Winter Thrills…Without Spills by Valerie A. Russo

Once you’ve reached age 51, it’s all downhill. So you might as well put on skis – as I did for the first time last year – and enjoy the ride. I also strapped on snowshoes to look for hidden treasure on a snow- covered mountain and ventured onto a frozen reservoir to see if the fish were biting (they were). Best of all, I lived to tell about my adventures. Here’s how I stayed safe while having fun:

 

 

The Charleston” on Skis:

Where: Powder Mountain, north of Salt Lake City. It’s the only resort in Utah with 100 percent natural snow. The dry and powdery snow is a better surface for skiing than slushy snow. The slopes are not crowded – a plus for beginners.
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What fun: One-hour Learn to Ski group lesson ($55, including rentals and lift pass).
First, we glided horizontally across the ski slope on one ski; then on two skis. We practiced “the wedge,” a knock-kneed maneuver designed to slow our descent. It’s like dancing “The Charleston” on skis. Then we did “wagon wheel” steps to move into position for skiing down the beginner’s slope, into the arms of our instructor. After three successful short runs, I was exhausted from the thin air at 7,600 feet. So I declared victory and retreated to the lodge for some après-ski refreshment.

My mistake: I didn’t walk around the rental shop in my ski boots to find out if they were comfortable. During the ski lesson, I realized one boot was digging into my calf. A week later, my leg is still sore.

 

 

High-tech. treasure hunt (geo-caching) on snowshoes:

Where: Wolf Mountain (formerly Nordic Valley Ski Resort), north of Salt Lake City.
What fun: Guided treasure hunt on snowshoes ($32 per person for 1 ½ hours, including guides, hand-held GPS tracking devices and prizes; snowshoe rentals are $8 extra).

At the base of the mountain, the guide helped my husband and me attach snowshoes to our boots. Then he explained how to use the GPS (global positioning system) tracking device, which would point us towards the “cache.” He also gave us a clue: “take seat #130 or maybe a chair, then look for the wood pile; you’ll find it there.”
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Where: Wolf Mountain (formerly Nordic Valley Ski Resort), north of Salt Lake City. ww.valleylodging.com/adventure.html

What fun: Guided treasure hunt on snowshoes ($32 per person for 1 ½ hours, including guides, hand-held GPS tracking devices and prizes; snowshoe rentals are $8 extra).

At the base of the mountain, the guide helped my husband and me attach snowshoes to our boots. Then he explained how to use the GPS (global positioning system) tracking device, which would point us towards the “cache.” He also gave us a clue: “take seat #130 or maybe a chair, then look for the wood pile; you’ll find it there.”

We spotted the olive-colored box sticking out of the wood pile, removed the treasure (bottles of water for the hike), signed the log, read the next clue and entered the coordinates for the next cache. Then we rode the ski lift halfway up the mountain and continued the hunt, getting a workout while enjoying beautiful views of the Ogden Valley and Wasatch Mountains. The metal grips on the bottom of the snowshoes were essential for walking on the steep snow-covered trails.

My mistake: Geo-caching on snowshoes was so much fun, I should have booked the longer tour (2 ½ hours, $44 per person). Reservations: 801-430-3903

 

 

A hole lotta ice fishing:

Where: Pineview Reservoir, at the top of Ogden Canyon, north of Salt Lake City. The ice was a foot thick, according to the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources web site.

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What fun: Parked near a boat ramp and carefully walked onto the snow- covered ice to chat with the fishermen and get a close-up look at their temporary villages of lawn chairs, tents and ATVs. Merle, an avid ice fisherman from Brigham City, had been fishing since 7 a.m. He started the day by drilling a hole with a hand-powered auger and scooping out the pieces of ice. Then, he baited his hook with fishy-smelling Crappie Nibbles, lowered the line to the bottom and jigged it up four or five inches to attract the fish. By 3 p.m., he had a half-dozen crappie and perch and was ready to go home and fillet the fish for dinner.

My mistake: Should have arrived before 3 p.m.; the ice fishing crowd thins out by mid-afternoon.
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Lodging: Luxury home and condos, some with hot tubs and fireplaces, approx. $100 per bedroom, per night, at Wolf Creek Resort, Powder Mountain and Snowbasin.
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Refreshments: Try Polygamy, the pale ale ($3.50 pint) brewed and served at Rooster’s Restaurant and Brewing Company in Ogden, and the unusual pizzas in Eden – peanut butter-and-jelly pizza at Eats of Eden and Garden of Eden pizza at Alpine Pizza. For wienerschnitzel ($12.50) with a view, ride the gondola (round trip, $14) to Needles. Lodge at Snowbasin. Then stake your claim – and claim your steak – at the Timbermine Restaurant and Steakhouse in Ogden, which has a stream with miner figures panning for gold in the Mine dining room.