Wednesday, March 12, 2008

You don't become a better skier by walking down the hills

Cross-country skiing will never shake its wussy image as long as instructors tell beginners that they can always walk down a hill that intimidates them. Do you see people walking down alpine slopes? Almost never. In fact, I think it may be against their rules.

I walked down an alpine slope once, back when I was just starting to learn Telemark and broke some equipment in a crash. I had to trudge right down under the lift line through moguls the size of Volkswagens. Jeers rained down on me from the lift-riders headed up. It was the first and last time I walked down a hill carrying my skis.

In the back-country, skis may be the only thing holding you up on the snow that may be knee deep, chest deep or over your head. If you don't like the looks of a slope, traverse around until you find one you can manage. This isn't an option at a groomed Nordic area, but remember that you may have to dodge someone skiing that hill you're walking, and you owe them that right of way.

On busy weekends, even the easiest trails have more footprints than ski tracks on every hill. Even something only eight or ten feet tall will be stomped with postholes. And no one pays attention to the thing the instructor tells them just after saying it's okay to walk down hills: walk off the side of the trail where you will not interfere with people skiing it.

I know I'm just shouting into a closet here, but it feels good to say it anyway. I'll remember it the next time I'm maneuvering around someone stomping along with an armload of skis and a defiant look.

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