Congratulations to my many friends who skied and completed the Birkie up in northern Wisconsin last weekend. It took special effort this year to get in meaningful training due to our pitiful lack of snow. My gang of friends and acquaintances were almost equally divided between skaters and classical skiers and finished everywhere from a blazing hair over three hours to a determined finish of six and a half hours. That's a long time to ski and I'm not sure if the three hours or having the determination to ski for over twice that long is more impressive. Good job, strong work, and nicely done to all of the skiers. I wish we could have been up there but it was not to be this year.
Saturday found me 'gravity skiing' down at Welch once again. It was perhaps the nicest ski day of the winter, with temps starting out at 12F and slowly climbing in the bright sunshine to the high 20'sF. The only aggravation was that they had three hills closed for racing. They always race on the best hills, the ones people want to ski the most, and that typically ties up the fastest and most efficient lift, the one that most of us recreational skiers use most frequently as well. When the racing is done around 3pm they reopen the hills but they are typically iced up, rutted, and cut up like the fictional Leroy Brown in Jim Croce's tune. No discount is given on the lift tickets, of course, so we just suck it up as we have for decades and mutter to ourselves, 'thank you sir, may I have another'. There was one redeeming factor however, and that was a Schells beer tasting in the little bar/chalet on the east end of the property. Free beer can cure many ills but I don't think it really makes you ski any better. This was proven by two fairly hard crashes on my part, the last one on a run appropriately named Chicken. I wasn't chicken but probably should have been since I caught an edge at an elevated rate of speed and pretty much slid to the bottom of the hill after bouncing off the snow a couple times.
Fast forward to Sunday. After creaking down the stairs to the coffee pot, I checked the Birkie results for all my buddies. This motivated me to haul out my rock skis and head to the marginal Francis Gross golf course, a ski venue in the city that's sporadically and disinterestedly maintained by the City of Minneapolis, even during the best of snow years. I got out while it was still crusty and skied for about 45 minutes, once again crashing three times on the uneven surface as I dodged grass spots in the track. As I lay on the crusty snow after my final mishap I began yelling obscenity laden curses directed at the snow gods, the City of Minneapolis, and anyone else who cared to listen at the top of my lungs. Unfortunately a couple women and their dog chose that time to stroll onto the scene and I had to quickly explain that I suffered from Tourette's Syndrome and they should take pity on me rather than running for their car.
This morning I'm really beat up and bending down to pet Rookie, the wonder dog, was a major operation. It sounds like we will have one more good weekend of skiing out west, Taos on a business/pleasure trip next weekend, and then come back to what should be the semi official start of the paddle season, the big Canoecopia event down in Madison the second weekend of March. Then, due to a complete lack of any cross training of any sort, I can have screaming neck, shoulder, and upper body muscles when I start paddling, just as I had aching quads, gluts, and calf muscles when I converted from paddling to skiing in November. Ah, the joys of aging. At least it lets us know we are alive and functioning.
(note: in the interest of full disclosure, the images in this post were taken last spring on the Vasa Practice Loops. No cameras were present either day of my crash weekend)