With many ski resorts dumped with snow after the recent barrage of blizzards, the slopes are certainly calling. But, if you're like me, so are the credit card bills, which means it will be a while before I can indulge in some schussing sans guilt.
Good timing, then, on several free outdoorsy offerings sure to get you outside and into high gear, burning off some of that holiday pudge (but not money) in the process. Another bonus? They take place across the country, so no matter where you are, you won't have to travel too far to take advantage.
The first: This Saturday, January 8, is the 16th annual Winter Trails Day, which aims to get cross-country skiing and snowshoeing newbies out on you guessed it the trails. Nearly 100 resorts and Nordic centers in 21 states are participating in the event (photo above courtesy of RDB Events), which last year attracted about 11,000 visitors, according to event spokesperson Reese Brown. It's also a great way for downhill junkies to get a taste of a new means of moving across the snow.
If you're looking to chill out quite literally then check out a cool offer from Yosemite National Park, which has a fraction of the visitors in the winter as it does other seasons. Book an unheated tent in the park's Curry Village on January 7-8 or 21-22 and you'll pay a rate based on the previous night's low temperature, measured in degrees Celsius, as recorded by the California Department of Water Resources. If the mercury drops to 32 degrees Fahrenheit 0 degrees Celsius that means you'll stay for free. But be warned: To go that low, you'll need a winter-rated sleeping bag and some thermals.
Getting chills just thinking about it? No problem you can still get in on the deal by paying $25 to upgrade to a heated cabin. A quick online search indicated availability for this weekend, as well as the other two dates. When reserving a cabin, you'll need $39/night for an unheated cabin ($49 for heated), and the difference between your fee and the temperature will be refunded afterward. Visit www.yosemitepark.com/temp-rate-ture-offer.aspx, and use the code CELSIUS.)
And, finally, another offer from the NPS: If you're already looking forward to the long MLK weekend but have yet to make plans, then consider that from January 15-17, you'll get in free to any national park. MLK is the first weekend date for the free admission days of 2011, which also include April 16-24 for National Park Week and November 11-13 (Veterans Day weekend).
For the complete list of free admission dates, visit www.nps.gov/findapark/feefreeparks.htm. The waiver includes entrance, commercial tour, and transportation entry fees; others, such as reservation or camping fees, are not included.