Monday, March 15, 2010

A New Hampshire Winter Vacation…

Last week our two grandchildren (Madison 13 and Carson 10) from Kennesaw, Georgia, joined their Uncle Tim, Nana and Papa for an outdoor enthusiast week of skiing at Mount Sunapee, snow-shoeing to a beaver dam at Perkins Pond, a Celtics basketball game, and a tour of Fenway Park (Boston).

Madison (alpine skier) and Carson (snowboarder) skied last year for the first time. Both took lessons, and had three days of “falling, getting back up, and then trying it again”.

Day one this year was on the Mt Sunapee’s South Peak Learning Area on the beginner green trails. As the day progressed it became obvious their skills and confidence had sharpened from last year, and they finished the day taking the lift to the Summit Lodge.

Tim is truly an expert skier, and he served as their mentor for confidence and skill building. Days 2 and 3 were on the intermediate blue trails of the full mountain.

To get a sense of their skill level, click here for a video of Carson, Madison, and Tim making their way down South Peak.  The end of the video has a brief snowshoe hike to the Perkins Pond beaver dam.

Ice Boat and Snow-shoeing through the Woods

Our friend Dundee called. He wanted to remove his ice boat from Perkins Pond because of the melting ice. He also asked if we wanted to snow shoe though the woods to a beaver dam on the Pond. This was an opportunity outdoor enthusiasts could turn down.

Yes, snowshoes are essential tools for anyone whose life or living depends on the ability to get around in areas of deep and frequent snowfall. In additiion, snowshoes are used for winter recreation. Snowshoeing is easy to learn, and is a relatively safe and inexpensive recreational activity. As a reference to more information on snowshoeing click here.

Telemark/Backcountry practice and lessons

Yes, we were fans for our favorite skiers, BUT Outdoor Steve was not to be denied getting on his backcountry skis. Steve had not cross-country skied this season. To never say, “I wish I had XC skied this year”, he decided to practice his telemark turns on the “bunny hill”. Telemark skiing, popularized with a style of turn where one ski is advanced in front of the other and the heel was raised on the rear ski, with the skier in a very bent knee position .Day 1 was OK, as he began to feel comfortable after being off his skis for a year. Day 2 was frustrating, but at the end of the two hours of hiking up the hill, and tele (snow plowing to be truthful) down, Steve managed a few turns that “felt” like he was telemarking.

Day 3 started very frustrating and ending with a very positive Steve. As he snowplowed down the hill, he could not get the “feel” of a tele turn. Finally, after much rationalizing of whether to join Cathy in the lodge, he decided to ask if Sunapee did telemark instruction. A Sunapee instructor was watching the bunny slope skiers, so Steve asked him – turns out his name was Mike – and Mike said he taught telemark lessons. It was lucky day as Mike was the only telemark instructor at the Mountain.

Telemark skiing has been called "the world's oldest new sport”. Telemark skiing (or "tele") has also been called "the most rhythmic and flowing way to descend a snow covered mountain or backcountry trail." One thing I do know with absolute certainty: tele skiing is all about the stoke, the sensation, that feeling of excited exhilaration that comes from getting into the groove of the tele turn.

To paraphrase John Muir, telemark skiing gives access to places to play, places where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul, to interact with wildlife, to feel the forces of gravity, the energy of a gathering storm. A lot of tele skiers find a big part of the stoke to be in the friendships they develop with other members of the tribe, and for some a big attraction is the challenge of learning a new approach to skiing their local resort or terrain park. And then there are the philosophical, almost zen-like aspects to the sport.

While all of these things add to the fun of tele skiing, the true stoke is hard to describe. It can be an almost ethereal experience in those moments when everything comes together: form, function, time and space. Yet it is almost uncanny how something as intangible as this stoke can come to dominate a big part of so many of our lives. Frankly, I have yet to learn the tele stroke.

Mike (right against Mt Sunapee background) had me try a few of my tele turns, and he immediate diagnosed one of my major flaws – I was using my uphill ski to “grab” the hill when turning, and I thus crossed my skis. Opps, away I fell. He demonstrated “my” snowplow, emphasizing its deficiency. He then demonstrated the turn with the uphill ski being kept flat on the turn. Now it was my turn to see if I learned from Mike. Walla, I made a decent snowplow. I practiced a few turns with Mike’s additional comments. I immediately felt a comfort level with Mike’s instructions – and certainly my turns. I was now ready to be shown the proper tele turn.

Mike had me parallel the hill as I moved one ski in front of the other while keeping both skis parallel. Mike quickly pointed out I did not raise my left heel. I could have sworn I had it raised, but when I looked down, it was only in my imagination. Mike certainly has excellent observation – and a very wonderful teaching manner.

My hour was up, and it was time to leave the hill. I doubt if I will make it back on snow this year, so hopefully, I this blog post will remind me of the instructions of Mike. If you want a wonderful telemark instructor, you can reach Mike at the Mt Sunapee Learning Center or at Eastman ‘s Recreation Center.

Boston Celtics

Tim made the kids week by a trip to see the Celtics plan the Minnesota Grizzlies. The results were not pleasing to Boston fans, but both Madison and Carson are star basketball players on their local teams. Seeing basketball at its best with Uncle Tim was quite a thrill.

Fenway Park

My grandson, Carson, is a left-handed Little League pitcher, and an avid Red Sox fan. He wanted to tour Fenway Park. Fenway is being prepared for the Red Sox April 4th opener. The field this year needed sod due to the ice hockey games Fenway hosted this winter.


Click this link for a brief video. Note the wolf-like animal in the outfield. Of course, this is a stuffed animal, and when asked our tour guide said the stuffed animals are used to keep the geese from eating the seed.

I cannot wait for next year for the grandkids to ski, and certainly for me to “practice” my tele stroke.

Never say, "I wish I had..."

I now never have to say, “I wish I had cross-country skied this year”.

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