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Sixty-Something: Cross-Country Skiing In East Hampton

T.J. Clemente

A snowy Montauk Lighthouse. (Photo: TJ Clemente)

Even at sixty-something, I can still instantly recall the thrills of sleigh riding down the hill on Mt. Tom Road with all the other kids after school. Then decades later, I remember taking my children to the same hill where they could sleigh ride. I even made snow angels with them. In the winters back then, sleigh riding was a regular thing because it snowed so often and the temperatures were always below freezing. In fact, back in high school, I played ice hockey and we practiced regularly on the golf course pond that stayed frozen all winter. However, now that same pond freezes maybe for a day or two, once or twice a winter. The same is true for the pond located next to old South End Cemetery in East Hampton Village. Some people can deny global warming, but there's no denying we get less village ice skating and actual snow nowadays than we did in the past.

One of my favorite snow days on the East End was back on February 12 of 2006 while I was renting a room in a Yankee Barn Home in East Hampton Village. The owner of the home was spending that winter in Morocco, so I had the whole home to myself. I remember a near record-breaking snowstorm plastered the village with a reported 26" of knee-high snow - with even higher wind drifts. I watched it start falling from a deck off my bedroom during the night, and by morning, everything was pure white. Luckily, I had my cross-country skis ready to go.

Just before sunrise, I worked my way to Newtown Lane, going down the center of the road through the fresh, lightweight, deep snow. I was using a pair of Trek trail skis, designed specifically for deep snow. The snow was still falling and the wind was blowing, but it was the most pleasant cross-country skiing I've ever done. It was pre-dawn grey with huge snowflakes falling like being released from huge, full buckets. When I arrived at Main Street, I decided I wanted to get to the ocean, so I headed to Main Beach - basically going down the center of Route 27, heading west toward Ocean Avenue. Finally, I arrived at the beach and it became lighter out, but the wind was picking up too. I then decided to ski down along the beach to Georgica Beach, except due to tides and winter erosion, I was stopped before I could get there. So, I turned around to go back home and it was then that I realized I had been skiing with the blizzard wind to my back.

Whereas it only took 45 minutes to get to the ocean going against the wind, on the way back that made the trip home an hour and a half. Plus, on the way back, the snow plows had begun to clear the main roads, like Main Street and Newtown Lane, so I had to navigate the portions that they had not plowed. It was an adventure. Digging my car out so that I could exit the driveway took the rest of the day. The next day, under a big blue sky, I skied around Montauk Lighthouse and took some great photos. One I missed was when a huge male pheasant emerged out of the bush on a trail at Camp Hero; its colors juxtaposed against the fresh white snow was amazing.

Growing up as kids, it seemed the snowstorms came on a regular basis - instead of one every few years. I recall between 2006 and 2009, when I lived in Montauk, it did not snow enough to ski at all. I must admit now at sixty-something, the thought of shoveling to clear deep snow out of the driveway does not thrill me. Yet, to this day, I enjoy watching the white stuff fall and gently blanket everything. I still always have the urge to get out and walk in it and enjoy the joyous feeling of walking through fresh fallen snow.

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