Tuesday, December 31, 2013

First Chair to Apres Ski

I know it's been an amazing December vacation week at Bretton Woods when the kids clamor for skiing from first chair to end of day apres ski time.  

With Mount Washington as our backdrop, we've cruised just about every open trail, and found some great quiet stashes on Crawford's Blaze and Water Tank, and and then some soft new snow when the patrollers dropped the ropes on Granny's Grit and Coos Caper.  
The Mountain Hosts had steaming hot cider and a warm smile waiting for us when we went in for a break.


At the end of the day, we watched the groomers take to the hill to lay down some fresh corduroy for all the night skiers.
With the bongos and guitar of Cause and Effect livening things up in the Slopeside Pub, we weren't ready to let the day go, and decided to stay for an adult beverage.

Meanwhile, the kids headed upstairs for a supervised apres ski party of their own, where they celebrated the "Last Blast of 2013."

They had make your own party hats, coloring, and plenty of snacks to keep them topped off until dinnertime.

Kids' Apres Ski Parties, for kids ages 4-12, run from 3:30-5:00 on select Saturdays and daily during Christmas and February vacation, are free and kids are welcome to stay with Resort staff while Mom and Dad enjoy the live entertainment at the Slopeside Pub just downstairs.

Friday, December 13, 2013

What Is YOUR Ski History?

As Bretton Woods celebrates it's 40th anniversary this weekend with $40 lift tickets and some great activities like skiing with Santa, live music, complimentary hors d'oeuvres, Sam Adams samples and cake cutting, historical speakers and the unveiling of a 40th birthday present, it made me think of my own ski history.  Do you have stories about your first time skiing or snowboarding, or about how you fell in love with the sport?

I've been skiing for about 30 years, but the history of skiing in New England goes much farther back,   and there are some great resources out there for researching the history of skiing in our area.  The New England Ski Museum even has a display on the lower level of the base lodge at Bretton Woods, giving passersby a taste of the many pioneers and amazing inventions that made skiing what it is today.

I wonder how my kids will remember skiing when they are older.  Both Timmy and Bridget were on skis just after they started to walk, and my husband and I have made it a point to make skiing a part of our lifestyle for our family.  The kids know now that most weekends in the winter involve playing in the snow, in one form or another.

Unlike my kids, I didn't grow up with skis beneath my feet at an extremely young age.  My parents' passions followed horse showing and car racing, and skiing wasn't really on their radar.  But my brother Josh, twelve years my senior,  moved to Colorado when I was in junior high to start a photography business that took shots of people at ski resorts in the winter and on white water rafting trips in the summer. He expanded to open a photography concession at a mountain in upstate New York.  One Christmas, he arranged for lessons and rentals for my twin sister Liz and me.  We returned to ski with my brother frequently, learning the ins and outs of picking up rental skis, how to get on to the lift without falling off, peeling that sticky lift ticket off it's paper and trying to fold it evenly over the wicket, standing in long lines at the lifts because we didn't know any better than to ski where all the other skiers were, and how to read a trail map so we didn't get stuck on a trail that was over our heads.

Once Liz and I were hooked, my Dad made it a point to take us skiing whenever he could, even on a limited budget.  He'd comb the newspaper for ski and stay specials, and he'd sit through long condo sales-pitch meetings just so my sister and I could hit the slopes with the free lifts tickets he got for attending.  We discovered many of the small mountains in New England, that often had smaller lift ticket prices as well.  We visited my brother in Colorado, where the mountains seemed inconceivably big.

Through all of this, my father's dedication to us is now so evident to me.  He took my sister and I everywhere to ski.  He bought us skis and all the gear, and drove all over New England.  But the amazing thing is that he never skied himself.  He had a mild case of polio in his teenage years, and always claimed his back would hurt from skiing.  But even though he had to sit in the lodge and read a book all day while we skied, he continued to chauffeur us around, even into my high school years, when he'd bought a motor home and decided that the best way to get those sleepy teenagers to the the mountain early in the morning was to let us sleep on the way, and he'd cook us hot dogs on the stove at lunch time.

Now, I'm excited to be part of the Bretton Woods family, where my kids are so comfortable that it's become a second home to them.  They know the lift operators by name and are happy to report their progress on the slopes to every friend we meet in the base lodge.  Bretton Woods has certainly grown in size compared to those 2 lifts and 8 trails first built in 1973, to the largest ski area in New Hampshire, but it's still got that small-hill feel of the kind of place that we're comfortable letting our kids start exploring on their own.

I'm thankful that I get to ski with my kids, but as any parent knows, it's a wonderful thing to be able to give your kids and opportunity to do things they love.  Thanks, Dad, for making this possible for me.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Ready For a Breakthrough Year

As every parent knows, having children is a game changer, and that's especially so for those of us
who love to ski and ride.

I did the ski while pregnant thing, rolling down the hill like a bowling ball. We did the baby swapping in the lodge, thanks to the Family Interchangeable Ticket. We've logged countless laps on the bunny hill.  We should probably get frequent flier points for the number of times the magic carpet has conveyed my kids up the slight incline of the Learning Center. And although I don't believe my bunny hill sentence is over, I can see the light.

There's a glimmer of potential twinkling in my kids' eyes. 

All those inspirational parenting advice quotes tell you, "Don't rush it." "Enjoy the moment." Sure, I know my days with my little munchkins are numbered, but I also relish their potential. Who doesn't like to have something to look forward to?  When I envision an ideal ski day in the future, I'm seeing kids busting through the trees, whooping and giggling, and I'm trying to keep up with them.

Timmy, who is now 4, has made some heartening progress in just the three weekends we've skied so far this year.  As the younger sibling, it's clear his motivation is purely competitive: he wants to keep up with big sister Bridget, who's 6.  This fall when we had received our first SKI Magazine of the season, my husband found him leafing through the pages.  Uncoached, Timmy declared, "Daddy,  these are the skis I was looking for....they are tall and fast and will beat Bridget." Matt later said, "Somehow, I think I may be repeating that quote to an ER doctor sometime soon."

Last year, Timmy's drive to just get down the mountain fast lead us to investing in a harness to help steer him down the hill, because he often refused to try to turn or snowplow to slow himself down.  I'm sure a lot of his progress this year has to do with a growing mind and growing body - he's beginning to understand mentally why he needs to be able to control his movement on the slope, and also those little legs are getting stronger, making it easier for his brain and muscles to work together.

This past weekend on the bunny hill, he was making strides in all of the essentials:

  • he could shuffle his skis forward to get in place for the lift to whisk us up the mountain
  • he was standing up and skiing straight off the lift at the top
  • he was leaning on to his ski edges to make turns on the gentle slope
  • he was using a snowplow to stop or slow when he was coming close to hitting another skier
This is all not to say that he'll be ready for the World Cup next year.  He's comfortable on the Learning Center, but even a run on gentle Range View required we strap on his harness again - he was just getting going too fast.  On the bunny hill, I cringed several times when I had let him get ahead of me, and thought to myself, "oh geez, this is going to hurt!" when I saw him careening towards a group of beginner skiers or precariously close to the tree-lined edge of the trail.  But he would turn at the last second and save me from that trip to the ER, at least this time.

The good thing is that now that his little legs are starting to catch up with his ambition, he's comfortable with the routine of strapping boards on his feet.  He chats with the very friendly lift attendants and tells them about his adventures on the hill.  He talks of skiing "black diamonds" with his sister one day, even if he might not be sure exactly what that means.

So yes, I'm enjoying this moment with my kids.  And I'm looking forward to all the moments we have ahead of us.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Embrace Winter Like a Child

With just a dusting of snow and the chance to pull out winter hats and mittens, I'm filled with a renewed sense of what a wonderful gift it is to live in New England.  Sure, I'm sad to put on hold those days of exploring in the canoe and nights spent in the tent, my kids and I snuggled up in sleeping bags.  But having kids has given me the chance to see from their perspective how each season can be a new opportunity for fun.

Despite my tendency to often need multiple layers to stay warm, I'm choosing to relish all of the fun winter has to offer.  I know many people dread the drudgery of shoveling and the inconvenience of driving in the snow.  But for my kids, those white flakes falling from the sky mean another way to play, and it has nothing to do with video screens.

Here's what we are looking forward to this winter:

  • Alpine Skiing.  First and foremost in our family, winter means sliding down the mountain with boards strapped to our feet.  When the kids drive by ski areas in the summer and ask, "when is it going to snow?" I know we are doing something right.

  • Cross-country Skiing.  When fellow blogger Meghan McCarthy McPhaul asked me recently whether I liked alpine or XC skiing better,  it was a tough decision.  Although I think my kids would pick alpine as the winner at this stage in their life, I know that the lure of cruising the trails and the endorphin rush of that exercise is hard to beat.  

  • Sledding. Whether it's laps on the tubing hill at Bretton Woods, or bundling up for some rides down the hill in our backyard on a plastic sled, it's instinctive for kids to make it happen, even on the coldest of days.

  • Snowshoeing.  As simple as walking with big shoes on, even the littlest walker can strap on some snowshoes and explore.  Even when the snow isn't so deep that snowshoes are warranted, my kids love to see their big footprints in the snow and go on an expedition to see if they can identify any animal tracks along the way.

  • Sleigh Rides and Dog Sledding.  Animals make everything more fun, including winter trails.  

  • Snowmobiling.  Once in a while, the need for speed takes hold, and this is a great way to cover a lot of ground out there.
And what about trying something new this winter?  Maybe some ice climbing?  

It's late November, and the winter season is our oyster.  

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Summer Fun: Bretton Woodstock Mountain Festival

A festival of summer mountain life had my name written all over it last weekend.  Mountain bike races, live music, barbecue and maybe even a few frosty adult beverages were lined up at the Bretton Woodstock Mountain Festival.

The kids were excited, too, for lift rides and a chance to see some of their favorite ski trails from a summertime slant.  On arrival, a seemingly psychic kid-sixth-sense immediately drew them to the bouncy house, and they pretty much spent the entire weekend bouncing or asking about returning to bounce.

For Outdoor Mom and Dad, the highlight was a chance to sample many of the new alpine mountain bike trails in a series of 3 races over the weekend.  My husband, Matt, signed up for the "All-Mountain Enduro," competing in the uphill, downhill, and cross-country races, all on the same bike.  Knowing that his hard-tail bike might prove difficult to manage on the downhill, he borrowed a full-suspension bike from Littleton Bike and Fitness that although would be a little heavier going uphill, could make riding down rock precipices a little easier.

Matt lined up at the base of the mountain alongside about 15 other racers, including our friend Amy.  After a few pictures at the start line, the kids and I took a free chairlift ride to the top of the Bethlehem Express Quad, where the riders would wind their way up 1.3 miles to finish the race.

The starting line of the uphill race served as the finish line of the downhill race.

This strenuous route would keep the riders' hearts pounding as they ascended Ben, Shortcut, Crawford's Ridge, Avalon, and then across Triple Traverse to the Latitude 44 restaurant.

Almost as quickly as we could ride the lift to the top, the riders started appearing over the ridge.  First was Hailey Sarausky, recently back from mountain bike national championships.  Just behind her, Matt crested the hill... running?  He hopped back on his bike to cruise over the finish line.  Turns out he had a bit of a problem with his derailleur, but he was soon back in business and headed down to pre-ride the downhill course, a run that many downhill riders would be racing in full face helmet and pads for protection.

We hit the outdoor barbecue set up outside the base lodge for burgers and dogs and soaked in the sun as the guys from Cause and Effect jammed on the bongos.  We checked out some of the vendors as people zipped in on the Williwaw Racing Zip overhead.  After more fun in the bouncy house, the kids were clamoring for some time in the pool at the Omni Mount Washington Hotel, our base for the night, so I took the kids to check in while Matt took his run in the downhill race.

The timed downhill .8 -mile run on technical singletrack started at Latitude 44, down Shady's Chute, onto Black Fly and Bird Catcher and finished as the base area.  Knowing that some of these narrow and steep rock drops weren't his forte, he managed to make his way to finish the course, out of the points for this race, but still in the running for the All-Mountain Enduro.

By 4:00 the writing was on the wall: our little adventurers were exhausted from a big day in the mountains, and we knew an early dinner at Fabyan's Station and and early bedtime were in order.  It took no convincing to get our train-obsessed little guy to hop on the shuttle to this former train depot.  The kids' early bedtime kept us from seeing the mini slopestyle jam, but I heard those guys were enjoying the new course that Brad Shedd, the freestyle terrain manager, had recently designed and built, well into the night!

A cross-country mountain bike race would be the final competition of the All-Mountain Enduro for Matt and we arranged for a babysitter to take the kids for the morning so that I could race too.  The two-mile course took us from the top of the Bethlehem Quad, out along Mountain Road, up the Telegraph T-bar line, back across Telegraph Traverse, then down a tight snowshoe trail and back to Latitude 44.

As about 15 racers lined up at the start line, I realized that I was one of only three women who were taking on the challenge.  I knew Hailey, who had won yesterday's hill climb, would be hard to keep up with, but didn't know the other woman and I was anxious to see how I'd do.

The start down Mountain Road was a fast downhill over loose gravel and rocks, but the climb up the T-bar line was anything but quick.  It's amazing how much more steep the mountain seemed going UP on a bike rather than down on skis.  I really enjoyed the tight singletrack section over the snowshoe trail that took us back down to Mountain Road - I could tell that the crew must have really worked hard to cut this fun trail through the forest.

The women did two laps and the men did three and I finished in second place.  Matt finished his three laps ahead of all the other men shortly after I crossed the line, and we cheered the other finishers in before riding back to the base.

The kids tooled around the base on the their bikes while we had lunch and waited for the final tally on the results from the races.  Spotty Dottie, the giraffe that graces the the snow in kids' learning area in the winter, was a big attraction once again.

For the All-Mountain Enduro, the top 5 finishers were awarded point values based on their position for each of the three races as well as first, second, and third prize for each race. All races were scored the same and participants who raced in all three events (on the same bike), had their points totaled to determine the top "All-Mountain Enduro" man and woman winners.  Matt had 10 points for winning the hill climb and downhill races, and thought he had the overall sewn up... but the guy who came in 2nd in those two races also came in 3rd in the downhill, giving him a total of 11 points.  As Matt said, that's the beauty of the Enduro - you've got to be good at every discipline to win the big prize!

And prizes there were!  Between Matt's two wins and my second place, we came home with quite a haul - new Race Face handlebars, Oakley sunglasses and backpacks, Darn Tough socks, and biking gloves from the Badass Outdoors Gear Shop.  We each also came home with vouchers for Mountain Bike Season Passes at Bretton Woods for the remainder of the 2013 summer season and the 2014 summer season.  I know we'll be back to ride more of these trails soon.

This was such a fun grassroots event - the music, the racing, the food, oh, and the bouncy house!  I hope they bring this back again next year and that you'll join us!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Happy Trails

The last day of the ski season always takes me by surprise.  Sure, the sun is starting to turn the snow
into fishing streams, and we've recently stretched our legs on our bikes that have sat cooped up all winter, but it seems like we just got going with this wonderful snow-filled season.

Riding the chairlift over the soft corn snow for it's last turn up the mountain this spring,  I thought back to some of the chilly adventures that filled our days this winter.  We skied with buddies, learned more tips on how to ski better, cross-country skied, flew through the trees on the Canopy Tour,  rock climbed,  and got to know the new Stickney Cabin.

Our last day of the season was filled with giggles and fun, as Bridget cruised through the heavy snow and Timmy finally started to see that he could stop himself just by turning across the mountain.

From the peak of Mount Rosebrook, Timmy and I cruised all the way around the mountain, down High Ridge and Outer Bounds, past the top of the the Zephyr Quad and Chutters, and down Avalon and back to the base via Crawford Ridge.  I was excited to see how his skills and stamina have grown over the year.

I kept Timmy's harness on as we navigated the mountain, but I have a feeling that he'll be ready to slip and slide all on his own next year... and the harness will probably just not appear next winter.

Bridget was all smiles on this sunny day.  Unlike last year, when we were skirting around some bare spots, the snow blanketed nearly every trail.  Bridget said her favorite part of the year was taking lessons with Jess, and Timmy's was riding the new T-bar and roasting marshmallows outside the new Stickney cabin.  The cabin was a highlight for me, too, especially for the fact that in our ever-evolving routines as an outdoor family, we're now able to all ski together on the mountain, and I know that's just going to get better with time.

Thanks so much for joining us this winter for a fun ride in the snow.  

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Snowmobiling, Kid-Style

Snowmobiling is a huge attraction for many of the locals and visitors of Northern New Hampshire. Cruising through miles and miles of trails and forests offers a chance to view a side of the outdoors that not everyone sees.  An extensive trail network in the Bretton Woods area has almost limitless possibilities, and the great snowpack this spring means that riders are still enjoying this winter pastime.  

A guided tour can take you out on the groomed trail network and give you a sampling of what it's all about.  Kids can ride along with an adult and take it all in.

But what if your little people want to be in charge and drive their own machine?  Tucked between the Bethlehem Express Quad and the Zephyr Quad at Bretton Woods is a new activity for your little rippers - a Kids Snowmobile Park that offers 4- to 13-year olds a chance to zoom around a track and drive a kid-sized sled.  

Looking a bit like a bobble-head in her giant full-face snowmobile helmet that they gave her for the ride, Bridget was excited to finally get to steer her own sled after watching them from the lift all season.  

Before taking off, the attendants got down to Bridget's level and went over some basics of running the machine.  

Although the track is in a confined area where the banked turns keep them from going too far astray, they also put a safety strap around her wrist, so that if she did fall, it would cut the engine.

A snowman keeps watch as the kids zoom around the circular track.

To someone who's never driven a motorized vehicle, however, staying on that circular track proved to be a bit of a challenge.  Bridget drove into the rope marking the lane, but as the attendant said to me, "at least she knew enough to stop when she got tangled up!  Some kids just keep on driving!"

She was soon zooming again, with a giant smile for me every time she came around.

The 15-minute tour seemed just right for the 5-year old attention span and she was all giggles as she hopped off.  

I'm guessing we'll be back another day, when Bridget's brother is old enough to hop on a sled, for a little racing action!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Where the Wild Things Are: WinterWild 2013

It was a wild morning for Outdoor Mom at the WinterWild race at Bretton Woods, an uphill/downhill race that challenges skiers, snowboarders, snowshoers and runners to get up the mountain and back down in the fastest time possible.

The night before, ski bag was packed, skins placed on my telemark skis, blister block purchased, and alarm clock set for the 6:30 am race.  I congratulated myself on how organized I was and went to bed early to get a good rest before the race.

Unfortunately, I set my clock for 5:15 pm rather than am.  I woke up on my own at 5:32 and in a panic  rushed out the door... to find that it was dumping snow.  Normally that would be a cause for celebration in my world, but wet snow on unplowed roads meant I wasn't making up any time on my way to the ski area.

As I arrived at Bretton Woods in the dark and quickly grabbed my gear and headed to the lodge, I overheard the events director tell someone in the parking lot that the race start had been pushed back to 6:45 because of the morning's slow driving.  Phew.  I  rushed to register and said hello to friends and family who were also racing.  Tracy and Fred, visiting from New Mexico, were also up before dawn to race up the mountain.  Tracy would be skiing with me, while Fred ran.  I also saw friend and fellow blogger Organic Runner Mom, and my cousin Becky and her family, Mark and Casey, who were in the running for winning the overall WinterWild series.

Out at the start, I panicked again when I saw that only one of my poles was with my skis on the rack.  I figured that one of the other competitors must have inadvertently grabbed one of my poles, and I rushed around looking for it, and had the race announcer ask if anyone might have it, but with no luck.  I thought I might have to abandon the race, but saw that there was another single ski pole, very different from mine, sitting on the rack, so I grabbed it and figured I might as well make the best of it and use two different poles to trek up the mountain.
The start courtesy of SNAPacidotic

Flustered and with barely enough time now to get into my bindings, the race started and Tracy and I headed up Two Miles Home towards the summit of Mt. Rosebrook.

For those of you wondering about the difference between telemark and alpine, the actual telemark ski has become very similar to alpine, but often lighter.  The major difference between the two types of ski gear is the binding.  Unlike a downhill binding that locks in the entire boot to the ski, the telemark binding is only attached at the toe, allowing the heel to raise up and down.  The free-heel concept allows for a telemark turn going down the mountain, where you do a lunge-like bend for each turn.  It also allows you to "skin" up the mountain.  For those times when you want to ski somewhere that doesn't have a lift, "skinning" can often be the most efficient way up the mountain.  Originally mountaineers really did use animal skins, but nowadays we have synthetic skins for the bottom of our skis. Going uphill, you adhere the skins, which are cut to fit, to the bottom of your skis.  Like an animal's fur that slides smoothly in one direction and roughs up in the other, the skis slide uphill, but catch in the other direction, keeping you from slipping backwards as you ascend the mountain.  Going uphill, a free heel allows you to "walk" up the mountain on your skis.

Once I got past the fact that my morning hadn't started so smoothly, the skin up Two Miles Home was beautiful.  Dawn was just brightening up our way as we began, and every tree bough was blanketed with fresh snow.  I resisted the urge to diverge from the race course to grab some turns in the powder as we passed Inferno and Snowmaker's Gully trails.  Unlike last year's race that ascended the steep Waumbeck trail on the opposite end of the resort, Two Miles Home is a much more gradual incline - although the two kickers near the top of Mt. Rosebrook felt steeper than "intermediate" going up!

Tracy urged me on to start picking off some of the skiers ahead of us (the runners were long gone), but I couldn't maintain her pace and she climbed ahead of me.  At the peak of Rosebrook, Tracy was clipping back into her bindings as I was just starting to take my skins off.  Now for the fun part!  I zoomed down High Ridge and Outer Bounds, past the top of the Zephyr Quad and down Range View to the finish.  I made it up and down in 55 minutes and 11 seconds, and I'm guessing 51 of those minutes were used up on the ascent.

The Downhill courtesy of SNAPacidotic

Back at the lodge, Outdoor Dad and the kids greeted me with smiles and cheers.  I explained to my husband the confusion at the start of the race when I couldn't find my pole, and he went to check the car and parking lot to make sure I hadn't dropped it on my way in.  When he saw the pole I used as a spare, he realized my mistake: he had gotten a pair of rental poles for our visiting friends, and I had grabbed one of the rentals instead of my own when I was rushing in the dark that morning.  That pole that just happened to be on the rack at the start of the race was the one I had brought from the car!  

Well, I felt quite silly having been so confused at the start of the race, but happily everything turned out okay.  I hadn't actually lost my pole, and I managed to win my age group in the Telemark category of the race despite my foolishness!  We all had a good laugh at my expense.

One of the best parts of this race were all the PRIZES.  Not only were there nice mugs for placing in all of the different categories, but it took nearly an hour to get through all of the great raffle prizes they had, including eggs and t-shirts from Pete and Gerry's.  Tracy won a gift certificate to Poco's Bow Street Cantina in Portsmouth and Fred and I won beer from 603 Brewery.

We filled the remainder of our day enjoying all that new fallen snow on the runs at Bretton Woods.  And I even used my own poles.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Kids and Competition at the Nordic Marathon

Kids and racing... do they mix?  In a household where bike racing is part of our lifestyle it's hard for me to imagine not participating in some kind of competitive sport.  Outdoor Dad and I often look forward to the challenge of a good competition to spur us on.  Having a goal, like competing in a race, helps me focus on training and technique.  We've made a lot of friends in our bike racing community.  But for kids, I'm learning, it can be hard to see the fun in just participating.  I'm working on helping them understand that there's intrinsic joy in being part of something, whether you reach the finish line first or not.

Bridget and Timmy raced in Bretton Woods' Bill Koch League race of the Nordic Marathon last weekend.  They were excited to get racing bibs like the grownups and Bridget wore hers around the house all morning before the race.  While Dad was out on the 42 kilometer course, Bridget and Timmy were going to do the "Lollipop Race," a special .5 kilometer race for 5-7 year-olds.  Older kids could participate in the BKL races that were 1.5 or 3 kilometers in length.  

After what seemed like weeks of dreary weather, the bluebird skies and warm temperatures would have drawn anyone outdoors.  

As we watched the skiers from the 21k race cross the finish line near the Swix waxing tent, I was inspired to see the great range of athletes that had come to participate in this event that raised funds for The New England Ski Museum- from pros barreling through the 42 kilometers to avid skiers who were taking part in the untimed race.

In the spirit of camaraderie and fun competition, our Bretton Woods Bill Koch League directors had arranged for some of the older kids to help lead the younger racers along the course, to cheer them on and keep them headed toward the finish line.  

I had really tried to emphasize to my kids that the race was for fun - they got to wear colorful beads they recieved in the race goody bags and there would be prizes for everyone at the finish.  I explained (in kid terms) that like when Mom and Dad race, there are age and gender categories, so you don't feel like you have to compete against someone who might be older than you.  Bridget was excited to race alongside the big kids and lined right up in the track and took off with a smile on her face when they said, "go!"

Unfortunately, I think I may have asked too much of my three-year old when I put him in the race.  Although I had thought he'd have felt left out if he didn't race, I'm questioning that decision now.   From the moment the kids lined up until a good 45 minutes after the race (that took all of about three minutes), Timmy cried inconsolably because he didn't want his sister to beat him.

I tried telling him that he was the first three-year old boy.  The race organizers offer him a medal and a lollipop prize.  Passers-by offered him cookies and other treats.  Nothing would stop the crying.  

Luckily, Bridget remained confident and pleased with her race, and was overjoyed to see the supersize lollipop she earned.

Timmy's tears finally abated when we made our way to The Omni Mount Washington Hotel for the awards banquet.  There, the Bill Koch League kids all sat together and celebrated their accomplishments after a great ski season together.  There were even MORE ribbons and prizes from the tireless BKL organizers.

Many thanks to Rose Ellms and Audrey Crowe, who led our kids this year with so much enthusiasm and joy.  And to our friend Peter Smith, Nordic Center Director, who gave invaluable support to the club.

After a break from Nordic racing, I believe we'll continue to teach our kids about what it means to compete.  Timmy might be still to young to understand, but we'll keep working on showing him how teamwork and fun go hand in hand, and how great it feels just to be part of the event.  And in the meantime, if he just wants to ski on his own for fun, then that's just fine, too.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Stickney Cabin Secret Stash

I'm writing this post a bit reluctantly because like a fisherman with a secret fishing hole, I feel like I have a secret skiing stash.  Only it's clearly marked on the trail map.

When Bretton Woods first cut the 30 acres of glades on Mount Stickney two years ago, you had to ski/hike uphill a short way to get there, and the small effort to get there kept the powder pristine for days.  And the best trail, in my opinion, #5, was the furthest to get to, so many people would peel off and hit the first trail or two and keep the further ones untouched.  But, add to that the fact that you had to ride two lifts to get there, followed by a long run down Two Miles Home, so that a round-trip run down Stickney Glade #5 took almost 45 minutes, it often made more sense for me to search out some fresh tracks on Minehan's or Roz's in the interest of limited kid-free time.

This year, that has all changed.

Last summer, Bretton Woods installed a new 2,000-foot Doppelmayr T-Bar on Mount Stickney and hand built a 600-square foot log cabin at the top.

The last time a T-Bar was installed in New Hampshire was at Bretton Woods in 1973, the year they opened.  According to NewEnglandSkiHistory.com, Bretton Woods opened with two double charilifts, a T-Bar, and 30 acres of snowmaking on 7 intermediate trails and one beginner slope.  Since then, the ski industry trend has been to remove T-Bars in favor of high-speed, high-capacity chairs.  But in keeping with the retro feel of this "side country" experience, the Stickney Glades feel to me like what grassroots skiing should be: families exploring the woods, scooting under snow-covered pine boughs and sipping hot chocolate and roasting marshmallows by an outdoor fire.

Now that Bridget is clamoring for tree runs and Timmy can make his way down easier mountain trails with the help of his harness, the cabin has proven to be a rewarding destination for us all.  For the kids, a warm-up in the cabin includes choosing from treats like hot chocolate or cider, big fresh cookies, or a small bag of marshmallows.  Outside the cabin, the kids pick from a stash of roasting sticks and enjoy browning (or burning!) their marshmallows at an exterior stone fireplace, sitting on big flat boulders and soaking in the sun.

For grownups, a cold beer at the cabin might be just what you need for an afternoon break.  They also offer warm soups and a great local cheese and sausage platter with fresh bread and an assortment of mustards and hot sauces.

Although the T-Bar is certainly a low-tech means of transportation to the top of the mountain by today's standards,  the T-bar holds the novelty appeal of a new gadget for kids and adults alike.  It seems that once you've made the rite of passage and learned to ride a Poma lift or T-Bar, you've earned a ticket to a special place on the mountain.

And then there's the skiing and riding. To skier's left of the T-Bar, the trails are wide and welcoming for almost any ability.  The glades were thinned even more last summer, so they'll be skiable even in lean snow years, and even my little guy can enjoy the ride down.

To skier's right, the glades get progressively steeper and longer, with even a fun little rock drop on trail #5 if you're feeling exceptionally daring.  Out there in the woods, I feel like we've got the whole forest to ourselves, and other skiers we encounter smile and say hello, because we know we're in on this secret, sharing this special little corner of the outdoors.