Cross-country skiing

After my downhill skiing struggles, I decided to give cross-country skiing a shot. I did a little research, spoke to some trusted staff at a frequented Eastern Mountain Sports store, and I purchased some classic cross-country skis in late 1993. I had never tried it, and wasn’t even sure that I would like it, but I jumped into the whole xc skiing thing feet--or skis--first. I recall testing them out in a local park early that winter. Yes, a park, i.e., a FLAT, wide-open area, where I got the gist of the whole pushing forward and sliding thing. There was no worry of unwanted acceleration, and it was a good cardio workout. I liked this.

Kick-slide-kick-slide-kick-slide...

I returned to the Catskills with one of my buddies, to try this some more. He went downhill skiing while I headed over to a local golf course and did my cross country. Again, I found myself enjoying this activity. Yeah, there were some mild hills and more turning dictated by the contours of the trail, but the falls were less frequent, at a slower speed, and just not a source of concern or frustration. A few trips up to Prospect Mountain in the southwest corner of VT followed, where I worked on technique.

Kick-slide...kick-sliide...kick-sliiide...

In the winter of 94/95, my brother and I took a ride up to Lake Placid. We did a bobsled run one day (awesome!), and then split up the next day so that I could xc ski. The ski center was actually a couple of golf courses and other trails, which I wandered around. The views were beautiful, and the only time I stopped was to take them in. When I looked at the map, I realized I had done 10 miles. I took a big trip through the southwest a month later, and I felt that I was in the best shape of my life. This was clearly attributable to the xc skiing I had been doing.

Kick-sliide...kick-sliiiide... ...kick-sliiiiiide...

In the following winters, I found myself checking out different xc areas from VT to Maine. I ventured as far away as Sugarloaf, a place where the xc season starts a little earlier and lasts a little longer than most. Noting there that folks on skating (freestyle) skis were flying by me, I decided I wanted to try that. I ended up getting a nice deal on a pair of skis and surprisingly tall poles, and then tried to master the technique. This entailed propelling forward by simultaneously driving the poles into the snow and pushing forward with one ski, and then sliding with the other. Without the poles, the motion resembles rollerblading. With the poles, it was tricky. I tried it out while up at Mountain Meadows, a great xc area that is just outside of the Killington resort, and just started to get the hang of it. But, that was my last time out again that season.

Kick&poles-slide...kick&poles-slide...kick&poles-slide...

Very early in 1998, I found myself back up at Sugarloaf, and floundering again with those skating skis. I decided a lesson was the ticket. The instructor came over to me, explained the motion, and from a damn standstill, propelled himself 30 feet with a single double-pole/kick. He told me to try and I think I launched myself 5 feet. It took a few attempts, but I did start to get the technique down. Once it's working, the feeling is really invigorating, especially when stringing together some strides on one ski, and then shifting weight and stringing a few on the other ski.

Kick&poles-sliiide...kick&poles-sliiiiide... ...kick&poles-sliiiiide...

Strangely, I was very natural at getting uphill, but downhill (especially on turns) was my nemesis. The instructor suggested that I take a regular downhill ski lesson to get comfortable on slopes. Was he serious? I explained to him that my very reason for xc skiing was that I couldn’t handle the whole downhill thing. Just like that I was thrown back to square one.

It was at this point that I decided that maybe I should think about downhill skiing...

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