If you don’t ski or snowboard, winter is the longest, loneliest season. While your friends plan powder-packed mountain getaways and daring backcountry adventures, you're left alone on the couch, beer in one hand, chalupa in the other, filthy and weeping into an old copy of US Weekly. Or perhaps that’s just me.
Regardless, it’s time for a change. No matter how abysmal your athletic abilities, if you try enough winter sports, you’re bound to find one you’re good at — or at least one that your friends are bad at, too. So what if you’re a wreck on the slopes — why should that prevent you from finding a little happiness during a bitter, cold New England winter? Snow-klutzes can shake off their mantle of inferiority and level the snowy playing field by dabbling in any number of cutting-edge, sometimes bizarre, winter activities offered throughout New England.
But hotshot skiers and riders can also explore odd and unfamiliar snow hobbies this year. Some of the weirdest, most wonderful new winter sports do require skills on the slopes and can offer more of a rush than ordinary skiing or riding. Snowkiting, for example, blends skiing or riding with kitesurfing; snowskating ushers you down slopes and through terrain parks on specially adapted skateboards. And those aren’t the strangest options.
This year, let’s all try something different.
Fight pet obesity
Scandinavia is a great source of off-the-wall snow sports. Take SKIJORING, a sport that involves convincing animals to pull you around on cross-country skis. Skijoring is traditionally done with reindeer, and in the American West, some ski resorts use horses. But at the few cross-country ski areas in New England that offer it, the sport is done with dog — specifically your own dog. Okay, skijoring does conjure images of little Max in How the Grinch Stole Christmas! straining at the burden of a sled full of Whoville’s Christmas presents, but keep in mind that pet obesity is an escalating problem in this country. Think of skijoring as an interesting way for both you and your dog to get exercise. Besides, your lazy mutt should earn his Kibbles ’n Bits for a change.
Unfortunately, this cartoonish activity isn’t quite as easy for the human as it sounds. There is training involved for both participants, and you will work up a sweat.
“You’re still putting in some kind of work,” says Jane Carpenter, manager of the Cross-Country and Snowshoeing Center at Gunstock in Gilford, New Hampshire, which launched its skijoring program last year. “You’re still getting a lot of exercise. But if you have a big dog, he can help you up the hill.” Lazy folks take note: bring Labradors and German Shepherds, not pugs. But for those who don’t mind exerting themselves, Carpenter says that little dogs enjoy the sport as well.
Gunstock has four kilometers of groomed trails especially for skijoring, including a loop of training lanes, and rents harnesses and leashes. If you like to pamper your skijoring dog, Eastern Mountain Sports sells doggie outdoor gear, such as Kelty’s K-9 Gift Pack (a practical and portable kit containing a food dish, leash, and collar customized for outdoor use, $39.99) and the adorable all-terrain, all-season Bark’n Boots Grip Trex Dog Booties by Ruff Wear ($59.95 for a set of four).