The best things in life…are not necessarily things

Charlotte ice rink

Celebrate the holidays with gifts of the outdoors.

Safety first! Grippers, creepers—call them what you will. Every Vermonter should own at least one pair for staying upright on icy surfaces; a pair of grippers is always less costly than a broken wrist or hip!
New and old products flood the market: STABILicers, Yaktrax, ICETRAX, MICROSpikes and Icebugs. Icebugs, with lugs embedded in the sole of a shoe or boot, are made in Sweden—a place that knows something about winter: “Icebug makes shoes that save the world from slipping!”

When there’s almost no snow or a fresh dump, snowshoes are a salvation. If you can walk you can snowshoe; stay toasty, burn up to 1,000 calories per hour, and go almost anywhere. Float over deep snow, scale steep slopes, and stride over stumps and rocks.

Snowshoes come in many shapes and sizes and a good pair can last a lifetime. Variables include bindings, materials, size and style, with or without crampons. Basic plastic models for kids start at $30, and new adult snowshoes can be found for about $100. Look for used ones at swaps.

Downhill skiing and riding
Even in this era of consolidation there are a handful of deals for the mountains. Sugarbush still offers $30 Thursdays, except on holidays, at Mt. Ellen. A SugarDirect Card costs $99 and allows 50-percent savings on midweek and 20-percent reduction on weekends and holidays. Buy a Bash Badge at Smugglers—prices vary by age—and pay $30 per day for lift tickets and $20 for a half day. Bolton offers a $29 ticket for non-peak Mondays, and an adult weekday ticket at the Middlebury Snow Bowl is $40.

Ice skating
If you are still skating in granny’s hand-me-downs, take note: Ice skates have changed. New models are warmer and offer more ankle support. Some use a latching system in place of long, cold and wet laces. Or consider Nordic skating, a bit like cross-country skiing on ice. Everything you need to know about Nordic skating, including safety, equipment, and ice conditions, is at

Cross-country skiing
Cross-country skiing is a life-long sport, gentle on the joints and as rigorous, or not, as you choose. Nordic season pass holders at 21 participating areas get one free day of skiing at each. Participants include Bolton, Catamount, Sleepy Hollow, Trapp Family Lodge, Stowe and Rickert. Camel’s Hump Nordic in Huntington is a member-supported nonprofit. A day “membership” is $10 at Camel Hump Skiers.

Don’t forget those in need: Charlotte Food Shelf & Assistance
Some of our neighbors struggle to keep a roof over their heads, food on the table, gas in the car and heat in the radiators. No gift wrap required. Give as generously as you can. P.O. Box 83, Charlotte VT 05445.

Shop locally
For every $100 spent in local independently owned stores, $69 returns to the community through taxes, payroll and other expenditures. If you shop at a national chain only $43 stays local. Spend it online and nothing comes home!

The Local First Vermont coupon book costs $15 and offers significant discounts at local businesses. A program of Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility, the coupon book is good for one year, from September 2019 through August 2020, and is available from participating merchants or online.

Outdoor nonprofits
Give the gift of financial support or of your time. Many worthy nonprofits enhance our outdoors, including Charlotte Land Trust, Charlotte’s Town Link Trail, Vermont Land Trust, The Nature Conservancy, Green Mountain Club, Local Motion, Lake Champlain Committee and Lake Champlain Land Trust. No gift wrapping needed!

Shameless commerce division
Two important young men in my life promote the outdoors in ways worthy of consideration for your gift-giving dollars.

Former neighbor and friend Leath Tonino has written two collections of essays, one about Vermont, The Animal One Thousand Miles Long, and the recently published, The West Will Swallow You. By turns observant, keen, funny and sometimes out-of-your-mind-crazy-but-always-thoughtful, Leath’s writing informs and entertains as it poses big questions about humans and their intersection with the natural world. Extra points for identifying local characters in both volumes! Both are available at the Flying Pig Bookstore in Shelburne.

Our son-in-law Travis Titus has started a new business, Titus Adventure Company, which might be of interest to Colorado-bound travelers: 4WD-vehicles and outdoor gear rental, ski boxes, tents, bike racks, camping gear, coolers and more. Fly into Denver where you’ll be picked up in a 4×4 vehicle for off-road exploration: camping, fishing, hunting or back-country skiing. Bonus: You might include a camping meal pack, prepared by our daughter Victoria!

Get outdoors with those you love!
In his 2005 book, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, child advocacy expert Richard Louv connects the rise in obesity, attention-deficit disorder and depression to a lack of nature and the outdoors in young lives. A cohort of children is coming of age with little experience in nature. If you remember chasing tadpoles, whittling swords, searching for jack-in-the-pulpits and, yes, getting poison ivy, make sure to share that joy with a child in the coming year.

May your generosity bring joy this holiday season.