By Jessi Loerch
My parents put me on cross-country skis when I was 3. I have no memory of learning to ski, just like I have no memory of learning to walk. I spent countless hours skiing in Idaho while I was growing up.
When I moved to Washington, though, and started college, I stopped skiing. I didn’t mean to, it just happened. And suddenly I realized, I can’t remember the last time I skied. Maybe a decade?
This year, I decided it was time to remedy that. But I wasn’t sure if I’d even remember how it worked. And I didn’t want to go out by myself. To me, a big part of the joy of cross-country skiing is getting outside with people you enjoy.
So, I jumped at the chance to take the Mountaineers’ cross-country skiing course. It was perfect. I’d learn how to ski again. I’d meet other people who like to ski. And I’d have a commitment that would guarantee I’d get out skiing at least a few times this winter.
The first field trip for the skiing class was on Saturday. There was enough snow at Stevens Pass Nordic Center, thankfully. This isn’t a great snow year, as anyone who likes to ski has noticed. So, Stevens Pass looked pretty bare as we drove up. That didn’t seem to be deterring the downhill skiers and snowboarders, though, as the parking lots were rather full.
We showed up at the nordic center, rented our skis and were broken into groups to head out for a day of instruction and skiing. The class organizers group students roughly by experience. So the class is for anyone — from those who have never been on skis to those who have years of experience.
I was pleased to discover that a lot of the basics came back to me quickly. Cross-country skiing isn’t hard. Once you stop worrying that you’re going to fall down, the fundamentals are simple enough. (Mastering it, like any sport, can take your whole life.) We gathered up, watching our instructor as he broke the movements into individual pieces. This was helpful. We went back and forth, looking a bit silly sometimes, but really learning how to effectively move on skis.
By the time we were ready to try going downhill, I was pretty certain I wouldn’t go rolling down the hill in a giant ball of skis, poles and snow.
We worked on the snowplow method – much trickier in cross-country skis than downhill skis – until we were all pretty confident in it. My muscles remembered how to do it. That doesn’t mean, however, that they did it willingly. They told me – loudly – that they weren’t used to this kind of abuse. My arms, also, objected. They called me a few bad names.
After we had worked on our technique a bit more, we tried a few steeper hills before heading out for a short ski to simply put it all together.
This was fabulous. I was gleeful. I love skiing. Why had it been so long since I’d done it?
The skis I had rented were thin and long. This made them fast on the downhills and a lot of fun. I was able to zip down the slopes, gliding for a long way after the slope flattened out. It also made them a bit hard to control.
About the time I was really getting confident was, of course, when I fell. A bit chastised, I carried on a bit more carefully. I was happy, though, to get the first fall out of the way. It had to happen. And although I didn’t bounce up the way I did when I was 10, I was reminded that a fall on snow isn’t a catastrophe. I have a pretty bruise, but no major damage.
I finished the day happy and tired. I went home and emailed my mom, who is coming to visit soon. “Bring your skis,” I told her.
With any luck, and bit of snow, we’ll be able to take my own 3-year-old out to the snow and watch her experiment with skis for the very first time.