I’m always a bit slow on getting prepared for cross-country ski season. My mind slowly arrives at the realization that winter is at our doorstep as I look at a snowy forecast and I begin to think about getting my ski gear out of summer hiding. Of course that means making space by clearing out canoeing gear which is likely still sitting by my front door hoping it is summer. I suppose it’s just the rhythm of the seasonal change – a transition that usually happens in stages – I currently have both ski gear and canoeing equipment at the ready leaning up against the foyer wall.
While that is really just a product of not having taken the time to organize myself for the upcoming ski season, it could well be a prudent move considering how unpredictable the weather can be at this time of year. But regardless of what we get from the sky, there’s always something fun to do outdoors.
Our First Big Snow of the Year
Recently our forecast was dominated by winter weather and I happily shoveled my way out of the growing snow piles. Not only does it take a bit to make sure I have my gear in order for ski season, but it’s also good to break-in my body somewhat slowly too – the different motion takes an initial adjustment. That can be tricky to do – particularly with the excitement of our first big snow of the season goading me to head out as quickly as I could. As evidenced by my constant shoveling, the predictions for snow depth kept increasing and I was soon thinking about how long it would take me to scrape off my summer wax and get ready to start the season. If the ever-deepening snow wasn’t enough, the trails at Mt. Van Hoevenberg opened and I could hear them calling me.
But short days and busy schedules can have a benefit, and it meant that I didn’t have time or daylight to head to Van Ho, saving my legs the abuse of doing too much on my first day. Not only that, but Wren was even more excited than I was for the snow, digging through the foot or so we had in the yard in pursuit of her tennis ball while I shoveled. Leaving her at home would have been cruel indeed. And so, Wren and I set out for a short ski on the Bloomingdale Bog Trail – a good choice to start the season as it is flat and easy, and always a nice place with your favorite pooch.
A Few Early Season Concerns
But the short days caught me and my lack of preparation and we took our first ski in the dark – the snow flying through my headlamp beam like swarms of glowing pixies in the dark. Heading north from the south end of the trail, we found the way was blocked in a few places by limbs and trees bent over from the weight of the heavy, wet snow. These made the route more interesting, but I did need to be mindful of obstacles in the dark.
I also had to be wary of thin spots – particularly beneath conifers which had greedily grabbed the snow on their boughs before it could reach the ground. Early season conditions are always variable and old skis or rock skis are a smart call for such outings. And rock skis are no joke either on the Bog Trail – unfortunately the low spots created by beavers or flooding have been filled in with large rocks – okay for some forms of recreation, but a very poor choice for skiers. Anyone skiing on the Bloomingdale Bog Trail – particularly with light coverage – should be careful and watch for the rocks poking up to snow line like evil hands out to inflict damage to skis. Once our snow builds up it becomes less of an issue.
I also tried to skip the low wet spots along the trail which hadn’t yet frozen. Water on skis builds up ice, which creates drag, and then you are stuck trying to scrape the built up ice off your skis. But despite such concerns during our first night ski of the season, we had a nice time without incident. Such issues are just a part of early season skiing, and they are also part of what makes the time of year fun.
With the snow continuing, we went out again two days later – this time with better planning to enjoy our outing in daylight – albeit beneath a gray sky. We topped off our first week out with a third trip – this time leaving from the north end of the Bog Trail off Route 55. It was a good preamble to what was coming – skiing always makes me hungry and there are few better ways to satisfy that craving than roast turkey. Wren agrees.