Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Learning Curves

Everything I know about skiing off-trail I learned in my own back yard. More or less. I wander far over the back line, up and over, but it all starts just outside the back door.

Within the property lines, a novice skier can find pockets of moderately steep terrain in the generally easy slope from back line to road. Going beyond, the slope steepens and cover types vary. With recent logging, some is even mostly treeless, though slash and stumps make the ground anything but smooth.

My music teacher now ventures into that schoolyard. When I tell her that what she has already mastered in music is far more demanding than what I'm trying to teach her, she counters that hitting a wrong note, however embarrassing, never hurts as much as hitting a tree.

Yesterday's fresh, heavy snow provided a slow turning medium. This can make things harder, because the skis don't turn when they aren't moving, but we managed to move steadily enough to lay down some shallow arcs on the varying slopes in the nearest clearcuts. After an initial disclaimer, the musician sight-read numerous runs with greater success than I had.

Getting frisky off one of the steeper knolls, I decided to continue into the uncut tree cover of our own land. Skiing into hemlocks, I caught a tree branch in the arm. This knocked my weight back and opened up my stance. Before I could crawl back forward and grab the controls, a snow-laden hemlock bough hit me in the face, knocking my hat and glasses off as I cratered.

"Okay, don't do it that way."

Fortunately, she wasn't even looking.

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