When we moved from Brazil to Massachusetts in 2014, we had no idea what awaited us. Snowmageddon, Snowpocalypse, Polar Vortex, whatever you prefer to call it was a short season away from burying us under 110 inches of snow here in metrowest Boston. Honestly, I think I handled it pretty well with my husband traveling most of the time and me with the twin boys at age 8 at home. Basically I didn’t leave. Ever (okay I walked the dog when I could get out the door). So that’s one way you can do winter. But not mine anymore.
I laughed a couple of weeks ago when I read a New York Times opinion piece called “How to Win at Winter when You Hate Winter” (NYT, Jan 5, 2018). I highly recommend you read it especially if you are in a four-season place where one of the four includes snow (not the Amazon four-season where it is rain, dry, really dry, really rainy). To me, the absolute best part is about getting out there and trying something new–the writer mentions ice skating–to get the blood flowing and getting off the couch. I completely agree with this sentiment, and in fact came up with it four days earlier as my New Year’s Resolution for our family: EMBRACE WINTER. In our family’s case, we are embracing cross country skiing.
While in a perfect (and well-funded) world, I might choose to embrace downhill (or as I found out the ritzy people call it: ALPINE skiing), it is exactly like my brother says–stand up at the top of a mountain in really tight boots and throw hundred dollar bills into the wind. Holy moley. $80 each for lift ticket, and you’ve got more hundreds flying out if you are renting equipment or need a lesson. You’ve got to get there, and in some cases, you need to stay there. Expensive way to embrace winter, though I really really fun one.
We have largely exchanged that fun for standing at the top of a golf course and throwing singles onto the mostly man-made snow. Much better. NORDIC skiing. Also known as cross-country or XC skiing, at the Leo J. Martin Golf Course, surprisingly in the non-mecca of Weston, MA, population 11,000 (plus 3000 chipmunks, 450 deer, 4 coyotes and once a moose, though that poor thing got killed on the road).
Yes, Weston Ski Track. I have lived in the area for four years, and had vaguely heard of the place, but was not so interested. As a kid in Connecticut I had gone cross country skiing maybe 10 times, maybe less. It wasn’t an organized sport. It was, hey, look, there’s a golf course, let’s go ski on that puppy. I never took a class; there was no ski team. There was however, the very intimidating need to wax skis.
So here’s my one complaint about cross country skiing (I have one about ALPINE skiing as well if you recall: darned uncomfortable boots): the wax. Wax on, wax off. What’s the temperature? What’s the color of wax? Can I borrow your scraper and iron? I personally think the hardcore XC skiers love this barrier to entry for the newbies. If there were not waxless skis, you would never ever find me out on the course. Wax. Please, people. Yes, I have waxless skis. I can only do “classic” skiing not that newfangled “skate”skiing, you whippersnappers. Wikipedia says skate skiing became popular starting in the 1980s but I can promise you that suburban Connecticut was far behind. Classic. But I’m getting there. Sheesh.
Back to the Weston Ski Track. There are no barriers to entry here, people. The course is owned by our state’s Department of Conservation and Recreation. That makes it public, and I personally think reasonably priced. For an adult, a truly fun morning out will cost you $13 for the trail pass, $18-20 for a ski rental (classic vs skate) and the deductible on your health care plan for when you crash. Last part is optional. I am kidding, people. Anyone can ski classic if you can walk. Even if you can’t–there are also adaptive skiing options. You can also snowshoe. There is one guy out there every Saturday morning doing laps on snowshoes, RUNNING, with his kid in a skiing-sturdy push sled. For an hour and a half. Hardcore.
And here’s a secret either no one knows or possibly cares about: XC skiing people are hyper nice. I put in “hyper” just for my mom who hates that kind of descriptor. My kids, as members of the local ski club whose awesomeness cannot be overstated (EMBK is the name of it), were required to use combi skis that are waxless. Why? Because they will learn both classic and skate skiing (I’ve decided to give up on explaining the difference. Well, no, here it is. Classic you ski like the good old days like you’re running on a track. Skate you are going fast, skating one leg out at a time and getting ready to take your rifle off your shoulder and shoot things. Oops no, that’s the biathlon. Sigh. Watch a video).
So anyway, I had to learn how to wax skis. Take wax off skis. Wax on, wax off. I am sure it all gets easy and fun some day but not.yet. The people of EMBK and other around the track seemingly don’t tire of my questions, my putting on four two many layers of the wrong wax (it’s green day today, people, not red!!) and having to scrape it off. Also, I couldn’t figure out how to get my kids’ skis on and they were helpful and not too smirky about that either. Love. You can rent waxless or pre-waxed skis by the way so no panic.
Now, if you are easily intimidated by say, the entire Harvard Crimson XC team blowing by you in matching lycra, you might want to consider heading out on the far reaches of the course. If there’s snow, which at the moment there is not much. There is snowmaking on more than a small amount of the track and lights! Yes, we go night-skiing. It is beyond fun. It is actually spooky if you can get out in the far reaches…bring a headlamp. Worry about what lives in the Charles River which you are passing by. Ah yes, the snowmaking is done from Charles River water. Don’t drink the snow.
In any case, what I’m saying here is that if you’re in the Boston area, you don’t need to travel far for a new fun sport. If you’re not, check out your local XC courses. It is good fun, really good exercise, and you don’t even need lycra. I use regular old waterproof pants and I really don’t care if I match (I don’t). If you start to love it a lot, get your own skis and get out on your town’s conservation trails. Or the back yard, like my kids do: