Submitted by guest blogger Caitlin Kelly
Ski under the light of the full moon
My heart quickens as we ski closer to the fire, cheeks rosy from the mid-winter cold. The stars are brilliant, shimmering and shaking above us as the full moon folds in and out of view through the passing clouds. As we round a dark curve in the woods, the glow from the fire illuminates the balsam fir; silhouettes of skiers come into view as their shadows dance on the packed snow. We find a place to jab our skis into the side of the trail, one that we’ll remember when we’re ready to ski away, and we're onto the next fire.
Cascade Cross-Country Ski Center has been hosting their Full Moon Party for about as long as they’ve been open. The ski center is family run, welcoming visitors to their trails as they would family. There’s a ski shop, offering most all of your cross-country skiing needs, including a consignment section of used skis and boots. Next door has a restaurant, lounge, and bar dishing up comfort foods crafted with local ingredients. They also have one of the best après ski bar scenes I’ve come across in the High Peaks region, all while the McIntyre Range—Algonquin, Iroquois, and Wright—glisten above from outside the large windows. Another accommodation that’s especially popular during Full Moon Parties are the variety of dorm rooms for the traveling skier. But book them in advance! They almost always sell out for each party.
A few winters ago, I found myself working at Cascade, waitressing tables in the restaurant, skiing the trails before work. On the day of a Full Moon Party, typically the Saturday closest to the full moon, the place buzzes with excitement. Groups check in—sometimes the same group of friends that have been coming to this event for years—ski all day, and post up at the bar until the event begins. Other visiting skiers ask what all the hubbub is about, and I would do my best to explain the splendor. It felt like a holiday, a celebration, which is exactly what it’s meant to be. A night to celebrate the moon, good community, and cross-country skiing.
Although advertised as a party, these events are far more than that. For $15 and your own pair of skis or snowshoes (rentals are also available), one has access to the partially lit trails that lead toward two bonfires, each about a half mile apart. At both fires there are also hot dogs to roast, a keg of beer, and hot chocolate. More importantly, these parties embrace the still of the night, gliding across snow, meeting friends, warming up by the fire, and they leave you feeling glad to be a part of it all.
The skiing starts at 7:30 p.m., just as night has settled. Out at the fires you’re sure to find yourself deep in conversation, beer in one hand, hot dog in the other, chatting with a longtime friend or with someone you’ve just met. If you’re really in it for the party, back at the lodge a live band plays until the wee hours of the morning. And dancing is encouraged, if not expected. The late-night party-goers know how to dance, and will inspire you to get out there too. When the skiing ends, the bar is jam-packed with people wearing too many layers, dancing and getting down to the groovy tunes.
In the Adirondacks, winters are dark and cold. It’s a time to retreat, to hole up, and stay warm by the woodstove; it’s a time to cook hearty meals, read books, sit down with friends and family. It’s sometimes hard to motivate bundling up to face the cold, especially after a summer full of active adventures and soaking up the easy daylight hours. And often in wintertime, we don’t find enough daylight to complete everything we set out to do in a day. That's why skiing at night, especially under a full moon, becomes a practice. There really isn’t anything quite like skiing fresh, twinkling snow under the forest canopy while moonbeams cast shadows on the trail ahead.
My skis create a sliding rhythm on the snow — swish swish, swish swish. They almost feel in rhythm with my heartbeat, the conversation with the friend I’m skiing side-by-side with. We’re feeling lucky to be here — young, wrapped up so graciously by this community, skiing toward the next fire, the next beer, as the skeletons of tamaracks watch over, shifting with the evening breeze in the moon’s full light.
Cascade Ski Center’s Full Moon Parties happen on the Saturday closest to the full moon. The next one is February 16 at 7:30 p.m.. For an entrance fee of $15, you can ski the partially lit trail (headlamps are recommended), and hang out at two different bonfires made out on the trails. There’s a keg at each fire, along with hot dog roasting materials and hot chocolate. Don’t have skis or snowshoes? You can rent a pair for $15. Don’t feel like skiing? For $5 you can hang out in the lodge and listen to the band.