Sunday, February 19, 2012

Skiing. The new running?

We finally have winter. Sort of. You wouldn't know it in town, but venture up a couple of thousand feet and there it is, a fluffy, deep powder with a spangled surface. I've forsaken running in favor of skinny skis, flying effortlessly over snow so white it looks blue.

Sort of effortlessly anyway.This is not a groomed, tracked kind of skiing. No warming huts, no concession stands, no services. Here you get dropped off with a wave and "see you at Fergi!" Once my ride leaves, there is no bail-out for several hours, until I drop down a precipitous slope to the all-volunteer ski area. The snow could be great or it could be awful, but there is no cell service, so slog on I do, pushing powder in front of me, breaking trail.

There's something so simple about skiing, just the plant of poles and the push of boards. I move through a hushed world: no cars, no people, only the sound of skis on snow. I feel like I am a thousand miles from anywhere. It is easy to get into a rhythm I remember from my long marathon training runs; that trance that comes sometime awhile in, when you barely remember individual miles. It's hard for me to reach that when I run now since my body won't let me go that far. I remember our small training group moaning as we ran the first four or five miles, talking about how hard it was just to get past that first bit before the good part, when everything smoothed out.

I can get there when I ski, and that's why I abandon running when the good snow is here. I love that time when nothing hurts and the brain wanders free, spooling out over the miles. There's no conscious thought, just motion. Rabbit tracks meander over the snow. There is nothing here but white and silence.

All too soon I reach the turn-off to Fergi, forgetting as usual the steep and scary tree-choked ravine which is way beyond my ability. Unclipping, I take the Walk of Shame down, but thankfully nobody is there to spot me and I am able to ski triumphantly to the parking lot. Here there are masses of people. Kids grab for the T bar and miss, being dragged for a few yards before they give up and come back to try again. The rope tow breaks and Scott drives up in the Rhino. Jerry jumps in and it is like Baywatch, hill managers to the rescue, minus the swimsuits. I sit on the ski patrol porch in the sun, a whirlwind of activity swirling around me. Only I know the quiet world that is just above all this.

Soon the skiing will turn sour, and it will be back to running again. I look forward to the trails, but it isn't quite the same as gliding over new snow, that feeling that I could just keep going forever. No cut-off times, no medals, no glory, just me and skis, covering ground.


  1. Sounds wonderful...sure I wish could ski well enough to grab that feeling...and then to come down into the sun with of both worlds!

  2. There is something magical about getting off the beaten path, especially in winter. I wish my xc skiing skills were better and since they are what they are, my off the trail explorations happen only in snowshoes.
    As usual, your pictures want me to drop whatever I am doing (like commenting on your post) and getting out there. Who cares that I came back just 3 days ago.

  3. Great post. I snowshoe with my dog every day and rarely do we see another snow. When you have that kind of paradise, you can enter another world, a freeing world that becomes about breath and movement, where worries and life fall away. Very eloquent.

    Dani @ ONNO Hemp Clothing

  4. Aaaah, yes. My lack of technique leaves me surprisingly breathless when I ski.:) But, it's a wonderful thing to fly through the woods surrounded by the sights and sounds of snow on trees and snow under-ski. I sure do love winter play!


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