Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Joy of Cross-Country Skiing

For those of you living in warmer climates, the snows of recent weeks have been a blessing to all who like snow sports, especially downhill skiing. Downhill or alpine skiers are the ones who take a lift to the top of a mountain, so they can head downhill in a variety of twists and turns to the bottom of the mountain. Each path or run is color coded to indicate level of difficulty. The Green Circle is the easiest; next is the difficult and demanding Blue Square; this is followed by the Black Diamond for advanced skiers and, finally, the Double Black Diamond, reserved for experts and those who've had three too many eggnog rum punches. The runs are classified based on the steepness of the slope and condition of the trail. Most downhill skiers start as I did, on the green "bunny slopes" and progress through the colors. The lure of downhill skiing is found in the rush one experiences as he or she glides effortlessly across the surface of the snow, surrounded by the stillness of the mountain and the beauty of the snow-covered countryside. The exhilaration of surviving the occasional tumble also adds to the lure of the sport.

Don't get me wrong, while I like the rush of wind on my face as I schuss downhill at speeds that would snap many a bone if I took a tumble, I have recently found a real interest in cross-country skiing. Admittedly, sliding one's feet back and forth inside two tracks doesn't sound very appealing, but there is more to it than that, and much which I thoroughly enjoy.

I like quietly gliding up on unsuspecting wildlife, catching them by surprise.

I enjoy letting my mind wander, without having to pay attention where I'm headed.

I relish the burn in my muscles, as they work to keep me headed forward.

I rejoice in the small victories, as I ascend an incline and then glide down the other side.

I take in the thin briskness of the open air, as I push forward to the chimney smoke rising in the distance from my cabin.

And then there's the end of the trail, when I can relax by the fire, watching the sun burn out, and knowing that for a little while I experienced something this continent's early Americans must have felt, as they too carved their way through the wooded reaches of our northern frontier.

Sure, summer is always fun, but winter, up in the mountains, is another world altogether. May your slopes be covered in powder as spring closes in. Happy skiing!

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