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No cold feet here; Snow lovers trek into backcountry to hold a white wedding.

Byline: Dave Greenslit

Snow, snow and more snow. What's a New Englander to do?

Well, you might try enjoying the stuff that has been closing schools, straining people's backs and busting municipal budgets the past few weeks. Downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, winter hiking, snowshoeing, even sledding like when you were a kid are great ways to get through the winter.

My wife and I enjoy snow so much we planned our recent wedding around it.

Who would want to marry a man whose idea of a honeymoon is to cross-country ski in sub-zero temperatures in the wilderness of Maine? Fortunately for me, Paula would, and did.

(This was the same woman who did not want an engagement ring, so instead I gave her a T-shirt that said "Taken.'')

We got married Jan. 5 at Gorman Chairback Lodge, one of three lodges with cabins owned by the Appalachian Mountain Club in the 100-Mile Wilderness in Maine. To get there, we skied about 7 miles from AMC's winter parking lot, which is 11 miles from Greenville. The site is so remote that the township does not have a name. Our marriage certificate says we were married in T7R9 NWP.

The ceremony could not have been more simple. AMC staffer Casey Mealey, who is a notary public, performed the service, with two other staffers serving as witnesses. (One of them was the trail groomer, prompting Paula to crack that there were two grooms at the wedding.)

Casey's words stuck just the right note:

"Today you are surrounded by the mountains, wilderness and the voice of solitude. They are here today to bear witness to your marriage and celebrate in your joys of love. Today you skied here as individuals and tomorrow when you don your skis you will leave as husband and wife, intertwining your lives, expanding your families and embarking on the greatest adventure of selflessness.''

We exchanged rings, Casey pronounced us husband and wife, and we were married.

So, what did the bride wear? Her snow boots, the tights she had worn under her cross-country ski pants, and a couple of layers of fleece on top.

We were the first people to get married at Gorman, which opened three years ago and, as luck would have it, we were the only guests for the two days we stayed there before skiing to Little Lyford Lodge. The staff doted on us, serving champagne after the wedding. That other groom even asked what trails we wanted to ski the following day so he could whip them into shape. And when we finished the trip, we arrived to find a wooden trailhead-type sign resting on the windshield of the car. In letters burned into the wood, it read: "Gorman Chairback, Little Lyford; Lodge-to-Lodge Ski Trail, 6.5 miles; Dave & Paula; January 2015.''

As wonderful as the trip turned out, it got off to an inauspicious start. First of all, we fretted about the cross-country ski conditions, since early winter had seen little snow -- remember back then? -- and what there was in western Maine had turned to treacherous ice. AMC even advised earlier guests to wear microspikes just to cross the winter parking lot, which it called a sheet of ice. I was sick and running a fever the day after New Year's, and we postponed leaving for our ski club in Bartlett, N.H., where we spent a couple days before heading to Maine, for a day. And the day before the wedding, I plowed into Paula while downhill skiing at Wildcat Mountain, prompting a group standing nearby to ask as we lay in a heap, "Are you guys laughing or crying?''

But it snowed eight inches or so in Maine in the days leading up to our wedding, and cross-country conditions were perfect for the five days we skied there. I made a speedy recovery from my illness. And Paula was a bit banged up but not seriously hurt when I swept her off her feet at Wildcat.

It was 14 degrees when we skied out of the winter lot, bound for Gorman, and that was as warm as it got all week. Most of the time, the temperature never reached zero, and on Day 4 it was -25 when we got up in the morning and "warmed'' to -10 during the day. Though woodstoves in our cabins kept them toasty warm, sometimes sauna hot after I left the damper open too long, one windowsill at Lyford was chilly enough for us to use as our fridge for water and beer.

Frigid as it was outdoors, the wind was seldom strong, and we stayed comfortable while skiing and snowshoeing. The skiing on miles and miles of groomed trails through the Maine Wilderness is truly amazing. After a couple days, we just ran out of superlatives to describe the conditions and the views.

A few times we skied trails that hadn't been groomed. One afternoon we skied up part of Indian Mountain, parked our skis and snowshoed to a ledge near the summit. Skiing back out proved to be an adventure, at least for me. The trail was pretty steep and winding, and I wiped out after failing to make one sharp turn and ditched on purpose farther down the hill, fearing I was out of control. Paula, a much better skier, just zipped around the corners and down the steep sections.

We also were lucky to have a full or nearly full moon during our trip, which made the nights so bright that we didn't really need headlamps for those midnight trips to the bathroom at Lyford. (We had a bathroom in our cabin -- which we called the honeymoon suite -- at Gorman, sparing us walks to the john in sub-zero weather.)

So, as we pulled into Greenville for lunch on the way home, we were thinking things could not have gone more perfectly. Then, I noticed in the restaurant that my wedding ring had slipped off my finger. Somehow, it had managed to stay on all week, including dozens of times when I took off my mittens to take photos or check the map, and I was pretty sure I still had it when we left the winter parking lot. I searched the car, my pack and my luggage bag before finding it in my pants pocket, where it obviously had been pulled off. At home, I wrapped a bit of duct tape around it for a tighter fit, prompting my daughter, Lauren, to say it was just like Dave Greenslit to wear a wedding ring with duct tape.

Now that we're home, we have to dig out and drive on slippery roads like everyone else. But we also have skiing, cross-country skiing and winter hiking to look forward to, so we're not complaining.
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Title Annotation:Living
Author:Greenslit, Dave
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Geographic Code:1U1ME
Date:Feb 15, 2015
Words:1131
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