I went cross-country skiing for the first time this season today. All the stars aligned this morning and pointed me in the direction of my favorite trail in the neighborhood where I grew up. I left my teenage son and his sleepover friend with some cinnamon rolls in the oven, waxed my skis, and took off in the car for the trail. I wanted to go alone because usually, my first seasonal ski is not pretty. There’s wheezing and fumbling, and it takes a while to work out the kinks and get back into the rhythm.
A few blocks from my house, I noticed sprinkles of rain on the windshield. Rain? It’s 25 degrees, how can it be raining? Come to think of it, the weather man said something about warmer air traveling over the snow and causing a chance for fog this weekend. I hoped it would just stay a misty sprinkle, because rain wreaks proverbial havoc on x-c ski trails.
As I continued driving, the rain gradually increased from a sprinkle to scattered rain drops. This is the point where a sensible person would have turned around and gone home. I was not sensible, however. I was cross-country ski starved.
For weeks, the beautiful snow had been beckoning, but other commitments caused me to ignore the beckoning. Our recent sub-zero temps also made my fingers not too keen on outdoor activities, especially after my snowblowing frostbite incident. But I love skiing. I grew up with it and desperately needed to do something to raise my heart rate above 70 bpm after falling into winter slothfulness.
So I kept going. When I arrived at the trailhead, I was heartened to see two other vehicles parked in the lot. I’m not the only crazy one. Plus, another car pulled in right behind me. A couple of snowshoers got out of one car, deflating my sense of joint craziness just a bit. Snowshoeing is much more sensible in this weather than skiing, after all. But it was re-inflated when another skier got out and started carrying her equipment to the trailhead. All right! A fellow crazy person.
I unloaded my skis and walked over to where she was putting on her skis. She had white hair and looked about ten years older than me — old enough to have much better judgment. We discussed the bad conditions but both agreed we wanted to try skiing anyway. I tested the conditions with one ski and quickly realized I needed to put on softer wax. As I was doing that, the lady skied down the trail but quickly returned, explaining her wax was not going to work in these conditions. I offered her the use of mine, but she declined, saying it was too slippery. She was going to give up and go home.
So maybe I am the only crazy one. Undaunted, I put on my skis and took off. It was slippery – I had to duck walk up the smallest of inclines. But I did have enough kick to get into a good rhythm on the flats. I snowplowed down the hills until I felt safe enough to get into the icy track for a slick ride down. I saw one other person going the opposite way and we both grinned at each other like ski-idiots.
I skied far enough to feel winded. When I returned to my car, it was coated in a layer of ice, and the rain had become heavier. No mistaking it for a sprinkle, now. I pried open the door and headed home. On the way, my car skated through one red light (at a thankfully empty intersection). I passed two cars that had crashed into snowbanks, and everyone was crawling along at half-speed.
But I survived and made it home. I can say I finally went skiing . . . and lived to tell about it.