A lone skier amid the swirling dry snow. Could it be The Vortex?

A lone skier amid the swirling dry snow. Could it be The Vortex?

By MIKE NORTON

Whatcha gonna do when the polar vortex comes around?

Go skiing, of course. Or snowshoeing, for that matter.

In spite of all the fuss and bother of this much-hyped weather event, in which desperately cold winds from the Arctic have moved out of their accustomed orbit to hover malevolently above us, I haven't really noticed that this winter is much different from other cold winters we have fairly often here in Traverse City. And I can't imagine why I should allow it to bother me or change my behavior.

I mean, what kind of wuss is going to sit under a blanket in the living room and shiver through the weather event of the decade when he could be out among the pines and hemlocks, cutting through the snowy trail and listening to the wild wind clacking the branches overhead? This is Michigan! We’re Michiganians! No polar vortex in its right mind is going to tangle with us!

Winter has its own beauty: white, blue and gold. This is Mission Point.

Winter has its own beauty: white, blue and gold. This is Mission Point.

OK, maybe that’s just me. I have a very low threshold for cabin fever. But seriously, I've never seen a winter storm that can't be laughed away with the help of a good set of long underwear, a Mad Bomber hat, a pair of Sorels and a thrift-store snowmobile suit. All you have to do is keep moving. Which, now that I come to think about it, is actually a pretty good motto for life in general.

My vortex buddy.

My vortex buddy.

Anyway, I was out yesterday having a great time on the trail, and so were those little dive-bomber chickadees who were racing along beside me. Frankly, none of us could figure out what the "polar vortex" fuss was all about. I’d rather ski in cold weather than in that sloppy 35-degree stuff where the snow starts sticking to your runners and you feel like you’re wearing concrete overshoes.

I do have to admit that we're at a huge advantage up here in TC. Thanks to all that relatively warm water around us, our winter temperatures really are a bit higher than those in other northern places -- even places quite a bit farther south. And we have lots of lovely, lovely forests that shelter us from the wind while we're out enjoying ourselves. Even on sub-zero days, an evergreen forest can seem downright cozy when you're dressed properly and moving at a decent clip.

What's more, our forests are blessed with miles and miles of trails -- many of them groomed. In fact, if you're a newcomer to winter sports, one of the best opportunities to acquaint yourself with them is coming up this Saturday at Timber Ridge Resort, where the folks from TART Trails are holding the Fifth Annual Winter Trails Day together with the Vasa Ski Club and Einstein Cycles. There'll be  free trail access, introductory ski lessons, fat bike demos, guided snowshoe hikes and equipment rentals for those who don't have their own stuff.

There'll be cross-country skis, snowshoes and fat bikes to try out on the trails. Members of the Vasa Ski Club will provide free introductory ski lessons, and volunteers will lead snowshoe hikes. There is a small catch: participants must register in advance at traversetrails.org. Cross-country skis, snowshoes and fatbikes will be available on a first-come-first-served basis starting at 10.30 am, and a driver’s license is required to check out equipment.

You know you want to try it!

You know you want to try it!

Introductory ski lessons will be lead by Vasa Ski Club members starting at 11am and 12.30pm. - Snowshoe hikes will be held at 11am, 12pm and 1pm. - Fatbikes from Einstein Cycles will be available for short demo rides on Timber Ridge’s fatbike trail. - Complimentary cookies and cocoa will be served in the lodge so you can refuel and warm-up by the fire after your time on the trails! Timber Ridge will also have chili available for purchase.

Chili. Yes. It is the anti-vortex.