Prior to this past week, there were threats here and there that winter was coming, but it’s now official–despite what the calendar tells us– winter with all its teeth grinding cold and blustery ice and snow is here. I could complain about it, Nay! I WILL complain it about over the coming months, but when you get down to it, there’s nothing any of us can do about it, especially a sub-par blogger and mortal human like me. Winter is here and survival (both mental and physical) is key.
To survive, some will ride fat bikes, some will brave the icy pavement on road bikes and some (like me) will retreat to the woods on snowshoes and cross-country skis (no matter how lackluster their skills), to basements and garages to climb aboard stationary trainers, or to the humid crotch-like stank of the gym. Almost everyone will bitch about it at some time or another. Such is life.
Today was my first cross-country ski of the year. I dig cross-country skiing, but I don’t like cross-country skiing. My issues with it are nearly the same as my issues with fat bikes. Everyone with a fat bike is always relentlessly blathering on about how you “have to get a fat bike, they’re so ‘fun,’ you’ll love it.” (Very much like those fuckers that race cross). The same is true of skiing. Almost all my cycling friends here in central Michigan cross-country ski in the winter and will go on and on about how “you gotta ski race, you gotta get out and ski, get ‘x’ skis and use ‘y’ wax, and these boots, don’t get a fat bike, fat bikes are heavy and dumb and destroy our trails, etc., etc., etc.,”
I dig my friends and admire their fitness, their passion and their want to be outdoors, that is not the issue with me. The issue is that I am not a very good skier and my equipment is just good enough to get me through each winter. I don’t “glide,” I trudge, plod and shuffle along… I don’t have much fun. Unless I’m having fun. Then I dig it. I guess you could say that I ski, but I am NOT a skier. Does that makes sense?
Winter’s early arrival finally brought us enough snow to make the trails to my north UN-rideable and the local county park VERY skiable. So I skied (or at least did a reasonable facsimile in that I had skis on and at times was moving). And yes, I had fun.
I was pleasantly shocked how quickly I picked up where I left off last winter, yet–just like every winter–disappointed that my technique didn’t magically become better. I suppose investing in some even marginally better skis would make the experience more enjoyable, but then that would be giving in to winter and in many ways to the “you gotta cross-country ski” whims of my friends.
Cross-country skiing is much like running and hiking are to me; every time I do it I think “this is OK, but being on a bike would make this so much better.” That is not to say that I don’t find myself having fun at times and God knows it’s always sweet to be
rolling skiing through the woods. When you look around at the snow, the tall pines and the river running along the trail it’s pretty hard NOT to find enjoyment.
As a bonus, since my equipment is more than a few years old and my technique is less than stellar, I work harder than most people, stay warmer and burn more calories. At least that is what I will be telling myself to force myself out the door as often as possible while the snow is here.
My friends worry about conditions, debate “classic” vs. “skate,” obsess about wax and worry about whether the trails are groomed or not. I ski the local park trails on 10-year-old classic skis and occasionally go up to Mid Michigan Community College and use the walking trails that surround the mountain bike trail system. I am just bad enough not to care. Or am I just dumb enough not to care?
This is not to say that I think my friends are wrong or that I don’t plan on one day getting some slightly better skis, but I would be lying if I said that I wouldn’t gladly take a fat bike over skis or even better, a snowless winter over four months of teeth chattering, hard nipples, cold toes, a grinding and throbbing arthritic shoulder and snow. However, since no one is giving me a fat bike and I don’t see us moving from mid-Michigan anytime soon, I will keep trudging, plodding and shuffling along when I am not totally hiding from winter in my basement on the trainer or at the gym.
Photos: All photos were taken by me at Deerfield Nature Park in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan.