ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
It's winter, which means lots of social media posts of weather forecasts or temperature readings on car dashboards. In the Adirondacks this week, the low could hit nearly 40 below. A lot of us would rather stay inside, but not North Country Public Radio's Brian Mann. He set out on one of the coldest days of the season so far for a wilderness ski.
BRIAN MANN, BYLINE: Setting off through the woods I am wrapped like a Christmas package with seven layers of insulation between myself and the day, wearing mittens an astronaut would envy.
This is one of those ice-box cold, double-digit below zero days. And the snow you can hear has that super cold squeak. The air is just absolutely kind of metal cold. But the cool part is that it is radiantly sunny outside and windless. So there's this blue sky and sun just cutting through these trees.
I ski on. Amazingly, I'm not alone out here. While crossing a frozen lake, I hear voices. Here's the thing I love. On days like this in the back country there's a lot of solitude, but sometimes there's also a kind of community.
HELENA GRANT: I also have homemade chia coconut energy bars.
MANN: I got to try that.
GRANT: You have to try it.
MANN: Helena Grant, visiting the Adirondacks from Connecticut, is passing out pastries from a Tupperware dish. This is her first time skiing a wilderness trail. She says her grandfather used to train in these mountains with one of the Army's Alpine units.
When your friend said let's go back country skiing when it's double digits below zero, did you say, hell, no?
GRANT: Oh, I said, hell, yes. And actually, this is something I've been hoping to do. And my grandfather was in the 10th Mountain Division. He used to climb up Marcy before breakfast, so...
MANN: Oh, that's cool.
GRANT: ...I feel like I'm in my element. I just had never gotten here before.
MANN: Helena's ski partner today is Brantley Beach from Keene, N.Y. He's grinning through a thick crust of ice in his beard.
BRANTLEY BEACH: It's actually warmer once it all kind of freezes over. There's this little layer of warm air between the ice and my face (laughter).
MANN: I know that sounds miserable, spending a day with ice plastered to your face, so I ask Helena to try to explain why this appeals.
GRANT: This is bliss. You are beyond all the cares of the world. And it almost brings tears to the eyes. And there's just little flecks of snow coming off the trees. It's just - I can't even describe it. It's so beautiful.
MANN: We go our separate ways. And soon I'm back in solitude, skiing high in a mountain pass next to a river that rumbles under snow and ice.
(SOUNDBITE OF RIVER RUMBLING)
MANN: It's the heart of winter right here. Brian Mann, NPR News, in New York's Adirondack Mountains.
(SOUNDBITE OF BONOBO'S "SILVER")
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