unexpected hazards of winter sports


I took a mental health day from work yesterday, and headed to the Stevens Pass Nordic Center.  It had been three weeks since I took my first and only skate ski lesson, and the rust definitely showed.

I spent about ten minutes trying to get things to fit properly, and then went out.  The trail (yes – the easy one) climbs a steady uphill for the first 2.5 K from the center.  I looked a bit like a mouse trying to scamper up the side of a bathtub.  Funny to watch, but frustrating to be sooo incompetent.

After working up a considerable sweat doing something that really shouldn’t be so hard, I turned onto the Side Track, which is a more challenging trail, but has the advantage of some level and downhill stretches that would allow me to get into a rhythm.

Skate skiiing is all about form.  Well – I spent the first 90 minutes trying to reclaim the modicum of form that I’d gotten during my first and only day skate skiing. 

I skied the length of Side Track, detoured onto the biathlon range, and then came back on the Main Line.  During one particularly pathetic stretch, I spent 10 minutes climbing a 25 meter hill.  In the end I herringboned up, supporting myself with the poles (bad!), which is as exhausting as you’d expect.  I was literally trying to push myself up the hill relying on the strength of my tricep muscles.

After reaching the end of the Side Track trail, I returned on the Main Line.  It was mostly downhill, so I pretty much aimed the ski tips down and coasted.  I worked on v1 on the level stretches, and sort of got into a rhythm.

I rolled into the center, and ordered a bagel and cup of tea.  One of the instructers asked me how it had gone – so I told him "badly".  Being a helpful chap, he suggested that I watch a DVD of XC skiing while I ate.  When the DVD started another instructer came over to watch too.  After about two minutes of watching the two of them were embroiled in a big argument about proper polling technique.  They were so loud, I couldn’t hear a thing from the DVD, and they didn’t show any signs of cooling it.  So, I quietly picked up my stuff, and headed back out. figuring on spending another hour or so.

This time, heading uphill was much easier.  I was able to use v1 98% of the way, which was much better than the first time.  All told, I spent another 90 minutes out there, with much more success, and having much more fun.

The other surprise of the day was that I fell victim to the weather conditions in an unexpected way.  Because I worked up a sweat on the way up, and then skied into the falling snow on the way down, my beard became encrusted with snow and ice.  I didn’t notice until I went to scratch my face on the way down.  Then I realized I couldn’t move my face normally.  Very odd.  I snapped the picture below with my phone … eldest daughter suggested I photoshop a smaller, less "beak-like" nose in :

By the way, you can’t break ice out of your beard.  You have to let it melt.  Anything else is painful, because you’re basically pulling your face off.

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