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Skiing

We had our first family ski day of the season yesterday.

In December, we bought mid-week season's passes for a local-ish ski resort at a reduced price from full season's pass rate.

The resort is Bromont, about an hour and fifteen minutes from the city. Mid-week passes give us access from Monday night thru Thursday night and the hill is open from morning till 10pm. Our plan is to ski one day a week, morning to late afternoon or lunchtime through evening. Night skiing here we come.

Returning to what has become our winter habit, we will once again be skiing through the season. And I couldn't be happier.

When we moved to Montreal we lost easy access to the outdoors. We moved here for very clear reasons, for everything the city could offer our family at this stage of life - homeschool community and resources, socially engaged and culturally relevant church, post-secondary and other education opportunities. But we left the beautiful Gaspe Peninsula to do so.

It's been months since our family has spent a day together in the outdoors, and a ski resort isn't exactly the nature-focused outdoors experience we are accustomed to.

Since coming home from our thru-hike (if you're new here, in 2014 my family hiked the entire Appalachian Trail, hiking was our life for nearly six months), we've gone hiking all together three times and the kids and Damien went hiking once without me. That's four family hikes in fifteen months.

When we came home from hiking the Appalachian Trail, some of us, ok Brienne and I, weren't sure if we'd ever want to hike again. Both of us are prone to hyperbole so that was an exaggeration of our hiking fatigue, but not by much.

These days, as adventure ideas get bantered around the dinner table Brienne remains uncertain, interested in travel and not wanting to be left out but not eager to sign up for privations of any kind, especially as related to personal presentation and hygiene.

I understand. I'm ok with certain physical privations; sleeping in tents, having one change of clothes, pooping in the woods, these things don't bother me. However, I shudder at the idea of intellectual and creative privations and quite frankly I'm not up for the challenge of pushing myself physically and mentally the way I did while hiking the trail.

Maybe someday when Damien and I figure out how to resolve some of our fundamental differences in how we engage with nature (he seeks challenge, I seek beauty), when I feel secure and confident in who I am, and when I have re-trained my cognitive patterns to respond in healthy ways when beset by challenge I will be ready for another long distance hike, but not yet, not now. (It's not on the radar but it's always in the back of our collective conscious.)

The intensity of our thru-hike, the fall-out after that, a season of physical rest, and moving to the city closed the door, for the time being, on one day a week. Something that was a bedrock of our family life for nine years. The end of an era.

This isn't to say we won't hike or backpack together again as a family but with three teenagers who have diverging interests our years of rallying the troops together around a common interest, recreation or hobby are coming to a close.

But skiing continues to stick because skiing is fun. And I cherish that.

I cherish this thing we do together, in an age when together interests are hard to cultivate. (This is one reason I've become a fan of video console gaming. No, not for myself, I still have no interest, but the other four love it. As they rally around their common quests and campaigns I see the value in supporting that connection. Plus, it gives me time for my evening hobbies and interests.)

The kids probably think I'm an overly sentimental mom (I am) when I exclaim, while waiting in the chair lift line, "isn't this so great to be together out here?"

They might roll their eyes, they're usually wearing goggles so I can't tell, but I'm still happy to be standing in line with them.

They have no idea how fleeting these years are and I do.

Damien was gone for nine days this month and I have to admit winter was harder in his absence. I realized a lot of my joy in this season comes from doing fun stuff together. (And having someone to snow blow the driveway helps too.)

Damien returned early last week, he made it home in-between two storms. Winter storms, or at least snow fall, means better skiing conditions, better skiing conditions means more fun. So unlike a lot of winter-cranky northerners we welcome snow. Because by our way of thinking (and living) snow=fun.

With each fresh snowfall, Friday morning skiing is an activity I anticipate all week and Sunday is a day to get in as many runs as possible. And this year, on my alpine touring skis, I feel confident, and am having fun, on everything but the double black diamonds.

Mid-winter is the time for many activities - playing hockey, crafting, enjoying hot drinks, making soap, walking in the woods. And it is most definitely the time for skiing.

We live in a northern climate, it's winter for about five months where we live, so we've decided to maximize our enjoyment of winter.

We do this by engaging in winter sports, specifically skiing, and getting out in all four seasons in general. In winter we fight against the pull to stay indoors (it's cold!), the tendency to withdraw and retreat. Because if you do that too much you'll get depressed. Ask me how I know.

This past Sunday we had the pleasure of spending the better part of the day with another outdoors-loving family. We had a huge dump of snow Saturday night and early Sunday morning. After a big snow we greet the day with so much joy - a day for playing in the snow!

Our friends' children are small so instead of a big ski on a snow day we went sledding at the nearby school. They invited us for lunch and cappuccinos at their house. After hours of talking about adventures, travel, and the beauty of the Gaspé we were reluctant to leave.

During the course of our conversation I asked our friends about cabin fever, if they experience it. They don't. The best way to live winter, in their estimation, is to get out in it.

These friends love winter, they don't think it's long enough!

Do you know how wonderful it is to share a pot of lentil soup and baked tofu, after a morning of sledding, with friends who love winter? Friends who love life.

How do you love winter? Why you ski, skate and sled of course. And if you can do it from your door, all the better.

This family has three young children. They have built a life where they have time to zip up the snowsuits. Because like all things that demand our attention, learning to love winter and engage in it will take time.

Our friends have the time, make the time. They are cool people to hang out with. They love to travel and have outdoor adventures, they live life to the full with their young children. They love where they live, and so do we.

Enjoying winter is about attitude and opportunity. Having the right attitude and providing yourself with the most opportunity to enjoy it.

Every morning I stop my work, all the things that must be done, and get outside for some exercise, usually with the kids. (They have to spend time outside everyday, most often they choose to exercise with us during that time.) My minimum is one hour of fairly vigorous activity but if we have time for a 2 hour ski, oh heaven, that's lovely.

The daily exercise outdoors is a non-negotiable part of my winter wellness plan.

Other key components of my winter wellness are daily supplements (2000 IU of D3, and omega-3's) and a happy light.

Many of you have asked how that's working. Wonderfully!

I have not yet experienced the winter blues (my January overwhelm was a case of something different called "OMG we're hiking the AT in 3 months") nor do I have cabin fever, yet.

In fact, I feel really quite fabulous this winter. Perhaps I'm just too busy. Or maybe I know winter will end for me in six weeks when we start the trail. The definitive end to winter probably helps.

The more I live winter the way a child lives winter - with my whole body and all my senses - the more I enjoy it. The more I build outdoor activity into my day, the more I love life, in all seasons. It makes me want to spend more and more time outdoors.

Telemark skiing, specifically skinning up a mountain and skiing down on a regular basis has totally energized my winter. It is such good exercise and so much fun. I told Damien this year I never want to live anywhere I can't ski in winter. 

Quebeckers, or maybe it's just Gaspesians, have a winter joie de vivre I haven't experienced anywhere else. I know very few locals, in fact I can't name a one, that complain about winter.

Maybe they know life is too short to complain about where you live. Maybe I'm just hanging out with the right crowd. Maybe people here know the best way to love winter is just to live it.

This must be why Quebeckers are so well represented, and medaled at the Olympics. Go Canada!

I know it's hard to prioritize outdoor winter exercise, but the same could be said for any new discipline. And when I'm not motivated the together principle helps a lot.

I can't imagine not skiing, or going through my week without the outdoors, because winter outdoors energizes me to do winter indoors.

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