Learning to Cross-Country Ski
Independently, both Mom and Jesse suggested I learn how to cross-country ski. Mom thought it would be an excellent form of exercise for me on slow winter days when there isn’t much physical work to be done. Also, she thoroughly enjoys it and thought if I gave it a chance I would as well. Jesse started cross-country skiing this winter. He urged me to learn as well, saying its faster way to get through the snow to explore, would be great to do together, and it burns so many calories.
Finally, on January 14, I decided to learn how to cross-country ski. I milked cows early so I’d have about half an hour of day light left to try it with Mom available to instruct me. First, she laced up one boot to show how it was done, then, I laced up the other. Next, she showed me which ski went on which foot. There is a little diagram on each ski if you know where to look. Then she attached the boot to the ski, which was actually rather simple. With the toe end of the ski boots clamped to the skis, the next thing to learn was how to hold the poles, with the loop around the wrist. I was set to begin. Mom gave instructions on how to ski: “Bend your knees, and glide. Don’t pick up your feet but slide with the skis.”
It felt incredibly awkward, long skis clamped to my feet. The concept of gliding instead of stepping was a bit foreign and hard to execute at first. I consciously bent my knees over and over again when I caught myself not bending them. Not lifting my feet to step was also a very conscious effort. I started up the driveway (further in through the building sites, my walking route), moving almost cautiously, aware of three nephews watching me, not wanting to fall. They were encouraging, however. I leaned heavily on the poles, steadying myself when I began to wobble. Rounding the fence, I was off the plowed area, the snow grew deeper. By the east end of the far shed, the skis were going under the snow instead of on top. Being new to the whole thing and feeling a little uncertain, I picked up my feet, seemingly waddling like a duck, trying not to overlap the skis but failing. Somehow, without falling, I managed to turn around. I retraced my course back down the driveway, still leaning heavily on the poles, moving slowly and deliberately. Passing my nephews again, four year old Nate said, “You’re getting the hang of it, Bethany.” However, I was far from confident. I kept going beyond the house, down the driveway to the road, gaining slightly more confidence and speed. Just before the road, I once again awkwardly turned around and retraced my course, all the way back down to the shed and then back again to the house. I only got twenty minutes in the first attempt before it was dark, but I was determined to go again the next day.
The next morning, I strapped on the skis without assistance and set out on my second skiing attempt before breakfast. I followed my course past the sheds. Skis still felt a bit awkward on my feet but I was getting the hang of it, gaining even more confidence and speed. Again, being conscious of gliding instead of stepping and keeping my knees bent. With Mom’s assurance, when I got to the deep snow I kept going. Sometimes the skis went under the snow but mostly they glided on top. Past the far shed and around the corner of the fence, my confidence faltered with a slight dip in the ground. I was a bit uneasy about going down and immediately tensed up, but slid down the small incline, thankful I didn’t fall. Uphill presented another challenge. The skis would slide backwards a little as I tried going up. I stepped more and glided a little less, my progress slowed. However, once atop the hill, I began moving at a moderate pace again. My muscles were taut, I could feel them straining, burning at the effort. I loved the feel of my muscles hard at work, not just my legs, but my arms and core a well. (Sigurd F Olson thought without hard work there can’t be true pleasure and enjoyment, I agree.) I became more at ease on the skis, gliding across the hilltop. All too soon, I realized skiing before breakfast was a mistake. Suddenly, I had no energy left and hunger pangs became too great to continue skiing. I turned around, again awkwardly stepping and overlapping the ends of the skis, retraced my course to the house. (My return trip was much faster.) Again, I had only skied for twenty minutes.
The following day, I ate breakfast before skiing. (I felt a strong urge, a burning desire to ski – I just had to ski. I wasn’t sure if skiing in itself was fun, or if I just enjoyed the muscle workout of it.) Gliding and bending my knees were becoming less of a conscious effort. I still kept my eyes on the ground and the skis, looking up every so often. Sometimes my ankle would turn, putting the ski on its side, making it difficult. I pressed on, pausing and readjusting each time it happened. Downhill and then uphill were the same ordeal as the day before. Sweat drenched my clothes by the time I crested the hill. I skied below the fields in what had been the rested pasture (Isaiah pulled out the fence last spring). Pausing, I gazed at the trees on the slope and down the hill, across the small valley to another hill, the southeast corner of our property, admiring the beauty. I went further than the day before, ignoring my sore legs and hips. Again, I went back the way I came, returning to the house after skiing for forty minutes.