, and I couldn’t help but share her enthusiasm. Snowflakes are gracing us with their presence one again this morning, but Bretton Woods’ closing day is only two weeks away. I hope you and your kids can get out there soon!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Bretton Woods Nordic Open for Another Week, Thankfully!

Did I say that a cross-country ski with the kids to the yurt at Bretton Woods for a picnic on Saturday would be a wonderful family adventure? Well, I should be reminded that sometimes the kids have something else in mind. After some ridiculously early wake-ups, the kids were cranky. Matt and I thought that getting outside would change their attitudes, but sometimes things just don't happen like you want them to.

Bridget had fallen asleep on the way to the the Nordic Center, but we thought we could get her into the Chariot and that she'd fall asleep again. No such luck. Timothy started wailing when we put him in the Chariot, which made Bridget join in as well. Matt tried to ski with them for a few minutes to settle them down, but we could see it wasn't going to be the idyllic spring skiing experience we had hoped for.

Matt took the kids home and graciously let me stay for a ski on my own. Although it was windy, once across the golf course it was sheltered and the snow was amazing -several inches of powder made for a floating on the clouds feel. Without kids in tow, I decided to ski some of my favorite trails: Abenaki Crossing, Coronary Hills and Nancy Barton. Abenaki had a most wonderful view of Mount Washington. Coronary Hills isn't as bad as the name might suggest if you follow it from east to west, with a long, winding downhill to reward you for a little bit of work to get up there. You have to cross Route 302 to get over to Nancy Barton, so I wouldn't normally take the Chariot over there, but today would be a perfect opportunity to ski the winding trail that meanders along the River.

My disapointment at not being able to ski with my husband and kids was lessened when I saw a sign outside of the Nordic Center that read: "Due to the amazing snow conditions, Bretton Woods Nordic will remain open for another week!" Hopefully we'll be able to make our picnic sojourn happen next weekend.

I got out for a Nordic ski again on my own on Sunday before Bridget and I attended a pool party at the Rosebrook Recreation Center. Although it was still cold for the end of April, the sun was absolutely brilliant and the snow was perfect. It was great to see so many other parents out there pulling kids in the pulks that the Nordic Center rents as well as other Chariots. Afterwards, Bridget thorougly enjoyed herself at the pool party, splashing with friends and relishing a piece of birthday cake.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Timothy’s First Day on the Slopes

Although our calendars say that spring has arrived, we’ve barely started mud season here in northern New Hampshire. We had some warm days that melted the snow on the driveway last week, but we still have four-foot snow banks and daily flurries.

This coming weekend is the last days the Bretton Woods Nordic Center plans to be open for the season, so the kids and I have an end of season Ski to to the Yurt Picnic planned for Saturday. Join us if you can! I'll have a report soon, but I'm guessing this will be a wonderful family adventure. We'll also try to swing by the Beach Party/Slush Pool Event and Winter Mt. Bike Race at the Bretton Woods alpine area.

Timothy, who turns 18 months next week, has been scooting around on his little plastic strap-on skis lately, and I figured yesterday would be a good time to see how he'd do with the slippery stuff underneath him. I debated whether I should take him by himself so I could give him my undivided atttention, or to go with three-year old Bridget as well, knowing that he is usually quite determined to mimic his older sister's every move. Deciding that Bridget wouldn't want to miss out on the fun, I took both of them, but without the aid of a second parent, I took a minimalist approach. I knew that I couldn't take both of them on the chairlift just yet and Timothy would probably tire quickly, so as long as we were just playing in the level area of the learning area, I only brought their strap on skis and left my skis, helmets and goggles at home.

With Timothy's skis and some rubber duckies in my tote bag, Bridget proudly carried her skis up to the learning area, and Timothy trudged along too. I strapped their skis on, and Bridget headed for the magic carpet with a rubber ducky in hand. Timothy was eager to pet the life-size red and blue giraffe and touch the flowers posted around the learning area; meanwhile, Bridget just started doing laps on the magic carpet all on her own. The magic carpet is a two-foot wide conveyor belt, like the moving sidewalks you see at an airport, built to be flush with the snow, so the beginner can just slide on and ride up a very mild incline, with nowhere to fall like on a chairlift.

I tried to throw a few duckies on the ground for Timothy to retrieve, but he seemed a bit intimidated by his slippery footing and shrugged the ducks off. I brought him over to the magic carpet to see how he'd do following his sister up the ramp. He stood dutifully on the conveyor belt with little comment, until he got to the end where he began to giggle as he slid off into the snow. Then he would point back at the magic carpet, indicating his desire to ride it again.

I held him up under his armpits from behind as we scooted back down to the bottom of the magic carpet. He shuffled his feet like we was trying to walk, which I guess isn't surprising given all the time he has ridden around in the Chariot this year watching us propel oursleves on Nordic skis. Bridget requested that this ride up was "kids only!" so I walked alongside with the video camera.

Both kids seemed content to do laps on the magic carpet. I was gladto see Bridget happily going on ahead when I had to stop to pick up Timothy, and that when she fell she was getting herself up, which was great progress after weeks of waiting for me to come help her when she crashed. On the carpet, she waved to me like the homecoming queen in a parade, then hopped off and went around again. It's amazing how the dynamic changes when there are two kids. I had asked Bridget to show Timothy what to do, and now suddenly instead of being the new one on the slopes, she was the old pro with confidence in her stride. I'm often ambivalent in my feelings towards seeing my kids grow up and away from me, but this was a wonderful show of independence.

Timothy seemed to just tolerate the skiing part, anticipating that moment when he could slide off the end of the conveyor belt. After several more "one more times," I could see Timothy was going to need a nap, so we headed in for a brownie break while the smiles were still on their faces.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Outdoor Mom's Mount Washington Cup

After four years of pregnancy, nursing, and care of two babies, I had hoped that this would be the year to finally get back into shape enough that I might get back to some kind of competitive sporting event. Although my fitness for racing was a bit questionable for the Mount Washington Cup, the great thing about Citizen's races is that it really is just a chance to get out there and test yourself, but you don't need to have a bunch of experience to just have fun.

After a winter of pristine snow conditions at Bretton Woods, everyone was a bit disappointed to see rain in the forecast the week before the Bretton Woods Nordic Marathon and Mount Washington Cup. Luckily, a winter of nearly daily snowfall had built up a substantial base, and we could survive a few warm days. Not so fortunately, though, a couple days of big melting and rain created an ice jam on the Ammonoosuc River just outside of the Nordic Center that created quite a mess. Bretton Woods staff had to scramble to clear the flooded areas in preparation for their biggest event of the year. And they pulled it off .

Because of some wet areas, both the Marathon and the Mount Washington Cup had to be rerouted and shortened somewhat, but the courses still proved quite challenging. My husband participated in the Marathon while I stayed home with Bridget and napping Timothy. Sunday was my turn to race.

Despite best laid plans, between sick kids and vacations, my cross-country ski training had dwindled in the last month, but I had made a decision to do the Mount Washington Cup, and with only some ego at stake, I really had nothing to lose in giving it a shot.

My cousin Becky, her husband, Mark, and daughter Casey joined us for the weekend of racing as well. All three are experienced triathletes, but new to cross-country skiing. It was great to have some friends on the course, and seeing them race together as a family was great inspiration to me. They are a perfect example of the family that makes it a priority to get outside and be active and have so much fun doing it.

I had taken a skate ski lesson and I had tried to ski as much as I could before the race. I knew from my bike racing days that I needed plenty of food and drink to fuel up before the race. I knew I need a good warm-up to get my heart rate up and my muscles warm before the race. But on the start line, I realized that I really didn’t know what it was going to be like. I knew that it was going to be a bit chaotic as over 100 skiers barreled into a trail that narrows to a width that just barely accommodate two skate skiers. But I didn’t know where exactly I’d stack up in all that.

As we started, I quickly found out. Everyone was double-poling in the elbow-to-elbow positioning. I rarely double-pole, and I wasn’t making a lot of headway. As soon as I could, I began to skate, but people were just streaming past me. The bike racer in me didn’t want to give any ground, so I just skied to the side enough to let them pass. My heart was racing, but I just tried to keep focused on the trail.

By the time we got to the hill by the Eisenhower Wayside Park, the crowd of experienced racers had passed and I flip-flopped back and forth with a few people. I quickly realized that my downhill skiing experience was going to be to my advantage… although my momentum slowed down on the uphills, I could pass some tentative skiers on the downhills. But it was a long slog up hill before I got there. Rolling Dark Forest, up Peter’s Path, and then up and up and up Beech Hill and Clinton. It seemed to take forever to get to the top of Sebosis.

And what a relief it was to cruise down Sebosis. The right onto Stumpwalk took me into a bit of unknown territory. I don’t ski it often because it is usually left ungroomed. But it was a rolling downhill that brought me out onto the bottom of Cornonary Hills, then I knew it was just a cruise back to the Nordic Center. Out on the golf course, the snow got heavy and wet, and I was glad that the snow had held up so well so far.

What a treat it was to see little Bridget scooting around on her cross-country skis as I crossed the finish line. Still running on the adrenaline of the race, I was happy to watch her as she demonstrated to me how fast she could go.

The 12.5 kilometers took me just over an hour, and I ended up 30th out of the 36 women who raced. Cousin Becky’s daughter Casey was second in her age group, followed by my friend Amy’s niece Rachel, who was third. It was great to see the smiles on their faces as these teenage girls adorned their medals, and even more wonderful to know that a taste of success would be just what they needed to keep racing on their radar. And yes, not only did Casey beat me, but she beat both of her parents as well! It’s amazing to think that one day I’ll just be trying to keep up with my kids on the trails and slopes.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Trials and Tribulations on the Trails

Yesterday was a typical day with the kids – moments of independence and success, followed by screaming and hysterics, followed by some content over hot chocolate.

Bridget has the week off from preschool, so after Timothy’s morning nap we headed out to Bretton Woods, first to meet some friends of ours who are new parents at Fabyan’s for a little lunch.

Bridget, inspired by the news that one of her five-year old friends had skied all the way to the yurt, was eager to Nordic ski. She cruised ahead of me as I towed Timothy and I was happily surprised to see how much more agile she was getting with her skis on – she could turn direction and when we had to go up the incline over the Ammonusuc River bridge near the Nordic Center, she instinctively turned her toes out to form her skis into a “V” to keep herself from slipping backwards. She still needs help getting up when she falls, but the falls were a bit fewer this time. When other skiers passed by and cheered her on, she would shuffle her feet faster, almost in a run. Now, if I could only convince her that she doesn’t really need poles quite yet! I wasn’t going fast enough to get any kind of a workout, but it was so great to just be outside in the bright sunshine, watching Bridget scoot along happily.

We made it down Perimeter behind the Omni Mount Washington Hotel a ways before Bridget decided that she would like to get in the Chariot and ride for a while. She told me that she intended to take a nap in the Chariot, so I knew she was tired – at three and a half, she only naps begrudgingly. In the Chariot with Timothy, there was the usual jostling for position and complaints of he/she is on my side, but they soon settled down and Bridget was asleep in about ten minutes. Timothy quieted down as well, and I figured now was my chance to get that workout in. With 75 pounds of kids and Chariot behind me, I stayed on the flat trails: Perimeter, Turnpike, Rye Field, and the start of Dark Forest.

But just before I was going to turn around on Dark Forest, before the Eisenhower Wayside Park hill, my fortune changed. Timothy started crying that horrible cry when they’ve been woken up way too early. Bridget’s head had slumped sideways on to his, and I’m afraid he had her hat and all those crazy blonde curls in his face. I tried to make the necessary adjustments, but he couldn’t be placated. So I just headed back as quickly as I could, Timothy screaming. By the time I was back to the intersection of Crawford’s Pass, he had woken Bridget up, and now coming from her: that desperate cry of a little one whose nap has been cut way too short. I stopped and tried to calm them down with a reassurance that we’d head straight back to the Nordic Center, but reasoning with toddlers doesn’t always fly, and so I sprinted back with screaming babies in tow. It was a long ten minutes.

Back at the Nordic Center, a round of hot chocolates seemed to cure all woes. They were both headed for an early bedtime that evening, but for the time being, the kids were back on the happy side of the roller coaster. At home, Bridget bragged to Daddy that the other skiers were saying how fast she was going. Although I wasn’t excited that the kids missed a nap that they both needed, I was so happy to see Bridget beam with pride at her accomplishment.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Happy Dog Trails To You

Long before the kids came along, another member of our family loved to Nordic ski with my husband and me: our dog Daisy. Our 12-year old black Labrador Retriever loves winter probably more than any of us. She adores running, but heat really slows her down in the summer. She recognizes when we’re getting our outdoor gear ready and whimpers at the door, ready to go.

Last week I decided to take Daisy with me to the dog-friendly trails at Bretton Woods while I towed Timothy in the Chariot. This was my first try at simultaneously towing a kid and keeping an eye on Daisy. Luckily, Daisy is usually very well behaved on the trail. She has always been a people-dog, more interested in staying close to us than in ranging too far. Still, with Timothy in tow I didn’t want this to be the day she decides to go exploring without me.

It was a blue-bird day, and I was excited to get outside after some home-bound days with another round of sick kids the past week. Daisy’s exuberance manifests in a funny little habit when we are setting off on skis or mountain bikes: she nibbles ever-so gently, but incessantly, at my gloves. Luckily that only lasts a minute and then she’s galloping along next to me.

When we first took Daisy cross-country skiing, it took a while for her to figure out how to manage getting around those long sticks attached to our feet, and we’d get all tangled up, dog fur and poles and skis and me, and I would come crashing to the ground. Fortunately, Daisy soon figured out that she didn’t need to run so close to her people – a little distance made it easier for everyone.

The dog trails at Bretton Woods are in the Deception Trail System, which are the trails northeast of the Nordic Center, mostly on the other side of the Cog Road. To get there, you can either go behind the Omni Mount Washington Hotel on Lower Honeymoon, which is partly a snow-covered dirt road, or go over the Ammonoosuc River Bridge, take a left on Perimeter, then go over the river crossing where the river is frozen. This takes you behind one of the old villas that used to house workers for the Resort, and then back onto Lower Honeymoon. Lower Honeymoon follows along the river until it meets with the Cog Road, where you need to watch for snowmobiles and cars as you cross.

I took the loop up Upper Honeymoon and back down Split Rock. Daisy occasionally stopped to sniff rabbit tracks in the snow, but mostly just bounded along next to me. This trail seems to be a favorite of the local moose, but I didn’t get to see them today. The view from the top of Upper Honeymoon is wonderful on a day like today, and Daisy and I take a breath at the top enjoy that feeling that although we’re only 25 minutes from the Nordic Center, we’re taking in some sights that not everyone gets to see; only those of us who take the effort to get out here can hear the winds whispering through these trees.

Daisy runs so fast back down hill that her hind legs get ahead of her, but she still has that tongue-hanging-out doggy grin on her face. I take her back to the car, knowing that she is getting older and I don’t want her to overdo it. Timothy is still singing along in the Chariot, so we head out for another short loop over the golf course, Crawford’s Path, and back on Perimeter. Daisy slept soundly at home for the rest of the afternoon, but I know when I see her running in her sleep, she’s probably dreaming of cruising the cross-country trails with me.

Another good thing to know: if you're visiting Bretton Woods overnight, you can bring your favorite doggy friend with you. The Omni Bretton Arms Inn will host you and your pooch, and you can ski right out your door. Dogs deserve a little winter vacation getaway, too, don't they?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Alpine and Nordic Skiing: Two Great Choices

Earlier this winter, my friend Leah asked me what type of skiing I prefer: alpine (downhill) or Nordic (cross-country). I must admit, it would be hard for me to pick just one. It will be interesting to see which sport the kids will favor as they get older.

Traditional alpine skiing is my first love: I learned to ski in junior high when my brother worked at a ski area in New York, and I was soon hooked. As a teen, I loved the freedom skiing provided – it was a great way to get out with my friends. Although I’m sure I didn’t realize it then, it was also a great way to challenge myself physically, perfecting a new skill, and a healthy and safe way to spend my weekends. As a young adult, my husband and I found a fun group of friends who all loved to ski, and we pushed each other to take risks and found satisfaction in new accomplishments, like skiing moguls or a tree line with finesse.

I began Nordic skiing when we moved to New Hampshire. As a bicycle racer during the warmer months, Nordic skiing is a perfect winter complement. Although I did put in my time on the indoor bicycle trainer, I’ve never been a fan of working out indoors, and Nordic skiing has similar aerobic fitness elements to biking. On winter weekends, many of our White Mountain Velo friends can be seen at Bretton Woods Nordic, and towards spring we might even be able to swing a cross-country ski in the morning and bike ride in the afternoon. (Well, actually that all-day event was a lot more likely when we didn’t have kids!)

Both alpine and Nordic skiing have elements of speed and finesse, but there’s a different type of adrenaline for each. Alpine skiing uses powerful, short bursts of leg muscles to maneuver down the mountain. For me, the steeper the better, because it forces me to make turns and think about my next move, whereas I tend to get a bit lazy when the terrain flattens out. Nordic skiing also takes strong muscles and physical coordination, but it’s usually a sustained aerobic workout for a longer period of time. Classic Nordic skiing is generally a little easier on the lungs than skate skiing.

Weather and time of day might also dictate my skiing choice. Early in the day, it’s great to get first tracks on the mountain; but if it’s hard to get the kids out the door for the first lift, there’s a more casual pace at the Nordic Center and it’s often nice when the snow softens up a bit. I love to downhill ski in powder and while it snows, but if it’s snowing, it’s harder to skate ski, where it’s nice to have a firm groomed surface.

Most skiers I know are either Nordic OR alpine skiers, not both. But I find it useful to have both skill sets. My alpine experience makes going down hill a lot easier on Nordic skis; skating across a base area to a lift or a traverse along the mountain is smoother having some skate skiing muscle memory.

Luckily, Bretton Woods has the best of both worlds. A little alpine in the morning and Nordic in the afternoon sounds wonderful to me. Nordic skiers can even take a single lift ride with their Nordic pass and take the Mountain Road trail all the way back to the cross-country system. So what the heck – mix it up! What’s your favorite?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

A Classic Winter's Sleigh Ride

Yesterday I surprised Bridget and Timothy with a treat that every New England winter should not be without – a sleigh ride! With all this snow piling up, we’re enjoying taking part in all of those wonderful activities that you just can’t do in the summer.

When I told Bridget that we’d be going on a sleigh ride at “The Big Hotel” with a horse, she wanted to know two things: would there be sled dogs and would there be cows? So we know that she associates rides in the snow with sled dogs and horses with cows. No, no other animals this trip, but I assured her that the big draft horse that would be pulling us would be entertainment enough.

We checked in at the Activities Desk at the Omni Mount Washington Hotel and then took the shuttle down to the sleigh ride pick-up spot near the Bretton Arms Inn. Bridget was pretty excited to ride on the bus, so I knew the sleigh would be quite a treat. Another family with two small children were just finishing up their ride as we arrived, and all of the kids clamored to stroke the horse’s nose.

Glen, the big white Percheron that would be our horsepower this afternoon, was amazingly patient with all of the kids grabbing and patting at him. Timothy was absolutely ecstatic with the opportunity to touch him, and I had to juggle holding both kids in my arms as Glen sniffed at their hands. Glen was all decked out in an ornamented harness and Luke, the driver, encouraged us to spend time with the docile horse.

Into the red velvet Austrian sleigh we climbed, and covered up with think faux-fur blankets, although Bridget refused to wear her mittens – she wanted to be able to feel the blanket and be ready to touch the horse again. It’s amazing how 20 degrees doesn’t feel “that bad” after a morning of sub-zero temperatures. We toured for about half an hour, and Bridget snuggled in close to me as we lumbered along. We passed the stables where the other draft horses munched on hay and then behind the Omni Mount Washington Hotel for a spectacular view of Mt. Washington, with just a wispy cloud over its top.

Timothy got a bit restless about half way through – he kept pointing up at the horse and I knew he was more interested in petting Glen than in riding behind him. This is where a second parent to help wrangle the children might have helped! But in the end I think the kids were happy to be riding along, unrestrained by the usual car seat and straps.

More time stroking the horse’s nose finished out our afternoon ride. I had hoped we might top off our classic winter tour with a hot chocolate for the kids, but I could tell that naps were in order, and sure enough, both were asleep within five minutes of getting back in the car. I can only imagine they dreamed of velvet horse noses and gliding through all things frosty and white this afternoon.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Ski Time for Outdoor Mom and Dad

Every baby book and new mother website will tell you: make time for yourself and for your marriage. You need some "me" and "us" time to keep healthy and happy. But that time away from the kids is not so easy to come by, is it? Sure, I can mange a couple of hours here or there while Dad takes the kids. And we are sticklers for an early bed time for the kids so that Mom and Dad can have a little time each evening to recuperate. But I think the last time Matt and I had an overnight just to ourselves must have been before three-year-old Bridget was born.

So this past weekend Matt and I took the plunge. Matt's parents very graciously agreed to come to our house for the weekend and stay with the kids so that we could get away for a night. We debated quite a bit about where we would go, considering everything from a night in the big city to a Nordic tour to ski into the rustic Mountain Cabin at Bretton Woods. We finally decided that given the short window of time we had to play, we didn't want to spend hour upon hour driving to our destination, and would stay locally. Besides, we have such a wonderful winter playground right in our back yard, why go anywhere else?

The plan was to go downhill skiing at Bretton Woods for an hour or two to start Saturday morning, then hit the Nordic trails as Matt prepares for the Bretton Woods Nordic Marathon and I for the Mount Washington Cup, both events now just over a month away.

The morning started out quite cold, and dressed in layers we hopped on the chairlift at 8:00am ready to see where we could find fresh snow after last Wednesday's big storm. After a few buttery groomer runs, we headed to Rosebrook and played in the snow on McIntire's Ride and Bode's Run. Then we hit the new Stickney Glades. There are now numbers designating each run, and we found only a few tracks on 4 and 5. As I mentioned before, it takes a little effort to get out there, but what a treat those woods held for us! Light and fluffy snow, and bright sunshine for the short wait at the lift back at the Bethlehem Express Quad.

The sun was winning out and the day warmed up quickly. Matt and I were having such fun tearing it up that we decided to just keep downhill skiing all day. Being kid-free, we did take the opportunity to enjoy an adult beverage and lunch at the Slopeside Pub. But with soft snow, abundant sunshine, and no nap time or diapers to attend to, as Matt said, "What's not to like?" So we skied to near exhaustion and then made plans with friends to return in the morning for more.

Overnight, our snow globe shook again, with another eight inches to add to the already record base depth by this time of year. This time the snow was a bit heavier, but we were meeting our friends for a quick video shoot for Ski New Hampshire and then some time to catch up and get a few more runs in. You can see us on SkiNH's weekly shoot - I'm the one in the orange jacket.

We returned home by noon so that that Matt's parents could make it home for the Super Bowl. The kids were having so much fun playing with their grandparents that I'm not even sure they noticed we were gone. What a relief. We may have to try this more often!

How do you make time for yourself?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Cross-Country Coaching

The snow is piling up like frosting on a birthday cake out there. Apparently Punxsutawney Phil’s weather forecasting abilities do not cover northern New Hampshire, because I’m doubting that the three or four feet of snow we’ve got on the ground right now is going anywhere soon. I know, Mother Nature can be fickle, and it could all melt away, but for now I’m relishing all the winter fun to be had.

The Nordic (cross-country) conditions at Bretton Woods have been nothing short of perfect lately. This past weekend, the temperature was moderate and the snow was fast. I had the opportunity on Sunday to take a lesson with Dave McGraw to work on my skating technique as I prepare to race in the Mount Washington Cup on March 13.

I’ve been skate (freestyle) Nordic skiing for about seven years, but I had never taken a real skate lesson and had found myself in a rut. There are several techniques that a skate skier can use to propel themselves through the snow, but somehow I got comfortable doing just one, and now the “V1” is all I know how to do.

Without getting too technical, mostly because I’m worse at explaining the different techniques than I am at actually doing them, using more than one skating technique will make getting around the cross-country trails much easier for me. As Dave explained to me, the “V1” is like first gear: great for getting started or going up hill. But the “V2” and “V2 alternate” add more gears to your motor as you speed up.

In the "V1," you ski with offset poles and power your push from one side. First, Dave had me practice really loading the push from that one side, to take full advantage of the rebound that push would give me to propel me forward.

Next we spent some time practicing the "V2," where you push and pole equally on both sides, but I have to admit that my old habits kept me from making it very far. Dave was really patient with me, and although I couldn’t quite get it, he broke the arm and leg movements down into steps that I can visualize, so at least I know what I’m working towards now. We also worked on switching dominant sides for the "V1," which will help me with balance and versatility.

I’m really looking forward to getting back out on the trails to practice what I’ve learned. Isn’t it great to know that we can take something we’ve been doing for a while and see it with a fresh perspective? Sure, I felt a little (okay, a lot) silly as stumbled over myself, poles flying in awkward directions, as I tried to manage some new moves on the snow, but I think with some patience and persistence, it will get easier. The payoff: a more efficient ski, a little more balance in my life, and perhaps a little more finesse out there.

Monday, January 31, 2011

A Dog Sled Adventure

If you’ve ever read Call of the Wild or watched the grueling Iditarod, you might have, like me, visions of dog sledding being an epic journey through frozen tundra, relying solely on your survival skills and the cunning of your faithful dog team.

Alas, my 20-minute ride with a musher from the Muddy Paw Sled Dog Kennel around the grounds of the Omni Mount Washington Resort was not exactly a brutal test of endurance. But we did get to enjoy the company of some energetic furry friends, one of which that actually did participate in the Iditarod.
After a check- in at the Activities Desk at the Omni Mount Washington Hotel, we drove down to the Dog Sled area, near the Bretton Arms Inn. There were four or five teams there, and they all looked anxious to get running. Since you have to be at least three years old to ride, Bridget and I would be hopping in the sled while Matt and Timothy took pictures.

Even though Bridget is enamored with dogs in general, I wasn’t sure if she would suddenly become tentative in the face of so many dogs - some a bit more energetic than our 11-year-old Lab. But she didn’t hesitate to approach them and begin petting their ears.
Chris, our musher, first introduced us to all the dogs. He clearly cared for the dogs, and shared a story or some history for each one, including one of the two lead dogs, named Quebec, which had lead in the Iditarod and won! The Muddy Paw Sled Dog Kennel is based in Jefferson, NH, and many of the dogs are “rescue” or “second chance” dogs, meaning that they’re either past their prime for racing or just in need of a home. The front three pairs were all Alaskan Huskies, and the two wheel dogs were Siberian Huskies, and Chris loved to give Spike a hard time for the tendency of his belly to bulge out a bit from his harness. They were especially friendly and eager for Bridget to pet them. In the sled, we cozied up in a warm blanket and got ready for the ride. The dogs knew it was time to get running and all of them, including the other teams who were not going out yet, started barking excitedly – it was impossible not to feel their pure enthusiasm for running through the snow. As we toured the Resort grounds from a dog’s eye view, Chris gave us some more background on the dogs and the commands he uses to guide them. It was amazing to see how well they all worked together, even though some were in training. Chris encouraged them as they pulled us up a little hill and Bridget and I laughed as we barreled down the other side. When they got going fast, Bridget announced happily, “Mommy, my eyes are cold!”

Although the dogs surely know the route they follow for this short excursion, it was a moment of new perspective in putting myself and my daughter in the hands (paws?!) of the dogs… the musher has a snow brake, and they followed his every command, but what a treat to allow the dogs to carry us along.

Bridget didn’t say much as she took it all in, but the grin on her face told me the dogs were pure bliss to her. Following the ride, Chris had us thank each dog and tell them what a good job they had done. Bridget gave them each a hug. I have a feeling this won’t be our last experience with dog sledding!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Kinderwoods Playground at Bretton Woods

With two kids down and out with colds this past weekend, we had to stay inside and rest, with the hopes that they’ll recover and we’ll be back outdoors soon. Plans were cancelled and Outdoor Mom was a bit frustrated stuck inside, but as I've learned, sometimes the kids need something besides what I had originally planned, and I've got to be flexible and creative. Indoors, Bridget practiced making ski wedges for a little muscle memory and Timothy even got into the spirit, asking to put on a ski to scoot around on the carpet.

In the meantime, I wanted to share some pictures of Bridget and Timothy at the Kinderwoods Playground at the base of Bretton Woods. With short attention spans, it’s great to have another choice for the little monkeys to climb and explore. You know Bretton Woods had kids and parents in mind when they created this spot for when they need a break from skiing or a fun diversion when you’re on kid duty while using the Family Interchangeable Ticket.

Like a winter version of a traditional playground, there’s a climbing structure with swings, slides, tunnels and a climbing wall, all with a soft snow landing. Bridget giggles as she calls to her brother from one end of the tunnel to the other; Timothy squeals with delight as he hurls himself down the slide and then points and grunts to be picked up and placed on the top of the slide again.

But unlike the traditional playground, there are some ski area features that make this a huge draw for the kids. A mini zipline transports Bridget through the air just like the adult version of the Canopy Tour up on the mountain. A gondola provides the base for the imaginations to run as we climb in and pretend to soar up the mountain and wave to everyone outside. And a toddler sled carousel takes the small ones for a circular amusement park ride.

I had to pry the kids away from the playground the afternoon I took these pictures, but I knew that naps were due and that if we left with smiles still on their faces, they's be excited to come back for more another day.