Not exactly a bucket list, New Hampshire and Vermont are loaded with plenty of to-do options for the upcoming skiing and riding season. It's easy to become an automaton. So get off the beaten path, and shake things up.
Here's a list of things you can try this season:
• With Mittersill back on the radar, its challenges will call those with strong skiing and snowboarding skills to Cannon's twisting sister. Mittersill's no easy mountain with the Tucker Brook Trail's legendary 13 turns among its arsenal of backcountry tests. For the time being - there is no lift service - save huffing over from Cannon, but expect a weekend shuttle and skeleton ski patrol. Don't think you can do it on your own? Hire a guide.
• Stowe's heralded "Front Four" are steep old-school fall line trails - and trials. Bragging rights are sought for bagging the thigh-burning quartet - Goat, Starr, Liftline and National - down the front of Vermont's highest peak at 4,395 feet. Starr doesn't see a groomer, Goat's got big bad bumps, while Liftline and National get some love at times from the grooming crew but are all, as the vernacular goes, "wicked hahd."
• Be like Lindsey Vonn and race. Last season's U.S. Ski Team wonder is this season's Olympic medal hopeful, but wannabe's, or the curious, can join a local race league to see what it's like. Racing gates can be intimidating at first, so join a "beer league" like Pats Peak at night. Get on a team with like-minded individuals. If all they want to do is win, and all you want to do is have fun, keep looking. Take a clinic. Compete against yourself. Most importantly, have fun. Plus, do the math and see how inexpensive the skiing really is.
• Cross over to the dark side. Alpine skiers try snowboarding. Riders give it up for downhill. Both, try telemark or cross country. New Hampshire is working on some free learn to ski and snowboard packages during January, while Ski Vermont has announced its free program from Jan. 4-10 at participating areas (mandatory pre-registration in December). Winter Trails Day is Jan. 9 and tends to have free cross-country and snowshoe opportunities. Waterville Valley has select $21 dates throughout the season for learning packages. Sugarbush has a $220 three-lesson deal that includes a season's pass upon completion.
• Ski with some Old Timers. You know who they are: at the lifts when the rope drops, inside for the free coffee or donuts, and ready to call it a day at noon. These are dedicated, lifelong skiers who have stories to tell and opted to winter in the snow instead of the sun. Ride the lift with them. Be 50 and be the young guy or girl. Listen to the jokes. Hear the laughter despite the body's ailments. Then, see if you can keep up with them.
• Ride Jay Peak on a powder day. For those who live in the Northeast Kingdom, this is why. For those who visit, this is why too. Gladed classics like Hell's Woods, Beaver Pond Glade and Timbuktu shine in fresh snow.
• Ski every trail at your favorite mountain. Hikers call it red-lining, hiking every trail on a map. Do it in a day (Dartmouth Skiway), over a weekend (Loon) or a season (Killington). Come up with other challenges. Use your GPS to tally the amount of vertical skied in a day and compete with your friends.
• Skiing the 300-mile long Catamount Trail is for a backcountry bucket list. But skiers don't have to ski Vermont bottom to top to get a taste or by chance meet someone skiing its length in bites or a winter odyssey. Many touring centers are part of the trail like some groomed trails at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center, Bolton Valley Nordic Center and Trapp Family Lodge.
• Try a terrain park on cross-country skis. Vermont's Grafton Ponds Outdoor Center plans to open its terrain park with jumps and rails in January. It's not as buffed as big league parks, but air doesn't discriminate.
• Unplug. Turn off the phone, the iPod, and the two-way. Listen to the wind and laughter. That's music on the slopes