Improvised winter athletics: Journeys in urban and suburban skiing

This winter in Boston is poised to break most of the cold weather and snow records. As of this morning (I say that because we are expecting more snow this afternoon), Boston has gotten 96 inches of snow, almost all of it in the past month. At MIT, a four-story high mound of snow has been named “The Alps of MIT”, and students are sledding and practicing their mountaineering skills. No need to travel to New Hampshire to the White Mountains, one student said to the Boston Globe.



Indeed. And although I love cross country skiing in rural New England (I blogged about it here), it hasn’t been possible (because of multiple storms over the weekends) to go to the back country in order to engage in winter sports. Also, most of my usual winter athletic activities have been severely curtailed. I’m playing on a women’s squash team this year, but several of our matches have been canceled because of snow or bad road conditions or public transportation breakdown. And winter cycling (for me, at least) is out of the question. Even with knobby or studded tires, the piles of snow everywhere make for poor visibility on the roads, so motorists can’t see you.  Unless they are on snowmobiles and you are on a snowboard.


But where Nature closes a door, it has certainly opened a window—in this case, a window into city cross-country skiing.  My partner Dan and I have been skiing at local parks in the middle of Boston like the Emerald Necklace, designed by Frederick Law Olmstead, who designed Central Park in NYC.  We carried our skis for about 3 blocks, then put them on and skied down the snow-packed sidewalk into the urban woods. The hum of car tires on pavement was in the background while we made our way down routes tracked by other city-dwelling outdoorsy folks. That’s me below, standing on a higher packed area near a baseball field.


My most hardcore outdoorsy athlete friend Rachel has combined her intrepid cycling habits with cross country skiing by fashioning a DIY ski carrier for her commuter bike rack. This way she can ride to and from skiing. Handy, huh?


We went to another Boston area spot recently, the Middlesex Fells, which is a great accessible place for hiking, walking, and mountain biking. This year the snow is deep, with routes mostly tracked (we broke trail only a little), and we were able to get there in a half hour. Here’s Dan and me in the woods—again, there’s a low hum in the background; Interstate 93 is close by.


My friend Matt, a very good skier, decided to try schussing down a huge mound of snow, and created the best face-plant photo op ever.


On the suburban front, there are conservation lands all over the Boston area, where you can ski in woods, fields, by farm houses and suburban tract homes. There is some parking, and they are everywhere. At Foss Farm, we connected to a series of trails just outside of Boston. My friend Janet is taking in the scene here on a bench over a snow-covered and frozen wetland area.


Probably by now you get the idea—it’s possible to get out and move regardless (almost) of weather, transportation gridlock, and location. In a winter that is breaking records here and yon, this is the silver lining. Hey, it’s something.

I leave you with the last scrap of that lining below. Rachel (the intrepid bike commuter) has had to give in and actually drive to work sometimes. But she’s discovered that if she gets up really early, she can ski a little at Great Brook Farm before work. And this is what it looks like.


Not bad. Not bad at all.









5 thoughts on “Improvised winter athletics: Journeys in urban and suburban skiing

    1. Absolutely; Dan and I will go with you. Something tells me, though, that we have a little time to get there…

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