Winter Notes: Filling out a winter-lover's wish list

November 30. 2017 9:39PM

Snow sleds provide hours of fun, come in a variety of styles, and won't overdraw Santa's budget. Here, Katy, Ella, and Owen McPhaul find some backyard speed. (Meghan McCarthy McPhaul)

Every outdoor enthusiast I know has a perpetually shifting wish list of gear they’d love to have and trips they dream of taking. From shiny new skis to Icelandic adventures, puffy parkas to burly fat bikes, the desired items are as varied as the outdoor lovers who dream of having them. Alas, even Santa has a budget.

A casual poll of several outdoorsy folks, however, revealed a few common gift-giving themes that won’t break the bank.

For adrenaline junkies

Know someone always looking for adventure? Whatever snowy — or icy — thrill the people on your list love, there’s surely a ticket, pass, or gift certificate that will bring smiles come present-opening time.

Lift tickets and passes to alpine and Nordic ski areas slide perfectly into those stockings hung by the chimney with care. Or give the gift of a fat-bike rental (many Nordic centers, like Great Glen Trails, now rent fat bikes, or visit your local bike shop), a tubing pass (Cranmore and Gunstock are among the ski areas with great tubing hills), or a day of ziplining (check out the Canopy Tour at Bretton Woods or Alpine Adventures in Lincoln).

To keep those adventure-seekers safe if they’re venturing into the backcountry, consider the gift of essential equipment like an avalanche beacon and probe — and the knowhow to use them. International Mountain School in North Conway sells a variety of backcountry equipment, and its partner business, International Mountain Climbing School, offers classes on backcountry skiing and avalanche safety, as well as a variety of other adrenaline-filled adventures. For more info, visit www.ime-usa.com.

Casual outdoors

Some people don’t need to fly down a snow-covered mountain or climb a frozen waterfall to get their winter kicks; they might just want to go for a quiet walk in the woods. Snowshoes — and adjustable trekking poles — make that easier and more enjoyable.

There are myriad options here. Traditionalists might opt for a wooden-frame snowshoe with rawhide lashing. While this model is often used as wall art these days, these older-styled shoes are effective in deep snow and available from various outfitters, including L.L. Bean. More modern snowshoes of lightweight aluminum construction, with nifty, easy-to use bindings, come in a variety of price points and designs for uses from flat walking to uphill winter hiking.

A must-have for any winter walker is some form of traction that can be attached to regular winter boots. A couple of standard choices here are Yaktrax and MICROspikes, both generally available at sporting goods stores. These slip onto snow boots, sneakers, or hiking boots to provide extra bite into snow and ice while hiking on packed-out trails or just walking the dog around the neighborhood in slippery conditions.

Snowshoes make a great gift for lots of outdoor-lovers, from easy walkers to hardcore trekkers. (Meghan McCarthy McPhaul)

For the cold-toed

It’s so hard to have fun in the snow if your toes are freezing. Luckily, there are many ways — and gifts to give — to address this niggling issue. At our house, Santa always leaves a case of toe-warmers under the tree. These small patches of low-tech goodness have saved many a cold-weather activity. Simply open the packet, attach to socks, slip into boots, and those toes will stay toasty for hours.

Higher-tech options include heated socks, which range from AAA battery-powered socks under $25 to rechargeable socks whose temperature is controlled through your smartphone’s Bluetooth technology — and whose price tag is upwards of $200. 

If you’re going to spend that much on warm feet for a loved one, at least a loved one who skis, you may just as well opt for heated insoles, which fit snuggly into ski boots and run off rechargeable batteries. Visit your local ski shop to check out the options.

For the kids (and young at heart)

It seems a universal fact that kids love to play in the snow. While my kids spend lots of time skiing, they’re also happy to just go outside and build snow creatures, sled down a hill, and feather snow angels into the fluff. For the young snow-lovers on your shopping list, consider gifts that offer simple, quintessential winter fun.

Adjustable ice skates can provide hours of frozen fun — and might still fit next year. Snowshoes allow kids to tramp through the woods, around the yard, or up a mountain trail.

Plastic sleds and snow saucers are great fun, too. But for a classic sledding option, go for the traditional wooden toboggan (available from retailers like L.L. Bean). We haul our antique toboggan out at least a couple times each winter and bring it to a big hill. The rush of flying down a snowy pitch while crammed onto a toboggan with a few of your favorite snow-lovers is pure joy!

Whatever your snowy pleasure, here’s hoping you find something fun — and useful — to wrap up this holiday season.

Winter Notes is published on Fridays during ski season. Contact Meghan McCarthy McPhaul at meghan@meghanmcphaul.com.


ColumnOutdoors

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