Whatcom Magazine

Bellingham skier praises the calming influence of winter outdoors

The long summer is gone and the high peaks are gathering snow. Winter is coming. Jams are packed on the shelves, the freezer is full of berries and salmon, the woodpile is stacked high.

Everything is ready for the joy of winter. I often tell friends that when winter comes, I go farther north while other people head south for warmer climates. I have always had a great love affair with snow and ice. I have snowshoed and skied downhill and cross-country in Europe, Iran, Canada, across the U.S., and now in the Mount Baker area, where I moved two years ago to be near my fisherman son and his new family.

I started my love of snow when I was a child in Burgundy, France. We would visit my grandfather’s farm and put pieces of wood on our feet to slide down the steep meadows. I have not missed many ski seasons, and as winter approaches I scrutinize the mountaintops and wait anxiously until I can put on my downhill skis and start my first run of the season.

I wear a helmet now, after taking a weekend class for women going down steep chutes and hard terrain. The younger women who taught the class gave me a helmet. At 64, I thought, “Well why not!”

Something happens when one is surrounded by winter’s white scenery, high mountain peaks and tall spires of evergreens. After a snowfall, I put on my cross-country skis, pack a sandwich and a thermos filled with warm tea, and head for a quiet run.

One glides quietly, listening to the birds, the wind rustling the cedars and pines. There’s a kind of peace, a moment of tasting paradise, amidst our busy, complex lives. Nature, wearing its winter coat, is telling us it’s time to cast off unnecessary things, to concentrate on the essentials in life.

After snowshoeing or skiing, I always feel refreshed and ready to tackle anything that comes my way. I remember when I was teaching in a busy public school in Boston, I would take a “snow day” to gather my strength to face the difficult task of being a young teacher.

The Bellingham area is blessed with superb scenery by simply just walking out your door. When I moved here, I was a bit confused about the range of activities this area has to offer, so I joined Mount Baker Club to learn about my new home. It’s a wonderful club that can help newcomers learn about the many areas tucked away in our nearby mountains. Each winter, the club organizes snowshoe and cross-country outings. The members are always helpful, and offer a warm community of like-minded people to roam the mountains in all seasons.

Mt. Baker Ski Area is a wonderful place for families to gather and bring their young ones to enjoy winter sports. And ski swaps in the area help people prepare for skiing, snowboarding and snowshoeing at an affordable price.

My children started skiing at 2 years of age. We still enjoy skiing as a family, and my new grandson will put on his first skis this season. He turns 2 on Christmas Day.