Monday, January 16, 2006

Glide

Joe at Whitegrass

Glide. It's what differentiates skiing from walking with skiis on your feet. Last weekend was a three day quest for glide, on snow, on ice, and unfortunatley on asphalt.

We packed up the car Friday night and left early in the morning for the trip to Canaan Valley Resort. Local temps in the high 40s and other friends cancelling their ski trips had me worried. Lucky for us a Friday night snow storm arrived just in time to put down enough powder to last the weekend. We headed out early Saturday to Whitegrass for my first ever crack at skiing. Whitegrass is an amazing place, and not just because of the skiing. The down home vibe is strong and the folks who run the place have XC skiing in their blood. There was also something familiar about the woman who helped me with my rental skis but I didn't quite figure it out until much later. Our friends Rick and Deb, who are also fanatical XC skiers, were eager to show us around. So after gearing up and strapping the kids into a Burley-type trailer for skis, we hit the trails.

Conditions were less than ideal on our first time out. The snow was wet and caused chunks of ice to form on our skis. In mountain biking, this is the equivalent of riding with 10 pounds of mud on your tires. Rick and the kids smartly split off to go back to the lodge while Deb, Gina, and I continued on. The weather steadily grew worse as we plodded along (well, Gina and I plodded, Deb seemed to be enjoying herself despite the gathering storm). I was hurting in a bad way. My knees, not used to the new strains of skiing, were tearing themselves apart. When I could no longer stand it I took the skis off and limped the last mile back to the lodge with my tail between my legs. After only 6 miles of skiing, my legs felt just as bad as they did after the SM100.

Dinner, a warm stove, and some live music put some life back into me but the fun wasn't over yet. As we leave Whitegrass, the winds whip up a blizzard. Narrow, icy roads and moments of zero visibility make driving tricky. We stop to help someone fix a flat, get stuck going up a hill, run into a few ornery drunks that would put buddy Spearman to shame, get towed out of trouble by our friends Paul and Sandra with the 4x4, make it back to the room safely, and send the cops back to fish the drunks out of the snowbank that they drove into. Sagada slept through the whole after dinner ordeal, which was a good thing. Oh yeah, that woman running the ski rental counter: Sue Haywood.

Sagada at WhitegrassThe next day I decided to rest my poor legs and hang out with the kids while Rick and Deb hit the trails again. Turns out I got little rest. The kids put us through a full day of sledding, ice skating, and swimming. With a few hours before dinner, I decided to give the skis a second chance. With some old school ski shoes and a pair of skis borrowed from Deb, Rick and I skied right from our rooms to explore the backcountry near Cannan Valley Resort. Conditions were much better than the day before. For one, there was no blizzard. The snow was slippery and I was getting some glide. Backcountry with its rocks, logs, and more technical terrain is more like mountain biking, but on skis. I got my first downhill run but failed miserably when I tried to do a telemark turn. Still, I had that same familiar feeling I had when I first started mountain biking. An addiction was growing.

Day three and we're back at Whitegrass for a few hours of skiing before we have to head home. I went out with Gina and Sandra for a loop around the "Snow farm" with a nice detour into the back country. Conditions were perfect, and this time, no ornery drunks to deal with. We wrapped up around noon, grabbed some lunch at the lodge and headed home. The next day I'm hitting the web looking for a pair of XC skis and some pointers on how to execute that elusive telemark turn.

3 Comments:

Blogger BradH said...

Sounds like a lot of fun. I haven't gone skiing since I lived in Utah. We used to love to go downhill skiing at Snowbird and Sundance. But my favorite place of all is clearly Alta. Best snow this side of Pluto. Snowflakes easily an inch in diameter lazily floating down. But you have to watch out for the porcupines. You can see them in the trees if you're careful.

We braved Disneyland on MLK day. It wasn't too crowded, which was a pleasant surprise.

10:20 PM

 
Blogger camps said...

I see it in ya' Joe.
I love WG and have been obsessing on the telemark turn for many years now.

I spend a whole lotta time on http://www.telemarktips.com/.
And then a lot of hours on gentle ski slopes

11:32 PM

 
Blogger JonW said...

I had my first XC skiing experience this winter too. And loved it! Although, the muscles and tendons on the inside of my thighs took weeks to heal -- I'll have to take it easy next time till my body adjusts. Something I definitely want to do more of in the future!

11:41 PM

 

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