Thursday, January 24, 2013

Après Ski

Some days I wonder why we live in Vermont. “Remind me why again,” I’ll say to Chris when the temperature drops below zero, causing cars to stall and pipes to freeze. Even when wearing appropriate high tech apparel, my fingers and toes still go numb. “It keeps the population down,” Chris will respond cheerfully. Callie our dog even seems to wonder why we live here as she dashes outside to do her business and then turns right around to come back in the house, lifting her paws high off the cold ground. I pack our wood stove with logs to try to combat the draftiness of our old house and drink mug after mug of hot tea.

We’ve had a string of these sub-zero days recently, with the only consolation being the bright sun and the snow on the ground. When the temperature nudges up, it’s crucial to get outside and enjoy winter. I’ve learned that it’s the only way to survive the longest season in Vermont. My preferred outdoor activity? Cross country skiing. 

I had never tried this sport before living in the northeast, but became hooked on it after my first few attempts. That was back before knee issues caused me to give up running, so the aerobic workout you get from nordic skiing  appealed to the runner in me. Another plus is the lack of crowds and lift lines that are so much a part of the alpine ski scene. Nordic ski trails are more like hiking trails that wind through the forest. It’s not unusual to be out skiing for a couple of hours and only see a few other people. 

Besides, I was never much of an alpine skier, even though I learned as a child. Some part of my body was constantly freezing and I don’t relish adrenaline rushes. With nordic skiing, I always work up a good sweat and there’s just enough downhill to keep it interesting.

Sometimes we ski on ungroomed trails, meaning literally just a path in the woods. We have to drive only a few minutes to find one, but the conditions can be a bit unpredictable. I prefer skiing at a ski center, where the trails have been beautifully groomed and tracked, leaving two parallel grooves in the snow in which you place your skis and then get going. This style of skiing, which we generally do, is called “classic,” where the skis are mostly kept parallel, as opposed to “skate” skiing, where the motion resembles ice skating.

We often ski at Rikert Nordic Center in Ripton, which borders the Green Mountain National Forest and is part of Middlebury College.  Known as Middlebury’s Bread Loaf Campus, it’s home to the College’s nordic team in the winter and to the Bread Loaf School of English (a graduate program) and the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference in the summer. 

I’ve attended both programs, the Conference numerous times, so when I ski here, echoes of summer conversations frequently float through my mind. The Robert Frost Farm is nearby as well, where the poet lived and wrote for many years. Whose woods these are I think I know.

Middlebury will be hosting the NCAA Skiing Championships this year, so Rikert has been spruced up considerably in preparation for the races. We’re not involved in racing ourselves, but since nordic skiing is one of those rare sports that uses every major muscle group, it provides an incomparable workout even at our pace. And it’s something we all enjoy doing as a family. Not surprisingly, it works up a pretty good appetite. A meat and potatoes kind of appetite.

Following a recent ski, I made my mom’s Tuscan pork roasted with garlic, rosemary and fennel seeds,

along with roasted potatoes and garlic,

and sautéed Lacinato kale with garlic.

An Italian meal of garlic, garlic, and more garlic. We feasted on this meal of mostly local foods and then strolled on over to our friend Troy’s backyard for a soak in his hot tub.

Photo credit: Troy Paradee

I guess living in Vermont is not so bad after all.

My Mom’s Tuscan Pork

2 pork tenderloins
3 T olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
T fennel seeds
1 T ground rosemary
1/2 t salt
1/4 t freshly ground pepper

Mix spices, garlic, and olive oil into a paste and rub it all over the tenderloins. Lightly cover the meat and refrigerate it for 4 to 6 hours. Roast it in a 425 degree oven for 20 minutes or until the center measures 145 degrees (or to your preference) on a meat thermometer. Let rest for ten minutes before slicing and serving.


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