An old friend, Lee Spiller, got in touch the other day.

Spiller and I have shared many adventures over many years, climbing in the Tetons and elsewhere, skiing in the White Mountains, canoeing, sailing, hiking, camping.

He's among the few I would trust with my life, and have.

Spiller reported that skiing around Bretton Woods has been extremely good this winter, and is only getting better.

""The Bretton Woods Touring Center has midwinter conditions," he said as Christmas week began. "The vacation crowds are here, though." So Spiller and a friend headed off to ski the Cog Railway, which involved hiking up first before enjoying the run down. The Cog has run ski trains uphill in past winters, but no longer.

"It is truly a winter wonderland on the road into the Base Station. There was one other car in the hikers' lot and they were three young lads, friends of ours and backcountry skiers as well. We all started up together in a moderate snowfall. My friend and I who each have 30 years on those guys soon dropped them and, breaking trail in 8 or 10 inches of freshies got up 2,000 vertical feet to where rocks were starting to be a problem under the snow and called it good.

"The young lads arrived just as we started down. Awesome untracked powder all the way to the car," he said.

He and I skied into Gulf of Slides on Mt. Washington one winter, and skied the gullies coming off Boott Spur. Actually he skied the chutes, I made a series of linked falls, muttering at his skill and my lack thereof. How good is he? Spiller has telemarked over the lip of Tuckerman Ravine.

Spiller does enjoy lift-served skiing these days, as a change from the backcountry flavor, and skiing at cross-country centers, as opposed to setting his own tracks in the backcountry.

He also grew up skating on Stodge Meadow Pond in Ashburnham, Mass., and loves to glide over black ice.

"We had some great pond skating this past week," Spiller told me. "Much black ice even on the bigger lakes. A dusting of snow on the weekend made skating on the full moon even brighter and more surreal. Had a bit of an incident on Cobbosseecontee Pond in Maine when I somehow after three hours and many miles in the dark broke through an odd patch of ice. I was skating fast and both feet went down when a table-sized piece broke away under me. My forward motion kept me from going in but I bruised the heck out of one thigh striking the broken ice edge. The odd part is even after dropping that low I was barely damp. I slid to a stop 20 feet past the hole. Really only my cotton skate laces were wet and soon froze solid."

It brought to mind a walk that Spiller, his wife, Deborah, and I took on frozen Binney Pond in New Ipswitch, N.H., some time ago. We had just reached a narrow spot on the pond, where apparently a current was channeled between two clumps of vegetation, making the ice thin, and two of us fell through. Spiller was left in the middle, not moving. We scrambled out, but unlike Spiller's experience on Cobbosseecontee, Deborah and I were soaked. We dashed back to the car, and headed home.

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