I was 27 when I moved from Massachusetts to Maine. As I was packing my car, my father surprised me with a gift, a pair of cross-country skis. I thought he was crazy; I had never cross-country skied and had never planned to. Nor had he.

As usual, he didn’t flinch. Instead, he assured me that the winters in Maine were going to be long, and he had learned that skiing was great exercise. I took the skis because I loved my father and wanted to appreciate his gift but never thought I would actually get on them.

The blue Voyageur logo against the white fiberglass has surprisingly not faded with time, and although I have had to get one new binding and pair of boots, the skis still glide across the snow today as well as they did that first winter 27 years ago.

I ski every winter as much as the conditions allow. This winter has been one of the coldest and snowiest I’ve seen. Everyone is complaining, but when I am on my skis I am enjoying every minute of it.

On snow days or after school, I lace up my boots and ski around the trails in my neighborhood. It’s late in the afternoon, and I ski until the sun dips low, leaving a fiery red ring around the tops of the pine trees, whose branches droop with the weight of snow.

On weekends, John and I join a community of cross-country skiers, snowmobilers, snowshoers and dog walkers. I have been surprised by the people and the kinship, as I had expected cross-country skiing to be a solitary activity. Sometimes it is, but on most days I look forward to meeting new people and playing with the dogs that accompany many of them.

Over Christmas break, Katie got on cross-country skis for the first time. As a teenager, she had looked at me like I was crazy when I suggested cross-country skiing. At 23, she was finally willing to give the slower-paced activity a try. She went with me one day and loved it; we then went every chance we had that week.

One day it was so cold we had to go back home to put on a second pair of gloves – my fingers already dotted black with frostbite. By the time we finished, though, we were warm and had taken our favorite selfie to date, under a partially fallen tree, snow-laden and red-cheeked from skiing. When she went back to Presque Isle, she signed up for Aroostook Women’s Ski Day. I am thinking about getting her skis for her birthday.

So this is my long-overdue thank you, Dad. Though you are not here to read this, you will undoubtedly get the message. You were right about Maine; the winters are long. And you were right about cross-country skiing; it is wonderful exercise. But it’s the combination of the two that has been made me finally and truly appreciate your gift.

— Special to the Telegram