It’s been a few years since I’ve taken cross-country skiing seriously. Back in the day, we’d load up the gear and drive to Fairplay, Breckenridge or Frisco and meet friends for a day of skiing at one of the Nordic centers. Typically we’d start skiing midmorning, stop for lunch, then ski all afternoon. Some days we’d ski as many as 50 kilometers (31 miles). We entered some cross-country ski races, and did a few winter multisport events, including the Mount Taylor Winter Quadrathlon, which involved cycling, running, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.
As years passed I grew tired of the drill — the time and gas spent driving, the rush to be somewhere on weekends when the days were short, the trail passes, the never-ending attention to equipment and waxing. The final straw was when all the top finishers in the races started using a fluorocarbon wax that cost more than $100 for a one-time application. The stuff really worked but I could never afford it. Add a healthy dose of neon Lycra and flashy sunglasses and the sport had simply become too disco for words.
I gave up racing but still managed to get in a few, or a couple, of ski outings per winter until about three winters ago when I became a father and practically gave it up. Two winters ago I got out my equipment and skied here in the neighborhood, but my feet had grown, making my boots quite painful. Last winter I didn’t ski even one time.
Recently I brought my skis along on a Christmas visit with family in Frisco, and decided to look at boots at the Nordic center. I asked one of the young men working in the rental shop if they had any demos or rental boots they could sell at discount prices. He pulled down a pair that would still work with my early 90s Salomon profil bindings and said I could give them a try.
I like to do what is known as “combi” skiing. It’s a mixture of diagonal stride and skating. Basically, I stride the steeper hills and skate any long gradual downhills or flats. I throw in some-double-poling in the tracks for good measure.
The first few strides were a little shaky, but it wasn’t long until I was feeling more confident. I made a couple of quick loops and pretty much decided to buy the boots. But when I returned to the Nordic center I headed back out on the trail. I wasn’t done. Not yet.
Somewhere on the Crown Point trail I hit a groove with my kick and glide. I came over the top of the long gradually hill, double-poled a few times then jumped out of the track and started skating, first V1 and then V2. Like riding a bike, it was all still there.
Back home the next day I packed out a little ski track east of my house. With borrowed kid equipment I took my son Harrison, who is 4 and has some developmental delays, out for his first time on skis. I didn’t know what to expect as it’s sometimes been difficult getting him interested in outdoor activities. But he took to it naturally. It was almost uncannny how he managed to keep from crossing tips and tails. He never fell, and he smiled a lot.
To ski or not to ski? I think we’ll ski.