Every January (for 2012, it’s January 7), the Hulbert Outdoor Center in Fairlee, Vermont offers “Winter Skills Day” which is a chance to comfortably and safely learn outdoor skills that will help you get the most enjoyment from winter. They offer two sessions, morning and afternoon, so you can take two different classes in one day. Price for each seminar (including lunch) is $35-40 per person depending on the seminar.
The seminars offered this year include: “Principles of Winter Survival and Winter Clothing,” which is something everyone who explores outdoors in winter should understand(and not bad information for anyone who drives in rural areas to know!); “Building Snow Shelters” –haven’t you always wanted to build an igloo or a quinzee in your backyard and sleep in it? This is also essential survival knowledge if you are ever somehow stranded in the winter wilds; “Introduction to Backcountry Skiing,” which will focus on off-trail travel on moderate terrain, “Icefishing 101 (icefishing, particularly combined with snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, Nordic skating and winter camping, is a whole lot of fun); “Basics of Dogsledding,” (you can leave Fido at home; they provide the dogs and sleds), and “Winter Fire Skills” (please re-read Jack London’s “To Build a Fire” if you don’t think this skill is important to safe winter travel).
And, just as they did last year, they are also offering two seminars on Winter Camping. The morning session is on “Traditional Winter Camping.” It’s taught by Andy Williams who is a very experienced winter traveler in the wild country of northern Canada. Andy is an affable teacher and a pleasure to spend time with. He will show you a full set up of traditional gear, including wooden toboggans, woodstoves and sturdy canvas tents, and how to use it to travel comfortably and safely through the winter wilds. If you are going to camp in one spot for several days or more, this is an extremely comfortable way to go. Andy has the depth of knowledge that only comes from vast experience, and, no matter how much you’ve camped in the winter, you will learn something from him. And if you are just beginning to wrap your head around the notion of winter camping, this is a wonderful way to see how it was done before the onslaught of synthetic materials changed the world.
In sharp contrast to this traditional method of winter camping, EasternSlopes.com editors David Shedd and Tim Jones are once again teaching a session on “Lightweight Winter Camping,” showing the most modern gear and techniques available. Most of what we are showing is the stuff we use to stay warm and happy while traveling (relatively) light and fast on snowshoes or skis with a big backpack and/or small pulk (a lightweight plastic sled with a rigid pulling harness). It’s just like summer backpacking except there aren’t any bugs (and the snow is usually deeper though that may not be the case this year if this “winter that isn’t” continues).
Ours is a very hands-on seminar. As a group, we’ll be setting up two “cold” (unheated) winter tents camps with tents from REI and Easton Mountain Products. We’ll also be setting up at least two lightweight nylon tipis, possibly three...with woodstoves. Yes, you heard that correctly. Lightweight, spacious nylon tipi-style tents with woodstoves. One of the tipis we use is made by Titanium Goat. It will sleep two comfortably with extra space for gear. The whole rig weighs less than 7 pounds WITH the wood stove and stovepipe. We’ll also set up the “Circus Tent,” an 8-man tipi from Kifaru that Tim has owned for more than 20 years and used in the winter wilds from the Adirondacks to northern Labrador. We’ll also be showing some of the latest in backcountry skis and snowshoes, pads, sleeping bags, lights, stoves, cooking gear, and more (our thanks to the manufacturers named above, as well as LL Bean, Mountainsmith, Lowa, GSI Outdoors, Polarmax, Coleman, MSR, Primus, Leki, Life-Link, Therm-A-Rest, Jetboil, Black Diamond, Underwater Kinetics, Sierra Designs, Patagonia, Red Ledge, Revision Military, Osprey, Kelty, TSL Outdoor, Hillsound, Outdoor Research, Katoohla, and others for providing samples for you to check out). None of the gear we are showing is custom made; it’s all available in stores, through catalogs, or on the web. So, anyone who has the desire can fully gear themselves up for winter camping, and we’ll show you how.
We’ll also help participants assess any gear they already have for winter suitability…bring your favorite toys with you! After this course, you’ll know everything you need to do your first backyard or roadside winter campout comfortably and safely. From there, you can progress in increments to full-on winter travel and camping.
All the seminars offered at the Winter Skills Day are by pre-registration only: visit their website for a full PDF course description, call 802-333-3405 or email Lynn_daly@alohafoundation.org. If you have any questions about the lightweight winter camping seminar, don’t hesitate to email : firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
While all this is going on at Hulbert Center, the beautiful Lake Morey Resort just down the road teams up with Nordic Skater to run the all-day Skate-a-thon where, for a $25 donation for adults ($15 for kids) they’ll fit you with Nordic skates, teach you how to use them, send you out on the longest cleared skating track in North America around Lake Morey. That’s assuming we have safe ice by then, of course…but, at least Mother Nature is cooperating as of this moment!
If you haven’t tried Nordic Skating, you owe it to yourself. It’s like cross-country skate-skiing on ice, easy-to-learn, a great aerobic workout and just plain fun.
We hope to see you at the Winter Skills Day!