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The Dark Times: A Note from the Editor

Late on a gray Sunday afternoon, hiking up a freshly brush-hogged trail beneath the white, rimed peak of Vermont’s Mt. Mansfield, a friend asked how I planned to get through this winter’s darkness. A second-year med student, he was being metaphorical, referring to what some infectious disease experts have said might be the darkest winter of our lives, with the coronavirus’s second wave and likely lockdowns casting a shadow over an already dark time of year. I took his question a bit more literally.

 “Probably stock up now on vitamin D,” I replied, thinking of the supplement I scarfed down like lakrisbåter and seigmenn candy during the dark months of the year I recently spent living in Oslo, Norway. “And maybe get one of those UV lights.”

[Photo] Xavier Fane

When I realized he wasn’t talking about 3:30 p.m. sunsets and January’s never-ending weeks of graybird—but rather a season likely void of weekly Wednesday-night races, never mind the potlucks that follow—I thought back to some lessons I learned during that year abroad: Do something each day, however small, that feels like an accomplishment; put your slippers beside your bed so that comfort and coziness are the first things you feel every morning upon waking up; and get outside every single day, even if it’s after dark and no matter how crummy the weather.

We didn’t plan this issue to be some sort of COVID survival guide and, on the surface, it definitely isn’t one. But it’s packed with lessons and ideas on how to creatively go about a winter that’ll look like nothing normal. Take Danny Kuzio’s feature in the upcoming issue (#40.2) on trying biathlon, where he puts a new, challenging twist on the skiing he’s done all his life. Or John Dostal’s reflections in that issue on skiing the vast trail network that he and his neighbors have carved into their backwoods. Or Todd Eastman’s story of a road trip in which he and his wife visited as many touring centers as possible on the drive home to Vermont from the Birkie.

I doubt I’ll ski outside of the state this year. But Todd’s creative trip planning has inspired me to visit all of Vermont’s three-dozen cross country centers this winter, more than half of which I’ve never skied. And my conversation with skier and illustrator Bryan Schaeffer for this next issue left me thinking about taking up some art projects. Mostly, however, I’m thinking about the interviews I did for a story about how COVID-19 will affect cross country skiing and how it will undoubtedly create a significant boost in interest and participation this year. 

No, skiing won’t cure the pandemic, but it can be an antidote to winter’s darkness. Or at least a way to get my med-student friend away from studying to stride together to the top of the next hill.

This editor’s note appears in Issue 40.2, the Early Winter 2021 issue, and many of the topics discussed, from biathlon to backyard trail networks to how the coronavirus pandemic will affect cross country centers and trailheads this winter, are covered in depth in that issue. Subscribe now to get a copy or find it in our online store.