Cross Country Skiing or How to Determine Your Physical Age

Snow looks better from a distance

Don't be fooled by the beauty... snow is COLD.
Don't be fooled by the beauty... snow is COLD.

Please Don't Make Me Ski Again

I wrote this while submerged in a hot bath. The hot bath was not a luxury; it was a necessity subsequent to my first experience with cross-country skiing. The experience itself was interesting. I learned a lot. For instance, if you dress warmly enough to be trapped in your car overnight during a blizzard you may be a tad overdressed. Generally, I don’t sweat. Even on hot humid summer days when I walk fast the amount of my perspiration would not fill an eye cup. Pay attention, this is another literary clue that I am not a youngster… only people my age or older know what an eye cup actually is. That day my hair was drenched; I had to take my hat off… when you cross country ski you sweat. There is no getting around it.

I now truly understand the marketing strategy behind long underwear that wicks away moisture from your skin. I would have certainly been more comfortable if I did not feel like I was stewing in my own juices. Still, I find the concept of sweat wicking underwear highly illogical. If it wicks the sweat away from your skin doesn’t it get your second layer drenched? Logically, wouldn’t it wick it right back onto your skin off the second layer? I guess we could go back and forth like this all day long. I am just trying to say that if this long underwear does work, buy it. There is possibly nothing worse than feeling wet and hot and cold all at the same time.

At the beginning of our adventure I needed to rent skis, poles and boots. It turned out that this is a package deal that is relatively inexpensive when you consider they let you have them for 24 hours. Do not expect to ski for many of those hours on your first time out. It was exhilarating just being in this little store with all these healthy looking athletic people who looked like they knew what to do with all this stuff. I felt healthier and more vital just looking at them. I suddenly wanted to look like one of those ski bunnies in stretch pants and fur trimmed parkas that I’ve seen in old movies. I wished I had teased my hair and put on red lipstick. My boyfriend Michael pinched me to bring me back to reality and told me those women were going DOWNHILL skiing. We selected my equipment and I was thrilled that I was wearing a size 6 boot. Life is all about enjoying the little things.

We got out to the trails and Michael pointed my skis in the right direction and told me to push the toes of my boots into the snaps on the skis. The first ski went on easily but then I kicked the second ski across the parking lot into a snow bank. I then had to ski on one leg while chasing my errant ski. I amused the crowds. I knew I was a funny girl. I grasped my second ski and got myself pointed toward the trail. At first I was so tense that I got shin splints from trying to balance and move at the same time.

I soon discovered that maneuvering your skis in a forward motion was not that difficult. When we first began Michael was describing then demonstrating the motion to me. I responded with, “Oh, like a Nordic Track!” He looked at me with the stupefied look of someone who spends a great deal of time pushing snow around with sporting equipment. In those days I tried to stay indoors and maybe even under the blankets until spring. I was eager to learn how to love winter so I wouldn't have to buy one of those sunlamps to stave off Seasonal Affective Disorder. I have since moved to Phoenix...the sun shines all the time and no one expects you to ski.

In order to cross-country ski in a vertical and upright position you have to keep your feet in the groves of the skier in front of you. If you derail you are going to fall down. This is what you are trying to avoid. Falling down is not the real problem because you are dressed in clothing that is relatively water-resistant and the snow is pretty soft. Getting up is the real cataclysm. You can fall into an endless variety of contortions from which it is almost impossible to extricate yourself without flopping around like a beached tuna stuck with two harpoons. I ended up at one point with both skis woven together behind me. My one ski was both on top of and underneath the other. Anytime I tried to move one ski was always being held in place by the other. I finally had to fling myself up in the air so I could fall in a more convenient tangle. I must have looked like some kind of ghastly pick-up-sticks in Hannibal’s game room. This drew an audience. I was becoming funnier all the time.

This brings us to the etiquette of Cross-Country skiing. The behavior is kind of like golf where you have to let the better players play through otherwise they are going to play over your dead beaten body. Remember that some of these people take this very seriously. Do not say things even in jest like, “Show off!” when they whiz by on the left, “Haven’t I seen you someplace before?” as they whiz by for the third time, or “Excuse me, can you direct me to the handicapped lane?” to anyone who is speeding up hill. This is not the place to make new friends. These people do not want to know you until you can keep up with them on the trails.

Being in the woods in the winter is an awesome experience. However when you are learning to cross country ski you have to keep your eyes to the tracks and all you really get to see are the tops of your boots that look remarkably like bowling shoes with flat square toes. This is not a significantly better view of winter than walking downtown from my car to my office. In fact, my snow boots are more stylish and attractive than the leprechaun bowling shoes.

Your nose becomes a faucet. There is no better accessory to my spiffy skiing outfit than a runny nose. Bring plenty of tissues but do not attempt to wipe your nose while you are moving. You can take out an eye with one of those ski poles. Or worse yet, impale one of the impatient skiers who fly by on left. You know the ones with outfits that are so expensive they could have put a down payment on land where they could have skied alone. All in all it was a pleasant experience. My tips for the first time skiers are as follows: bring a lot of tissues, don’t talk to strangers... they may impale you on a ski pole.

Now that I am in a warm dry climate you might think that I miss the four seasons...well, you're wrong. One long season with a small bit of variety...let's say between 50 & 120 degrees is okay by me. Although, I must say, the natives seen to dress in parkas when it goes below 60. I may someday see snow again but I am hoping it is from a distance like a scenic mountain vista or looking down from an airplane.

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