Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Chore skiing

Before the next storm brings rain and snow I slithered around the woods to gather pine cones. They're great for starting the woodstove with less than enthusiastic firewood.

I slung a 5-gallon plastic bucket for the cones over my shoulder with an old piece of climbing webbing so I could have my hands free to hold my poles. A job like this is much easier than when I skied out with a bow saw and an axe to cut dead pine because I had run out of any kind of firewood. But it's far from the groomed trail experience.

I'm  bushwhacker at heart. Just as I used lift-served skiing to get concentrated turn practice so did I use groomed trail skiing to stay in shape for trudging forays on obscure trails or no trail at all. In both cases I spent as much time as possible in the woods, although I had to be forcibly weaned from groomed-trail cross-country skiing. I could get back into that habit. But even at the height of my addiction I would never spend the money and time to travel to a ski center on my day off.

Skiing around the woods looking for something stupid like pine cones or dry sticks gets to the roots of skiing much more than recreational sliding on machine-prepared surfaces does. Skiing was part of practical daily life. It was enjoyable even as it was utilitarian.

A friend of mine living in Seattle, who dated a Norwegian woman living there, noted that she had a very unadorned style of skiing that casually covered a lot of ground very efficiently. It was well practiced from childhood in its native environment rather than consciously studied in a place to which it had been transplanted centuries after its invention.

The skis I used today are at least 15 years old. They're very similar to the ones on which I started skiing almost 30 years ago. All the waves of innovation that have created products targeted at very specific types of skiing can't change the fact that a relatively traditional touring ski can go almost anywhere. Maybe I can't keep up with the gear addicts on their exquisitely designed perfect tools for the back country or the immaculately prepared track, but those aren't always the most comfortable people to hang out with anyway.

On old skis, with old boots and old poles on a sunny afternoon I wanted nothing I did not have right there.

Friday, February 15, 2013

I am an alcoholic bartender

Write what you know. Sell what you're into. Share your buzz. People look for an informed perspective when they shop for a product.

Bicycling got me into the bike business. Cross-country skiing got me into the ski business. Like many participants, I fell into the commerce side in search of some deals on gear. And here we are.

My current shop job financed and equipped my descent into full-on addiction. I sold the gear, I taught lessons. I went on trips, though nothing worthy of bragging. No one needs to hear about my private tree-dodging exploits on frumpy little mountains no one's heard of. No one cares about my daily training runs on classic or skating skis on groomed trails I had the opportunity to use frequently enough to count as a regular program. Every one of those doses fed my need.

I reached my high or low point, depending on your view, when I operated the retail concession at Jackson Ski Touring. It was one shot after another of the pure stuff. It surged through me, impaired my judgment, lured me into a variety of social blunders, but I didn't care, as long as I could get onto the trails and feed the beast within me.

My addiction definitely affected my job performance, but not entirely badly. Since our target demographic was addicts and the addictable, looking like a happy participant made me a better host. Like any partyer, I had some people who liked to party with me or at least felt neutral, and others who found me offensive.

I tried to conceal the extent of my addiction by downplaying the amount I was using, sometimes using secretly. I was absent or tardy because of it. It was the most important part of my day, for sure.

Here in Wolfe City I have no hope of skiing as much as I did in Jackson, or even as much as I used to in Wolfeboro before 2000. I have almost no chance to go at all. Forced to detox, I don't want to use again at all, lest I awaken the longing. I'll talk it up and change the subject if anyone asks how much I get out.

"Been skiing today?"


The word lies there, a cold brick. I say nothing more. The conversation moves on.

Two students have signed up for a group lesson on Saturday morning. Neither of our two casual part-time instructors are available. The last time this happened, only one staff member here had ski gear. He lives in town, on the other end of the trail system, so he skis to work and home again. We scraped the lesson off on him. I told The Management that was my plan again.

"What about you? Why don't you do it?" he asked.

I can't. I just can't. When a tiny bit is nowhere near enough, it's way too much.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Epic Proportions!


Winter storms have a way of growing into monsters as they make their final approach. What was going to bring an unspecified "measurable amount of snow" in the forecast of five days ago is now a behemoth named Nemo. Someone heard from someone that the Portsmouth, NH, area could get 42 inches! Buildings are already collapsing at the mere thought. Especially anxious people have already fired up the generator and started to asphyxiate the family because the power could go out by Saturday morning.

Then the temperature is predicted to bounce up to around 40 by Monday. Will we even get a week of trail operations out of this? We shall see. Meanwhile it's great to hear the rumors fly.

If we can have skiing for Massachusetts Vacation Week (Feb. 16-24) we'll have made as much money as we could. No one seems to turn out for winter after late February anymore. This could be because winter itself so seldom turns out anymore.

Local dedicated skiers will use whatever they can find for as long as they can find it. If snow falls we will groom it.

The Wolfeboro Cross-Country Ski Association is studying the feasibility of snowmaking on selected trails. The technology is improving. Is the cost prohibitive? I don't think hordes of people will show up to use manufactured snow for cross-country, but a devoted core group will. It's just the next stage in using technology to compensate for the natural systems we've disrupted beyond repair. People skate all year on indoor refrigerated rinks, ride bikes in spinning studios, climb fake rock walls in indoor gyms and ski downhill on frozen concrete splattered onto mountainsides all over the Northeast.

Once the Holodeck is perfected no one will have to care what it's doing outside.