Monday, March 3, 2014

Thanks for the Snow

I asked for more snow, and Mother Nature provided another five inches of fluffy stuff for my skiing enjoyment.
I know, I sound certifiably insane when everyone else is lamenting the fact we're all in the deep freeze, but this is the best skiing I've had all season.  

The days are getting increasingly longer; tonight I went out at 5PM and when I got back in at 6:35PM it wasn't completely dark out yet. 

The incessant wind we had all last week has finally subsided.  It was 15 degrees when I went out tonight which was really pleasant.  Last night we hit a record low, -24F which is the coldest it has been in eighteen years.  Watching the weather tonight there was an impressive graph up on the screen about this being the coldest winter since the 1800's.  

I only missed one day of skiing this winter.  As I've admitted before, this is my break from gardening and my favorite time of year when being outside is guilt-free. So what if Aaargh isn't done and there are weeds under mountains of snow?  Can't do anything about it right now, so let's party.  Or ski.
I'm headed north in these photos, across the Back Eight on my ski route.   I follow the same route for the most part unless the prevailing winds make life too miserable.  In that case, I stick to making laps around and through the white pines which have formed a substantial windbreak.  

Making headway here, the snowmobile trail is almost completely covered in fresh snow, but forms a nice solid base.  

Cross-country skiing is labor intensive (well, at least for me) and a high calorie burner.  When I come in at night, the back of my coat is often frost-covered from my sweat.  Estimates range from 500-700 calories per hour based on weight, and that's only for slow ski walking, light effort.  

The Birkebeiner cross-country ski race was held in February in Hayward, WI.  I can't fathom how many calories those athletes must burn on the hilly 30+ mile course.  And I can't imagine 10,000 skiers all in one place.  I was listening to a radio interview of one participant who said she always wears a full face mask because there is a real possibility of getting a ski pole in the eye when you're in close proximity to a few hundred people trying to win a race.  

As far as I understand, athletes have to qualify for placement in the race and there are waves of skiers released at different time frames.  Starting all 10,000 at one time would be impossible.And in case you're wondering, no, I've never entered the contest and don't know anyone who has.   I would like to go and watch the race sometime, though.  

Back in the day, Carl and I would go to a park which had groomed trails and some hills and valleys to ski.  The groomed trails were wonderful, but they attract a lot of people.  Trail etiquette demands the slower skier get out of the way to let the elite skier pass.  We'd have to constantly get out of the way of Spandex-clad, helmeted and goggled athletes who would come up behind us at a rapid rate.  We were semi-annoying speed bumps to those folks who were probably training for the Birkebeiner or some other race.  

"Track OVER!" the shouts would come from behind us as we were happily moving along at a moderate pace.  We would dutifully step off the groomed trail and let them pass.  I always admired the Spandex People for their physical fitness and colorful outfits; they'd fly by us with grim determination and flailing poles and be long gone by the time we maneuvered our way back onto the groomed trail.  

About the time we'd get moving again, especially when we had our young sons with us, "Track OVER!! would be heard in the distance and we'd have to repeat the entire process again.  On some excursions we spent more time standing on the side of the trail then actually skiing in our efforts to stay out of the way.

We decided it was more fun and much more economical to simply stay home and ski on the farm and surrounding snowmobile trails.  I'm perfectly happy on the same course day in and day out.  There's no Spandex People to tick off and I have my own network of trails. 

 Having a machine-groomed trail is fantastic, but it takes more calories to break my own trail, which I figure is a benefit, too.  We did go skiing on the Rails to Trails system in January, but didn't encounter any other ski enthusiasts.  There were plenty of snowmobilers though, but they were much friendlier than the Spandex Crowd. 

I've often thought I should work on my skiing speed, and at times I vary my pace, but for the most part, I stick to a step, glide, step, glide metronome speed that I can sustain for fairly long distances.  One thing I always noticed about the Spandex People aside from their physical superiority was the apparent lack of joy in what they were doing.  It all seemed so Grim.  We are Competitors!  But are they having fun yet?

Cross-country skiing is a quiet, slow sport for me; the sparkling snow and dazzling reflections in every color of the rainbow, the animal tracks, the cloud patterns, the birds in the trees; there is so much beauty to be had if you look for it.  

I rarely cover more than four or five miles in an outing and always in big, looping circles with my cellphone tied to my head under my peasant scarf.  I usually always talk to Mom when I'm on my way home; she keeps me company while I huff and puff and I hear all about her day.

One of these days the snow will melt.  And we will enter the season of Mud aka Spring.  But until then, this is where you'll find me.
No Spandex Allowed.
 P.S. On Saturday night I skied up to Mom's to snow-blow her driveway and ours.  When I got home, I stepped out of my brand new skis and grabbed a shovel to remove some snow by the back porch that I couldn't get to with the tractor. 

Carl had stayed at Mom's to shovel off her porch and I was still busy shoveling when he drove in and put the car in the garage.  It was windy out and I hadn't noticed that my skis had decided to go on an outing of their own,  blown halfway across the driveway. 

And guess who drove right over my new skis?  There they were, just a week old, with two sets of car tracks going across them pushed down tight in the snow.  I was standing there with a sinking heart, staring at them when Carl got out of the car.

"Well, they were nice while they lasted," I said.

"What are you talking about......oh! Why did you leave them in the driveway?  I didn't see them when I drove in!" he said.

Luckily, he had driven over both skis directly on the flat part and not on the turned up tips or the bindings.  Unbelievably, they weren't broken or even scratched.  I'm sure the compression didn't do them any favors, but they seem fine.

I have learned my lesson: 
Always pick up your toys when you're done playing with them. 


FlowerLady Lorraine said...

Oh my gosh, I gasped when I read that your new skis had been run over, but am so glad they weren't hurt. What a relief! Yes, we must remember to put our toys/tools away.

The photos and descriptions of your cross country ski jaunts were great.

I'm glad for you that you had another snow fall so that you could get out to play/exercise guilt free.

Love and hugs ~ FlowerLady

El Gaucho said...

Karen - You are one impressive person. Cross country skiing is hard exercising, and to do it as much as you do is quite the feat. Please include my name on the list of people who are very impressed by you!!!

sharon malueg said...

You go girl!! Glad the new skis weren't road kill. Nice you get to recap the day with your mom.

PS There is a free small cross country ski spot in Shawano right on 22 that was kinda fun, if you like hills too.

Alison said...

Oh Karen, I moaned when I read about Carl driving over your brand new skis. What a relief that he did no apparent damage. I'm really glad you have such a peaceful, pleasant place to do your skiing.

Dragonfly Treasure said...

OMG! I held my breath as you said your skis were run over! So glad they were damaged! You have got to be the most physically fit woman around! I can only imagine all the calories you burn and how toned your muscles are. Good for you! You go girl!
I have never skied but it looks fun ;) and hard too.
Thank you for the sweet comments you left on my blog. Much appreciated ♥♥
Keep warm!

My Garden Diaries said...

What a way to enjoy the winter! Your shots are just beautiful!! And it is so nice to have down time from the garden and just enjoy being outside!! And I am glad the skies are ok!!! Have a great week! Nicole xo

africanaussie said...

I have only ever been cross-country skiing once, but the stillness and wide open space left me with a wonderful memory. Your photos look so peaceful and clean - thank you for sharing the joy that you find in these daily excursions.