By Bruce Overstreet
The recent cold chill in the lowlands got my blood pumping for what’s right around the corner: quiet time in the mountains on my skis trying to master the finer nuances of Nordic skiing. Then when 20 inches fell at Stevens Pass on Dec. 2, I knew the news was coming.
Today the email I was waiting for came through. It read, “Join us on the quieter side of the mountain this weekend! The Stevens Pass Nordic Center will be open this Saturday and Sunday, December 7th and 8th from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m., conditions permitting. We’ll have 16 kilometers of groomed runs for classic and skate skiing spread across nine trails.” How sweet is that?
This will be my third winter heading up to Stevens and Snoqualmie passes. I have no intention of stopping at the summit and joining the masses. Crowds of people are paying top dollar to swarm the slopes and line up at the lifts, only to fight off those who recklessly rip down the mountain like pennies in a Coinstar kiosk.
No, I’m going over the top and down to “the quieter side of the mountain.”
Once I came to terms with the fact that the experience of downhill skiing no longer appealed to me — that the reason for traveling to the mountains was really to get away from the sea of skiers — I discovered a simple solution. It’s the swish, swish of cross-country skiing in the middle of what seems like nowhere.
There have been days on the nordic trails where I have rarely seen another skier. And every time I slip into the warming hut, I’m greeted and treated like family as I order something off the menu or use the microwave behind the cozy cashier counter. And I have to admit: I like it that way.
Nordic skiing is simple. Except that after two seasons, I still don’t know how to ski very efficiently. Every time out, I still feel like a rookie just beginning to understand how to truly do this sport. Of course, it shouldn’t surprise me in a sport requiring a certain degree of technical skill. I am reminded to be patient, especially when doing classic skiing. This is great advice because every time I head out on the trail, it seems as if some veteran blows by me going twice as fast and working half as hard.
So, now there is a five-day class being offered by the Mountaineers. It starts in January and includes three field trips. At the reasonable price of just under $100, that’s better than the cost of a one-hour private lesson at the top of Steven’s Pass.
I’m so glad I have found just as much fun, much more relaxation, and a better cardiovascular workout just five miles over the summit at the Steven’s Pass Nordic Center. Who needs the 2013 version of a Spyder, Obermeyer, or Salomon ski jacket to fit in? I have 16 kilometers of trails that rarely give me cause to interact with a human, let alone try to impress them. And, let’s be honest: if you saw my skate or classic ski technique, you wouldn’t be impressed no matter what I was wearing. And that’s fine. Just give me the tranquility and silence of the fresh snow. And maybe some more lessons.