Thursday, February 5, 2009

Your Winter Get-Away!

Snowshoeing is great winter fun and can be done anywhere there is enough snow. Here I am on location at Monmouth Battlefield State Park. Pilot's Hat by Dorfman - Pacific, Goose Down Jacket and hardshell pants by Moonstone, Gloves by Scott, Snowshoes by Tubbs.

Snowshoeing 101

Who says you have to skip that winter ski trip? Did you know that you can cross country ski nearly anywhere there is snow? You can also snowshoe as I am showing in these photos. Snowshoeing is great fun, easy to learn and can take you over virgin, snow covered trails in style. You can even use them for a jog in the snow! No need for a slope or ski lift either. You can go both up and down hills and trails quite easily. Since you actually float over the surface of the snow, your feet don't sink down, leaving them quite warm and dry. It doesn't matter if the trail is "groomed" or not. Snowshoes take you anywhere you want to go, regardless of the conditions. My Traditional Tubbs Snowshoes fit easily over my suede Ugg boots which allow the bindings a little extra grip. Make sure to bring your snow boots when you go to purchase a pair of snowshoes. Test them in the bindings, not your street shoes! You'll want to wear a pair of hardshell snowpants such as the Gore-Tex Paclite's I have on in the picture. The flattened, sealed, full zipper legs allow you to open them up for a bit of ventilation. When closed, they don't allow snow to blow in. Zippers also help with bulkier snow boots. A good goose down jacket is indispensable out in the snow. Unlike polyester fillings, down is highly breathable yet warm. We were out in 21 degree weather with wind gusts up to 10 mph but were completely warm. Since we were enjoying the snow in a state park and brought our own equipment, there were no parking, ski lift or admission fees. A free day out for a perfect winter get-away. Along with our recreational gear, we brought along some energy bars, a bottle of water and a camping chair with a beverage holder. Livin' large folks! Get a few more winter outdoor ideas from this article: Living it Up!

Snow Skating

How would you like to have all the fun of skiing but without having to maneuver long, bulky equipment on the slopes? Ever hear of Snow Skates? Well, I didn't until a few years ago and they have to be the coolest thing on the planet next to skis. They are called Sled Dogs and look like ski boots without the skis attached. These snow skates are actually quite short but are waxed just as you would your regular skis. They can be used with or without ski poles and work well on downhill runs or cross country courses. Needless to say, you don't need to check into a ski resort to use them. Simply don a pair of hardshell pants, (you'll probably go down a few times at first), and take off! Use ski poles at first to help with balance. After you get comfortable, you can try a few skateboarder moves which are incredibly easy on Sled Dogs. In fact, how I learned snow skating was to employ a skateboarder or surfer's stance, (goofy or regular), with my dominant foot leading a bit. They do behave like skates so you can dig in for hockey stops or even skate backwards going downhill as shown in the photo above but be sure to check over your shoulder!

When people first saw me using my Sled Dogs they yelled, "Hey, you forgot your skis!!!" After coming back up the hill, I showed them I did in fact have skis. Once again, choosing gear that works in many terrains and is easy to operate, increases your enjoyment. Nothing is more frustrating than hauling heavy skis and bindings, paying for access to the trail and then spending the entire day falling. I don't know about you but that doesn't sound like a fun date to me. Sled Dogs combine what I already know, (that is how to skate), with what I didn't know, (well, that was how to ski). It allowed me to expand my skills and try something new. Challenges are good. Better still, just when you've had about all you can stand of complaints over the bad economy and cabin fever to boot, there is a wonderful, priceless outdoor adventure just waiting for you. Each day is a gift and surely not to be wasted. Blues skies, crisp, clean air, watching the hawks ride the draft. What a gorgeous day out! Once you get home from your winter get away, how about making some delicious blueberry muffins? Here's my favorite recipe:

Best Picks Blueberry Muffins

1 1/2 unbleached flour

1/4 cup of brown and 1/2 cup white sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/3 cup liquid vegetable oil

1/3 cup milk

1 cup fresh blueberries

Preheat over to 400 degrees and grease tins or use muffin liners. Combine all dry ingredients in a separate bowl and whisk. Combine the oil, egg and milk in another bowl and add to dry ingredients mixing lightly. Fold in blueberries and fill the cups 3/4 full. Bake for 20-25 minutes until done. Scrumptious!

When you think about it, with a bit of forward planning and a touch of imagination, you can plan your own Winter Get-Away replete with an itinerary of other places or activities available in the area. This is how you maximize your gas while making it a complete day away. Since it was rather cold, we opted to limit our outdoor time to about 2 hours. After that we went to the mall for a bit of window shopping and were still home in plenty of time to make the blueberry muffins.

Some of the best memories that I still hold dear are those times where my parents did things with us. Fun things. I can remember my Dad taking us sledding at a local park. Just watching him execute a picture perfect belly-flopper on his Flexible-Flyer reminded me that he was once a child too. I think my brother was the one who invented snow boarding because he would fearlessly stand on his sled and ride it downhill like a surfboard. Crazy times but those are the sweet thoughts that get you through the tough ones and we all have them. The trick is to find some space and let go for a while. You'll find yourself renewed and able to keep a positive attitude no matter what the climate.

Spend some quality time with those you love! Check out our gear at the far right.

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