Monday, June 2, 2008

Old Dog - New Tricks

Upon reaching a recent realization that I've been learning a lot of new skills, I have officially deemed this "The Year of Learning." In addition to learning how to play tennis and improving my golf game with a ten-week women's clinic at Okemo Valley (as mentioned in a previous entry), I've been expanding my horizons with other educational opportunities. I enrolled in the Okemo Women's Alpine Adventure Program during the winter and learned to ski bumps and even took on my first park feature - a butter box in the Hot Dog Hill terrain park for beginners. Sometimes one new skill leads to another. I recently learned how to spin raw wool into yarn. As a result, I took some knitting classes to improve my finishing techniques. I also started thinking about how cool it would be to make sweaters, scarves and hats from my own sheep, and I spent a day learning about sheep management at a class offered by the University of Vermont Extension Service.

Yesterday, I took a baking class at the King Arthur Flour Baking Education Center in Norwich, Vt. There were 13 of us taking the class on breakfast breads. Although it was a great learning experience that taught me some new baking skills and techniques, the one thing that I found the most interesting was not about baking at all. We started the class with introductions and I was amazed to learn that the people in the class were from all over the U.S. They had come to Vermont specifically to learn about baking ... and to incorporate education into their vacations. One young couple had just been married the day before and they were enjoying the first day of their foodie honeymoon in Vermont. After a baking class in Norwich, they were off to learn about Vermont cheeses and to visit the Ben & Jerry's factory. Another couple had taken the two-day class on wedding cakes and were rounding out their weekend with the breakfast breads class. One woman from away was there with her young niece who had developed an early passion for baking.

King Arthur is only an hour away from Okemo Valley, so if you'd like to be a better baker, I highly recommend a stay at the Jackson Gore Inn combined with a visit to the Baking Education Center and their line up of classes scheduled through August. The facility is top rate and the Baker's Store next door offers some great gift ideas and must-haves for the home baker.

I suddenly realized how lucky I am to live in a place that offers such a diverse menu of learning opportunities. Here are just a few of the things you can learn to do right here in the Okemo Valley ...

Extreme Adventures of Vermont, located in nearby Andover, offers programs in kayaking, rock climbing, orienteering and more.

If arts and crafts are more your speed, Fletcher Farm, in Ludlow, offers learn-to programs in all sorts of traditional crafts.

You can learn about local history by attending a program offered by the Black River Academy Museum.

Are fiber arts your thing? Fiber Arts in Vermont, based out of the Six Loose Ladies yarn store and gallery in Proctorsville, is an organization that offers classes in everything having to do with fiber: spinning, knitting, felting, rug hooking and more.

Of course golfers can always learn a thing or two at Okemo Valley Golf Club with a full slate of learning opportunities.

And don't forget the kids ... Camp Gokemo will offer an assortment of children's events and activities that teach kids about all sorts of fun things like local geology, history, wildlife and more.

A learning vacation is a great way to meet new people with interests similar to your own. You don't have to spend a lot of money on gas or a lot of time in the car. And chances are, you'll come away with some new skills and maybe even a cherry chocolate breakfast ring with an almond glaze ... mmmmmm. Cheers!

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