I’ve been out and procured some cross-country skiing equipment over the last week – part of an early birthday present and also, if I didn’t do it soon, I’d miss the brilliant snow conditions that are in Edmonton at the moment. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking days or weeks before the snow disappears. No – we’re in it for the long haul and it won’t be probably till April before we get to see glimpses of grass underneath the blankets of whiteness that surround us currently. That said, there’s no time like the present, and after my brief ‘trial’ just before Christmas, I’ve been keen to try the sport and get out in the River Valley and enjoy it.
The equipment is slightly different. For those familiar with downhill skiing and having to prise your feet into the solid, rigid ski boots, then you’re in for a treat with cross-country skiing. The boots are wonderfully comfy, rather like wearing a pair of flexible slippers on your trotters – and clip into your skis just at the tip of the toe, leaving your ankle free to move up and away from the ski itself. This is great as it enables you to really push-off and ‘skate’ through the snow. The skis themselves are much narrower and significantly lighter than downhill skis, with the poles much taller. There’s a whole industry surrounding waxing underneath the skis – to provide grip and glide – and knowing the difference and what to use, and when, seems to be riddled with complexity to me as a complete novice. I’ve copped out and gone for ‘waxless’ skis – and so far, these are working really well and I’ve at least remained upright. Success!
I’ve mentioned in numerous blogs over the year that the City of Edmonton certainly embraces and encourages activity – providing an amazing number of activities and sports from young to old. Cross country skiing is no different, and there are a number of park locations in the city which are purposely groomed and maintained for people to purely turn up and have a go.
One of the other advantages of living in Edmonton is that rather like living in Cheshire, England – it’s extremely flat, albeit much drier than it seems to be over the other side of the pond. This means that for the majority of cross-country skiing opportunities, there may be minor inclines and small sections of downhill, but for the most part – it’s flat. Not challenging for those wanting to adopt it as a serious sport, but for the recreational user and for me, it’s proving a hit. I can tell though, that getting up minor inclines needs more finesse on my part – I’m doing a good impression of a dilapidated duck and it’s been pure luck I haven’t ended up in a heap back at the base of the climb. Good job there’s nobody filming my exploits – you’d have ‘cine-gold’ to blackmail me with!
Some circuits are based on or around golf courses – you can imagine there’s not much call for golf when everything is covered in snow and it’s sub-zero. So, these circuits are groomed and often take you round the edges of the courses, through the trees and along the river. It’s so quiet too – you wouldn’t know you were in the centre of the city.
I had to chuckle last week as I embarked on my first attempt at cross-country skiing with my newly acquired equipment. As I was getting my boots and skis on, a chap in the next vehicle was doing likewise and remarked on how nice my skis were. Not wanting to let on that I’d never used them in earnest as yet, I simply shouted back, ‘yes, they’re extremely light’. He then enquired as to which direction around the track is usually adopted – and luckily, as I’d been just once before, I could say with a confident sweep of the arm, ‘oh, we always go this way’………..and with that, off he skied. Just goes to show, do it with confidence and nobody is any the wiser 🙂
Yesterday, I took a friend of mine around one of the skiing tracks. It was a beautiful day – blue skies, sunshine and temperatures that were verging on freezing point, ie. mild! The scenery was spectacular, and the skiing wonderfully crisp, it’s an utter joy to be out and experiencing it. We even spotted a family of 3 coyotes quietly enjoying the sunshine nestled underneath a conifer as we passed only 10 feet by. I haven’t had any disasters as yet, and despite being hard work on your muscles, it’s highly aerobic and doesn’t take long before the sweat is dripping and you begin to wonder whether all the layers of clothes may have been overkill. I’m enjoying it, and boy, do you feel much better mentally just having got out there and given it a go.
I wonder what’ll be next!! 🙂