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These Boots Were Made for Skiing, Skating

"Come up to Lake Morey tomorrow," Hess said, "and all will be revealed."

So on a cerulean-sky morning, we drove about 20 miles along the Connecticut River to the Lake Morey Resort in Fairlee. Through the evergreens, we glimpsed the gleaming lake and a few groups of Nordic skaters gliding on a groomed track several yards wide. A banner read, "Welcome to the Lake Morey Skate-Athon."

At Lake Morley, in Fairlee, Vt., winter enthusiasts can combine skating and cross-country skiing with the Nordic skate, left. (Photos Jamie Hess/nordic Skater)

In the resort's lobby, we lined up for our Nordic skates, which comprise a boot and a blade. A cushy, lined, cross-country ski boot replaces those stiff, cold, ankle-killing hockey or figure skates. The blades are long (17 to 22 inches), sleek affairs with up-curving front tips, and mounted on the blades is a modern cross-country binding.

"You'll never go back to your hockey skates," Hess said with a smile as we pulled on the boots, which were remarkably comfortable compared with our traditional skates. Then Hess handed each of us a pair of aluminum blades.

Hess's entry-level Nordic skates sell for about $160, slightly more than the cost of high-end traditional figure or hockey skates; we rented five pairs for $30 total. The Swedes make a spiffier blade that costs a bit more than the Dutch-made entry-level model.

After trooping through a superheated pool area, we emerged into the bracing air. Within what seemed like seconds, my son, Sasha (the family's ice hockey player), stepped into the bindings and scooted out onto the lake.

"These are awesome," he yelled, disappearing in the distance.

Hess had given me the high-tech model, while the others went "Dutch." I struggled a bit to prove worthy of his confidence. Once I got into a rhythm -- the classic push and glide of the speed skater -- the blades sliced the ice effortlessly.

Of course, lake ice hasn't had the benefit of a Zamboni, and the track on Lake Morey had some cracks and a few pressure ridges. But Hess had told me that on rough ice Nordic skates were superior to conventional models, and once I gained the confidence to push through the dicey patches, I discovered how right he was.

In a short while, I glided to the middle of the lake. Skaters zoomed past me on their return trip, with the gelid air occasionally reverberating with a sharp boom as the ice heaved. I joined my progeny at a warming hut, and after a drink and a breather, we set off on the two-mile glide back.

Back at the resort, I clipped out of my skates -- my skis were handy, but alas the snow was meager -- and enthusiastically related my experience to Hess, who'd realized a long-held ambition last March (when the ice was at its thickest) of skating across Lake Champlain from Vermont to New York.

My plans are a little more modest, but we're already scouting for that perfect Nordic ski-and-skate trip -- somewhere where we don't have to stop at the shoreline.

-- Steve Goldstein

Fairlee, Vt., is about 85 miles north of Brattleboro, Vt. Lake Morey is open for skating all season. Nordic skates cost between $160 and $458 complete; clip-on blades with bindings alone are $99 to $239. Rentals available. Info: Nordic Skater, 866-244-2570, www.nordicskater.com; Montshire Skating Club, 802-649-3939, members.valley.net/ice/club; Lake Morey Resort, 800-423-1211,www.lakemoreyresort.com.

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