We went skiing the weekend before last. Friends invited us to join them, we had nothing planned, and snow was predicted. What more could you ask for? Well...the snow never materialized and – for the record – I’m not complaining. We’ve had a fabulous winter this year and I’d be thrilled if they were all this mild.
But…when I took a look at those giant hills (they were giant to me, okay?) and I realized that the teensy cover of manufactured snow the resort had shot onto the slopes probably wasn’t going to mitigate the ice factor, I got cold feet. (Literally, ha ha – I was standing in snow.) My husband, compassionate fellow that he is, suggested cross-country skiing instead.
The day was gorgeous—sunny and crisp. The people at the lodge were friendly and helpful, warning us that we were overdressed and that we’d probably overheat and be back in fifteen minutes to shed clothing. I’m always cold, so we decided to keep the ski pants and jackets on, along with our hats, scarves, and mittens.
Here we are, about a hundred feet away from the starting point, when we realized we’d left the paper trail map with our belongings back at the lodge. “No worries,” said one of the veteran skiers, “the trails are well marked.”
Did you ever see “The Princess Bride”?
Then you will hear this next sentence in Inigo Montoya’s voice: “I do not think ‘well-marked trails’ means what you think it means.”
Couple things I didn’t know about cross-country skiing. There are grooves on the very edge of the trails to help keep newbies on the straight and narrow. Thank goodness they were there. I don’t think we would have lasted five minutes otherwise. Ice coated everything and I could barely keep vertical.
The beauty of cross-country is the quiet. We were able to converse when we weren’t panting, and we enjoyed the solitude with only the occasional expert whizzing by, saying hello. As promised, there were maps at every juncture…but they weren’t in color the way the paper map was. That may not seem like a big deal, but there are loops everywhere at this place and we couldn’t figure out where A ended and D began, or where E ended and G began. We thought we were on D, but we were really on G. It got most confusing when E and G met, but neither went the way we wanted, and the path behind us—unmarked—didn’t even appear on the map. There were different difficulty levels and after trying one “more difficult” (puff, puff, gasp) we knew we needed to stay on “easiest.”
Except…some of the trails are one way only, with giant DO NOT ENTER signs. Which means you can’t backtrack. When we got to K we knew we were in trouble. Somehow we managed to find an “easiest” path back, via N. And don’t let anyone tell you there’s no downhill in cross-country. We took plenty of tumbles. Plenty. Sometimes even while still in our handy-dandy grooves.
When we finally got back, sweaty, tired, but ultimately proud of ourselves, the folks in the lodge commented on how far out we’d gone. "All the way out to K, huh?" one said. “How do you know?” we asked. Turns out that we weren’t as alone as we’d thought. Several of the staffers told us that they’d gotten regular reports of our whereabouts. We’d gone out much farther than anyone had expected. I think the fact that we were doing the equivalent of shuffling rather than skiing put giant neon signs over our heads flashing “Newbies!” But it was nice to know that people were watching out for us.
BTW - this is my husband's "after" picture. I refused to let him take one of me. I looked MUCH worse (:::shudder:::).
We learned a lot that day. Enjoyed ourselves immensely and felt good about the amount of exercise we’d gotten. Would we do it again? Probably. My husband and I agree that we wouldn’t go out of our way to find cross-country opportunities here at home, but if we’re out and it’s available, we’d be willing to give it another whirl.
As always, I made mental notes (my hands were too sweaty to jot real ones) about the experience so that I could use it someday for one of my characters. Maybe I'll have it snow in North Carolina and Grace can traverse the white stuff and happen upon a murder victim. Or a murder in progress. She'd have to be a better skier to get away safely ... but it sure would be hard to be worse than we were.
What about you? Have you ever skied cross-country? Other than making sure we have a detailed map handy, do you have any hints for our next trek?