Right about this time last year, I resolved to become more flexible in 2010. My family was thrilled, thinking I’d learn to relax my routine-oriented, type-A ways. But really, I meant it literally: I wanted to stretch out my overworked muscles. Thanks to the horn of yoga-and-Pilates plenty in the Burlington area, I actually followed through on my New Year’s resolution and can now touch my toes.
For 2011, I’ve come up with 10 vows for other people who want to get fitter or more active, and suggestions on how to keep them. Me, I’m going to learn to relax.
If your resolution is:
To find a little adrenaline in this Currier & Ives state... While amusement-park junkies wait for the next Champlain Valley Fair to roll around in, um, eight months, they can get their thrills on Okemo’s hills, thanks to the brand-spanking-new open-air Timber Ripper Mountain Coaster. The sled-shaped cars built for two (tickets are $9 for a passenger and $13 for a driver) climb 1600 feet on a track and then take off through banks, berms, loops and waves in the midst of an alpine, snow-covered environment. Alas, there’s no fried dough afterward, but Coleman Brook Tavern at the Jackson Gore Base has s’mores galore.
To take the Penguin Plunge... In 2011, Special Olympics Vermont has plans to celebrate its 40th anniversary by raising $400,000 across the three-city Penguin Plunge series. But don’t bother praying for a warm spell on February 5, when Burlington penguins will dive in. Sun, sleet or blizzard, the average temperature of Lake Champlain for the second month of the year is a steady 34 degrees. Instead, spend your time shopping for a bathing suit and a creative T-shirt, say the members of Team Harrison, who’ve been frolicking in the frigid waters every February for 10 years. The less you wear, the faster you can change out of cold, wet clothes. (Secure footwear is also a must, as the ramp is slippery.) After a team chant — to get the blood pumping — sprint into the lake, smile for the cameras, then grab a towel and make a beeline for the warming tent. Thaw out with a chili and hot-cider party at home.
To climb Camel’s Hump — in winter... During summer and autumn, the iconic mountain sees a veritable conga line of camera-toting tourists. But when the snow falls on Camel’s Hump, muffling the noise, allowing for the occasional moose sighting and softening the contours into white pillows, an ordinary hike becomes extraordinary. “There are no bothersome bugs, and the views can be more spectacular with the leaves fallen off the hardwood trees,” says Gary Sawyer of the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks & Recreation. His checklist for a winter hike of the Hump includes drinking water, high-energy food, extra layers of clothing (including a spare hat and gloves), map, compass or GPS unit, space blanket, waterproof matches, headlamp, and snowshoes. And a buddy or two. “This may be hard to accept,” cautions Sawyer, “but all winter users should be prepared to spend the night in the woods.”
To burn off the box of Lake Champlain Chocolates you scarfed over the holidays... There’s an old adage that cross-country skiing burns more calories than just about any other activity, and it’s true. January 8 is Winter Trails Day, when nearly 100 resorts and Nordic centers nationwide let rookies try the sport gratis. Chittenden’s Mountain Top Inn & Resort and Ole’s Cross Courntry Center in Waitsfield are among the participating skinny-ski areas in Vermont. Find a full listing at wintertrails.org.
To screw Jack Frost and get jacked... These days, you can’t throw a boot without hitting some sort of boot camp. If your abs are flabby, try the new SharkBite core conditioning camp, held Tuesdays at Faith United Methodist Church in South Burlington (sharkbitevt.com). Wary of wearing a strapless white dress? Hit the Y’s Bridal Bootcamp (gbymca.org).
To shoot like Brian Mohr and Emily Johnson... The Moretown-based couple could collectively be called the Ansel Adams of Vermont — if Ansel had climbed up and skied down those peaks he photographed. Through Ember Photography, Mohr and Johnson partake in some of the world’s coolest adventures, from the Arctic to the Andes, and they share their shooting skills in a weekend winter photography workshop (catamounttrail.org) at the Trapp Family Lodge from January 14 to 16. The price is steep — $750 including lodging, meals and trail fees — but so are the slopes you’ll be able to document after the workshop.
To snowboard like Jake Burton... It’s your lucky day. Well, 31 days. January is “learn to ski or snowboard month,” and Vermont resorts are all but dragging diehard hermits out of their nicely heated hiding holes. From January 3 to 9, you can find free beginner lessons, rentals and lift tickets at such resorts as Bolton Valley, Jay Peak and Stowe. Other areas, including Killington and Pico, are giving away newbie packages all month with the “bring a friend” promotion. And all winter at Sugarbush, first-timers get three days of lessons and rentals, plus a season pass that’s good until the snow melts, for a jaw-dropping $230.
To shoot a wild animal... Deer season is behind us, but Vermonters can still hunt all kinds of critters, including raccoons, foxes, bobcats, muskrats, squirrels and rabbits, during the winter. Find a listing of guide services at voga.org.
To run 100 miles — wearing snowshoes... The fiendish minds that devised the Death Race (a 24-hour-plus suffer fest that, last June, required entrants to count pennies, munch on raw onions and crawl through barbed wire, among other tasks) have come up with the Peak Snowshoe Challenge, scheduled for March 5 at Pittsfield’s Amee Farm. Though you can opt for a six-mile or half-marathon distance, true winter warriors will want to tackle the 100-mile race of 15 loops on a 6.55-mile course. OK, so that’s technically 98.25 miles, but it’ll probably feel like 100.
To compete for a cause... Let’s face it: Even the most euphoric runner’s high lasts only so long. That’s why more than 40,000 athletes around the country clothe themselves in purple and race for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society: Team in Training. On January 25 at Burlington’s Courtyard Marriott, TNTs Upstate New York/Vermont Chapter is recruiting the aerobically endowed to enter such events as the Vermont City Marathon and the Grand Canyon hike. Find out more at teamintraining.org.