Things to do during a New England winter
Things to do during a New England winter
LEARN TO X-COUNTRY SKI: Carlisle, Massachusetts In 1982, the Great Brook Ski Touring Center opened in Carlisle. Now, 30 years later, the groomed trails and night skiing live on (on Tuesdays and Thursdays, conditions permitting, courtesy of kerosene lanterns).
It’s a difficult business: During 2011-2012, it never opened due to lack of snow. But when there are flakes, Great Brook is a fabulous place to try the sport, with lots of gentle terrain and decent rental equipment.
> On weekends, adult trail tickets and rentals at Great Brook Ski Touring Center cost $25; rates for weekdays and kids are less expensive. Call first to make sure it’s open. 978-369-7486; greatbrookski.com
SPOT BALD EAGLES: Madison, Connecticut Each winter, thousands of retired Americans migrate down Interstate 95 to spend the winter in balmy Florida. Around the same time, dozens of North American bald eagles follow the Connecticut River south out of Canada, seeking the warmer air and open water of Long Island Sound, where they spend their winter.
For 25 years, Jerry Connolly, owner of The Audubon Shop in Madison, Connecticut, has led groups of birders out to spot them. The group sets out at 8:30 a.m., driving to five or six locations where they hope to see eagles, along with other birds of prey and waterfowl.
The tour is a bargain: The $20 ticket includes soup and a sandwich at Oliver’s Tavern in Essex, Connecticut, where Connolly leads a discussion of the various species they’ve spotted. The Audubon Shop outings are held Saturdays from January 26 to March 2. Call the shop to reserve; most trips sell out. (Binocular rentals are $4 extra.) 888-505-9056; theaudubonshop.com
TAKE A SPIN ON SKATES: Providence, Rhode Island America City Center’s rink in downtown Providence is twice the size of ice at New York’s Rockefeller Center and less than one-fourth the cost (admission in Providence is $6 per adult; in New York it’s $25), and there’s rarely a line. When you tire of skating, there are plenty of apres-ice activities — including great restaurants like Local 121 and Red Fez — nearby. Not a skater? The rink can help: It offers a six-week series of lessons for $90, or try a Sunday morning drop-in lesson for $15. They probably won’t teach you to do triple axels, but you’ll acquire enough know-how for a fun spin on the ice. The Bank of America City Center’s rink opens November 21. 401-331-5544; providenceskating.com
TOBOGGAN LIKE A CHAMP: Camden, Maine At the US National Toboggan Championships, held at the Camden Snow Bowl ski area in Camden, Maine, people dress up in costumes, hang out and have bonfires, listen to live music. There’s also plenty of hot food, including organic pizzas cooked in a portable concrete wood-burning oven that one vendor tows in on a trailer. Indeed, based on descriptions of this weekend-long event, the tobogganing sounds a bit like the horse race at the Kentucky Derby — it’s the centerpiece, but mostly it’s just an excuse to throw a giant bash. Next year’s event runs February 8 to 10. The championships are held on a toboggan chute that runs 400 feet onto a frozen lake; top riders can reach speeds of 40 miles per hour. Noncompetitors who arrive on Friday and pay $5 apiece can ride down the track themselves. (Loaner toboggans are available for free.)
Even inexperienced tobogganers can compete in the main event: Unlike the Olympics, these championships are open to all people who organize themselves into two-, three-, or four-person teams and pay the $30-per-person registration fee by late December. If speed isn’t your thing, don’t despair: Organizers offer several nonperformance prizes, including one for the oldest team. In 2010 it went to a four-man group whose oldest member was 90. The US National Toboggan Championships routinely draw more than 8,000 visitors to tiny Camden, filling hotels and inns. So if you hope to compete or just watch, make reservations early. 207-236-3438; winter.camdensnowbowl.com
GO DOG SLEDDING: Jefferson, New Hampshire More than a thousand people hop onto a dog sled each winter at New Hampshire’s Muddy Paw Sled Dog Kennel, which houses more than 100 dogs and offers rides from its main facility in Jefferson, as well as from other locations in the state: the Omni Mount Washington and Mountain View Grand resorts and Rocks Estate.
Before the ride, guests at the Jefferson location tour the kennel and meet the dogs, then help Muddy Paw’s “mushers” harness the canines to the sled. During the ride, guests recline in a basket at the front of the sled, but mushers often let them take a turn standing at the rear to shout commands to the dogs and try steering.
The kennel offers a variety of ride and tour packages, ranging from a $48 adults/$39 children ticket that includes 20 minutes riding on a sled (wheeled ones when there’s no snow) to a two-night, $1,010-per-couple outing that includes a 50-mile full day of gliding through White Mountain National Forest. 603-545-4533; dogslednh.com
TRY ICE FISHING: Stowe, Vermont Newbies hire guides from the Fly Rod Shop in Stowe, Vermont, to take them on three-hour excursions to nearby bodies of water. The guides provide and set up all the equipment (including a propane heater) and bait, and they help find the fish. Depending on the catch, some guides will cook the fish on the spot for lunch.
A Fly Rod Shop’s guided ice fishing expedition costs about $350 for four people. Depending on the temperatures, the season usually runs from January through March. 802-253-7346; flyrodshop.com