13 December 2012

my first try at cross-country skiing.

After our trip to Granada, I ventured out on a cross-country ski trip. Two vastly different but, nevertheless fun, trips back to back!  Josh had to stay home to take a couple exams, but I joined our friend Benny, Benny’s brother and sister-in-law and another friend, Beat, in the ski adventure.  We stayed in a cute cabin in a small skiing village close to Lillehammer, about 2 hours north of Olso. Our little village was the picture of Christmastime.  Our cabin was one of many cozy cabins and there were pines trees covered in snow in every direction.  Plus, it snowed every day.     

The trip had a great combination of physical rigor and relaxation.  After a big breakfast every morning we skied for a 2-3 hours then spent the rest of the day relaxing at home, reading, drinking hot cocoa, eating a nice dinner, sitting in the sauna, playing games and even watching some ski tournaments on tv.  Although I really enjoyed it all, I must say that I found the skiing rather difficult.  I’ve grown up downhill skiing, but this whole cross-country business is new territory.  I borrowed some skies from a Norwegian friend who is just a bit taller than me.  Both the skies and the boots were a tiny bit big, but I managed.  A couple of the other people in the group had cross-country skied before, so they helped teach the others.  I still didn’t feel like I got really good instruction, so I mostly tried to nail down the technique I had been taught and which I saw the Norwegians on the trail using.  
(our cabin)
(other cool looking cabins)

The first day was awesome!  I was excited, had fresh legs and worked really hard to use the right technique. We took a really nice 8 kilometer loop that had a lot of ups and downs.  Even thought the ups were really hard, it was totally worth it for the nice easy downhill stretches.  The second day was pretty tough because my legs were so sore.  I mean, if I wanted to sit with my legs folded on the couch I had to use my arms to put my legs into the right position.  It was painful to move.  But, I kept on skiing.  While I really enjoyed being out in the fresh air and on the snowy trails, I was a lot slower than everyone else in the group.  That was kind of a bummer, but I was able to stay positive anyway.  We did a 14 kilometer loop and then I headed home while everyone else skied a little extra.  I stretched a lot that night and sat in the sauna, which maybe helped.  I like to tell myself it did.  Anyways, on the third day I did the same 8 kilometer loop from the first day, while the rest of the group set out for a 20 kilometer loop or something crazy like that.  This little loop really saw some of the best and the worst in me.  About 2 kilometers in, I came to a really tough uphill bit.  I think this is where it really hurt me that my skis didn’t fit quite right.  I kept sliding back and had to use all my effort to plant each ski and each pole in the ground and push off carefully so as not to slip.  I cried.  It was hard and I felt a little lonely being on my own.  But I kept going and finally made it to a downhill portion.  Oh wow.  This was the fun part.  I flew down the hill and then glided softly down the gradual slope for about five whole minutes.  Totally worth the uphill battle.  The rest of the loop had a mix of uphill, downhill and flat stretches; I took my time and enjoyed it.  I didn’t feel any pressure to go super fast even though Norwegians would whiz past me.  I was so thankful that I had set off alone so I could ski at my own pace.  Cross-country skiing turns out to be kind of hard.  I think I prefer downhill (right now, anyway), but I do want to keep learning how to cross-country ski.  Since this was my first attempt at cross-country and I learned some things, I’m sharing some tips for other first time cross-country skiers.  

1. Get skis that fit-- Your height and weight really affect what kind of skis and poles you should have.  I think I was a little light for my skis and didn’t weight them down enough. I think this caused me to slip sometimes. Plus, my poles were a bit too tall and I kind of had a hard time going up hills smoothly.  (All of this might also be due to my lack of experience, not just the equipment.)

2. Go with a Norwegian-- Obviously, you don’t have to go with a Norwegian, but it seems helpful to go with someone who really knows what they’re doing and who is willing to teach you.  Plus, with skiing you have to use this wax and it’s just nice when someone else can tell you which kind to use and how much, etc.  

3. Don’t be afraid to fall down-- Unless you’re a natural at this, you’ll probably fall down.  I found it helpful to expect to fall occasionally and to laugh when I fell.  It doesn’t hurt much and it’s pretty funny to imagine myself in a tangled mess of skis. 

4. Dress in layers, preferably wool layers--  I wore running tights and snow pants on my legs and on top I wore a long sleeved wool shirt, another thin wool sweater and a rain jacket.  With a hat, scarf and warm mittens (plus hand warmers) I was perfect! 

5. Enjoy the nature while you ski-- I think cross-country skiing is kind of liking hiking.  It’s not just about the skiing, but also a chance to enjoy the beauty of the environment you’re in. We skied in a really beautiful area and occasionally I would just stop and look around.  And, of course, have fun!

Have you tried cross-country skiing?  Do you want to try it?