Unlike many who flock to ski resorts, I’ve always balked at the price of lift tickets as well as the crowds. Memories from childhood sitting on a chairlift while getting battered by the wind, and then ice skating down a steep slope also haven’t helped. So early in adulthood I learned the joys of cross- and back-country skiing, which allow me to fly through the woods under my own power.
Later, by sheer coincidence, we bought a house three miles from one of the most extensive trail networks in the region, located right behind my kids’ elementary school. And this time of year, it becomes my second home.
My kids tease me for going 'uphill skiing,' and ditch me to go downhill skiing with their Dad. But when the snow arrives, I’m always in good company. Sometimes if I’m on the trail during school hours, I’ll hear high-pitched voices and ski past a classroom of kids on a winter hike.
Some afternoons a bus with the Nordic ski team from Lebanon High School arrives for practice, and groups of teenagers zip by me. Other times busses carrying teams from the far corners of New Hampshire and Vermont show up for an official race. Recreational skiers can still use the trails; we just step out of the way as racers come through and then continue on with cowbells and cheering in the background.
Sometimes we’re treated to bluebird skies and warmer temperatures, but I’ve learned that with the right layers and face protection, I can ski in temperatures as low as zero degrees, and I make every effort to do so. Weather can be fickle, and even two feet of snow can disappear quickly from a day of rain or a 50 degree heat wave. So we die-hards know to get outside while we can, because with little warning, the snow disappears and the season is over.
But in a good year, I can ski right into early April. And it’s not unusual for me to come upon neighbors and other friends from town. Then we stop and chat about the latest local news or school controversy – in a snowy preview of Town Meeting.