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Health & Wellness

Destination: Sargent Center Winter Family Camp

Even mild temperatures won’t dampen outdoor fun

Click above to watch a slide show about Boston University’s Sargent Center for Outdoor Education.

Old Man Winter’s been stingy the past few years, but the staff at Boston University’s Sargent Center for Outdoor Education is holding out hope for a blizzard to usher in the 2008 Winter Family Camp, scheduled to start on January 18.

“We’ve gotten so used to dealing with no snow that we plan for non-snow-related activities and rejoice when it actually does snow,” says Doug Sutherland, assistant director of adventure camp and outreach programs.

A typical Winter Family Camp weekend includes cross-country skiing, snow tubing, snow-fort building, snowshoeing, and ice skating. But in the absence of the coveted cold white stuff, the camp will offer alternative activities, such as hiking, arts and crafts, and opportunities to climb the high and low ropes courses. Problem-solving activities, such as balancing on a large teeter-totter or using the “team trolley” — in which a group must travel from one point to another while standing on long wooden planks with ropes for handholds — foster communication among family members and help new friendships form.

“The idea behind Winter Family Camps isn’t so much about playing in the snow as it is spending time with family and having fun away from home,” Sutherland says. “A lot of families consider this to be their big winter vacation.”

Founded by Dudley Allen Sargent in 1912, the Sargent Center for Outdoor Education began as Sargent Camp. It was acquired by BU in 1932 and became the summer location for physical education and health majors at Sargent College. Set among 700 acres of forest in the Monadnock region of southwestern New Hampshire — about 85 miles north of Boston — the camp features 25 miles of hiking trails, a 60-acre pond, a high ropes course, and basketball and volleyball courts. Visitors sleep in rustic cabins equipped with central heat and hot water. Skis, snowshoes, and snow tubes are provided by the Sargent Center for Outdoor Education, although visitors must provide their own ice skates.

Despite last winter’s unseasonable temperatures — it was New Hampshire’s second-warmest January on record, according to the National Climatic Data Center — family members had a great time, Sutherland says. In fact, many are returning this year. And even if there’s no snow when visitors arrive, it could always snow over the weekend. “Last year, it snowed on the second day,” Sutherland says. “There was enough to cross-country ski across the meadow.”

Winter Family Camp will take place January 18 to 21, 2008. Space is limited. Rates vary based on accommodations: $200 to $235 for adults, $145 to $175 for children ages 10 to 17, and $100 to $125 for children ages 6 to 9; children under 5 stay free. For more information, call the Boston University Sargent Center for Outdoor Education at 603-535-3311 or e-mail scoeinfo@bu.edu.

Vicky Waltz can be reached at vwaltz@bu.edu.