Skiing and Snowshoeing
March 2-4, 2012
Over the first weekend of March 2012 I had the opportunity to attend my first ever New England Regional Ski for Light event and it was an absolute delight.
The group of skiers, snow shoeing enthusiasts and guides from all over the Northeast gathered on Friday evening at the Wayside Inn in Bethlehem, NH for the first of what would be several scrumptious, energy and calorie rich meals that would sustain us through two days of fantastic skiing and snow shoeing.
Honestly, as a newcomer to my regional Ski for Light organization and to the pursuit of Nordic skiing I was a little apprehensive about meeting other skiers and figuring out how things worked. My apprehension, however, soon proved to be wasted mental energy as I was embraced, encouraged, supported and befriended by all who were present. I had the privilege of meeting an enthusiastic and diverse group of folks that had all come together with one common purpose and that was to have a terrific weekend of skiing and snow shoeing and that is exactly what we did.
Bright and early Saturday morning, introductions were made, event schedule and guidelines were reviewed and the most exciting part, skier and guide pairings were announced. Breakfast was spent getting to know each other a little more and then we were off to begin our adventure.
The weather started out a little sketchy with an interesting mix of precipitation ranging from cold rain and fog to sleet, then snow and that was just on the drive from Bethlehem to Bear Notch Ski Touring Center. Upon our arrival at Bear Notch the precipitation settled into a steady pelting of icy snow that bounced off heads and backs and presented us with what was optimistically described as “a character building experience”. So as a group we collectively mustered a little faith and a lot of guts, clipped into our bindings and headed out onto the trails.
Our faith and courage soon paid off as shortly after leaving the center the storm cleared, the sun came out and the kinder, gentler side of Mother Nature revealed itself all around us.
Bear Notch offered a wide variety of terrain for skiers and snow shoeing of all abilities from gentle winding paths through the forest and along a river to steeper more challenging trails and even a loop down into Bartlett Village and back along an old rail bed. No matter which trails you chose the conditions were pleasing to all.
After our first exhausting and exhilarating day of skiing and snow shoeing we reconvened at the inn and gathered for yet another fabulous meal with good company and conversation.
Some of us hit the hay early on Saturday night in preparation for another day on the snow, while others took part in an epic, long into the evening Scrabble game.
Sunday morning meeting heralded new skier / guide pairings and plans for yet another terrific day of skiing and snow shoeing at Bear Notch. Trails had been newly groomed over night and conditions were reported to be even better than the previous day.
The Sunday morning meal brought even more great camaraderie, conversation and blueberry pancakes. If you were in attendance, you know all about the blueberry pancakes and nothing more needs to be said. If you were not present, consider attending the next NERSFL Wayside Inn event if for no other reason than to experience the life altering blueberry pancakes.
Another phenomenal day on the trails began under sunny skies and the newly paired skiers and guides headed out for yet another challenging adventure of mind, body and spirit.
As a newcomer to the sport of Nordic skiing, my experiences had been pretty much limited to the green and blue trails and practicing techniques like diagonal stride, sprinting up hill in the tracks, snowplow, double poling and getting back up after falling down. So when my guide, Donna Patterson casually mentioned that we could ski down into Bartlett Village with only a short section of trail rated in the BLACK category, I bolstered my confidence and said, “Sure Donna that would be fun”. All the while thinking to my self, “OMG, how will I ever survive this”. Then fate intervened and presented me with that little extra kick in the butt I needed to get the job done. At the trail intersection where we picked up the black diamond run down to the village we encounter a skier coming up that trail who took one look at my “BLIND SKIER” bib and immediately took the liberty of judging the proverbial book by its cover. “Oh no, you don’t want to taker her down there” he repeated emphatically to Donna, “it’s really steep and fast, I don’t think it’s a good idea to taker her on that trail”. Well, say no more, my mind was made up once and for all. Even if I had to slide down the steep parts on my butt, I was going for it, because after all, here was this total stranger assuming that I was somehow less capable based solely on the fact that I was visually impaired. So off we went and between Donna’s superior guiding and my renewed self confidence we ROCKED the “steep and fast” part of the trail. What an absolute thrill.
Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end and Sunday afternoon the group dispersed and headed back to our respective homes, families and work. However, I am confident that I speak for all who attended when I say we made that journey home riding a natural high born out of personal achievement, a spirit of adventure, a strong sense of accomplishment, new skills learned and many new friends made. I can NOT wait for the next NERSFL event!