Saturday, December 22, 2012

Happy Holiday Skiing!

A perfectly groomed cross country trail on a perfectly cold day
I’m sitting in my easy chair by the fire, thinking about how cold and beautiful it was up at Eaglecrest today. The cross country ski trail was nicely set, with all 5.8 km twisting and turning across meadows, hills, and woods in a lovely pattern. My skis were waxed just right. I felt like I was flying along in perfect rhythm on the groomed classic track.  The temperature was in the single digits, but I was warm from the exertion of my steady kick and glide motion.

I taught a nordic ski lesson this morning, the first of many that I hope to teach this winter. My students and I dressed warmly, and spent two hours working on skills and techniques for basic classic skiing. Both of them did a great job and we were all smiles at the end of the lesson. We were probably the only people at Eaglecrest who were truly staying warm skiing. We kept moving the whole time, swinging our arms and legs as we practiced various drills up and down the track. Going over the basics of skiing with eager students only sharpened my enthusiasm to ski on my own in the afternoon, which is exactly what I did after a quick lunch and the shedding of a few layers.

I started skiing this winter on November 1, with a short trip up to Spaulding Meadows to play in the first good snowfall of the year. My fitness level was fine, but as always at the beginning of each winter, my skills were a bit rusty. Still, nothing beats the feeling of gliding over the snow after months of hiking, and I knew if I patiently kept at it my skiing would steadily improve.

During the past seven and a half weeks I’ve skied every chance I could get. I hiked up Eaglecrest on my alpine skis with climbing skins and skied off the top of the ridges well before the chairlift opened. I classic skied and skate skied at the Mendenhall Campground and out on Mendenhall Lake on the tracks set by the Juneau Nordic Ski Club volunteer groomers. I skied in the morning before work, I skied on my days off, and I skied at night after work. I made many trips to the Eaglecrest lower loop trail to cross country ski and even one trip to the upper loop in Hilda Meadows despite it’s being a beautiful mess of ungroomed snow. I skied alone, I skied with my husband, and I skied with friends. It’s been an incredible start to the winter season.
A mysterious, foggy day of cross country skiing out on Mendenhall Lake
I consider good snow conditions to be like sunshine in the summer – you have to drop everything and get out and enjoy it RIGHT NOW. The bills may not get paid precisely on time, the laundry piles up, meals are slapped together, and the car runs dangerously low on gas. But you ski, because you never know when the snow conditions may change, or what might happen to prevent you from enjoying that most wonderful feeling of sliding over the snow.

When the chairlifts are closed, we hike up for the good snow
Today was my 20th time out on my skis since that first trip up to Spaulding at the beginning of November. I felt good. Many of the kinks were worked out of my classic stride and I found myself working on things that I remembered wanting to improve from the end of last ski season: lengthening my glide balanced on one ski, staying in the track on the steep downhill turns, striding up the hill without resorting to a herringbone step out of the track in the steepest spots, and generally improving my fitness level. I won’t be neglecting my downhill skiing even while I work on my nordic skiing – I have dreams of skiing high on the ridges and flying down on my fat skis in deep snow, carving turns on steep slopes that challenge me. They may not be worthy of an extreme ski photo but they are my own little slice of heaven.

My own little slice of heaven
I may or may not reach all of my goals. I might have an injury, or illness, or something else may happen to stop me in my tracks, so to speak. But today was sublime, and I can’t wait to get back out on my skis with my husband on Christmas Day, my next full day off of work. We haven’t yet decided what kind of skiing we’ll do, but we will be skiing, and I have a feeling it’s going to be another great day.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and I hope to see many of you out skiing, too!