Monday, March 17, 2008

Skiing Late

Skiing at the end of the day after everyone else is like drinking the dregs in all the abandoned glasses after a party.

"Hm. Interesting."

"Not bad."

"Eww! Backwash!"

"Achk! Ptoo! There was a cigarette butt in that one!"

Skating is more annoying than classical. I proved that yesterday when I went out on klister after several afternoon-evenings skating on the gouged-up remnants. Skating, I would seethe with resentment the whole time. Endorphin peace wouldn't set in until after I finished. A classic case of "it feels good when I stop."

Skaters can't help damaging the trail surface. You can't skate light-footedly. The lightest touch still leaves a diagonal slice. If the trail surface is soft, as with freshly tilled granules of last night's crust before they set firmly, or the slushy depths of midday and afternoon, even the most courteous skater will leave angled trenches. And courtesy does not seem to be the mark of the skater. They routinely trash the classical track beside even the widest skate lane, and cavalierly leave their slashes in the corduroy as if Zorro's name was Vorro.

Although last night's klister performed no better than adequately, I felt less stress in the classical tracks. The marks of other skiers didn't slap me in the face with how many of them had used the trail before me. I could preserve some sense of personal expression, rather than being forced to paint by numbers in the pattern laid down by every other skater from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Classical takes much more art than skating, which is why skating is so much more popular. When I feel like hammering like a brutal meathead, I skate. I even enjoy it. There's a little meathead in each of us, some just more than others.

The art of the skate is in the choice of tempo, and the use of glide. Constantly gliding, the skater directs this motion and sustains momentum by pole timing and cadence. I resent the earlier skaters most because I can't lay down my own interpretation for followers to see how well I maintained glide and how much terrain I could flash in a narrow V2. And I hate dragging my feet up out of their trenches, or tripping over the ridges as they harden. If enough skaters have used a section, you have to do as they did because the hacks in the trail prevent anything else.

As the temperature dropped last night, the klister stuck better to the firming track and I glided farther straight ahead down it. The susurrance of skis on soft slush gave way to the rasp and then the clatter of sliding on parallel luge runs floored with ice. It did not all freeze at once, however, so I had to shift my balance for slower and faster sections. As each day pushes further into the evening hours, keeping the trail soft enough to skate over and obliterate the marks of the earlier Vorros I will mix techniques for the conditioning benefits each provides. But as long as I have to go out during the evening freeze I will prefer classical.

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