I made the mistake of dating a winter sports enthusiast. I am an indoor sort of person, especially in winter. I had always pictured skiing as sitting in a lodge with a hot cup of cocoa. I have never been interested in careening down a mountain and had hoped, if asked to do so, I could skip right to the relaxing-and-warming by a fire part. I buy winter weather gear to stay warm, and never think about snot-wipe functionality, the way my boyfriend does. So when I found myself agreeing to skiing, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing this winter, I knew I was in over my head.
Until I agreed to embark on a season of outdoor activities, I had very little information on what winter sports were actually like. I decided to start slow – Snowshoeing can be done at your own pace because it is essentially walking on snow. I bundled up to near immobility, layering myself with underwear of various sorts, pants that were wicking, pants that were waterproof, and, inexplicably, two different hats. The snowshoes, though bulky and inconvenient to walk around one’s apartment in, allow you to pleasantly float above snow instead of sinking into it. I soon found myself shedding layers, and enjoying the snowy forest world around me. Snowshoeing felt easier to me than regular hiking – I wasn’t obliged to move any faster than I liked, and was able to carry a thermos of hot cocoa rather than a pack of water. By the end of our snowshoe adventure, I had shed several layers, and had gotten a bit of a workout. Plus I had seen the quiet serene winter woods. I am thoroughly sedentary, so if I can survive an afternoon of snowshoeing, anyone can. If you are interested in snowshoeing I suggest checking out Snowshoe Routes New England: Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine by Diane Bair and Pamela Wright for some ideas of places to go. For more information for beginner snowshoers check out The Snowshoe Experience: A Beginner’s Guide to Gearing Up & Enjoying Winter Fitness by Claire Walters.
I knew I would have to get more information before I tried downhill skiing. I decided to head to the sports section of the library to ease my fears, and help me at least learn the terminology and etiquette before I hit any slopes. Downhill skiing has me the most nervous, so I started my search with The Essential Guide to Skiing : 201 Things Every Skier Must Know by Ron LeMaster. The books is informative for novices and experts alike, guiding me how to walk in my ski-boots and going over the ins and outs of renting equipment, and how to attach a set of skis to a car roof. The book is less of a how-to-ski technique guide and more of an encyclopedia of skiing. To try to learn some of the basic technique (while sitting comfortably in my chair) I took out The New Guide to Skiing by Martin Heckleman. Though there is a world of ski-instruction books out there, I found Heckleman’s guide to be easy to follow because of the stop-action photography that accompanies his written instruction. For fireside ski-chatter I decided to read The Story of Modern Skiing by John Fry about the evolution of the sport. If I survive my first ski attempt I have added The Best Backcountry Skiing in the Northeast : 50 Classic Ski Tours in New England and New York by David Goodman to my list. Goodman’s guide lists lots of little-known ski areas around the Northeast, and includes topographic maps, and lots of other great references to help you plan your trip to fabulous and remote ski destinations.
The third leg of my tour of wintertime sports is a trip to a cross-country ski lodge in Northampton, Mass. Until recently, my only experience with cross-country skiing was angering nearby skiers by tromping over theirs tracks while snowshoeing. I knew that thankfully, cross-country skiing did not involve a mountain or fast speeds, so I delved into my research of it with a bit more confidence. I began with Cross-Country Skiing : Building Skills for Fun and Fitness by Steven Hindman. I chose Hindman’s guide because it gives you techniques you can use anywhere – from a city park to a backcountry trail. The snowshoe lodge I found in Western, Mass. is a lovely no-frills style place. Meals are included; you bring your own linens and pay extra for ski rental. No instruction is available, so I hope my guidebooks do their job. If you are looking to find a lodge for some rest and exercise, I suggest checking Cross-Country Ski Vacations: A Guide to the Best Resorts, Lodges, and Groomed Trails in North America by Jonathan Weisel. Though the guide is a bit older, it is a great guide for finding a lodge that is the right fit for you – from a cozy B&B to a major cross-country ski center.
In the new year, I am resolving to keep an open mind about new experiences, and to get out and adventure more. If these are your goals too, I suggest you check out all of the great resources we have at the library to turn you into a winter wilderness adventurer.
Jenna Hecker is the Technology/Reference Library at the Morrill Memorial Library. She is a guest contributor to the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin. Read all past columns which are archived here.