Wednesday, January 1, 2014

New Zealand, we have a bobsled team!

I realise now that I have been entirely wrong about winter in Vermont. I had expected that, once the snow fell, Vermonters would hunker down in their homes, hibernating as much as possible, until they emerged, blinking into the light, in late March with the end of the mud season. "Everyone in Vermont has a winter activity to keep them going during the snow" Susanmarie told me, and I'd thought she meant, maybe, that people took up patchwork, or chess, or learning Ancient Greek. We've watched as Vermonters have prepared for the winter, packing up their boats, stacking wood, winter proofing their homes and putting snow tyres on their cars - and I've assumed they're feeling a sadness about the end of summer fun and fall's beauty.  "Vermont: nine months of snow and three months of poor skiing" reads a popular poster, and I thought that was just a laugh.

the view from Mt Philo, looking out over the state
 But no! Vermonters, it seems to me, have been preparing to play. Behind the scenes, much of the state has been watching the snow reports, polishing their skis, and pulling out their winter gear with evident relish and anticipation. I'm sure there are the people who are picking up their knitting, or opening up grand epic novels by the fire. And I'm sure there are people whose hearts fall as the temperature drops, and who look with gloom towards several months of the gruelling work of just getting out of the house: shovelling snow, and tramping through mud bundled in down jackets and hats and gloves and scarves and boots, and skidding on icy sidewalks.  For certain, we've met people who fly south before the first snow fall - and I think for the elderly, or anyone who's a little unsteady on their feet, the winter months must be a time for fear. But for many Vermonters, I now see, this cold, this soft white snow, is what they've been waiting for. 
the view from Mt Philo looking out to the Adirondack mountains of New York State - the frozen ice looks like polished glass

 Learning to live and play in the snow is so important here that the schools take the children out of class one day a week to learn to ski. At the school the girls are attending, the PE teacher took our two kiwi girls out of class to teach them to ski, because they're going to miss most of the ski season and she didn't want them to miss out.

And we are most certainly not missing out. Who knew that snow was such fun? Bruce and the girls had tried sledding at Shelburne, but discovered a whole new - and better, much better - kind of skiing when we were invited to Sharon and Gary's house for night sledding. "We like to sled in the evening", said Sharon, in her invitation, "to leave the day free for skiing".

What a night!  Sonya and Karen and their families joined us, and after a wonderful meal, everyone donned helmets and head lamps and headed out into the night, carrying a remarkable range of sleds.

Down the drive, over a hill, and across the frozen pond they flew. I stood on the driveway and watched and listened to whoops of joy, ringing laughter, and cries of that was awesome! - wicked! - cool! and can we do that again!!

The girls had the time of their lives, and I don't think I've ever seen Bruce quite so full of glee.

Ever since then, he's been poring over sleds online. He really needs - really, really needs - a Hammerhead Sled. Or maybe a STEALTH-X. 

I have this feeling that winters, for our family, are never going to be the same. Mt Ruapahu is suddenly going to feel so much closer to Palmerston North than it did before!

Thank you to Sharon, Gary, Karen, Todd, Sonya and Brian and all the children, for introducing us to a whole new aspect of winter!
So, we have finally grasped what winter means in Vermont. And it was only one step from that to realising that we were, for possibly the only time in our lives (no! please don't say that!), only an hour or so away from an Olympic bobsledding track. So heading over to Lake Placid the next day was really a no-brainer.

Many, many dollars and one minute later, the Roy Street bobsled team arrived back, laughing, somewhat dishevelled, and totally exhilarated.

The girls went skating on the outdoor skating rink (very scary to be skating on a rink with nothing to hang onto). And we enjoyed exploring the frozen lake and watching the dog-sledding team at work.

Lizzy and Tori had a great time!

The next day, we were off to Stowe to sled on a very icy track:

Rose was a little nervous at first...
but soon developed a taste for the slippery slope!
  You will, of course, have noticed that I've been the photographer for these events. I'm the kind of person who doesn't like going down hill on a bicycle (with working brakes). However, after much badgering from my family, I have agreed that after the next deep snowfall, I shall go on the sled down the reasonable gentle slope in Shelburne. Possibly.

Because, for all I've said, I don't know that we have, entirely, grasped snow in Vermont. At Christmas Eve, after we'd come in from the cold and shaken off our many layers of winter clothing, Susanmarie said, thoughtfully, "I've been hoping that we'll get at least one really decent snowfall before you leave."

I looked at her incredulously. "But we have!" I said.

 "Oh no," she said, "I meant a decent two footer or so.....".

As it happens, we might just get our two footer. As I write this, it has been snowing all day. It's -23 degrees C outside - with a wind chill factor cold enough to give you frostbite within 30 minutes. The snow is like fine powder - when we drove into town today, it was like driving in a sandstorm, as the wind whipped the snow around us. The school has just rung to say they're starting late tomorrow, if at all.

My hairdresser (you'll remember the pirate?) was scathing about my enthusiasm for snow, after I'd sat in his chair and rhapsodised. "Beautiful? Pah! People die in this, " he said sternly, and proceeded to tell me the story of a neighbour who (for reasons not entirely clear to me) went out into the snow to escape the police and wasn't found until the ice melted in May. So perhaps I haven't yet fully understood the nuances of this beautiful, playful, deadly season. I just wish I had the time, and the opportunity, to do so.

 ps our time for goodbyes has begun. Sue transformed from Vermont native to sophisticated city lady, as she headed off for a few days shopping in New York City. 

Spot the difference!

And our lovely Rose has flown off to Manchester for two months before she sets off for Ghana.

And there are only a few days left now, before we too will be leaving the snow and ice for the sunny familiarity of Aotearoa. For home.

No comments:

Post a Comment