We had gone to Mandy’s parents’ house in Granby, CO for the weekend to do some relaxing and actually see what winter was like. “Winter” in Broomfield or Denver is somewhat unsatisfying. There’s no snow on the ground. There is no nip in the air. This is not the winter I used to know. It’s just a bit cold. 50s in the afternoons, 30s at night. But it’s easy on the heating bill, as Mandy would say. I think we both would rather have winters where the snow comes regularly, and sticks around until May.
In contrast to our Autumnesque weather in the front range, Granby is knee-deep in the white stuff. The roadside has piles of snow the size of tractor trailers. Walking through the snow without large somethings strapped to your feet is only accomplished with much huffing and a fair amount of puffing. This activity is not recommended unless you’re wearing gaiters. Tied really tight. And an idiot. Needless to say, I did it.
We decided that since it was a full moon and we had clear skies, that some moon-lit cross country skiing was in order. Now, I’ve been cross country skiing a few times. I’ve seen some steep hills, and I’ve seen flat land. I’m not that good at it, but I can get by. I usually fall down a few times, and try to pretend like I meant to do it. Very believably, I might add. This night, some other magic was brewing. Something very strange was in the air.
After we had suited up for the cold, we trooped out the door and Steve, Mandy’s dad, handed out the skis. There was some talk about getting the “other pair of wooden skis” as I received my pair, but that was deemed unnecessary. Armed with planks on our feet and poles in our hands, we started on the trail that Steve had blazed by the light of the day. The first part of the trail runs through their property, and is mainly downhill. Easy. Just let good old Newton help you out. After we crossed the road and were in flatter terrain, I noticed something was awry. Instead of “push-glide… push-glide… push-glide…” what I was experiencing was more like “swish-swish-swish-swish…” moving me nowhere. Maybe I wasn’t doing something right. I tried to push-glide as much as I could, but I could only muster about an inch and a half of glide each time, as my push slipped on the cold snow. The only way that I could move forward was to use the poles to propel myself. So, on I went, slow as molasses. Could it be my technique? I tried to change the way that I put my weight on the skis, the timing of it, how I pushed off on the poles, but I still crawled along, slowing everyone down. I felt like an idiot. I probably looked like one too. Like I was on a nordictrack going nowhere, spending lots of energy, my legs moving, but moving nowhere.
I lost a pole on a downhill section. And I tried to backtrack. Up the hill. I first tried to get up and ski back to it. This didn’t work, because I was going backwards, down the hill, away from my absent pole. Then I tried crawling, except my skis were still attached to my feet. Not quite the most efficient method of travel. Thankfully, Mandy was behind me, and found my pole on her way down. Soon, I was back on my way, fighting the whole time.
If you go downhill, eventually you have to go back up. And up we did. Usually, going up a moderate incline is just a matter of pushing off a little harder on your skis. Steeper inclines can be taken with a herringbone step, where you angle your skis out in a v-shape, or just angle one ski out to push off of. These methods are reserved usually for a steep incline. Steep incline. This wasn’t usually. I had to herringbone it in the slightest up-slope. Nearing the end, Mandy’s dad was behind me, and I felt like a complete fool struggling, slowing him down to a near crawl. My arms were crying out to stop, my legs were flailing ineffectively. I just knew that there was an end, and that end was ahead. Adding to this, my boots didn’t fit well, so the break in the forefoot was right where my toes were. They started to hurt about then. Also around that time, the falling started. I probably fell three or four times. Within 15 feet. Mandy’s dad was still behind me. He either felt sorry for me, or thought I was a fool. In reality though, he probably thought I was both. And he probably felt sorry for Mandy, because she has to date me. Finally we crossed the road that separates the forest from their property. Seeing the house made me feel like I could keep going and finish the trail strong. I was so close, but there was still an uphill section that I had to traverse before I could get back and take the stupid skis off. So close yet so much work to be done. Aching arms. Tired legs. Snotty nose. Burning lungs. Cramped toes. Cold. Falling down. Snow under my shirt. Wet. This is winter. This is what I went, voluntarily, to do.
Twenty more feet. Down again. Get up, it’s so close. Plant your pole and stand up. Push. Move your legs. Down again. Face full of snow. Stand up. Push with your poles. Last ounces of strength pushing your ski into the snow, trying to push you ahead. Don’t slip backwards. Don’t fall down. Down again. Surely I can do this. Ten feet of uphill left. From there it’s just a little walk. You already did two miles. Ten feet is simple. Up again. Pushing with the left leg. Roll your right ankle over, jam your boot into the snow so you don’t slip back. Left. Right. Left. Down again. Poles… Poles… Just two more steps. You finish wish the pride of Eeyore. There is no glory in the finish, just that you finished. Quick as you can, take the skis off. Look at them. See why you had such trouble.
The skis are completely smooth on the bottom. Some cross country skis are supposed to have little ridges, called fish scales that allow you to push off, but still glide. These, were supposed to be coated with a sticky wax that allowed you to push off when you put weight on them. They weren’t though. So that was my problem. The skis weren’t waxed. For this, I pantomimed cross country skiing. I made a fool of myself. Held them back, and made them watch in horror and embarrassment my struggle. But it’s over now. It won’t happen again. I walk into the house, and try to make jokes about it, but I’m sore, and I’m embarrassed. At least now, I get to change out of my damp clothes, stand next to the stove, warm myself up. A thought comes into my head, and so I tell them, “at least I have something to write about in my blog.”