To many it may appear impossible to comprehend a climb up a sheer wall of ice in the winter. But thanks to advances in technology, this sport is now more accessible than ever. For many ice climbers, mastering the mental and physical challenges associated with this sport is what makes it attractive. Ice climbing requires a person to be completely in synch with the environment and to understand how the changing weather conditions affect the terrain being climbed. For those that attack the physical and mental challenges of this sport, there is a special sense of accomplishment and feeling of being one with nature. Host Marianne Eaton joins Austin Paulson of Peak Expeditions for a day on the ice in Smuggler's Notch.
Twenty years ago Dave Sellers was looking for a way to enjoy a downhill experience without waiting on lift lines or sticking to groomed trails. He came up with the rocket sled — six pounds of plastic and foam rubber that a rider kneels in and floats down the powder on. A rocket sled is light enough to carry easily as you hike up a mountain. And because your legs are strapped into it, when you shift your weight the sled will turn quickly. Its design leaves a thick "monorail" of snow underneath that helps hold an edge, but will collapse when you want to make a turn. The sled is designed for powder and its maneuverability lets the rider tackle trees as well as moves such as Eskimo rolls and helicopters. Host Marianne Eaton joins members of the Mad River Rocket Company for a hike up Granville Gulf and a run on the powder.
- Clearwater Sports: Snowshoe & Backcountry
Ski Tours (see their "Rocket-Shoeing Adventure")
In order to survive the long winters of New England, it helps to have a sport or hobby that gets you outdoors. For some it may be skiing or snowshoeing, for others it may be ice fishing. For a growing number of people, there's nothing more enjoyable than riding VAST trails on their snowmobile to enjoy a winter's day. The Vermont Association of Snow Travelers (VAST) is one of the oldest snowmobiling organizations in the United States. There are VAST clubs in 14 counties in Vermont totaling some 45,000 members. Eighty percent of Vermont's snowmobile trail system is on private land. The association works hard to maintain good relationships with the landowners who allow snowmobiling on their property. Only licensed VAST members may use the extensive trail system that runs through virtually the entire state of Vermont. Host Lawrence Pyne joins members of the Woodford SnoBusters for a day riding the VAST trails of southern Vermont.
Besides skiers and riders, Vermont's hills, valleys and woods are also home to lots of wildlife ... even in Chittenden County. There is a growing interest in protecting wildlife habitat in areas that are heavily trafficked by people. This involves such things as taking into consideration wildlife corridors when constructing a road. For example, what may be the shortest line between two points for people may also intersect with a moose, deer or bobcat corridor, creating a perilous journey for both the human and the animal. Working to create safe passage for wildlife is an effort that involves private citizens, planning commissions, conservation groups, land trusts and even the Agency of Transportation. Vermont's Agency of Transportation and the Department of Fish & Wildlife are working together to learn how to conserve critical habitat. Members of both organizations join Sue Morse of Keeping Track for a day in the wild tracking animals and learning the way they travel.
Snowboarding has seen a 240% increase in participation in the last 10 years, making it the nation's fastest growing sport. And Vermont is "Snowboard Central" in the east. It's home to Burton Snowboards and the annual U.S. Open at Stratton. Equipment and teaching methods have changed drastically since Jake Carpenter started Burton in 1977, making learning to ride a much more enjoyable experience. The Burton "Learn to Ride" (LTR) program incorporates equipment designed for beginners. The LTR snowboards have a beveled edge and are designed to be very soft torsionally, which is the ability to twist them. Today's technique uses a lot of twists in teaching, too. The technique makes it easier for folks to get from their heel edge to their toe edge, and vice versa, without actually catching the edge. A number of snowboarding schools feature the LTR program. In a typical beginner lesson, riders learn to balance on the board, make turns, and stop before they are allowed to progress to the lift. Being able to load and unload a lift is an important part of a beginner snowboarding experience. But thanks to improved teaching methods, first-timers can expect to progress rapidly and get to the point where they are able to ride the lift on their first day. Host Marianne Eaton joins Ted Fleischer of the Stowe Snowboard School at Spruce Mountain for her first step in learning to ride.
Combining the sports of cross-country skiing with precision target shooting, the biathlon has evolved from an ancient hunting method to military ski patrols, to an Olympic and World Cup sport. It requires strength, endurance, solid skating skills and a high degree of shooting accuracy. Add cold and changing snow conditions to the mix and you have one of the toughest physical and mental challenges a competitor can face. The Ethan Allen Firing Range in Jericho is home to one of the premiere biathlon training facilities in North America and is managed by the National Guard. The Guard has produced a number of world-class biathletes. The Ethan Allen facility attracts competitors from all over the world. Host Marianne Eaton joins Guard member and Olympic biathlon racer Dan Westover on the range in Jericho for an introductory lesson to the sport of biathlon.
Dragon boats are born from legend. The legend is of Chinese poet, Qu Yuan, who after being banished from his country and hearing his homeland was invaded, threw himself in a river and drowned. It is said the River Dragon shared his sorrow and flew to a quiet place with him. Over two thousand years have passed since then, but the legend of Qu Yuan lives on today with the help of Dragon Boat festivals held around the world in his honor. One of the highlights of these festivals are the Dragon Boat races. A dragon boat is a slender watercraft about 40 feet long and designed to be paddled by a team of 20 people sitting side by side. A dragon figurehead adorns the bow of the boat. Also in the bow sits a drummer, who beats an even tempo to help keep the paddlers in unison. In the stern of the boat sits a steer person, who controls the direction of the craft with a 9-foot oar, but also gives various commands to the crew. The drummer and steer person are in charge in this sport. At a festival, multiple dragon boats compete in heats to determine a winner. Fifty thousand people participate in this sport worldwide and all ages, genders and ability levels are welcome. All you need for the sport is a paddle, a lifejacket, stamina and the ability to work in a team. No special skills are required. Dragonheart Vermont The sport has also become a way for cancer survivors and those battling the disease to band together to raise public awareness. There are over 50 teams comprised of breast cancer survivors throughout the United States and Canada. Dragonheart Vermont is one such organization. Host Marianne Eaton joins the Dragonheart Vermont team as they take part in the annual Pawtucket Rhode Island Dragon Boat competition.
The word kayak means "hunter's boat." Developed by people in Arctic locations, it was a necessary tool for survival. It was agile, had lots of storage capacity for food and supplies and was built to withstand difficult and dangerous conditions. Its basic design has remained the same for thousands of years, but its principle use today has shifted to recreation rather than survival. Whether it's a thrilling whitewater run or the contemplative paddle of a sea kayak, it's a water experience unlike any other. And its popularity is growing. Sea kayaks are long, slender boats built for lakes, quieter rivers and ocean water. Many sea kayaks have plenty of storage space, which makes them a good choice for a paddling/camping trip. Sea kayaking can take you places other boats can't go. Paddling is a quiet, meditative experience for many that gets you close to nature. You sit low in the boat. You actually feel part of the water instead of just being on top of it. It's a sport that requires instruction, safety equipment and knowledge of changing water and weather conditions. But for those willing to put in the time to learn the proper paddling techniques and survival skills, a sea kayak trip can be an unforgettable experience. For a landlocked state like Vermont, lakes and rivers are the only option for sea kayaks. But a short trip to Maine, New Hampshire or Massachusetts can give the paddler an opportunity to experience a coastal sea kayaking adventure. This is a different experience than paddling out on a body of water such as Lake Champlain. On the ocean, the weather and water can change very quickly; the ocean can get nastier a lot faster than a lake and you have to be on guard more. Even though the sky can be clear and nice, the water in the ocean can be rough. You need a better skill set to go coastal sea kayaking. And you need a guide or a very experienced person to take you there. Tom Bergh has kayaked for nearly twenty years and opened Maine Island Kayak Company in 1986. The company offers classes and kayak tours around the world. Tom got taken with sea kayaking because of the sea kayak's extreme seaworthiness and its ability to land anywhere. "You have such a little imprint, both on the shores where you're landing, the communities you're moving through, and the wildlife you're experiencing," he says. Host Marianne Eaton joins Tom Bergh of Maine Island Kayak Company for a sea kayak adventure off the coast of Maine.
Skating ain't what it used to be. If your memories of ice-skating are filled with ill-fitting, cold skates that rumble over bumps and catch in cracks, then it might be time for you to take look at Nordic Skating. For speed and comfort on the ice, you can't beat it. Nordic skates are aluminum platforms with skate blades attached, that lock into cross-country ski boots. The blades are longer than conventional ice skate blades — up to 21 inches. The longer the blades, the more stable the skate and the faster you go. You can get up to 25 mph on the ice with a stiff tailwind. They're also curved in front to help glide over rough bumps without getting stuck. And because you're wearing cross-country ski boots, your feet are comfortable and warm. Add some poles for stability and you can even head out on snow-covered ice for a day of skating. Nordic skating is popular in Europe and Canada, though it is still relatively unknown here in the United States. But there are small groups of people working to change that. One of them is the Norwich-based Montshire Skating Club. The one hundred members of the club maintain a 2-½-mile stretch of ice on Lake Morey in Fairlee, Vermont, for skating — the longest groomed track in the country. They hold an annual winter skate-athon in January where people of all ages can try the equipment and get a feel for Nordic skating. Jamie Hess is one of the co-founders of the club. He says the skate-athon is for people who want to see how far they can skate in a day at any speed they want to. Host Marianne Eaton joins Jamie Hess of the Montshire Skating Club for an introductory Nordic skating lesson.
The sport of dog sledding evolved from the common use of sled dogs in harsh polar regions as work animals. The gold rush helped add a demand for powerful dogs such as the Alaskan Malamutes and Siberian Huskies. And though airplanes began replacing sled dogs as carriers of supplies and mail in the 1920s, the allure of mushing continued, evolving into a sport. In 1925 an outbreak of diphtheria occurred in Nome, Alaska, requiring serum to be sent from Nenana, over 600 miles away. With temperatures reaching 50 degrees below zero, a relay team of sled dogs was set up to make a dramatic run, delivering the serum in just over five days. The event inspired the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, which now covers over 1,100 miles Bruce Linton of Green Mountain Dog Sled Adventures hopes to qualify for the Iditarod. His company in Morrisville, Vt., is a great place to get an introduction to dog sledding. He has about eighty spirited Alaskan Huskies that will take you on an incredible winter ride. He says people are often surprised when they first meet the dogs. "I can't tell you how many people come up here and say, 'your dogs are so friendly. I can't believe how friendly they are.' " The popular misconception is that they're big, aggressive animals. The average female Alaskan Husky weighs only about 45 pounds. And they love to run. They sense the change in the weather and begin to get excited when it gets cold. A careful training regime is followed to allow the dogs to slowly build up their stamina and not overexert themselves. Their engines run high in winter. A single dog can burn up to 10,000 calories a day pulling in the cold, requiring a special diet high in fat and protein. At Green Mountain Dog Sled Adventures, you can learn about the care and feeding of these magnificent dogs. You can learn about the sport and how to hook up a team and drive. Or you can just sit back and go for ride in the snow. Host Marianne Eaton joins Bruce Linton of Green Mountain Dog Sled Adventures for a little introduction to the sport of dog sledding.
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