By Ellen Chandler
Here in New England we are accustomed to nature playing tricks on us—we know to bring sweaters to the beach, umbrellas to football games, and extra socks everywhere from work to weddings. But last winter, the no-snow trick got a little old and what little ski season there was eluded many entirely. Some resilient New Englanders pursued alternate winter activities, such as Nordic walking and winter hiking. It goes without saying that we have no control over the weather, but Eastman Cross Country Center is more than ready for fun on the snow from the first flake until the golfers reclaim the Pro Shop and links.
I count myself among the most eager for snow in this community, but I know there’s competition for that title. I’ve been cross-country skiing since I was 10 years old. When our local ski club discontinued operation of its rope-tow and moved to Mt. Rowe, now part of Gunstock in Gilford, NH, my parents declared the sport “too commercial” and decided we should snowshoe as a family. In an act of rebellion, I told them I would ski instead and trudged along on my 1960s-era downhill skis. Fortunately my mother learned of a local cross-country ski club with twice weekly outings and soon our family was outfitted with appropriate gear. It was a sport better suited to my brother’s and my energy levels than marching through the woods on snowshoes. Over the decades, my attitude toward snowshoeing has improved, and, I confess, I now own three pairs!
While we all love “epic days” on the trails, not every cross country outing has to be an epic. A spur-of-the-moment microtour beats not skiing at all. There’s no rule that you have to ski in official ski-wear; I’ve skied in everything from business clothes to yoga pants, and the birds and squirrels were not offended. Generally the temperatures are not so inclement as to make this hazardous to health—or the clothes! If your conference call is canceled or the babysitter grants you an extra 30 minutes, try to slip out and glide. You’ll be glad you did.
One thing I have learned from working alongside golfers is they never let anything get in the way of their scheduled games, and no one questions them. It’s golf. Well, this is cross country, and I say book it and ski it. One way to make sure you make the most of winter is “appointment skiing.” Eastman Cross Country Center’s 2017 calendar may be a little ambitious, but from Wednesday through Saturday there is at least one scheduled activity at the center. Some are fitness activities and others are youth and family programs. Options for adults include the Wednesday Workout and Time Trials, Thursday Trailblazers (mellow tours), and Friday Level 4 Interval Sessions; plus (re)introduction to skiing sessions on most weekend days for Eastman Community Association Members and guests only.
The plans are in place to have a Bill Koch League group for skiers ages 5 to 13, and I am interested in meeting with families who have children or grandchildren in this age range. Named for the only U.S. cross country racer to earn an Olympic medal, the Bill Koch League (BKL) can serve as a gateway to racing, but it emphasizes fun and learning through games and touring. At the younger end, there needs to be a lot of adult involvement, but as ski and social skills develop, adults can either participate as coaches or enjoy a few hours of skiing on their own while the kids participate in the league.
As in the past, we offer Professional Ski Instructor Association (PSIA) instruction on weekends and during school vacation weeks, day trips to popular cross country ski centers in New Hampshire and Vermont, and an overnight ski adventure. Here at Eastman, we are recruiting Ski Hosts for the season and for several special events. These volunteers help insure that those who use our trails—skiers, snowshoers, and sledders— understand and follow the policies and enjoy their experience.
There is so much to love about cross country skiing. I am fortunate to have made a career out of something I love to do. Today, I am happy to be managing the Eastman Cross Country Center after two years up north as Nordic director of Bretton Woods Nordic Center in the White Mountains. Along my way to Eastman, I have also been marketing director for Wildcat, Cannon Mountain, and Mount Sunapee ski areas. I am eager to help any ECA Member who is interested in learning how to ski or how to ski more often, and to learn from Members how we can encourage more residents, guests, pass holders, and visitors to make the most of this wonderful resource.
One of the less-touted values is that it doesn’t take all day to have a great outing. I hope that you will find those hidden 45-minute gaps in the day and get out on the trails.
To volunteer to be a Ski Host at Eastman Cross Country Center or for more information about the programs, call 603-863-4500 or e-mail email@example.com.
Ellen Chandler is in her first season as manager of Eastman Cross Country Center. She currently serves on the boards of directors of the New England Ski Museum and New England Nordic Ski Association, and is a former board member of the Jackson XC Foundation in Jackson, NH.