GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

March 1, 2013

Let the fun shine as winter ends

How to make most of weeks before the snow melts

By Kelly Burch
Correspondent

---- — By the time March rolls around, who around here isn’t feeling at least a little bit frosty toward winter?

After months of snowfall and frigid temperatures, old-favorites sledding, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing begin to lose their appeal. That’s all right: There are plenty of other activities to free you from an end-of-season rut. Just check these out!

Ziplining

When most people think ziplining, they picture lush rainforests, rather than snow-covered mountains. However, winter can be the best time to zipline through the White Mountains, says Allan Guilbeault of Alpine Adventures in Lincoln, N.H.

“The views are better, because there are no leaves on the trees,” he said. “They’re amazing.”

Plus, lower temperatures and smaller groups add to the appeal.

“We do bonfires out there, and it has a much more adventurous feel during the winter,” Guilbeault said. “It feels like an expedition.”

Of course, during the winter, just getting to the zipline can be a treck. Alpine Adventures uses Pinzgauer vehicles, military monstrosities developed in Austria to get through the most rugged terrains.

“Our off-road tours are adventures in and or themselves,” said Guilbeault.

If you didn’t get enough of flying high on the zipline, check out The BigAirBag when you return to town. This tubing set-up with a twist sends thrill-seekers down a 40-foot-tall ramp, careening fifteen feet into the air before landing on a giant, soft airbag.

Sledding may never seem the same!

How To: Alpine Adventures, Lincoln, NH. 603.745.9911 or www.alpinezipline.com.

Sleigh Rides

If you’re looking for something a little less adventurous, a sleigh ride could be the perfect way to spend a romantic evening, or an afternoon with the kids. During the winter months, Charmingfare Farm in Candia, N.H., moves its trail horses onto sleigh duty.

“People don’t like to get bundled up and get on a horse during the winter,” said farm owner John Pyteraf. “They’d much rather be warm and cozy on a sleigh ride.”

Pyteraf first saw the appeal of sleigh rides when he was growing up next to Brewinghill Farm in North Andover.

“I was a kid employee there,” he recalled. “That’s where I learned to drive the horses.”

Today, visitors to Charmingfare can choose to ride on a 20-person group sleigh, pulled by two Percheron horses, or a four-person sled pulled by a pair of trail horses.

“They’re like driving a sports car; lively and quick,” Pyteraf said of the trail horses. “The Percherons are like tractor trailer engines.”

The sleigh rides wind through Charmingfare Farm, passing black bears, a mountain lion, and wolves in the farm’s licensed zoo. On weekends, the Sleigh Ride Social tour includes a stop around the campfire to enjoy hot dogs and hot cocoa.

“It’s an event focused toward families with kids,” Pyteraf said.

How To: Charmingfare Farm, Candia, NH. 603..483.5623 or www.visitthefarm.com

The Mount Washington Auto Road SnowCoach

We’ve all seen the bumper stickers, and many New Englanders have driven the Mount Washington Auto Road themselves. Making this classic New England trip in the winter, however, can give it a whole new feel.

“I knew we had a good thing going when we took the staff, who have seen the road hundreds of times, and they were wowed,” said Howie Wemyss, the general manager at Great Glen Trails Outdoor Center, which runs the coach.

The SnowCoach is equipped with a specially designed four-track system that allows it to conquer the harsh winter conditions on the auto road. However, even the best vehicle is no match for some of the mountain’s notorious weather. Because of this, it is not possible to make advanced reservations.

“Mount Washington is considerably less accessible during the winter,” Wemyss said.

Barring bad weather, the snow coach brings nine passengers 4 miles up the auto road, just past the tree line. For safety reasons, the coach does not bring passengers to the summit during the winter. However, for the most adventurous riders, reaching the tree line is just the start.

“We allow people to snowshoe down the road,” said Wemyss. “We had a couple from Germany this morning that snowshoed the whole way, and they loved it.”

With trips daily, and two-for-one pricing on Fridays, the SnowCoach can be the perfect activity to begin your weekend up North.

How To: Mount Washington Auto Road SnowCoach, Gorham, N.H., 603.466.3988 or www.mtwashingtonautoroad.com

Dog Sledding

Although you may think of dog sledding as an exotic arctic adventure, it is becoming more and more common in New England.

“I get a lot of people who have it on their bucket list,” said Corina Alexander, owner of Mush Mellow Dog Adventures in Sanbornton, N.H.

While people come for the exotic allure, they return for the calm, and the chance to spend quality time with the dogs.

“People talk about the whole experience of being on the trail, how it is so quiet and peaceful,” said Alexander.

Dog sledding can also be an adventure for your favorite four-legged friend. Mush Mellows offers a “run your own dog” program, where dogs who like to pull at the leash can have a chance to pull a sled.

“All dogs can do it,” Alexander said. “But you want a dog with a desire to run and pull.”

Whether you come dog sledding to experience the fresh air, the animals, or the thrill, you certainly won’t be the only one having fun.

“The dogs love it. You can really see it when they’re barking to go.”

How To: Mush Mellow Adventures, Sanbornton, New Hampshire. 603.286.2652 or mushmellowadventures.com.