Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Ski Ya Later, Winter

There’s a lot of lamenting going around about how terrible this ski season was. True, it wasn’t the powder-filled bonanza that we relished last year.

We started the season off in November, and while the snow was lean, there was no reason not to hold out hope. The holidays came, relatives cancelled their ski getaway with us, and the slopes remained on the slim side, but ever the optimist, I believed the snow would come. January and February came and went and still, I think I can count the two times I skied in the woods, both times immediately regretting what the rocks and roots just barely covered with a dusting of snow were doing to my bases.

Yet in true Yankee style, we got out there. Snowmakers and groomers relentlessly performed their magic and made sweet corduroy day after day. We got out there every weekend, save for a fun pre-Christmas wedding we took part in. We skied on Range View, Bode’s Run, and eventually Waumbeck. We skied on ice, we skied on packed powder, we skied on groomers and more groomers. We skied in the sun and we skied in the fog. We skied in rain and enjoyed the edgeable snow as we watched it drain down the sides of the trails.

The kids were out there every weekend with the ski team, from pre-season dryland training to a fun dual-slalom season-ender, racing against parents and friends and coaches.

It’s not that we’re so dedicated or masochistic. It’s that its fun. No matter what the conditions, it was always more fun than not skiing. The kids looked forward each weekend to hitting the trails with their ski buddies, and for that matter, so did I. Sometimes we commiserated about how unjust the snowfall patterns were, but most of the time we remarked at how good the skiing was despite Mother Nature's cruel joke. More than once we raised a glass to the snowmakers and groomers who made this season possible.

Sure, my Facebook feed seemed to intentionally torment me with photo after photo of western powder shots. But we hearty New Englanders know one thing for sure: winter will come again.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Silly Season on the Slopes

We skiers and snowboarders may take our days on the slopes seriously, with hours devoted to studying the right gear, finding just the right flex for our skis and the perfectly fit jacket and pants, and we might spend way too much time researching the snowfall totals to find the perfect mountain getaway. We find ourselves in the car driving for hours to the resort and devote, sometimes unsuccessfully, numerous days praying to the snow gods for a powder day.

But in the end, we don't take ourselves that seriously. When the days are longer and the trails a bit narrower, despite our hopes otherwise, we know the end of the season is nigh. So what do we do? We build a pond, don the most outrageous costumes we can find, and hurl ourselves across the water on our boards in front of hundreds of onlookers who are not-so-secretly hoping we fall face-first into the icy waters.

True spring weather temps brought out even Outdoor Dad this year for the Bretton Woods Slush Pool competition. 

Outdoor Dad saved his grass skirt just for this special occasion. (Jess Lynch photo)

Cat wore her "Paws" t-shirt and unicorn bike helmet with hopes it would catapult her across the pond. (Jess Lynch photo)

Ryan was so confident, he made a call to his mom while making the pond skim look easy. (Jess Lynch photo)
Those who aren't brave (or old) enough to pond skim could still get in on the fun. The whole day was devoted to Beach Party fun, and everyone from lifties to the kids dug out their best hula skirts and leis.

The Easter Bunny joined us for a few runs on Saturday too.

We wait all year for a sunny day on the deck to enjoy some burger dogs, and perhaps a cold margarita.

If you didn't see the Easter Bunny, you might still have come across Pirate Skier. His double planks kept him sailing the snowy seas.

There's still one more weekend left to find your silly side on the the mountain, with the last day of the season April 3. In an effort to appease those snow gods with a nod towards the 2016-17 season, tickets will be just $16.17 on Sunday.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Spring Trail Count

Friends have been asking me, how are the conditions up at Bretton Woods? There is no getting around the fact that this winter hasn't been the epic one we had last year, but the snowmaking and grooming teams at Bretton Woods have made some delicious lemonade out of the lemons we were handed this year.

This past Sunday we decided to create a little challenge for ourselves: ski every open trail on the mountain. With 189 acres to cover, it took much of our day to hit every run. With bluebird skies and not a lick of wind, the stark contrast of Mount Washington's snowcapped peak kept watch over us as we cruised the mountain. The morning's twenty-degree temps felt a bit chilly compared to the tropical blast we'd had the week before, so we started with the lower mountain runs off the Bethlehem Express Quad as the sun began to warm up the corduroy.

As the day progressed, layers were shed and corn snow began to form at our feet. Never a lift line, we hopped on and waved hello to the friendly lift operators as we loaded again and again.

For a steep run, Darby's never disappoints. Water Tank's corduroy lines were still fresh into the morning.

After we decided to document our ski trail challenge, my subjects took it upon themselves to spice things up a bit.

Our run down Bretton's Wood included a stop at the NASTAR course, where my enthusiasm overcame me and I missed a gate. At the bottom I discovered I wasn't the only one.

Fabyan's is always one of my favorites. Since In Between is closed, the only access is to take a right off the Bethlehem Express Quad, when most everyone usually goes left towards Latitude 44. We had the trail all to ourselves.

McIntire's Ride had a bit of everything - some bumped up corn snow on top, a steep drop and some fun cruising around the trees towards the bottom.

Can't miss Zealand, with that big left hander that takes me on a giant swing under the Rosebrook Quad for more turns in the soft snow.

We stopped for a family photo before conquering Bode's Run, once again basking in the sun and views of the Presidentials.

After Lunch we hit the Zephyr trails. Avalon and Range View didn't disappoint.

Following a ride up the Zephyr discussing our favorite types of candy, we couldn't resist a stop at Chutter's  for a sweet treat.

On a warm spring day like today, there was no reason to do anything but have fun and enjoy ourselves on the slopes.
Crawford's was the last trail we hit to check them all off the list. With a sunny afternoon still beckoning us, we then went back and hit out favorites again. 

It may not have been a year to cross every glade on the mountain off our list, but every day has proved to be a chance to get out on the snow and enjoy our time together. 

Next on the list: Beach Party happens March 26, and we'll be gearing up with our best island attire. Do you think we can convince Outdoor Dad to take his chances on the slush pool?

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Why I Make Time For Skiing With My Kids

The winter after my daughter was born, memories of pre-baby days on the slopes still fresh in my mind, I actually bought a season pass, thinking I could zip off to the ski area with ease. Not a chance. Little did I know that I’d spend my days driving the nap mobile and nights in a nursing rocker, delirious with sleep deprivation. I emerged from the baby cave to go skiing only a handful of times that first winter, and I recall getting a phone call from the mountain nursery about 30 minutes into my first taste of temporary freedom to retrieve my screaming bundle of joy.

Despite feeling that babyhood would last forever, I now know that days turn into years without notice. Entrenched in the routine of parenthood, work and school deadlines loom. We need to make it to soccer practice, finish that math assignment, and get to bed on time. It would be easy to let the daily tasks of taking care of a family consume calendar page after calendar page, but the memories of floating through shin-deep powder or hearing my skis zip over perfectly groomed lines of white corduroy lingered in my consciousness. They made me realize I want my kids to know the thrill and camaraderie of sharing a day on the slopes, the anticipation of new fallen snow that blankets the world white, the exhilaration of perfect turns on skis.

Sharing that anticipation with the kids has ensured that they want to make the ski day happen just as much as we do. After giving our son a trail map and a highlighter to mark the trails he’s been on, he made it his personal mission to make it down every run on the mountain before the end of the year.

Opportunities for trips to Trader Joe’s and scrubbing crayon off the bathroom walls will still present themselves, but as the kids fly through their grade school years, the chances to giggle on the chairlift about our last escapade through the Stickney Glades won’t always be there. In making family time at the mountain a priority, sometimes we have to decline an invitation to a sugar-filled birthday party at the local playplace. That's OK because the pride in my son’s voice after conquering the bumps on Agassiz is a much sweeter reward. The pile of clean laundry can also wait. The glow on my daughter’s face after a race down Deception Bowl leaves us with meaningful memories that trump neatly folded clothes any day.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

West Mountain Tower Goes Pink

If you've had the pleasure of riding the West Mountain Express at Bretton Woods recently, you might have noticed something a bit different on your ride up the mountain. In a world of white snow accented by gray lift towers and evergreens, a pink lift tower now stands boldly near the top of West Mountain.
Tower 11 has been painted pink to raise awareness for breast cancer and honor survivors, as well as those who have lost their lives and those still battling the disease. 

The resort held a Breast Cancer Awareness Weekend January 16-17 and raised $1600 for the Norris Cotton Cancer Center in Lebanon, NH. A ribbon cutting ceremony was held at noon in the base lodge Saturday in front of a full lunch-time crowd.

The money raised went to the Friends of Norris Cotton Cancer Center, dedicated to supporting the services provided by Dartmouth-Hitchcock Norris Cotton Cancer Center, a world-renowned cancer treatment and research facility affiliated with The Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth and Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.

Started in 1982, the friends of Norris Cotton have contributed more that $27 million to cancer research.

"Breast cancer affects hundreds of thousands of women in the United States annually. October may have already passed, but it is never the wrong time to raise awareness for a disease afflicting so many," said events and activities coordinator Veronica Fernandez in her introduction.

Jim Bonney, Friends of Norris Cotton Cancer Center chairperson and cancer survivor cut the ceremonial ribbon and spoke to everyone about why this is such an important effort to take part in. "We can't spread awareness enough. It is wildly expensive to research and develop. What anyone can do to donate helps fund their cutting edge research and patient services."

The donated funds go to funding world class research, state of the art equipment, critical education programs, and clinical trials which help cancer patients all over the world.

"I'm also here as a cancer survivor, diagnosed 46 years ago. I'm at least one person who is a very greatful recipient of the services at Norris Cotton Cancer Center," Bonney told the audience.

Jim explained that NCCC is one of 45 designated cancer centers in the county and the only one in New Hampshire, making it an important resource for everyone in the state.

He added that research there is "cutting edge- truly cutting edge," with scientists exploring immunotherapy as well as drugs designed to go after the genetic structure of cancerous cells and nanotechnology, using magnetic nanoparticles to destroy malignant tumors.

"This is a pernicious and prevalent disease. One in eight women are affected by breast cancer. I'd like to urge you to do something. It can be a very lonely battle. It means a lot to support that person, even if it is just a casserole." Bonner also urged everyone to make a donation that will support research and patient services, such as wigs for breast cancer survivors.

Bretton Woods will be continuing fundraising efforts for the Norris Cotton Cancer Center over Valentine’s Day weekend. Guests can contribute by purchasing pink ribbons for $1.00 or they can donate any amount at our various outlets.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

A Fresh Look at Skiing with the Bretton Woods Women's Alpine Retreat

Bluebird skies above and corduroy below, I rode the lift last week with a group of women who’d
taken a few days off for the Bretton Woods Women’s Alpine Retreat. We joked about how our husbands were faring at parenting without us. My husband posted on Facebook that the joke was on me because he was unloading the dishwasher and putting everything away in the wrong place. Tracey knew her clan would be eating out every night we were away. Cathy was getting phone calls from the school nurse about a playground crash.

Yet once we were on the snow, distractions fell away as we focused on the drills our coach Miki Fera had us work on.

As excited as I was to learn from a pro, before the clinic I was a bit nervous about being critiqued. I knew this was a unique chance to improve my skiing and gain more confidence on the slopes, but there’s an element of vulnerability in having someone examine your technique and provide feedback. It was a leap of faith in joining a clinic like this and hoping that I didn’t find out that I was doing everything wrong.

But not only is Miki a pro in the sense that she’s an Olympian and World Cup racer who’s traveled the world on her skis, she had an amazing ability to humbly share her love of the sport by giving me tips and techniques that tweaked the way I thought about how I moved my body and skis down the mountain.

“I want the women that join us to get confidence and see what’s possible,” Miki told me. I’ll give you a few tools, a few things you can work on. It’s just looking at your skiing from a different eye.”

Meghan McCarthy McPhaul, fellow outdoor mom and kids ski coach, picked up some tips at the retreat as well. “Its really helpful to do something like this every once in a while. You don’t always know how to correct bad habits.”  Meghan added that as a kid who grew up racing, they were always doing drills, always getting feedback, “but as an adult, you don’t get that anymore.”

At the top of the Rosebrook lift, Miki had us practice sliding along a relatively flat slope with both ankles rolled in and then both ankles rolled out. I felt like a cowboy on a horse. We giggled as we watched one another come down the hill. Later, Meghan told me that edgework was great for her to work on. “I hadn’t really thought about how much I need to work on pressuring my outside edge until we did that awkward drill.”

Yet by the time we had gotten to that silly drill, it never even entered my mind that I should feel self conscious about putting myself into a situation that might make me look silly, might even make me lose balance and fall.  Even though I hadn’t spent much time with these women before the retreat, we had some great opportunities to get to know one another. 
Miki's mom, visiting from Romania, joined us for an evening at The Spa.

The retreat started off with a wine and cheese welcome reception at The Spa, a luxurious chance to relax, have a glass of wine, and grab a chair massage in between telling stories about what brought each of us to skiing and to the retreat. 

We warmed up with some stretching in the mornings and enjoyed some painting fun on Thursday night.

For Miki, leading the retreat is a chance to do something different from being a mom, wife, and ski coach. “Being a new mom, I knew there might be other women like me that just want to get away. For some moms, it’s a way to get back into the sport. I like to be active, and it’s hard to find time to do something for myself.” She added that she knows there are also women who might not be in charge of a family, but want the companionship of skiing with other like-minded women.

That opportunity to ski for a few days with other like-minded women made me think about how different the dynamic can be skiing with just the girls. Unlike skiing with the guys, I didn’t feel the compulsion to prove myself, to prove that I belonged there. Although I’m a competitive person, I think women tend to be more supportive rather than competitive. Perhaps is it is instinctual to be more nurturing – we cheer each other on rather than talk trash.

Our duties as moms were never too far away. For this group of women, the conversation often turned to our kids and the joys and challenges of raising rippers. But for a few days, Miki’s contagious enthusiasm encouraged us to embrace our own opportunities to make the best of our ski days. I’m ready to hit the slopes again with a few things to work on, and a few new friends I know will be ready to join me.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Be A Part of History at the World's Largest Ski and Snowboard Lesson

I'm a huge fan of lessons. Ski lessons that is. I realized very quickly as my kids progressed from learning how to walk around with sticks attached to their feet to riding the magic carpet to tackling the bunny hill that even though I know intuitively what my body should be doing when I ski down the hill, it's a fully different task to explain to someone else how to make the body move, and how to approach the slope mentally, to get down the hill with confidence.

For several years, January has been Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month, and it's a chance to get a taste for a sport that so many of us have fallen in love with. Not only do you get to learn from the professionals, but many resorts make it affordable so that getting into a sport you're not familiar with isn't a total leap of faith.

This year, there's even more incentive for you, or someone you know would love it, to try skiing or snowboarding. On Friday, January 8, 2016 at 10 a.m., ski areas throughout the country will be participating in something that has never been done before. They will all be a part of a nationwide effort to set the World Record for the LARGEST multi-venue Ski and the LARGEST multi-venue Snowboard Lessons ever taught. And the best part? Those who sign up and join in are going to have FUN being a part of it.

This record will be for the Guinness Book of World Records. Ski resorts throughout the U.S. will be offering at 10 a.m. a beginner lesson for either ski or snowboard as part of this event.

Bretton Woods is offering a “10 at 10” deal - that is, for $10 at 10 a.m., new skiers and riders will receive a Level 1 lesson AND a chance to be a part of history. The Learn to Ski/Ride Package includes a beginner lesson, rentals, and a beginner terrain lift ticket.  Reservations required at least 24 hours in advance by calling ski school at (603) 278-3303.

Save the date and spread the word. If you are a beginner who wants to learn, then join us for this nationwide effort. If you already ski or snowboard then tell your beginner friends and family members.

This is not one giant lesson but many beginner lesson groups - ski or snowboard - all taking place at 10 a.m throughout the country.  Ski and snowboard lessons are taught separately.

January 8, 2016: World's Largest Ski and Snowboard Nationwide Lesson Event ($10)
January 11 - 15, 2016: Learn to Ski / Ride FREE Week (Complimentary)
January 2016: Learn to Ski / Ride Month, Sunday- Friday, January 4 - 7 and 19 -31 ($39)

These packages are for first-time alpine skiers and snowboarders, ages 13 plus. The package includes a Learn to Ski or Snowboard lesson, equipment rentals & beginner terrain lift ticket valid for the day of the lesson.

Once you've completed your lesson, you can join those of us who love the sport and you will receive a special Explore the Woods Discount Card. The cardholder will receive a 10 percent  discount at resort retail outlets and a 20 percent discount on rentals, lift tickets, and ski school lessons for the remainder of the 2015-2016 ski season. In addition, the cardholder will have the opportunity to purchase a 2016-2017 Bretton Woods season pass for 20 percent off the early season price. Additionally all Explore the Woods cardholders will be invited to the Season Passholder BBQ on March 20, 2016.