Sunday, February 13, 2011

Nordic Skiing

Variety is the spice of life and has become the philosophy behind our recreational activities. There are times where we'd rather go to the resort and downhill ski, or mountain bike, or go bike touring/camping, or tool around town on the single speeds or hike or just stay home and work on the house. There are even times where we'd rather do absolutely nothing and lay around reading fiction and drinking tea. Oh, and I shouldn't forget the time we thought we'd take up rowing on Town Lake in Austin. An interesting idea, but not great in its execution.

Lately, however, we've caught the Nordic ski bug. Nordic skiing, a.k.a. cross-country skiing, is not something that comes naturally to either of us. Lane can carve through the trees like nobody's business on a snowboard and I do fairly well on the downhill skis. Cross-country, however, is a whole other ball of wax. We slip and slide and both do our fair share of falling. I'm smiling in the picture above and that's because I hadn't fallen down for at least 5 minutes and managed to ski down a (very) gentle slope without  completely losing control. 

One of the reasons we enjoy this new sport is that we can be in nature in a more quiet, serene setting. Sure there will be other people out on the groomed trails and some of the yahoos from the ski resort can be heard through the trees, but generally our experience has been one where we feel pretty alone: just us, the aspens and the wind.

This was our view most of the day.

Last weekend our friends took us to a favorite spot near the top of Sandia for a quick outing. After some initial frustration and being passed several times by a pair of men on skate skis, we found a quiet trail and enjoyed ourselves. We were just below the crest of Sandia and figured we missed some great views so Saturday we took the tram  and skied some of the Crest Trail. The tram is a feat of modern engineering and is a great way to get to the ski area from town. The 15 minute drive sure beat the hour or so it takes to get to the East side of Sandia. The weather was incredible and the visibility was easily 100 miles. From some points on the Crest Trail you can see the entire city and Mount Taylor to the west, the length of Sandia and the Manzano Mountains to the south and more mountains and unknown areas to the east. It was really spectacular. The snow was quite windblown and crusty, so it wasn't the best for learning how to use the xc skis efficiently but we got better at falling, getting up and side stepping up short inclines.

Today we had hoped to go to the Valles Caldera for some more skiing but their snow report said they had only 4-6 inches which didn't seem like enough to cushion our frequent trips to the forest floor. Instead we headed north to Santa Fe and the Norski nordic ski trail. It is the only groomed nordic ski loop in the Santa Fe area and is maintained/groomed by volunteers. As such, dogs are prohibited and snowshoeing is strongly discouraged. Sadly, we saw both packs of snowshoers and a few dogs which really makes for a more difficult time on the trail.

I really enjoyed this area. The aspens were stunning, the snow (and landing) was soft and the trail was well marked. A beginners route was clearly laid out with several opportunities to bail out should you need to. I had a rough start, falling often and having a difficult time with anything remotely downhill and Lane really hit his stride. Towards the end of our first loop, I felt like I was getting the hang of it and was even able to make it all the way down a (seemingly) sizable descent.

This little shelter was along the trail.
After our first lap we had hot chocolate, homemade bread and cheese at the trailhead. Feeling a bit tired our second lap was not as long, but it was far more successful! We only had a few spills and the last one left us in stitches. Turning on cross-country skis is not easy and stopping is even more difficult. We were descending this slight incline with me in the lead and Lane quickly catching up. I couldn't move along fast enough and his skis slid between mine. We had ceased accelerating but were a bit tangled and, unable to follow the bend in the trail, headed off, with a large aspen finally helping us come to rest. We were a mess of skis, poles and laughter and it took a few minutes to unwrap ourselves from the tree and get back on track. It would have been quite a sight had anyone come upon us.

The other view--from the ground!
Arriving home a few hours later we had a great dinner of borscht, sauteed beet greens,  roasted potatoes with garlic aioli and this pudding cake--a hearty meal perfect for replenishing lost calories and capping off a lovely weekend.

1 comment:

Heidi said...

Nice... I love Nordic skiing :) your view is just like ours when I ski here in Finland. It is a really good sport. I have not been able to go skiing now because it is too cold here...-18.4F to -25,6F in the morning.