The Cross-Country Experience

I’m not gonna lie. I hate winter. I haaaate it. Despite having a January birthday, and being Canadian-born and bred. 

For years I’ve been convinced I’m not genetically predisposed to this sort of climate. (Yes, even though I live in Toronto, where it isn’t nearly as cold as some other parts of the country, it’s still too cold for me.)

I complain about the cold, whinge about the wind, and lament about having to wear layers on a regular basis. If I can help it, I try to stay out of it for as long as I can.

One blogger I like to read, No Pasa Nada, shares this hatred of all things snowy and cold (but south of the border).

Or, at least, she did.

A couple of weeks ago, she recently discovered an outdoor winter activity she actually likes. Now her hatred of winter is more of a mild dislike because of it.

I read her post and at the time I thought, more power to her. I, on the other hand, didn’t think I’d find something – other than skating – which would bring me out of the house for prolonged periods of time.

After this past weekend, I’m almost willing to reconsider.

Last weekend, a small group of friends and I drove an hour up north, to go cross-country skiing.

Part of me still thinks I was nuts. A sista on skis? Not that it’s unheard of … but the last time I was on skis of any kind was during a downhill ski trip in eighth grade.

But the other part was, why not? The friend in charge of organizing the trip used to be a kids’ ski instructor at Cypress Mountain. If she was going to help me learn, who was I to say no, right?

Several days before the trip during an evening out with friends, the friend was trying to convince me that it wouldn’t be that bad, while I was trying to convince her of the exact opposite.

“Let’s put it this way,” I said. “I have a feeling that my skating is probably better than my skiing.”

Her eyes widened a bit. “Um, that’s not good.”

Before we all knew it, Saturday morning had arrived. We got to the ski centre at just minutes to noon, in two cars. We all changed into our warm woolies, grabbed some food while watching the learn-to-ski DVD playing on the TV above our heads, then got the boots, skis and poles. Not at the same time, of course. It took a while for all of us to regroup.

My friend Cara and I waited outside the chalet for the others to emerge. While we waited, I noticed Cara clicking on her skis.

That’s when I learned the first thing about cross-country skis: the tip of the snow boot is actually the only part secured to the ski.

(Hello? Black girl from Scarborough? Like I would’ve known that.)

So, not feeling particularly eager to start gliding away without being able to stop, I thought I’d wait a few more minutes.

Cara turned to me and said, “C’mon – put on your skis.”

Not that I knew how, but she eventually helped me out.

Then she started moving around the general area on her skis, while I did my best impression of a child learning to walk – but on two pieces of fibreglass – while actual kids whizzed by me.

Eventually the rest of the gang emerged, got on their gear, and off we went, on the nearest trail.

Luckily for me I was one of two first-time skiiers, so it made the discomfort of not knowing what I was doing a bit easier.

Before I knew it, I was starting to get the hang of things. Apparently I was doing pretty well for someone who’d never cross-country skiied before.

First off, I have to say how winded I got. Man, was that ever a workout! I wasn’t wheezing or anything, but I was panting slightly, and I could feel all that cold air I was inhaling, in my chest.

And with all the movement, I didn’t really feel cold at all, other than on my face. I was sweating.

And as moved, I was taking in the beautiful winter scenery. Yes, I said “beautiful” and “winter” in the same sentence.

The other thing that I still haven’t grasped yet: how to get down hills (which, to British Columbians, would be slight inclines in land, not actual hills). I tried to “snowplough”, as my friend instructed, but a few times I ended up wiping out. Which wouldn’t have been bad, except that the hardest part was trying to get back up into a standing position.

By the end of the day, I – tired, sweaty and a bit sore – had a whole different opinion of cross-country skiing. I may not be as obsessed as No Pasa Nada is about snowshoeing, but I’m willing to give it another go sometime this winter.

I just have to get some of my stiff-legged skating in first.

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