The sound of silence.  This and the occasional hissing sounds of my skis or galloping sounds from one of the dogs as they come romping along behind us.  I stare at the snow weighing down the boughs of the fir and pine trees.  A glance down shows I am not alone in these woods — tracks of fox, coyote, rabbits and even a cat print show up here and there.

I feel my heart rate go up as I become warm while climbing up the trail.  But the churning of energy feels invigorating in the brisk air.  I find a rhythm as I continue to move along — poles swinging back and forth, skis shifting forward one a time — slide right, slide left, slide right, slide left.  There’s a certain zen feeling that takes over my mind and body as we push ever farther into the woods.

As it’s a Monday, we only encounter one other hardy soul soon after we leave the trail head — a man and his dog come sliding down the hill soon after we’ve started.

“How are the conditions?” we ask.  He grins, saying “Really good, but I only went out to the power line.  I didn’t want to risk going any further as I’m on my own.  My wife would call me if something would happen to me!”

“Thanks for the info, happy holidays” we chime back.

I feel a sense of gratitude for having all this wonder of winter nature out my back door.  Being able to break my sense of cabin fever by driving a mere 15 minutes from our home to the Indian Peaks Wilderness is special.  Having it all to ourselves on this mid-December

People often gripe about the prices of skiing and how difficult it is to take our children out for a ski day in the winter.  It’s true that the prices of downhill skiing are off the charts these days — with a single day’s lift ticket costing almost $150 at some resorts.

But the cost of cross-country skiing is so much less.  It’s not difficult to either rent some gear for $20 or less, or even better, find some used gear for cheap on Craigslist.  And the cost of going for a ski tour in the local county park, or wilderness area — completely free.  If you’re someone who likes hiking during summer, and you have a wee bit of coordination, you’ll love cross-country skiing. (And if you don’t have that coordination, another great alternative is snowshoeing) It taps us into nature in an entirely different way than summer, but still provides that exercise and restoration of mind, body and spirit.