By Sally McMurdo
Veteran downhill and cross country skiers remember winters like this where the snow came late and sparingly, then got washed away. They know how to make do by scouting out the best snow, using old equipment until conditions improved, and being satisfied with whatever Mother Nature delivered. Some choose alternative activities to keep fit while waiting for good snow. Throughout the long wait for significant snowfall, optimistic skiers adopt a positive spin on a marginal snowfall. In the last few weeks, I've heard alpine skiers say the skiing was "not bad for early season," and "surprisingly good." Nordic skiers make similar comments about skiing that's "pretty good, considering," and "challenging, but doable."
Rarely do you hear anyone say the skiing stinks. That's because we're all so hungry for snow, we'll take anything and make it work. Superstitious skiers think any negative thoughts or comments will drive the snow gods away.
Skiers, have faith, be patient, and have a back-up plan if the snow doesn't come your way. Maintain that positive attitude and keep your humor handy. Only ski where it's been recently groomed. Conditions might not be perfect, but if you're resourceful, you can make the winter work.
Recreational Ski Options:
For the recreational skiers, the game is "find the best snow and use your old equipment." Many work on their skate skiing techniques as tracks get harder to find in shallow snow. Gunstock Nordic Center, with the help of their snowmaking and shoveling equipment, has been able to keep some trails skiable. Check out their trail report. With reduced terrain, they've discounted their trail pass to $8. If you need more skiing, try Gunstock's alpine skiing as another option.
Winter Activity Options:
Snowshoeing is another possibility if the skiing's rough. Find wooded areas where the sun hasn't eaten the snow and no one has packed the trail, and you'll find hidden snow pockets. Bushwhack and explore new areas. Off trail, you might even find corn snow and animal tracks.
Hiking with "footwear traction" is another option. There are many choices out there suitable for hiking — Kahtoola Microspikes, Hillsound Trail Crampons, ICEtrekkers, Yak Trax, and NANOspikes. These are rubberized ice grippers that stretch over most shoes or boots to give traction on ice. The best ones have actual teeth underneath and a strap over the instep to help you climb on ice. The spikes easily handle hard-packed snow and icy patches. Many people use them for winter hiking as an easier alternative to traditional crampons.
If conditions are not positive for skiing, snowshoeing, or "traction" hiking, there's another option: fat tire biking. Fat bikers in the area have been riding nonstop on local trails and at Nordic centers. Gunstock Nordic now rents and allows fat tire biking on their trail system when conditions allow.
Here's the optimist ski report: There's white ground somewhere. Get out there and ski, snowshoe, micro-spike, or fat bike while you can and make the best of it.