My first experience on cross country skis wasn’t so good. But the second time is a different story.
First, flash back 25 years when Nordic skis were heavier and the boots…well, the boots were more like wooden shoes.
Anyway, I set out for a happy ski through the woods when I found out about wax or rather lack of wax and even lack of the proper wax.
I was able to hoof it a few clicks, literally clumping and alternatively cursing as the splendour of the forest escaped my attention. The charm was also spoiled by someone panting like an old steam engine – namely me.
From that day on I vowed to spend my winter days on downhill skis. Nevertheless, I always marvelled at the Nordic skiers as they struck out to Paradise Meadows at Mt. Washington Alpine Resort.
They all looked so fit, rosy-cheeked and they certainly weren’t wearing heavy, cumbersome ski jackets. No sir, almost looks like they had stepped out of a yoga class.
Still, I continued to downhill because that’s what my friends did.
Finally though, I promised a friend who cross country skis to give Nordic another chance.
Last Friday we made the trip up to the Raven Lodge at Mt. Washington’s Nordic Centre where we were greeted by the super-friendly staff.
“So, finally going to give real skiing a try?” the gal at the front desk said with a smile after I had told her my story.
Getting outfitted took just a few minutes and I was pleased how comfortable the high-top boots fit my stupidly-wide feet. The skis were light and strong, and when I slipped them on I can tell you that they do excellent waxing at the Nordic Centre.
The staff suggested I join the noon-hour lesson, but I felt confident my ski partner, Bridget Tremblay, could provide enough tips to get me started. And hey, if not, she could always dump me in the beginner class.
But it wasn’t that hard and more fun than I expected on the track-set course that took us up the Jutland route.
My first challenge was to get in the rhythm and by that I mean learning to stride and slide while moving your arms in unison. But it didn’t take long, maybe 15 minutes, to get the hang of it and I also learned by watching the other skiers.
This time around, I was enjoying the scenery and I wasn’t huffing and puffing – well not very hard! – as we climbed up Jutland. Actually, it seemed we kept going higher and higher, each hill more challenging, as we headed up The Grind.
“Pay no attention the black diamond markers,” Tremblay said with a laugh, as we passed the sign indicating the most challenging runs.
Up and up we went until we reached Marmot Flats, and then the snow started lightly falling and it really became a winter wonderland. We skied through the moss-draped trees and up and down small hills until we came to the final hill.
This looked more like downhill and with my Nordic confidence at an all-time high, I tucked and held my poles tight to my side as I began to pick up speed…and more speed.
Faster and faster I went, nearly knocking over Tremblay as I passed her at Mach 1. The wind was forcing tears from the corners of my eyes as I suddenly began to make out the tight corner quickly approaching at the bottom.
My inner thighs burned as I dug in, trying to carve the turn…halfway around…almost there…and then the forces of mass and speed took over and I was hurled across the run into the fluffy snowbank – face first!
I was still laughing as Tremblay, arriving at a much more sane pace, came around the corner and saw me half driven into the snow with both skis skewed at unusual angles.
It took a moment to extract myself, dust off the snow clumps and then we proceeded onto the Lower West run that took us back to the Raven Lodge where good food and drink awaited.
Round trip we did about 7.5 kilometres and it gave me my first real “taste” of Nordic skiing.
Next time I’ll go further, try new runs, see new sights and probably fall flat on my face again too. Can’t wait.