WINNEMUCCA - The blast of arctic air over the past couple of days has come a little early this year - way too early.

I've experienced my share of cold winters - biting, brutal temperatures in spud country, the Upper Snake River Valley, where if you didn't plug your car into a heater on a December night, forget about starting it the next morning. The engine oil turned to sludge the consistency of taffy.

When you're a kid, you can wrap up in layers from head to toe and shrug off the cold with hardy athletic activities. Living in snow country means learning and loving winter sports.

Subzero nights in Idaho Falls sure made for good ice skating. The city maintained an Olympic-sized rink right across the street from our house in a vacant field. The city water truck would lay down about an inch of water every night and freezing temperatures would do the rest - smooth as a sheet of glass.

My two brothers and I, along with the neighborhood gang, were over there every day after school.

Now, I was no Olympian like Scott Hamilton doing flips on the ice, but I could cut some good lines with the blades. Bored with just doing figure-eights, we'd haul a trash can over to jump. Getting over the can required a long run and a good burst of speed.

If you caught your skate on the can in midair, things never turned out well. But we had three or more layers on, including thermal underwear, so we were pretty well cushioned for the falls.

My dad joined us once in a while for a skating session. He sort of walked across the ice on his old pair of hockey skates, his arms swinging like whirlwinds for balance. I think he had those old leather skates since his high school days in Maine.

Once, he tripped on a rough patch of ice, went down face first and required five or six stitches above his right eye. He came up with a good story the next day about the black eye for coworkers.

The city of Winnemucca has filled the ice rink at the outdoor ballpark complex with water, but I don't think I'll lace up the figure skates this year.

In a sign of growing older, youthful energy and bravado have been replaced with middle-aged concerns about the fragility of ligaments and the pain of a pulled groin. My first thought is not to get out there on the ice and see if I can still do those spins, maybe doing a little speed skating backward, but rather, does HGH have an orthopaedic surgeon on call?

Snow tubing also used to be a great winter past-time as kids. We'd get a few tire inner tubes, inflate them to the max at the gas station, rope them to the roof of the family station wagon and head to Taylor Mountain.

After the arduous and slow trek to the top of the hill, we'd zip down in about five seconds at speeds, I guessed, that approached 30 miles an hour, blinded by snow, spinning in circles. A blast of snow in the face and a bout of dizziness sound less appealing these days.

I've tried cross-country skiing - once. It was a lot of work for not much of a thrill. I don't think the skis were waxed correctly. It took 15 minutes of sweaty exertion to go 100 yards. If you're doing it to burn calories, I'd opt for a treadmill parked in front of the television.

Downhill skiing never piqued my interest. My younger brother was a skier, a champ on the Kelly Canyon slopes, but I never took up the sport. I couldn't get into the whole schussing thing and the boots looked uncomfortable. Plus, Lester, who lived down the street, broke his leg on his first time out on skiis.

There are some other winter activities I've tried, except for curling, which I'd never heard of until just a few years ago. I think you have to be Canadian to really enjoy it. Isn't it pretty much just shuffleboard on ice?

I like winter sports. I'm just less inclined to get out in the cold and do them. I'll watch the winter Olympics in February from the comfort of a recliner, a hot cup of tea within arm's reach.

Steve Lyon is editor of the Humboldt Sun. Contact him at