Monday, January 7, 2008

Commuter makes way with kick, glide

Published: Monday, January 7, 2008
Burlington Free Press
By Lauren Ober
Free Press Staff Writer

Friday began much like any other winter day for Steve Crafts. After leisurely eating a bowl of oatmeal, Crafts got ready for work.

Over a black long underwear top, Crafts threw on a black wool vest and a black soft shell jacket. He picked up a hat and boots and headed toward the door of his New North End house. He just needed to grab one more thing before he started his morning commute: his cross-country skis.

No, Crafts wasn't going skiing after work. He was skiing to work.

Stories of people using alternative transportation for the sake of the environment and their pocketbooks are common in Vermont. Some folks take the bus. Others choose to carpool. The heartiest souls commute by bicycle all four seasons.

Crafts, a partner at Place Creative Co. in Burlington, wanted to do a little something different. He had been running or biking the 6 1/2 mile round-trip from home to work in the more clement weather, but winter put a halt to that. So Crafts figured, why not ski into work?

"When the snow came, I skied in. It's seemed a logical alternative," Crafts said.

Luckily for him, Crafts and his family live right off of the bike path, so there was a pristine ribbon of snow to take him from his house to his office in just about 30 minutes.

This time of year, few people use the bike path. Those who do cross-country ski or snowshoe, as the path isn't groomed . Crafts said he rarely sees other people out on the path and those he does encounter aren't on their way to work.

"The bike path this time of year is really overlooked," Crafts said. "I don't see a lot of people, which surprises me because the skiing is great."

After a short walk to where the bike path intersects with Driftwood Lane, Crafts clicked into his skis and headed off toward downtown. It was just after 8 a.m., and the temperature was colder than forecasted: about 20 degrees, not including the biting wind-chill. Much of the path was covered in snow drifts caused by the wind whipping off the lake. Crafts blazed new tracks and in some areas had to walk rather than glide. About 10 minutes into the commute, or "skimute" as Crafts calls it, he pulled his hood over his head and tightened the drawcord.

"Time to roll up the windows," Crafts joked as the winds picked up near the lake.

Crafts' Friday commute was virtually silent, and apart from a few crows on the wing, not another living creature was seen. This solitude is part of the commute's appeal for Crafts. He says the 30 minutes spent skiing every morning and night helps clear his head and allows creative thoughts to flow.

Plus, he doesn't have to waste time at the gym.

"It gives you a really nice buzz throughout the day," Crafts said.

Crafts' wife, Keri, also a partner at Place Creative, jokes that she encouraged her husband to commute to work via the bike path so she wouldn't have to drive to work with him. In reality, she says she's looking forward to the day when she can do the same once their toddler daughter is in school.

"Any way you can fit in more exercise and use your car less is great," Keri Crafts said.

Barring a midwinter heat wave that melts all the snow, Crafts will continue to ski to and from work until it's time to pull his running shoes from the closet and hit the pavement. As long as he's not commuting by car, he's happy, he said.

"To be able to have a little fun with the commute is extra gravy," Crafts said. "It's one of the high points of my day."


Photo Caption: Steve Craft skis down the bike path to Burlington's waterfront as he commutes to downtown from his new North end home. Snow allowing, Craft regularly skis back and forth from work rather than drive.

Photo by RYAN MERCER, Free Press

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