Monday, March 24, 2008

Precious and Few

Skiing on a good day at Jackson Ski Touring I sense that these may be my last outings on groomed Nordic trails for a long time, perhaps a very long time.

The time slots in Wolfeboro fall before or after work. I find it hard to get fully organized and launched in the mornings in time to get a workout of significant length. Often I will find the trails have not been completely groomed yet. Sometimes the timing of fresh snow or other factors means I find them not groomed at all. And after work they have often been thoroughly trampled by a day of traffic. They may also be freezing into completely unenjoyable ruts. So to return there would mean no more skiing on the five normal work days and the 12-day marathons we have to run on vacation weeks when we have good skiing. If we don't have good skiing, there's no point having the time, because we have no skiing.

Given only two days on which I might go to a groomed area, I would notice the degradation of my skill and fitness. Not wanting to have this deterioration highlighted, I would tend to look elsewhere for things to do outdoors. Also, I would have the choice of driving to where I work on a day I don't work, or driving even farther to an area where I might get to ski for a reduced rate with the proper credentials. These I would have to arrange in advance.

I would get no more easy snow. So I contemplate the end of certain arrangements with some regret. However, principle comes before pleasure. I will not make a compromise I don't feel I can truly support, just for the grudging access to someone's trail network.

Things being as they are and shaping up as they appear to be headed, I cherish any opportunity to sample even the small scraps of fine trail I allow myself as a relatively conscientious worker. Gone are the days when my coworker and I would launch long forays on the more challenging trails. Gone is that coworker, in fact. For all the flaws in that arrangement, we had an unspoken understanding that if he was going to leave me to cover everything while he indulged himself, he would have to reciprocate. It is no doubt better business to ski shorter and work longer. So it is now, with the current plucky crew of two. We rein it in for the sake of better service and listen to the happy folk tell us how great the farther reaches are on any given day. They might as well be across an ocean as far as I'm concerned.

With two days (or less) a week on which to live the life I had thought I would live all the time when I set out into young adulthood several decades ago, I have to decide whether to expend them on something as self-indulgent and unproductive as Nordic skiing. With diminished capability from skiing far less, the time and money to travel to a ski area would seem like an even more unforgivable waste of resources.

With good wild snow conditions, a person can ski a lot on wider boards at slower speeds in the methodical plod of the exploring skier. Refined classical technique is pointless on heavier touring gear. It's a different discipline with its own skill set, more a fusion of hiking and downhill skiing than a gliding flight on featherlight gear.

With the kind of snow we've been getting for almost a decade now, wild snow is a difficult beast to ride. This year, with deep, dense cover, the lower mountains will offer some premium exploring during the spring thaw. But without the fitness base provided by regular groomed-trail skiing, a skier would face the extra handicap of somewhat rusty skills when trying to engulf this lavish buffet of wild delicacies.

I can't say for certain what the future holds. One must simply be prepared to lose what one loves, because that is what happens in the world. Some things can't be fought for, because the fight would destroy them as certainly as the force tearing them away already will. Character is displayed in the lack of fight, not in the self-centered rush to try to cling to what is being taken away. No whining, no knuckling under. Power lies in the ability to let go, especially of something that will be missed.

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