Last Sunday, the sun coming through my bedroom window didn’t wake me. My annoying alarm did. I woke to darkness.
It was 6 a.m., but a different light time from the day before. Whose idea was daylight savings time anyway? Why did I have to get up in darkness rather than light? Oh, yes, it’s the old “spring ahead” ritual where I lose an hour and a sunrise awakening. It will take me at least two weeks to adjust.
As time changes from standard time to daylight savings time, there are not so subtle hints that seasons are changing, too. Wednesday, loud honking overhead alerted me to the return of the Canada geese. Last week, I saw my first chipmunk, stuffing his cheeks with birdseed. Thursday, I replaced my red berries picked in fall with pussy willows, just budding out. Snow is still in the yard, but the pesky ice on the driveway is gone. Coverage on local ski trails is thinning rapidly. Is this the end of winter and skiing?
Looking at the calendar, I remind myself it’s not yet the ides of March and St. Patty’s Day is still to come. Knowing March and its unpredictability, I hesitate to call winter over and I’m not ready to put away my cross-country skis — just yet.
This week’s warmer temperatures could plummet next week, and a fast-moving storm could cover us in white. You never know with March — best to keep your options open.
While some of my friends are talking about storage wax for their skis and getting their bikes out, others are looking for spring skiing ventures. I’m in-between. I’d like to ski some more, but not on marginal conditions. When temperatures are warm, I think about getting out my bike and taking it to a place where roads are free of ice, sand and salt. Between those two activities, I use running, snowshoeing and micro-spiking to round out the recreational choices. If you have all your equipment ready to go, you can always find something to do in March.
Skiing options: 1. Get in as many runs or tours as you can before the snow goes. Wait until frozen snow softens up as the day’s temperature rises, but don’t wait too late when it’s turned to mush. Timing is everything! If you’re lucky, you’ll find “corn” snow. It’s like skiing on snow cone ice and lots of fun.
2. Try “crust cruising.” Last Saturday, when snow conditions were firm, I discovered I could go off-track in open fields and ski on top of the crust. It was way more fun than icy hard tracks.
3. Head to higher elevations where there may be better snow cover and maybe even some powder. This is the time of year people head to Tuckerman’s for spring skiing. Take your heavier gear and give it a try.
4. Skin up, ski down downhill ski areas that allow that kind of travel.
5. Check out local Nordic areas to see who still has trails groomed. Bear Notch, Jackson, Bretton Woods and Great Glen have trails open, some with limited grooming. Mount Washington Valley Ski Touring Foundations’ trails are open but are not being groomed at this time. Check each area’s trail reports for where skiing might be best. Be prepared for areas of thin cover, icy patches, and shallow tracks. Some areas may only be able to skate groom given the conditions. Take old skis and a positive attitude-these are “spring” conditions, not mid-winter.
Racing/sports options: Ski programs and races are winding down as the winter season morphs into spring. GGT’s Nordic Meisters and Cranmore’s Mountain Meisters are almost done for the season.
Unfortunately, this weekend’s NENSA Eastern High School Championships at Gore Mountain Ski Area, New York, has been just canceled due to health concerns. Nordic skiers Helen Badger, Grace Castonguay, Keith Badger and Theo Castonguay, with alternates Shannon Derby and Grace Perley, from Kennett and Luke Dupuis and Alanna Nataluk from Fryeburg Academy, were on deck to compete in the last high school race of the season.
At local elementary schools, the Eastern Slope Ski Club’s (ESSC) ski program just ended this Thursday with Snow Day activities.
Young and older athletes are thinking ahead to spring activities like track, running, cycling, tennis, baseball, softball and more. Spring sports are coming.
Transitional activities: Some skiers are getting out the storage wax and preparing to put away most of their skis for the season. Others are dusting off the bikes. Some have already gone for a spring ride south of here where roads are clearer and temperatures warmer. My grandson Iver has already lubed his chain. I’m not yet ready to ride, but I’m thinking about it.
With seasonal transitions, there’s a lot to get organized. Ski equipment and clothing need to be clean, organized and put away to be ready for next year’s winter. Likewise, bikes need to be serviced and riding clothes and equipment located. Where did I put that helmet or those biking gloves?
The transitions will be much easier if you adopt the CROP principle: clean, repair, organize and plan. CLEAN the family’s skis. Enlist the kids’ help in cleaning off that late-season gunk with a wet rag. If you have access to a wax bench, put on a coat of storage wax. Brush off those mud-covered boots. Wash all mittens, hats, socks, and ski clothes. Don’t put anything away dirty or smelly, or you’ll be sorry come November.
Repair: Check the skis for damage to base or binding and fix. Make sure all binding bumpers are intact and replace missing or damaged ones. Look at the poles. Are the straps, baskets, and pole tips intact? If not, fix or replace it. Organize skis — use ski bones, straps or rubber bands to keep pairs of skis together and group with appropriate poles.
Find a dry place to store them. Buy a big covered plastic bin, label it “ski stuff” and throw in gloves, mittens, socks, hats and wax, old passes, etc — all the things you’ll be searching for next winter.
Plan: While you’re organizing the equipment, make a list of the sizes and types of each so you can plan for next year’s ski swap. Predictably, over the summer, your kids will outgrow some of their equipment, so it’s helpful to use this list to plan what you need to replace next year.
It’s only the middle of March. Who knows what Mother Nature will deliver next? It’s best to be prepared and ready for whatever comes. Have some skis ready with warm weather wax, but have the bike ready to go, too. When weather dictates, choose the most appropriate activity and go out and enjoy it. Keep sliding and start pedaling!
Jackson Ski Touring’s Long Trail Loppet Freestyle Race on the Hall, Ellis and Kellogg Trails, March 14.
Great Glen Trails Winter Charity Day, March 14, 8 a.m.-3 p.m., make a $25 donation per person to your favorite charity and ski and tube free. Buffet lunch included.
Sally McMurdo is currently a cross-country ski instructor at Jackson Ski Touring Foundation. For almost four decades, she has explored New England’s groomed and ungroomed trails on all kinds of skis.