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Bundle up for outdoor fun 

CROSS-COUNTRY SKIING

It’s been a bit a secret for people, but yes, you can ski on a trail, for free, that has a Metro transit stop close by.

Part of the Shubie Park trails, along Lake Charles on the way to Waverley, is five kilometers of great Nordic skiing, when, of course, there is snow. Lately members of the Nova Nordic ski club have been carving some tracks in one of the few groomed ski trails in the province, says member chair Steve Chipman, though the Lake Charles trail is open and freely accessible even if you aren’t a member.

A draw for mainly skate skiers, though classic skiers are welcome, Nova Nordic offers a number of programs, rentals and organizes informal group trips further afield if you are looking for some skate ski adventures out of province.

Always looking to add to the club numbers, the fee is a pittance, at $30 for adults, $60 for families. Chipman notes that the difference between the two styles of skiing is often reflective of skier’s dry land training. Classic cross-country skiers are normally hiker types where the skate skiers are generally of the running and cycling ilk. Either way you are getting a great aerobic workout. Call Steve, he will get you moving, 464-5055 or check out their website nova-nordic-ski.com

Can you think of a better way than skiing to enjoy fantastic winter scenery, make new friends, inhale some clean crisp air and avoid the house pants transition from jeans because you haven’t been able to button them since the holidays? Plus: no half hour lift lines. –Deborah Johnson

SKATEBOARDING

Atlantic Canada weather is a drag for the skateboarder. All the rain and the snow means the outdoor skate season is limited, and though we do have the excellent Common Skatepark, there’s no roof. Even in the bitterest cold, skateboarders will be out, somewhere, provided the surfaces are free from snow or moisture.

“It doesn’t matter how cold it is. If it’s dry, there are going to be guys skating,” says Zach Tovey, co-owner of local skateboard store---and scene hub---Pro Skates(5222 Blowers, 429-6788). He does recommend over the winter that skaters loosen their trucks---the metal alloy parts that connect the wheels to the deck---because they’ll freeze up.

“The rain ruins your equipment” too, he says, and “the salt, it kinds of sucks,” but that isn’t enough to stop the hardcore skaters from staying active through the winter. “Any underground parking lot will get skaters, at least until the security comes,” says Tovey, who spends some of his time in the garage of a friend’s place skating on his ramp. “We skated that Saturday night. We’ll skate whatever we can.”

Dave Hung, assistant manager at Pro Skates Uptown (6070 Quinpool, 406-4006) speaks of invite-only indoor spaces, but won’t confirm rumours of indoor skating going on at a certain skateboard manufacturing plant in LaHave. He does say that he has brought “a shovel and a tiger torch” to the Common Skatepark in order to skate in the winter, done with “a lot of effort” and the help of good friends.

Tovey has one more warning for anyone attempting skating in subzero temps: “It hurts a lot more when you fall down.” –Carsten Knox

SKATING

Seven years ago, a group of local North End dads got together to make an outdoor community rink at Highland Park Junior High so that neighbourhood kids would have a free place to skate. The North End Rink (Agricola and Lady Hammond) is back in operation this year, and boasts two family rinks on the upper level tennis courts and a full size hockey rink below.

Jon Blanchard, one of the original volunteers, says that at 22,000 square feet of ice, it’s the biggest artificial outdoor rink east of Montreal. It’s also a lot of work: over twenty locals take turns unlocking the gates in the morning, flooding the ice in the evenings, and locking up at night. As Blanchard says, “you’ve got to be interested in doing it, getting out there with a hose when it’s minus 12.”

Volunteers in other communities are getting their local rinks up and running as well. The Ardmore Park Community Rink (Oxford and Almon) should open soon, and Councillor Dawn Sloan says The Divas have flooded the George Dixon Rink (near Gottingen at Uniacke Square) and have starting prepping The Commons Rink (at the wading pool). Both Sloane and Blanchard are looking for rink volunteers---contact sloaned@halifax.ca or rink@dexterdyne.net if you would like to help throw ice.

The Frog Pond on Purcell’s Cove Rd, Chocolate Lake and Lake Banook are also popular skating spots. Check HRM’s ice thickness line, 490-3577 to make sure that the ice is safe. Call HRM’s Recreation number at 490-6666 for more information about community rinks. All outdoor rinks are weather permitting. –Sarah Greene

SURVIVAL TRAINING

You have twisted your ankle, it’s -5C, the sun is going down and your cell phone is dead. Another catch, you are three kilometres away from any sign of civilization. But you are prepared because you took a winter survival course.

In late January the provincial department of Health Promotion and Protection offers a winter survival course in various locations throughout Nova Scotia. This year’s two-day course is in Manganese Mines, a small community outside Hilden, NS. The Nova Scotia Outdoor Leadership Program has been offered for almost 30 years, as one of the first survival courses available to Nova Scotians at a reduced cost.

For only $65 ($55 for students), 25 adults (aged 17 and up) can learn basic survival skills, hopefully saving themselves and maybe others from a cold weather life or death scenario. The camp’s sleeping arrangements are described as rustic, so don’t expect a mint on your pillow. The province’s Sports and Recreation division of offsets additional costs; your food, accommodations and training costs are covered.

You are expected to come up with and pack your own means of keeping warm. Jody Conrad, an outdoor recreation consultant with the province and survival skill instructor, says the course is not about winter camping. It’s about getting through a situation based on the stuff you have on you. That said, think about the possibilities with these skills for taking care of yourself out in the woods.

“We like to make people feel a bit tense about what to bring, besides the basics, we leave it pretty vague as this is a experiential way to figuring out to keep yourself alive.”

For more information call Dave Comeau, 465-3888 ext. 137 or try the Nova Scotia Outdoor Leadership Development Program website at gov.ns.ca/hpp/physicalActivity/nsold.asp. –Deborah Johnson

TOBOGGANING

Does a snowstorm illicit squeals of childish joy in you, just imagining the breakneck speeds you’ll reach coasting down an icy slope? When in cafeterias, do you imagine other, illicit uses for your plastic lunch trays? (traybogganing?) Do the green slopes of Citadel Hill in July just seem like a big tease? Then you might be a serious sledder.

The city doesn’t formally condone sledding on municipal or provincial property, and if you go onto the HRM website you’ll see a whole page of suggestions on safety. Good ideas, all, but without direction, you will need to find your own hills. Or see below.

The obvious choice is Citadel Hill, for incline, lack of obstacles and location. We recommend the south and west faces, especially the slope leading down to the Garrison Grounds at Sackville and Bell.

Also popular amongst families in the south end is the park behind Gorsebrook Junior High School (5966 South). With its multiple inclines it suits both the beginner sledder and the more seasoned snow warrior.

Speaking of sudden slopes, some say the Merv Sullivan Memorial Park (Leeds and Novalea), known as the Tar Pit, is the best hill in the city. Nearby Fort Needham is another park area with a variety of tobogganing spots.

In Dartmouth, tobogganers (and snowboarders) congregate on The Common near the gazebo on wintry days and some have even been known to utilize the slopes at Brightwood Golf Club (227 School Street) for some downhill fun.

We would recommend being safe, but would not endorse trespassing. –Carsten Knox

WINTER CYCLING

Eli Chaisson, a manager at Cyclesmith (114 Woodlawn Rd, Dartmouth, 434-1756, and 6112 Quinpool, 425-1756) never parks his two-wheelers, even in winter. Cyclesmith can help you convert your bike for slick icy streets or service it for storage. His suggestion for cheaper winter riding is to change out your drive shaft to a single gear system for the season.

Best of Halifax winner Ideal Bikes (1678 Barrington, 444-7433), the little shop with a lot of soul, will get you on a winter bike guaranteed to last the season for $100. Owner/operator Dave Schuhlein notes the logic behind storing your good wheels, with crucial parts lubricated and buying a “winter special.” With a one speeder, you have less moving parts and fewer repairs.

Dave Nauss, operator of Jack Nauss Bicycle Shop (2533 Agricola, 429-0024) says there is no such thing as a bike strictly built for winter riding. Though he advocates storing a good bike and riding something inexpensive in the winter, he stresses that salt destroys drive shafts if you don’t regularly service your cycle throughout the cold months.

“If its freezes, its ceases,” says amiable Dave Marder of Bikes by Dave (2828 Windsor, 455-1677). He suggests lubrication of major moving parts, like the chain, drive train and the post, if you store it or not. He also recommends for intrepid cyclists, ski googles over helmets to cut down on tearing.

And if you’re looking for the accessories and the attire for winter cycling there are plenty of places to check out, including Cleve’s Source for Sports (Park Lane, 420-1649, 912 Cole Harbour Road, 434-0022) the Trail Shop (6210 Quinpool, 423-8736) or Mountain Equipment Co-op (1550 Granville, 421-2667). –Deborah Johnson

WINTER SURFING

January might seem like a strange time to zip up your wetsuit and grab a board, but a lack of warm weather and changing facilities doesn’t stop enthusiasts from surfing year round in Nova Scotia.

Walter Forsyth has been surfing through winter for five years. “Once a week is just enough to keep the addiction subsided,” he says, “and twice a week is pretty decent. More than that and you start to feel really good about it and less than once a week you start to jones.”

Winter surfing is possible thanks to Neoprene wetsuits, hoods and gloves (a typical winter wetsuit is 5/4 mm or 6/4 mm thick) and the fact that the water temperature does not get much colder than zero degrees when the water is moving. Air temperature is a different story: Forsyth has surfed in about minus 15, but he says that is the coldest. Though your body is protected by the wetsuit, your face is exposed. Icy visors are a common sight, and it’s a cold dash to the car---Forsyth says the worst part of winter surfing is changing into normal clothes.

Popular surfing spots include Lawrencetown and Martinique beaches on the eastern shore, and there are also semi-secret spots such as Minutes and The Moose. Inquire about those (and rent equipment for about $40/day and find lesson and equipment packages for under $100) at Dacane Surf Shop (5139 Blowers, 431-7873), Kannon Beach (4144 Lawrencetown, 471-0025) or Happy Dudes (4891 Highway 207, 827-4962). Halifax’s new If Only Surf Shop (1300 Queen, 405-3223) has monthly board sales, and One Life Surf (4993 Highway 207, 880-7873) also offers lessons for women. –Sarah Greene

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