Winter’s embrace

by • December 4, 2013 • ToastComments (0)179

This time of year, getting outside becomes even more rewarding

I am the outcast in our family. While my kids – who are cross-country ski racers – and my husband – who is a cross-country ski coach – talk animatedly at the dinner table about such things as ski wax and kick zones and NNN bindings vs. SNS bindings, my eyes glaze over and I eat quietly amid the chatter.

Melissa DeVaughn (left) and Liz Shen enjoy a snowy backcountry Arctic-to-Indian ski trek, rewarding themselves with an evening hot tub soak at the end. Embrace winter, and the adventures are endless.

Melissa DeVaughn (left) and Liz Shen enjoy a snowy backcountry Arctic-to-Indian ski trek, rewarding themselves with an evening hot tub soak at the end. Embrace winter, and the adventures are endless.

In my mind, I am going to my happy winter places: running intervals on a snow-packed gravel road or hooking up my sled dogs for a run on the Beach Lake Trails. It’s not that I don’t know how to ski – I do, but not very good. And it’s not that I’ve never been given the opportunity to learn – I have, often.

It’s just that skiing is not my thing. I’ve lived in Alaska nearly 20 years, and still, skiing has yet to take hold of me. I ski occasionally and have fun when I go. I attend to ski races every weekend in the winter and love watching the racers so gracefully and powerfully accomplish their tasks. Their skill on the snow is exciting to see, and I appreciate and understand the hard work that goes into the sport. I watch Olympic skiers like Kikkan Randall and Holly Brooks on television or YouTube and cheer them on excitedly, much like I cheered on my favorite football teams when I was a kid. I’m knowledgeable of the sport, recognize good form and bad, can see when tactical moves are being made and can appreciate the nuances of the sport that make it so difficult.

Yet, I’ve still not become hooked myself. And that’s OK. I’m surrounded by snow – some of the best skiing opportunities in the world are right here at my back door and I love watching – yet I’d just as soon lace up a pair of studded running shoes and explore the lesser-traveled roads around my home, or take the sled dogs out on the spruce-lined trails, with the sound of their pattering feet the only break in the silence.

That’s the overarching message we at Coast would like to share with you this month: Alaska is a great big place with an enormous amount of outdoor possibility – no matter the season and no matter the sport. When it gets cold – and by now it should be downright brittle out there – don’t give in to that voice that says “stay inside.” Don’t let a little darkness get to you. And don’t worry if you “can’t ski” or “don’t like snow” or “get too cold.”

Instead of using winter as an excuse to huddle indoors, why not tackle those “don’ts” and “can’ts” – learn to ski if you want to (Anchorage Parks and Recreation offers great classes, as do other locales), buy a warmer jacket if you need one, continue running, biking and hiking – these aren’t just summertime sports.

This time of year, the days are short, the snow is deep (hopefully) and all of us – no matter our outdoor obsession of choice – have a chance to appreciate December anew. Anyone can enjoy Alaska in the summer, but it’s oh, so rewarding when you discover the beauty of Alaska’s outdoors in the winter.

So, try to see the glass half full – there is so much wonder to be had this time of year. The soft piles of snow that stack up on spruce trees, the angle of the light that creates the purples and pinks of mountaintop alpenglow, the dancing lights of a bright aurora borealis – it’s all so very special this time of year and we should be outside embracing every single minute of it.

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