Ever try skiing with a four-pawed friend?
Toby works weekends at Pat's Peak with the ski patrol but making the golden retriever even more unique is that he's a seven-year-old working dog. That means if he were two-footed rather than four-pawed, he'd be at least middle-aged, according to a conversion chart on pets.webmd.com, where his age translates to 50 in human years. Dog-food manufacturer Pedigree with its conversion chart goes further: Toby in human years is 54 and "considered a senior dog." But Toby is happy following veteran ski patroller Bob Boucher around the slopes. His job is to hang out with kids who are scared on the slopes after they've had a bad fall. "About all Toby's qualified to find and rescue is a hot dog," Boucher joked. Read more about the affable Toby in James Patrick's Slopeside column in Friday's New Hampshire Union Leader.
I'd always wanted to take my dog skiing with me. Why not take her skiing today?
With my chocolate lab Daisy Duke riding shotgun, I got in my car and turned left out of the ski area parking lot. We were going to find an open field somewhere and go skiing, just me and Daisy.
This idea wasn't even half-baked; it was a frozen dough ball of a plan.
Craney Hill Road runs right next to Pats Peak. The road is steep and the snow-plowing crews in Henniker have created a beveled snow edge on the side of the road. Craney Hill Road was bordered on either side by a 5-foot-wide strip of hard-packed snow in the ditches. Due to the heavy snowfall, the packed snow was actually higher than the road.
Daisy Duke and I drove to the top of Craney Hill Road and parked on the side. I snapped on my boots and pulled out my nine-year-old skis. In a moment of inspiration, I realized I should bring my shoes for the walk back up the hill.
Then came Daisy, a bounding two-and-a-half -year-old lab. With a bright-blue shoe sticking out of each jacket pocket and just one strap on each boot attached, I pushed off down the road.
It wasn't the kind of skiing that puts you in Powder magazine. The grooming machine left a little bare spot of mud that slowed our progress briefly. After a few seconds, it was all going quite well. Daisy Duke was excitedly and respectfully following behind me as I skied down the run.
According to Google Maps, our run down Craney Hill Road was about a mile long. Daisy Duke and I made it half a mile before I decided it was time to stop; the advantage of skiing at a ski resort is you don't have to walk up the mountain.
By the time I decided to stop I was skiing with my right leg on the rough, deep snow pushed aside by the snowplow. My left ski was crossed a little, to help control my speed so as not to outrun the dog.
Logically, the best way to stop would be to simply ski to my right, into a large pile of snow. Uninjured and laughing, I was greeted with a few kisses from Daisy Duke.
There are certainly better places to go skiing with a dog in New Hampshire. I was breaking the law by allowing Daisy Duke to run around off leash, though she stayed about 10 feet behind me the entire time. Nobody drove past in the 15 minutes or so we were on the hill.
There's nothing like having the slopes to yourself.
For more tales (and tails) of outdoor adventures, check out James Patrick's Slopeside skiing column in Friday's New Hampshire Union Leader.
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