What use is living in Norway during winter if you don’t do a little cross-country skiing? A very boring one since Norwegians are born with skis on their feet. It’s my opinion that they learn to ski before walking. Since they learn so early, they make lousy teachers. Ask anyone the proper cross-country (or XC) form, and they give you a very puzzled look before replying, “Just put one foot in front of the other.” Through much trial and more error, I have come to the conclusion that I will remain a poor skier this season.
One of the rare upright moments on my first try
My goal is simply to stay up downhill and not slide down the uphills. Cross-country skis are thin and not made for manuvering like alpine skis, which makes descending difficult. To complicate matters, you typically ski in tracks (picture, grooves in the snow). These tracks are basically “foot traps”. Swift your balance incorrectly or let the ski catch the edge of the track, and you’ll end up face first on the ground with a smile of snow.
Cutting a groove: A snow plow prepares fresh tracks for skiing
Going uphill is even more difficult. When done incorrectly, you slide backwards. It’s very humbling to watch young kids sprint up hills the hill you’re struggling up. In the time it took me to go 5 feet, a guy my age completed the whole hill. I was speechless and tried to imitate his form, but it only produced more backsliding. Needless to say, the sport is incredibly demanding and encapsulates much of the Norwegian culture. It’s a ritual for Norway to take home multiple medals in XC. Look for the same in Vancouver. Not to be outdone, I’ve included some of my “medals” (i.e., the GPS tracks from the trips this season).
I work with a team of six clever and friendly consultants/engineers and joined them for their annual team building a few weeks ago. This year’s trip was to the mountains for some skiing and relaxation. Being my first XC-skiing trip, I had no idea what to expect. The first few steps I tried to walk normally, and instead of moving, I stayed in the same place. A very new and strange experience. With each step, my foot would slide right back to the same spot. Madness! Eventually, I learned to glide, shift my weight, and use poles. As soon as I began to feel comfortable, we ventured downhill, and I must have set a record for falls (about 10-20 times). Toward the end, I finally got the hang of it and had an excellent time.
Sognsvann to Ullevålseter
I joined a few co-workers for a night of skiing at Sognsvann (sounds like, Song Swan). The first half has some challenging uphills. I was so happy to reach the top and refuel at a charming little cabin/caffe at Ullevålseter. The downhill was fast and fun. To my surprise, I only wiped out once. Click on the icons for pictures (via www.skiforeningen.no).
Track near my Apartment
Yesterday (Saturday) I decided to take a solo trip to the tracks right next to my apartment. Thankfully, it wasn’t crowded, allowing me to go even slower and work on technique. I don’t think it improved much, but it was fun (though exhausting!) On the very last downhill, I saw an elderly lady. I tried to control my speed to avoid a collision (my #1 fear). In the process, I completely wiped out a full 15 yards away from her, which caused a very rare and pleasant conversation. Typically, it’s hard to start convesations with my neighbors, but that’s a story for another day. Here’s the track, which I completed counter-clockwise.