Getting Better at Winter

By Esther C. Baird/Tri-Town Transcript columnist
First Published in the Tri-Town Transcript January 30, 2014

Look, I get that we live north of Boston. The weather is exactly as it should be. And I am trying very hard to be cool with that. Someday it will be May and I will walk Blue Ears without dressing like I’m at McMurdo Station. Someday I will complain about bugs again. But for now it’s tundra season and we’ve decided, like many of you Regular Readers, to embrace winter as The Family Who Skis.
I’ve written before about our time spent taking lessons at the small but magical Ski Bradford: any place where I can drop off my children like so many greased eels standing on sticks of butter and return to find them riding chair lifts and skiing down hill is, in my opinion, better than Disney. So this year, having taken the annual lessons, we were ready to try out a few local slopes.
Our first stop was Loon Mountain. We visited early in the season when only limited trails were open, but given the lovely, long and fairly fast central runs we didn’t mind, especially as we could ski down said trails after riding to the summit in the enclosed gondola. The views of the mountains, including Mount Washington, were spectacular and the lack of polar air blasting us was a welcome relief. Not to mention the gondola provided a free umm . . . highly relaxing atmosphere. Medicinal or otherwise, one thing was clear: the gondola riders before us were not just literally high off the ground.
We also appreciated the easy in and out access to the lodge, though we frowned upon the bathrooms that were downstairs. It’s a pet peeve of mine given the near constant paralytic doom that awaits those who try to traverse stairs in ski boots. Dealing with two daughters in full ski regalia, and multiple trips and up and down was enough to make me need another trip in the gondola or perhaps . . . a trip to Bretton Woods.
Bretton Woods had main floor bathrooms, multiple fireplaces and a Bloody Mary that reduced staircase anxiety with a spicy, efficiency. That said, the day we visited was one of the [many] days that our region got confused with the north pole and plummeted into negative digits.
When riding a high speed quad up a mountain in temperatures unfit for human existence, there are no amount of sticky thermal heating pads or smart wool layers that can come close to approximating warmth. High speed means high freeze. We loved the trails and the powder and the woodsy glades. Loved. And we were happy to talk about them during our thawing breaks after nearly every single run. The lodge was by far our favorite and the most convenient, and we should know since we spent most of our time in it.

Just this past weekend we tried Gunstock. Bleh.
It was crowded and, once again, like an M.C. Escher painting with stairs to bathrooms, stairs to storage rooms, and stairs to food. The trails were varied and fun and we enjoyed the the terrain park, plus the girls gave a positive cocoa report, but the Pub was too crowded to enter and the wooden floor of the cafeteria, where not carpeted, were nearly frictionless as noted by the multiple falls each daughter took traversing it.
We still have a trip to Jay’s Peak on the horizon (we’ve been before, one word: waterpark!!!), and a few passes to Ragged Mountain yet to be used, but already winter is moving along and we’re into February. I can see how this whole skiing thing makes the season bearable, and ok, even fun. It’s fun to be outside, it’s fun to visit new places and it’s fun to have a day away from computers and malls and grocery stores where we can swish swish away. You know what else is fun? Summer.
Ooops, right, the point is, winter: I’m getting better at it.