Winter and I are now on speaking terms again

January 29, 2011 § Leave a comment

This week was a pretty challenging one for me. Winter activities have always intimidated me for various reasons, so I just always avoided them. I was expecting to try a bunch of different things this week and find one or two that I might enjoy doing so I wouldn’t just hole up all winter in the house here in Colorado. At the end of it I kind of enjoyed it all because I just went out with an open mind and decided I would just laugh at myself a bit being out of my comfort zone.

Ice fishing was an interesting one because it was definitely the most fun I had this week, but it’s probably something I won’t be running back out to do again.

It was just a fun, random thing to do with new friends that had me almost peeing my pants laughing so hard at our attempt. It’s hard to say whether you could really call what we were doing ice fishing, but it was a valiant effort.

I expected cross country skiing to be the thing I would fall in love with and it would be my thing for the winter. It was a good way to ease into skiing and I think once I get the rhythm of it down I’ll really enjoy it. We’re heading up to Winter Park today to check out the trails there.  Cross country skiing was the thing I was most conscious of as “exercise”.  I imagine once I get going and get out on longer trails it won’t feel that way but all of the other activities I did felt both fun and enjoyable to be outside.  cross country skiing was a bit more work.

The biggest surprise of the week was how much I loved downhill skiing since I’d been too terrified to try it again for the last 15 years.  I learned a bit about myself for sure. I’ve never liked the frustration of not being good at something and this taught me to just laugh a bit and take it slow. With the lesson it felt like a safe environment and I was surprised that after 1 day, I could ski! I’m learning how to be a more patient person and to not take myself so seriously. Falling down really doesn’t hurt that badly.

In terms of embracing winter, snowshoeing made me realize what a beautiful place it is that I live in.  I was able to go to places I wouldn’t be able to get to this time of year to see how different the landscape looks. It was one of those moments I really started falling in love with Colorado. If you pay attention it is really striking how much the scenery changes throughout the year and the range of colors you can see in it.

Plus, it was fun sliding down hills on my butt like a kid again. I think I even unknowingly said “Weeeeeeeeee!” on the way down.

Aside from the activities, it was interesting to learn more about snow and think a little differently about it. My favorite was the story of “Snowflake” Bentley. Snowflakes are arguably the most interesting designs in the world and I find it fascinating that a farmer in the late 1800s understood that and devised a way to record those designs so they weren’t forever lost.

I now have an arsenal of fun things to do in the winter here in Boulder. Now we just need a little snow so I can sneak up on my husband and have a good snowball fight.

Snowshoeing at 9,500 feet

January 28, 2011 § 5 Comments

I’m really starting to like snow.  It’s even better when you can walk on top of it to places you otherwise wouldn’t get to see this time of year.

Today I went snowshoeing for the first time with my friend Katie and a great guide, Jared with Yellow Wood Guiding. He was not only helpful with teaching us snowshoeing, but had lots to share about what we were seeing and even showed me how to use my fancy camera I haven’t taken the time to learn yet.

We went on a 3 1/2 hour trek in the Rocky Mountain National Park near Estes Park. As you’ll see from the pictures it couldn’t have been a more beautiful day.

I live at 5,000 feet in Boulder and I could still feel the transition to going up to 9,500 feet.  I definitely felt a little out of breath at times, but the good thing about snowshoeing is that you can take lots of breaks and just marvel at the scenery.

The snow had been on the ground for awhile so you could see lots of animal tracks from little mice to snow hares & deer.  There was a pretty well established track, so getting up wasn’t bad.  We snowshoed to a gorgeous lake called Dream Lake.

Yes, the sky is really this blue.  I’ve never seen anything like it.  Against the snow it’s a pretty incredible contrast. It was about 45 degrees out today and I was actually warm snowshoeing.

My favorite part was coming back down.  We went off the track into the forest and I got to enjoy the fun of sliding. The thing I’ve come to love about snow this week is that it can make you feel like a kid again. I had so much fun sliding down the various hills.

It’s going to be hard to decide which winter activity I enjoyed the most this week.  I’m definitely starting to feel it in my legs! In terms of sheer beauty, snowshoeing was such an incredible experience. I would never have been able to see what I saw today had I not given it a shot.  I can’t believe I live here.

Letting go of failures

January 27, 2011 § 5 Comments

I tried skiing one time in college 15 years ago and it was an utter disaster.  I hated it and swore I would never do it again it was such a horrible experience.  I went with friends to a lodge in NC where the conditions were more like ice than snow. My friends gave me a few quick pointers and then encouraged me down the blue rated slope we were staying on.  I completely  lost control barreling down the hill and if not for my friend’s boyfriend catching me, I would have gone through a fence into a ravine.

I felt embarrassed, frustrated and most of all scared shitless. I was shaking so badly I had to have him ski me the rest of the way down the mountain where I promptly removed my skiis and spent the rest of the weekend just counting down the minutes to leave.

It’s hard for me to feel like a failure. The perfectionist side of me just wants to be naturally good at everything I do. I should have recognized it was a stupid situation and completely the wrong way to learn how to ski but I chose to decide I just wasn’t good at skiing. It was a failed experiment. End of story.

I’ve come to hate that saying “Failure isn’t an option” because I think it’s total bullshit.  Failure is just a part of life.  I’ve had some pretty big ones that I still struggle with, but I resolved today that skiing was a failure I was ready to overcome.

Today I skied! And it was wonderful!

I was extremely nervous about it at first but taking a lesson on decent snow made all the difference.  Not to mention it was a beautiful day.  My instructor at Eldora, John, from Charlotte, (my hometown) and the instructors shadowing him took every step very slowly and helped me build up my confidence at each stage as I progressed.  I fell down and laughed at myself. I felt like a little old lady hunched over holding a cane going down the hill, but by the end of it I was moving, and turning, and best of all stopping at the bottom of the hill.

I wasn’t afraid anymore and that felt really good.

I’m not going to say those little 3 foot tall kids expertly flying down the hill weren’t a little humiliating to me but the important thing is that I might just love skiing!

Now for a nice hot bath. I’m beat!

It pays to have a snow scientist as a neighbor

January 26, 2011 § 1 Comment

In exchange for feeding my neighbor Noah some of our delicious leftover goulash, he let me pick his brain about snow.  I was interested to see what I might learn that would give me a different perspective about it.

I love the people I meet in Boulder.  Dr. “Snoah” Molotch (pictured left, red jacket) is a snow hydrologist at INSTAAR and professor at CU.  You can think of him as a real life version of Dennis Quaid’s character in The Day After Tomorrow.

Noah’s particular focus is studying the distribution of snow and ice and its impact on natural resources.  He’s currently interested in how forestation & deforestation affect snow melt.  I learned quite a bit in talking with him, not only about the importance of snow but a few fun facts as well.  I’ll be getting back out in the snow tomorrow but thought I’d share what I learned about it in the meantime.

Snow is important because it acts as a natural reservoir. In the West, it accounts for about 75% of the water supply. Snow melt acts like a steady IV drip for when there’s little rainfall. One of the fears of global warming is that higher temperatures may cause it to rain instead of snow in Winter which depletes the resource when it’s needed later in the year.  I expect that Noah will single-handedly make sure that doesn’t happen.

Now onto the more light-hearted stuff…

Why is snow white? Because of it’s composition of hexagonal ice crystals, it bounces and reflects the entire visible light spectrum back to us vs absorbing various wavelengths we see as color. Noah shared something a colleague of his likes to say to students: “if our eyes weren’t meant to just see visible light, snow would be one of the most colorful substances in nature.” I like to imagine what a landscape might look like if we could detect the colors in snow. The photo above is from a NASA scientist, Dr. Peter Wasilewski, who used polarized light sources and filters to show the color of ice. Even though I probably butchered this whole explanation from a scientific standpoint, his photographs are beautiful.

Most everyone has heard the saying “no two snowflakes are alike”. I always assumed that discovery was probably made in a lab somewhere.  However, the story of how it was discovered is as inspiring as the discovery itself.  In 1885, a farmer named Wilson A. Bentley in Jericho Vermont began photographing single crystals with a microscope adapted to a bellows camera. Seriously.
He would go on to photograph more than 5,000 snowflakes, never finding two alike.  What struck me about “Snowflake” Bentley was his philosophy & appreciation for design: “Under the microscope, I found that snowflakes were miracles of beauty; and it seemed a shame that this beauty should not be seen and appreciated by others.  Every crystal was a masterpiece of design and no one design was ever repeated. When a snowflake melted, that design was forever lost. Just that much beauty was gone, without leaving any record behind.”

Those that might like to share the story of Snowflake Bentley with their kids can check out the  Caldecott medal winning biography.  Sounds like the makings of a great Disney movie to me!

Winter: the great ice breaker

January 25, 2011 § 1 Comment

When I think of winter, I often think of it in terms of bundling up, holing up and hibernating indoors. Living in Boston, winter often felt like an isolating time of year for me.

This week as I’m on the road to embrace the positive side of winter, I came across National Geographic Traveler’s feature this month: In Praise of Winter, 42 ways to celebrate the season.  In it they talk about winter themed festivals around the world which got me thinking about all the ways snow brings people together.  Here are a few instances of “winter bonding” i found interesting:

In 1997 Bismarck, North Dakota broke the record for the most simultaneous snow angels made in the Guinness Book of World Records. 8,962 people came together to leave their angelic imprints in the snow.

In Sapporo, Japan, they have an annual week-long snow festival that draws millions of people.  They currently display around 400 snow sculptures, many of which the public can interact with such as mazes and slides for kids.  Maybe it’s time to step it up from the typical snowman in the front yard to something a little more challenging?

There’s arguably nothing more fun about the snow than a good snowball fight.  It’s not often you can throw objects at people and laugh together about it.  One of the most interesting snowball fights I came across in looking at the world’s largest snowball fights occurred during the Civil War.  “The Great Snowball Battle of Rappahannock Academy” was the largest known snowball fight consisting of nearly 10,000 Confederate Soldiers. It’s hard to compete with a free-standing army and military strategy employed in carrying out a snowball fight.

After some research into what I could find in terms of “winter bonding” around Boulder, I came across the Frozen Dead Guy Days festival in Nederland, CO.  Basically in 1989, A Norwegian brought his grandfather’s body to the US to have it cryogenically frozen and was subsequently deported, leaving his cryo-pa behind in a shed.  The locals, with a bit of a bizarre sense of humor, started a festival around him involving viewings (currently suspended), coffin races, lookalike contests and lots of other “frozen” activities.  I’m sure there will be lots of crazy going on there, but I will have to check it out.

I’d love to hear about other interesting events if anyone has any to share.

Cross country skiing: exercise I kinda like

January 24, 2011 § 1 Comment

The one winter activity I was always interested in doing in Boston I never tried was cross country skiing.

Winter activities always seemed to involve so much clothing and gear I didn’t have and didn’t really want to spend my money on.  I never felt like I’d do it enough to warrant spending the investment.

Now that I live in Boulder it’s the kind of thing that’s much easier to incorporate into a weekly routine.  I also just invested in some pretty versatile clothing I know I will get a lot of use from living here.  Let’s be honest, Boulder is not by any stretch of the imagination any sort of fashion mecca. That money I was spending in LA on expensive jeans & threadbare shirts will now be going towards sturdy, breathable, water-proof clothing.  It paid off; I was nice and toasty today with it being a balmy 20 degrees out.

I took a pretty reasonable lesson at Eldora, a smaller scale ski resort about a half hour away.  I haven’t had skis on my feet in over 15 years!  It was such an awkward feeling and I definitely felt off balance.  Graceful gliding is not what I will call what I was doing today, but it was a lot of fun!  I even skied down a few hills which is a huge deal for me.

I wish when I had tried to learn to ski I had started out this way.  I think it would have helped me build my confidence for the downhill stuff.  Alas, that was not the case, but this week I’m starting fresh, so it was a good way to go.

My instructor, a Norwegian lady named May, was a great teacher and had me gliding in somewhat of a rhythm by the end of it.  It was a good bit of up and down hills, so I think I would like to try on a flat course the next time to get the gliding down.

This will definitely go in the yes pile for winter activities I can see myself doing.  Now for a bowl of that delicious goulash my husband made last night.

i am now an ice fisherwoman

January 23, 2011 § 3 Comments

If someone had told me 2 years ago that I would be living in Colorado and ice fishing, I would’ve told them they must be smoking something.  Today I boldly went ice fishing for the first time at Georgetown Lake with some good friends we’ve made living in Boulder.  It was one of the strangest things I’ve ever done and also some of the most fun I’ve had in ages.

First we had to auger a fishing hole:

We’re now the proud owners an ice auger!  It took us about a half an hour to make the hole, taking turns and scooping out the ice as we got deeper.  The ice was about foot and a half deep which made us feel better about the cracking we would hear from time to time on the lake.  As we were close to the end some real fishermen came out with a gas powered ice auger and made a hole in about 2 minutes.  We were still pretty proud of our efforts!

With a hole to fish in we were ready to fish. We had about 20 minutes of somewhat peaceful fishing and then the wind kicked up.  I forgot to mention it was really, really windy on the lake.  Here is the tent progression:

Our tent went from a somewhat sturdy shelter to a moving shelter being blown across the lake with Jessica in it, to a parasail almost picking my husband and our friend Steve off the ice onto the I-70 highway. I don’t think I’ve laughed that hard in awhile at all of us being blown about as we were trying to appear to be serious fishermen.

We were undaunted, however.  We got back out on the ice, sans tent, and gave ice fishing another try.

We could see the fish down there, but alas we did not catch a one.  We did get a few nibbles.  All in all, it was quite an adventure stepping out onto a frozen lake for the first time.  It was a fun bonding experience with new friends as we were being blown about the lake.  Other than the wind, it was a gorgeous day and a great way to spend a Sunday.

One of my favorite aspects was how beautiful the ice was with all of the bubbles frozen in place:
I will give this ice fishing thing another try…maybe in a lake that is not quite so windy next time!

Where Am I?

You are currently browsing the 04 a week of wintering category at 52 To Do.