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!