Cross-Country Skiing and a Total Lack of Coordination

Sitting down to write this post is one of the few occasions on which I’m a little sad that Yen has no mean streak whatsoever. If he had one, he would have spent much of this outing taking videos instead of the few photos he snapped. Without videos, you will not be able to appreciate the awesome impossibility of my coordination. If there were videos, you could watch as I set out on skis for the first time, immediately encountered a hill, screamed all the way down, and lay laughing in the snow at the bottom. If there were videos, you could get an ab workout watching me try to right myself after another spill, poles twisted around and struggling not to scream obscenities among passing children. Poor you and your lack of video!

Yesterday, we got 12 inches of thick, wet snow. It came down over the course of about 24 hours, piling up and making a miserable commute. But this morning, we woke to find a beautiful sunny day, and as we stepped outside the house, we could hear birds chirping and the steady sound of rapid snow melt. It seemed like the perfect day for me to attempt cross-country skiing for the first time.

Take a moment to think back to me to last year. Last year I put on ice skates for the first time. And I took to the ice right away. Of course I don’t know how to stop yet without throwing my body at a wall (Yen says stopping is an advanced maneuver). But I got comfortable very quickly, and it was during my first lesson that Yen switched from praising me for staying upright to already correcting my form (“Bend your knees! No, more. More!”). The thing about skating, though, is when you lose your balance, you can flail about on the ice in any direction until you get it. Your main concern, then, is less falling and more whether there’s a small child with two milk crates in your way (probably yes). Cross-country skiing is a completely different matter. Now you have long sticks on your feet, and if you leave the safety of the tracks of those who came before, you’re just going to topple over. Or at least I am.

Look at me. I don’t look like an oaf, do I?

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I recall during the last winter Olympics that Roo decided she absolutely had to have some curling shoes. I feel the same way about cross-country ski boots. I just love these things, and the ingenious construction of this particular model, where you lace them up and then have a flap to zip over the top in order to keep the snow out. Comfortable and adorable! So I had my shoes, I had my smart little jacket (layers!). I was wearing sunscreen. But oh crap! My balance! Where’d I leave that?

This terribly flattering photo is just after I took a random fall. You know the kind. You see it during the peewee hockey games that break out during college games. The cute little goalie is hanging around his goal while the whole team is clustered near the red line. And suddenly the poor guy just tumbles to the ground. That was me. And then… the eternal struggle of climbing back up again. Yen helped by yelling out suggestions and documenting it.

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Ta da! I’m back.

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My parents bought a NordicTrack when I was, I don’t know, 12? Who knows? I used it a off and on, and it was all very straight foward. Arms swing opposite legs just like walking. Lean forward. Try to glide and keep the motion going. It does feel very much the same. It doesn’t mean I knew how to ski.

The difficulty lies in the fact that the skis are positioned parallel to each other, hip-width apart. And now you go in a straight line. Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m a wee bit duck-footed – or whatever you’d call the opposite of pigeon-toed. My toes point out when I walk, and this means that the motion of keeping toes pointed forward, gliding them, and staying upright worked some muscles that generally lie dormant, their main job focused on filling out my jeans. Ouch. But I did get it.

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Check out this action shot! This is where I finally got the motion down. Sure, small children continued to pass me politely on the left. But I was moving. And sweating. Good lord, was I sweating!

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The most terrifying bits were definitely the hills, though I got it in the end. A full-on hill where you just tuck up and glide is great. And we ended the day with one of those, and I managed not to scream the whole way down. This photo below isn’t that one. But you get the idea.

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Maybe you’ve been wondering about Yen. Yes, he’s as good at cross-country skiing as he is at just about every other athletic activity. Sometimes he loses his balance, and you just watch him gracefully regain it. If he wasn’t so damned adorable and helpful, it would be easy to feel annoyed. Instead I was just happy to have a private instructor the whole time.

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Will I go again? Sure! It’s a great workout, and by the end of the afternoon, I totally got the hang of it and was having a good time. I remain dubious about whether I could ever handle downhill skiing, but this is definitely worth another shot. As long as the snow holds out.