Ut på ski

It may be mud season here in the valley, but up on the mountain there’s some right good skiing going on.

This was the year I planned to learn to downhill ski. I chose well; it’s been a great winter.

I have been in a two-hour lesson almost every Wednesday since mid-January and it’s not over yet. You’d think my class of four would be pretty good by now, but we’ve had dramatically differing conditions every time; it’s never been the same kind of snow twice! Most of it is granular, but there was this one day with 5 inches of ungroomed powder (it was coming down pretty fast) in very flat light and high winds which was, wow, really different from the previous week of tightly groomed granular snow, bright sunshine and 10F temperatures. So we’ve been improving slowly while gaining some wide experience as far as conditions go. The Lang run is like a whole new place for the first time down each week.

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This last Wednesday, there was something special going on and our class of beginners (of which I am the second youngest) got a great view of some amazing skiers… who are half my age. It was especially fun to take the Worth Mountain lift up over the Allen run as speakers blared the sound of the sportscaster and photography crews clicked away with near-frozen fingers.

Middlebury College hosted the NCAA Ski Championships this week. Participants came from as far away as Alaska with 74 men and 74 women competing in both Alpine and Nordic races. I’m not sure where they are all sleeping or eating in this little town, but I do know that there’s been some higher-than-normal traffic on the one road that goes up the mountain.

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IMG_3093 the road not taken

Wednesdays are my Alpine days, but if I am not otherwise engaged, I try to go Nordic skiing on Tuesdays or Thursdays. Of course, this week Rikert Nordic Ski Center was full of people prepping for races, so I took to the nearby Robert Frost trail instead. It’s officially a hiking trail, but there isn’t a lot of vertical climb so it’s also perfect for a quick tour. There were snowshoe tracks on part of it; the rest was soft fresh snow. It was quiet, peaceful, solitary, and beautiful. You already know how I love that little trail in every season.

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Driving home from a morning of Alpine skiing, I’m high on adrenaline and usually listening to something with a good dance beat. But the Nordic days are a gorgeous mix of relaxing and invigorating. I come home with a deeper, more mellow joy in my heart. And slightly more sweaty.

It’s been fun to watch the college racers here this week (University of Vermont was in first place last I heard) and also to see that Norway has been doing so well in the various winter international ski competitions. Gratulerer! One need only take a quick look at the #skinorge hashtag on instagram to get a feel for how much those Norwegians love their national sport (and their iphones).

I’m beginning to understand the loyalty and the euphoria skiing can produce.

So for the next few weeks, if you need me, I’ll be on the mountain.
Hvis du trenger meg, skal jeg være i fjellet. Ut på ski.

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