News from Vermont #282 - Winter Fun

February 20th, 2013


Hello again Maple People,
In these almost sixty-five years, my winter pastimes have sure taken me on a "wild ride". Yup, give a farm kid a steep hill, lots of snow and a good toboggan or Flexible Flyer, and there's a world of fun out there. Here in Vermont, there was never a shortage of any of the above. In fact, we judged our buddies back then more for the size of their hill than anything else. My sledding friends Dougie Schaefer and Jeff Bean both had good hills but Jeff's, the infamous "Bean's Hill", was long, ledgey, steep, and was the veritable Denali of East Montpelier! Oh, and one more thing...back then we had more snow.
Yup, back then it was nothing to get huge dumpings, "three, four foot at a time b'God". The Saturday after a storm, Bean's Hill begged our arsenal of shovels, scoops, snowshoes, skis...anything to pack it down and move it around. We'd end up with huge jumps, slopes full of "double-dawg-dares" and best of all, we were boys being boys. Dougie's toboggan would fit all of us. I'll never forget being locked somewhere in the middle of a gang of five facing the hill's steepest offering, an ice-packed trail with a jump way down toward the bottom. Like astronauts, we'd done the training and engineering, but the other part, the unknown, loomed even bigger than the hill...and then there was the push off and a mixture of adrenaline, speed, and fear clear to the bone. The jump was straight ahead and unavoidable, no way to "bail out".  We hit it and were airborne for a long time until violently reclaimed by terra firma, boys flying in every direction. I laid where I crashed with my breath knocked out thinking I was going to die while my buddies shook the snow off and laughed like hyenas.
Any talk of toboggans and Flexible Flyers would be as "empty" as a snowless January without mentioning jack jumpers. Jack jumpers were the king of winter "go fast, show off, get crazy" toys and contrary to these modern times of buying them made of plastic from Walmart, we made our own jack jumpers from barrel staves and scraps of lumber. Speaking of modern times, skis these days are wickedly expensive and billed as "fully rockered and reverse camber"...hell, we had that feature over fifty years ago with our barrel staves! Jack jumpers were a real "hoot", very hard to master, but something to be proud of because instead of bearing foreign names like "Kneissel" or "Rossignol", we had our own names on them. 
Tom Morse and Val Darrah on "storbought" Jack Jumberfs.
Tom Morse and Val Darrah on "storebought" Jack Jumpers.
My winter sports evolved during my teenage years to another slope here at Morse Farm which had its own rope tow. It was there that my buddies and I transformed from the "primitive" to parallel skiing and suave winter clothing....anything that would impress the girls. Heck, we even got to big ski places like Stowe or Sugarbush once in a while after we'd scrimped and saved enough. It was at Sugarbush, in fact, where some twenty years ago, I left the trail and smacked into an unyielding white birch tree. I spent 10 days at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center and several months in a body cast while my broken back healed. My body did heal (heck, a farmer can't be held up with a bad back) but my days of downhill skiing were suddenly over.
These days my world of winter sports is jumps, no spills, nothing steep...a few times a winter I'll click into my cross-country skis and head out on the Morse Farm Ski Touring trails. That's it. A few years back, I met up with a young friend whose wife had convinced him to try cross-country skiing instead of his usual snowboarding. I'll always remember his reply when I asked him about it. With a perfect "Rodney Dangerfield" frown he said: "most fun I've ever had at three miles an hour!". Well folks, this Vermonter has been full circle with his "wintah" sports and from now on "three miles an hour" works just fine for me. In fact, if I'm lucky I'll never quit but just apply my version of the adage: "old Vermonters never die. They just slowly ski away."
We'll be heading back out to the sugar woods today to put some final touches on preparation for sugarin' 2013! Folks around here are really anxious to see some steam coming from our sugarhouse and I'm sure you're anxious to to get some fresh syrup. You can do that by going to . There's nothing better than syrup fresh right off the evaporator. Get your order make the pancakes, we'll supply the syrup!
Happy sledding!